Porcelain paving is a great choice for your outdoor living space, and there are many reasons for this. One of these being it is so hard wearing. It is scratch-resistant and non-porous, meaning it will not stain and is very resistant to moisture of any kind. Another great benefit of porcelain is how low maintenance it is. You will not need to stain it, the odd clean with some soapy water is more than enough to keep it in tip-top condition.
But before every finished patio, you will have to go through the installation process – its unavoidable! You can either install it yourself or leave the job to a professional. Whatever route you go down, there are two main methods for installation that you must choose between. These are:
- A raised support system, with rails or pedestals
- A more traditional, mortar lay
In this article I will go over the main aspects to bear in mind when choosing what method is best for your application when installing your porcelain paving area. The points I will cover are as follows for both methods:
- Ease of Install
#1 – Ease of Install
Porcelain paving is known to be more difficult to install than natural stone. One reason for this is the accuracy that is required to get a great finish, as porcelain is man made object and is calibrated to great precision, usually within 1mm in each direction. This makes any height differences noticeable, as every tile is perfectly flat. Natural stone is much rougher and the dimensions will vary in between tiles, meaning that the overall finish is easier to achieve because accuracy is not quite so important.
Laying porcelain on a mortar bed is the most common method of install for porcelain tiles. It is usually done by a professional install and with good reason. It is fairly difficult for an average DIYer to install porcelain paving on a mortar bed themselves. This is due to the fact that an accurate tile will exaggerate imperfections. However, most landscapers and builders will have had experience with this material before and will be perfectly able to install it for you. There are a few steps, such as applying a primer to the tile, preparing the surface, and mixing the mortar that must be taken into account when considering this method for installation. It is also very difficult to install a porcelain paving area on a wet/ rainy day. This is because the mortar has to be the correct consistency, which can be dramatically affected by too much water. Specialist tools such as a cement mixer will need to be used.
Raised Support System
Using a raised support system to lay your porcelain is a more recent innovation but is quickly becoming very popular in gardens and terraces throughout the UK. It is very simple to install and is something that any DIYer with the correct tools can carry out themselves relatively quickly. Both pedestal and rail raised support systems require little preparation and can be done in most weather conditions, including rain. Raised support systems have a few steps to carry out when installing porcelain paving, such as levelling the feet, and installing the rails (if necessary). These systems require little more than some tools such as a drill, and tape measures etc. Using this method can also potentially cut install costs if you are using a landscaper or builder, as it will cut the amount of time and effort that they will have to put into your area to produce stunning results.
#2 – Lifespan
Porcelain paving when installed correctly, will last a very long time. As discussed above, its non-porous and scratch resistant properties mean that it will brave pretty much anything you throw at it, apart from hammers and other hard, heavy items! The porcelain paving itself has an expected lifespan of well over 15 years. However, depending on the installation method used, the lifespan of your porcelain patio area could be affected.
Using this method to lay your porcelain can dramatically affect the lifespan either way. If the porcelain is installed on to a pre-prepared compact surface, then laid on a solid mortar bed, primed correctly, and finally grouted properly, you can expect your finished patio to last you more than 15 years.
However, some people will consider creating small ‘pedestals’ of concrete. This reduces the overall amount of concrete required and cuts down the installation time. It is hard to get a good bond between the small surface area of the concrete and the porcelain tile, meaning that over time the tile could move, damaging the grout and the overall finish. Another product that often people don’t realise that you need when laying porcelain on a mortar bed, is a primer slurry. This is extremely important in order to get the porcelain to bond to the concrete underneath, and if not used, your patio could start to move around very soon after install – as short as a couple of weeks could see your porcelain starting to move about.
So, when using mortar to support your porcelain tiles, when installed correctly it will last for many years to come. However, if any steps are skipped to make the installation process quicker, you may find your porcelain paving area lasting as little as a month or so before it starts to move about and become unstable.
Raised Support System
When installed correctly, a raised support system will also last a very long time, and some companies even offer a 25-year warranty on these systems, as the are very weather resistant.
However, even with this system, if installed incorrectly it will not last as long as you had hoped. As it is a suspended system the porcelain itself will be suspended off the ground, supported by either pedestals or a rail. We would never recommend using a porcelain tile that is any thinner than 20mm. The reason for the is that obviously the thinner the tile, the weaker it is – so not great for outdoor applications. A thin tile is can also be dangerous when using a suspended support system, as it is much more likely to crack, meaning the unlucky person standing on it, will fall through. This is not an issue with any tile 20mm or thicker.
