Porcelain paving is an up-and-coming product that is becoming more and more popular in back gardens all around the world. Natural stone has been around forever, and is a timeless classic that is still so popular with people doing paving areas.
However, there are benefits and drawbacks to both paving types. In this article we will go over and compare the two types in four key areas, so you can decide what is the best option for you.
When comparing porcelain and stone in the same thickness and size, porcelain is stronger. A great benefit of porcelain is the fact that is man-made, which means its strength is consistent throughout the tile. As the name describes, natural stone tiles are a natural product, meaning that they can have weaknesses or imperfections. This varies from tile to tile, so when using a natural stone product in an elevated paving system, more care needs to be taken in ensuring sufficient support. A porcelain tile at 20mm thick will be just fine when supported in all four corners, or along each edge. All our systems with our 20mm thick porcelain meet the requirements of BS EN1991-1-1:2002, which basically means that it will take a direct point load of 250kg, or 400kg per sqm when supported in its standard configuration. Need more strength? Just add more rails or supports!
Porcelain wins again here. Natural stone is porous, meaning that it will take in water if not treated/ coated. This means that it is very susceptible to stains and algae. Stains will quickly become deeply engrained in the stone if not treated quickly. Algae can also grow in damper areas near trees or plant growth. Using a pressure washer will get rid of most of this, however you will have to be careful you don’t damage the natural stone finish.
Porcelain however, is non-porous. This means that it is far less like to soak up water, this will rather just dry completely naturally. This means that it is far less likely to stain, and much easier to clean. If you would like to find out how to clean porcelain – this video should help. We offer a 10-year warranty on our porcelain.
Not only is porcelain less porous, its surface is also more resistant to scratches. Natural stone has varying ranges of durability and hardness, but the majority of natural stone will scratch easier than porcelain.
Maintenance for porcelain and natural stone looks very different. Natural stone will need sealing at least once a year to minimise the amount of water it will soak in. It will also need cleaning quite often, getting rid of dirt or leaves that may increase the risk of stains. Porcelain paving does not need any maintenance, but an occasional wipe/ scrub down will keep it looking like new for years to come.
This comes down to personal choice. Porcelain tiles are usually imitating a natural product, and they do a very good job at it. But, you can not get away from the natural beauty that real stone offers. Natural stone and porcelain can even look identical when side by side, but natural stone still has that innate look of true luxury that porcelain will always try to replicate.
You will get more consistency with a porcelain tile, and the whole area will remain a relatively similar colour and feel, so this may be better for larger areas. However natural stone can vary a lot. For some people, this is something they value, and it is one area that it is the easiest to tell the difference between porcelain and natural stone.
Both porcelain and natural stone can vary wildly in price if all the different qualities, thicknesses and sizes are considered. You can pay as little as £25 per sqm for a porcelain or natural stone tile. An expensive porcelain tile would be considered to be up to £80 per sqm, and for natural stone, these can get really expensive depending on the rarity of the stone. A good outdoor natural stone tile will cost you from £80-£100 per sqm.
If you are using a suspended paving system, it will cost you more to use a natural stone, as this will need more support due to the likelihood of imperfections or weaknesses. It will be around 20-30% more expensive for the subframe for natural stone.
In summary, there are benefits and drawbacks of both outdoor porcelain tiles and natural stone tiles. Porcelain tiles are a lot more durable, stronger, have less maintenance required, and are usually cheaper. However, Natural stone will always top porcelain on realism - it’s a real natural product after all! The choice is entirely yours, and now that I have listed the benefits and drawbacks of each, you should be able to decide what the best tile is for you.