Undertaking any building project can be stressful. With so many factors to consider, such as price, maintenance and appearance, picking a material can be a daunting process. While you might not have previously considered porcelain pavers because these thicker 2cm or 3cm pavers have been available for less than 10 years, in reality, these pavers have so much to offer as a decking and landscaping material. Of course like most products, there are pros and cons of using porcelain pavers and since we firmly believe they deserve to be at the top of your list for your next project, we’ve put together a summary of not only the advantages of using porcelain pavers, but also a few disadvantages you should be aware of.
One of the most important features of porcelain is its durability, as borne out by its continued use for centuries for so many different applications. Porcelain is made of special clays and some special additives – kiln fired to temperatures of 1,200 to 1,400 degrees Fahrenheit, resulting in a hard, durable, wear-resistant material with exceptionally low water absorption
Since they are only ¾” thick (or 1 1/8” thick in case of the latest 3cm pavers) porcelain pavers are lighter than both concrete and most natural stone, making them easier and more cost-efficient to transport, move to the job site and install, especially for rooftop deck applications, where porcelain pavers can generally be moved in elevators where necessary.
Porcelain pavers offer an exceptionally rich catalog of styles and colors, significantly broadening the horizons of outdoor design, allowing designers to create visually stimulating spaces, in full harmony with the surrounding environment. Plus the colors are so much deeper and richer, exhibit more variation in light and shade and often incorporate special effects like mica flecks, making the best examples of modern pavers look almost in distinguishable from not only natural stone, but also natural wood as well.
Easy to clean, minimal maintenance
Porcelain pavers have practically zero water absorption so don’t require any sealers or protective coatings to seal the surface. Debris and spills including things like oil or grease which are a problem with porous products like concrete, can easily be removed from porcelain using the appropriate cleaning product where necessary to remove all trace of the spill. So areas around grills or BBQs which can be problematic with many materials (including wood decks) are really no issue at all with porcelain pavers.
Suitable for high traffic areas
Developments in technology have enabled the manufacturing of thicker and stronger porcelain pavers, such as our 3cm (11/8”) thick porcelain pavers. Because of their high load-bearing capacity, T30 pavers offer the perfect solution for both vehicular and high-foot traffic applications.
Moss, mold and mildew resistant
The impermeability of porcelain pavers not only prevents penetration by most liquids, oils, grease and chemicals, but makes them exceptionally moss/mold/mildew resistant. If any mold or moss does accumulate because of specific climatic conditions or lack of sunlight, it can be easily removed.
Initially porcelain pavers were only available in 24” x 24” size. But in recent years the size options have multiplied significantly. Not only can you obtain single pavers as massive as 96” x 48” , but you can get cobblestone blocks as small as 4” x 4”, and porcelain planks just like natural wood in sizes like 8” x 48” or 12” x 48” – sizes impossible to obtain in a concrete paver.
Again because of their practically zero water absorption, porcelain pavers are not susceptible to freeze/thaw cracking – a major issue with concrete in some locations.
Ideal for covering existing concrete
Since porcelain pavers are so much thinner than concrete pavers, they are an ideal solution for covering weather worn or cracked patios and even for covering existing wood decks. They just need to be supported with rubber pads under each corner of the pavers, yet the height of surface can be a little as 1” higher than your existing surface. Since the rubber pads have inbuilt spacer tabs, installation is a breeze as spacing and alignment is taken care of automatically.
Being such a hard and dense material fired at very high temperatures, porcelain is more brittle than concrete pavers although generally similar to many types of natural stone. That means that due care needs to be taken when transporting pavers, avoiding dropping the pavers on their corners in particular and taking care installation to avoid any raised edges which might result in chipping.
In applications where the pavers are used on raised decks and only supported under each corner, it is also essential to consider the possibility of paver breaking in service. For this reason, protection devices such as self-adhesive protection sheets or metal plates must be used under the pavers at elevations of around 4” to avoid the possibility of injury if a paver should break due to impact by a hard object.
Harder to cut or drill than concrete
Due to the particularly hard and dense nature of porcelain as mentioned above, more specialized tools are required for cutting or drilling porcelain pavers. Diamond blades are essential for cutting and for most large projects, a wet saw is generally preferable. When drilling holes, it is essential to use drill bits specifically designed for hard and dense products like porcelain, and care also needs to be taken to avoid cracking the tiles if the correct technique is not followed while drilling.
More extensive preparation for on-grade installation
Because porcelain pavers are thinner than concrete pavers, more care needs to be taken when laying pavers on-grade. While they can certainly be laid over sand or gravel beds, the beds must be prepared with an adequate depth of base material, must be properly compacted, and must be laid on a final layer of sand or fine gravel that has been carefully leveled. For vehicular applications, ¾” thick porcelain pavers must be laid in mortar over reinforced concrete base, although with the newer 1 1/8” thick porcelain pavers, it is now possible to use these for vehicular applications when laid over a properly prepared and compacted gravel base.
More expensive than concrete pavers
Although porcelain pavers have certainly come down in price over the last 5 years or so, generally speaking, they will still cost a little more than concrete pavers. In locations where there is not a concrete manufacturing facility close by, this difference might be quite small since transport costs will typically be much higher for the thicker concrete pavers. However if we consider the true lifetime cost of a concrete paver with a porcelain paver, taking into consideration both the maintenance and the lifetime appearance, the initial price advantage of concrete pavers will normally be cancelled out over the longer term.