Adding tile for outdoors makes an attractive addition to patio installations throughout the Madison WI area as long as the tile selection is correct. With the right tile, the right grout and the right installation technique modern tiles will withstand the stress of temperature extremes even in Wisconsin.
From late fall until spring, the ground freezes and thaws and moisture levels change. Tile will expand, contract and maybe even crack if your tile selection is inappropriate. Cold weather installations like those in Madison WI and surrounding areas pose special challenges. Not only are they subjected to extremes in temperature, but they’re often exposed to high foot traffic, lawn chemicals and natural debris. Patios and walkways may be exposed to salt or other ice melt chemicals, sand and dirt. Furniture, planters and shovels provide abrasion and scratches.
Selecting the Right Tile For Outdoors
As you review the dozens of tiles that are appropriate for outdoor installations, check detailed specifications or check with a tile professional to ensure the tile you want is frost resistant. ASTM C1026 is the official test standard for tile used in freeze/thaw conditions. Basically, it says tile with a porosity level of 3% or less are preferred – anything greater than 5% is definitely inappropriate. Consider the following as your review your tile selection:
- Choose a quality tile for outdoors from a reputable manufacturer – consult a tile installation professional for the best tile selection
- Check tile with a low porosity so it doesn’t absorb much water – in winter, if water is absorbed the tiles will crack
- Make sure the tile you select is rated for exterior use – that seems only logical, but a lot of projects are redone because of this simple slip-up
Popular Tile Options
When it comes to decorative tiles, porcelain is the first choice, with some restrictions:
- A coefficient of friction (COF) of more than 0.59. That means the surface will provide better traction and won’t become polished by traffic. (Porcelain will still be slippery in heavy rain, etc.)
Additional popular tile options include:
- Natural Stone — But only when rated for freezing temperature. Best used on walls and similar surfaces
- Slate — If you like the look of slate, study all the details. There are few forms of slate tile that will work in freezing climates. There are some. Again, they all need to be well sealed.
Site Preparation and Materials Trump Tile Selection
The challenges of using tile outdoors go beyond the choice of tiles. The project is only as successful as the preparation and base materials put into the site. There are three basic components required before the tile for outdoors is successfully situated. They include:
- Substrate — Site preparation begins on the ground, wall, countertop or wherever the tile will reside. Extremes in temperature will stress the substrate and cause cracking. Using waterproofing materials and crack isolation membranes help to reduce cracks.
- The substrate must be solid and stable
- Expansion joints are a must – providing room for tile to move over anti-fracture membranes
- Mortar — The right mortar is extremely important. Polymer-modified thin set mortars often include antifreeze and thaw-resistant properties.
- The best outdoor tile mortars combine bonding and flexibility to allow shifts in substrate
- Coverage of from 95% to 100% is mandatory to ensure solid bonding in freeze/thaw situations
- Just as all tiles for outdoors are not alike, not all mortars are alike – use a mortar that’s compatible with your tile selection
TIP FROM THE PROS — Applying mortar in cold temperatures is never advised. Local professionals suggest that no outdoor tile installations should begin before May. Storing bags of mortar in cold temperatures will extend curing time.
- Grouts and Sealants — A polymer-modified grout is required for its lower water absorption. Additives can make grout stronger, denser and more resistant to temperature swings and water penetration while increasing flexibility.
- Grout – Select grout compatible with your tile
- Polymer-modified grout absorbs less moisture
- Replace water with grout additives specified for outdoor installations
- Sealant – Required to protect exposed surfaces
- Reduces moisture absorption
- Protects from stains and abrasives
- Check manufacturer’s specs for appropriate sealants and application techniques
Consult a Professional to Ensure Quality Installation of Tile For Outdoors
To help determine the right tile for outdoors in your yard , contact Molony Tile, a source for unique, durable and elegant tile solutions in Madison WI and greater Dane county including Middleton, Waunakee, Verona, Fitchburg, McFarland, Oregon, Stoughton, Cottage Grove and Sun Prairie.
Call or email Molony Tile, 608-268-8453 for professional advice, tile selection and installation options for tiles for outdoors in Madison WI.