When porcelain paving is installed incorrectly on a raised support system, it can fail almost immediately. However, when due care and attention is taken during the install process, you can expect your porcelain patio and support system to last around 25 years!
#3 – Price
For this example, comparison, a 4x4m area will be used. We recommend using 100mm of packed hardcore, 50mm of mortar, and grout and primer slurry.
For the materials only, without labour, a 16sqm area would cost around £1080, or £32.50 per sqm. Broken down as follows:
- 5 tonnes of hardcore, or 1.6m3. 4 x 900kg bags @ £60ea = £240
- 28 tonnes of building sand, or 0.8m3. 2 x 900kg bags @ £60ea = £120
- 1:5 mix of cement @ £6.50 each. 11 bags x £6.50 = £71.50
- Porcelain Primer - £35 per pot that covers £20sqm.
- Grout - £50 per bag
- Porcelain - £35-£40 per sqm – £35 x 16sqm = £560
However, installation is likely to need to be accounted for, as the correct mix and preparation is necessary. We would expect a 16sqm patio two professional installers two days to install. In this example, each labourer costs £250 per day, bringing the total installation cost to £1000.
So, in conclusion, using the above example, laying a 16sqm patio on mortar would cost you £2080 overall, or £130 per sqm including installation. It is possible to lay this yourself if you have experience and the correct tools to do so and would cost you just around £65 per sqm. This reduces the cost dramatically, but the finished result may not be as good. Not doubting your skills – It’s just difficult! Hence installers charge the price that they do.
Raised Support System
We will use the same 4x4m area as an example for the raised support system. We recommend using the aluminium rail system rather than just pedestals, as although it is more expensive, it is much sturdier, and the finished result will be much more satisfactory.
For the materials only, without labour, a 16sqm area will cost around £1630 in materials. This is broken down as follows:
- Porcelain - £35-£40 per sqm – £35 x 16sqm = £560
- Paving Support Rail System - £50-£65 per sqm - £57.50 x 16sqm = £920
- Pedestal Supports for Rails – 54 pedestals @ £2.75ea = £150
When using this system, almost all DIYers will be able to carry out the installation themselves. It is hard to go wrong and as long as you follow manufacturers instruction guides and videos, you should be perfectly capable.
So, if you install this system yourself, it will cost you just over £100 per sqm all in including the porcelain and support system.
However, if you don’t think installation is for you, you will be happy to know that it is cheaper than the traditional mortar laid method to get installation by a professional. This is because raised support systems are very quick to install. We would expect it to take two landscapers one day to install a 16sqm area. So, at £250 each per day, the installation cost would be £500.
In conclusion, using the above example, a raised support system will cost you £1630 in materials (Just over £100 per sqm) if you instal it yourself. If you would like a professional to install it, the total cost would be £2130, or £130 per sqm.
Now that I’ve gone over the key points to consider when finding out what the best way is to lay your porcelain paving, I’ll leave it to you to consider your options. Here at OVAEDA, we specialize in raised support systems for both composite decking and porcelain paving, so if you would like to install it yourself, would like your porcelain patio to be level with your interior floors, or have a lot of height that needs built up, we would love to help you out and work with you on your future project!
If you would rather go with the traditional mortar laid method and are willing to spend the extra money in installation – that’s your choice! We will still support you on your journey to getting your dream patio installed, as we have a large range of porcelain in all different shapes, sizes and finishes for you to choose from.
In my honest opinion, no option is ‘better’ than the other in terms of the finished result, but the installation can have quite an effect on which option you think is best for your garden. Most professional installers will have laid porcelain paving on a mortar bed before but will also be very willing to install a raised-support system once they know the great benefits to it.
Now that you've read more about the best way for you to lay your porcelain paving, you may begin thinking about using it as an option for your garden or balcony. With so many options available, we know it can seem like a big decision to make. Why not begin by ordering one of our free sample boxes to help you choose which style of porcelain will best suit you?
You can also call us on 0208 159 2999 or send us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to get quotes, guidance, and any technical support with your plans. If you think you will require the help of a professional installer, we are happy to recommend one to assist.
We look forward to hearing from you!