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May 30, 2020

Choosing Material for Outdoor Use

Choosing Material for Outdoor Rooms

We have been intently focused on the voice of the customer since the beginning of the pandemic. We have reached out to many of our top A and D relationships and have repeatedly heard from our clients about the human imperative to physically occupy spaces together again, while being prudent about how to do so at the same time. That said, many of our clients spoke to us about the need to create more spread out environments that include outdoor rooms where possible. They were interested in talking to us about materials that can help their clients transform exterior’s commercially, residentially, in retail, and in hospitality. It’s with that in mind that we are showing several great exterior projects we have worked on together with clients recently. We compiled this FAQ to answer some of the most important questions along with a curated selection of materials and projects we are promoting this summer for exterior projects.

Should I be concerned about tiles cracking in exteriors due to fluctuations in temperature and exposure to the elements?

For porcelain body materials, the short answer is no, provided the materials are set with the proper adhesive and/or hanging systems with joinery inclusive of expansion joints for the particular porcelain tile chosen.  If unglazed there are no additional concerns.  If the porcelain tile is glazed, you will also want to be sure that the glaze is frost proof and abrasion resistant enough to meet the needs of your application. Your Stone Source consultant can help you with those specifics.  For more traditional ceramic tiles (not porcelain) with higher absorption in the body, and fired at lower temperatures than porcelain, they are generally considered either not appropriate or at the very least less appropriate for these applications.  Their glazes have a tendency to crack as a result of the absorption in the body of the tile, especially when exposed to freezing conditions.  For stone, we rely upon test results to help inform us if a product is suitable in an exterior application, especially as it relates to newer stone in the market.  That said, nothing beats having a proven material with an empirical history of proven in use applications to use for an exterior project.  This is particularly important in freezing climates to know that the particular material you are choosing has a history of being used in a climate very similar or the same as the climate your project is in.  There are certain conditions that cannot be fully replicated in a lab.  Your Stone Source Consultant will help you to find the right choice for your application.

What is an appropriate level of slip resistance to specify?

Ultimately this depends upon the needs of the project.  The “standards” that are published are actually just recommendations if you read the fine print, and we have read it, so you don’t have to.  That said the generally accepted lower limit in the tile and stone industry is .42 DCOF (Dynamic Coefficient of Friction) or greater when wet, as recommended by the TCNA (the Tile Council of North America).  Most unpolished surfaces meet this recommendation when it comes to stone and tile, but the preference in exteriors is typically for a finish with a little more tooth to it.  Due to this, most of our porcelain tile lines have elements in them that are designed to transition from interiors into exteriors with a subtle change in finish that gives you even greater slip resistance.  On stone, clients also prefer a finish with more tooth.  Depending upon the stone, there are various options for texture, including, but not limited to: Flamed, Sandblasted, Bushammered, Chiseled, and Velvet.  Not all stones take all finishes the same way.  There are two components at play, the texturing machines and the way the stone receives it.  This is more predictable on a manufactured product like porcelain or concrete agglomerates regardless of color, but in stone it is far more nuanced as the properties of materials change from quarry to quarry and often times layer to layer within the same quarry.  Due to this complexity, you want to be sure you have a material and a finish with a proven track record.  People often bring up the .6 recommendation on the SCOF (Static Coefficient of Friction) test, but this is an older less reliable testing method than the ones that are approved for use in the DCOF test.  The long and short of it is that the DCOF test measures what happens when people change speeds while moving across a surface, and it is administered by a robot, which gives you far more consistent results.  The SCOF test by comparison, gives you wildly less consistent results and is administered by a person tugging a mechanism across a tile from a resting/static state that gives you a reading.  It essentially measures what would happen if a person goes from an entirely static state into a full on sprint in a second or two.  This is generally not the way humans move through a space, and that coupled with the more reliably consistent results of the DCOF test is why we recommend the DCOF testing as a more suitable guide for your decision making process.

What can we use on pedestal systems?

We offer ¾” porcelain pavers across many series for this application.  We also offer engineering and the systems themselves in addition to the pavers through one of our vendors as part of the Stone Source Pavers 2.0 collection.  This allows you to troubleshoot concerns like wind uplift on rooftops using one of these proprietary systems.  You can find out more about this on our Stone Source Pavers webpage here.  For stone, it is important to understand that the stone you are choosing is appropriate for exterior use in your climate.  The general rule once you have identified to correct material and finish for use in your climate and application is to have the stone fabricated in 2” thickness if unsupported on a pedestal system.  Thinner thickness can be used for direct applied (not pedestal) applications seeing foot traffic up to heavy commercial if the material is suitable.  We can help you make the right choice.

Is color fastness a concern?

With certain materials it definitely should be.  There are many slates and limestones for example that fade in direct UV light.  That said, not all slates and limestones do, and we rely on a materials empirical history to help inform us of its appropriateness for this kind of an application.  Resins used in quartz agglomerates will fade in direct sunlight, so porcelain and select stone slabs with a proven track record outside are better solutions for exterior countertop applications.  If a stone is resin reinforced on the surface it may discolor in direct UV light, so this is important to understand if the top is not in a covered area.  A link to our Laminam 12+ porcelain slabs can be found here.  This is a fantastic material to consider for exterior countertops.

What about use in and around pools?

Porcelain, many glass products (but not all) and a limited number of stones provide several options both for pool surrounds, tiles at the waterline, and entire pool interiors.  We have products that work well in chlorinated water or in saltwater depending upon which type of pool or water feature you have or are building.  Contact your Stone Source consultant to help guide you on your search.

For the source information that informed each of the above responses, we follow closely the recommendations of the TCNA (Tile Council of North America), the NSI (Natural Stone Institute), and ANSI (American National Standards Institute). 

We have materials for every exterior application in every climate.  Let us know what you are looking for and where your project is and we will make sure to curate the right products from our offering for you. See a selection here

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