Next summer, I would like to totally redo my back yard, including patios, walkways and maybe an outdoor kitchen. I’ve seen some tiles I’d love to use, but I’m not sure if they are good to use outside. Can you give some pointers or ideas for using tile outdoors?
-Kyle in Utah
Extending tile outside can add beauty and value to your home as well as a durable surface for the area you are tiling. Tile and stone are natural products that can add texture, pattern and color to an outside area.
Keep in mind that not all tiles can be used outside. Porcelain tiles and natural stone tiles are the best choices for exterior use. This is because of its water absorption rate. When shopping, look for tiles that are rated for exterior use. Commonly tiles in the impervious water absorption class of less than .5% water absorption are considered suitable for outdoor use. Tiles with a glossy finish are not recommended because when wet the surface may become slippery and accidents may occur.
Another characteristic to look for when shopping for exterior tile is the PEI rating. For areas with high traffic, you want to look for a tile with a rating of 4 or higher. The rating system is as follows:
- PEI Class 1 Rating (No foot traffic) – Recommended for wall use in residential and commercial applications only.
- PEI Class 2 Rating (Light traffic) – Recommended for both wall use and bathroom floor applications only.
- PEI Class 3 Rating (Light to moderate traffic) – Recommended for countertops, walls and floors where normal foot traffic is expected.
- PEI Class 4 Rating (Moderate to heavy traffic) – Recommended for all residential applications as well as medium commercial and light institutional.
- PEI Class 5 Rating (Heavy to extra heavy traffic) – Recommended for all residential as well as heavy commercial and institutional applications.
Tile of course can be installed on patios, decks and other exterior floor surfaces, but it can also be used in much more creative ways. Try using tile on exterior columns or stairs. Consider creating a water feature with tile or using tile to build planter boxes. Like inside, tile can be used for walls such as outdoor showers, decorative wall plaques or divider walls to separate outdoor areas.
A great place to use tile or stone is in an outdoor kitchen. Tile can be used for the countertop, the backsplash, the floor area or the area where the grill is built in. Bringing tile to outdoor kitchens adds style and elegance making the area feel like a room outside.
Tile can also be used as a path in a garden or in between areas outside. Rocks or other materials can be used in between the tiles for a different look. Tile is also an excellent choice for pathways where you want to define a walking area.
The same patterns that are used inside can also be used outside. Often, areas outside are larger than areas being tiled inside and can afford a larger more detailed pattern. Just like on the inside, decorative tile patterns add style and design to any area.
Be creative!! Tile can be used in many other ways. Go outside and evaluate areas that do not look complete or do not look as stylish as you want them to. Try imagining those areas with tile or better yet with a tile pattern!