They originated in Italy (of course!) and they’re exquisitely beautiful. Porcelain pavers are the newest trend in hardscaping, walkways, patios and pool decks, with a truly breathtaking range of styles, colors and looks for your outdoor living environment.
First invented in Italy, and now available from several U.S. manufacturers, porcelain pavers are made using a combination of high-tech glazing techniques and modern porcelain manufacturing methods. Besides being drop-dead gorgeous, they have important advantages over traditional natural stone, wood or cement-based alternatives for walkways, patios, pool decks, and the like.
A Wide Range of Beautiful Looks at Economical Price
Manufacturers like MSI and Mirage (carried by Belgard, among others) produce a wide range of porcelain paver looks and finishes to beautify any home or yard. Designed in Italy, but produced in the USA, they are as attractive as they are cost-effective when compared to natural stone such as travertine or slate. These are three examples, snapped almost at random in MSI’s Sun Valley showroom.
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Lower Cost of Maintenance
Porcelain pavers are impervious to oil, water, and chemical spills, so you never have to worry about stains, as you do with concrete, stone or wood. They also don’t crack, dry out, rot or suffer from mold.
The glazed finish is incredibly durable, so unless you routinely run herds of buffalo through your backyard you won’t have to repaint or retouch the finish the way you must with painted concrete or wood surfaces. It also never fades or discolors, even in the most intense sun exposure. Porcelain pavers don’t require sealers, resins or glues, making them almost the ultimate in environmentally-friendly outdoor finishes.
These modern finishes are inherently non-skid, even when wet, so that they don’t require periodic treatment to keep them safe to walk on—an important consideration for a pool deck or raised patio.
More Durable Than Wood or Natural Stone
The texturing and glazing techniques used in the manufacture of porcelain pavers let you create a perfect wooden or natural stone look for your walkways, patio or deck without the expense or maintenance headaches that these traditional materials require. With wood finish porcelain tiles, for example, you gain the perfect look of a wood deck without ever having to worry about termites. And it goes without saying that porcelain pavers are fireproof, so if your home is anywhere near potential wildfires, your deck or patio will be safe from burning.
Porcelain pavers are impervious to water, so you gain the beauty of a natural look without the problems of weathering, stains or water absorption. (If you live in an area subject to occasional freezing, water absorption becomes an especially big deal. Water expands as it freezes, and can easily crack natural stone.)
Durability and wear resistance make porcelain pavers ideal, making them suitable even for high foot traffic commercial applications such as parks or commercial building forecourts. We don’t recommend them, however, for driveways or other situations where the pavers must carry very heavy loads; in that situation they must be mortar-set, which quickly becomes cost-prohibitive.
Porcelain pavers and interior tiles frequently come in matching finishes, allowing the homeowner, designer or architect to continue an inside finish right out to the yard, like this example:
Installing Porcelain Pavers
Porcelain pavers can be installed in several ways, including a traditional (and very expensive, in exterior installations) mortar bed. Our method of choice for hardscaping and decks in Southern California is to set them in sand, using sand joints between the pavers. This allows a slight amount of flexibility that insures against cracking or damage due to earth movements. A final installed cost starts at around $20 per square foot.
The “Heat Island Effect”
California in summer is nothing if not hot, and the amount of heat that a surface absorbs and then radiates back into your environment makes a big difference to how comfortable it feels. Your pool deck or patio might not get hot enough to fry an egg, but a stone or concrete surface baking in the afternoon sun easily gets hot enough that your kids (and you!) don’t want to walk on it barefoot. It also bathes your home in unwanted heat that increases your air conditioning bill and can make your yard unlivable on hot days.
The technical name for this is the “heat island effect,” and it’s just what the name implies: an island of extra warmth in the immediate surroundings of your home. The hotter your yard surface gets, the greater the heat island. What’s called the “Solar Reflection Index” (SRI) is a number that tells you how well, or how poorly, a surface resists being heated up. A black asphalt surface has an SRI of about 0 (which could reach a temperature rise of as much as 90 degrees or more in full sunlight), whereas one painted with bright white reflective paint might rise as little as 15 degrees.
How well or poorly the material absorbs heat also factors into this, and it turns out that porcelain has tremendous heat resistance. It warms up very little in comparison to either concrete, manufactured stone, or natural stone of the same shade. With an SRI of 60–80, porcelain pavers reduce the heat island effect more than enough to qualify for LEED credits in new construction and keep your home environment a lot more comfortable!
Bottom Line: You Have More Choices
When it comes to improving your home’s value with new hardscaping, walkways or decks, you now have a far wider range of choices than were available only a few years ago. Our designers are excited by the new, cost-effective and environmentally friendly options they can offer, and will be happy to show you how porcelain pavers can enhance the look of your home.