03 Jun Putting Porcelain on a Pedestal
The market dominance of pedestal systems for raised external flooring has accelerated the development of external grade porcelain tiles able to compete with natural stone and timber. Specifiers, architects and designers can now reap the benefits of both systems. It could be argued that porcelain is the ideal material for external floors and hard landscaping, particularly in the UK’s highly variable climate.
The advantages of porcelain over timber and natural stone are:
- Extremely durable
- Scratch resistant
- Non-fading & non-staining
- Mould & Moss resistant
- Damage resistant from frost
- Lower cost
- Eco-Friendly – Made from up to 80% recycled material
Traditionally, timber, natural stone and concrete has dominated the UK external flooring market with usage of porcelain tiles rising in recent years in mainland Europe, predominantly due to the advances in manufacturing technology and the production of thicker, textured tiles. Porcelain tile designs used to be applied using a flat ink roller and then baked on to create a durable finish, this meant that manufacturers were restricted to producing smooth, shiny tiles for internal walls and floors only suitable for indoor use due to the lack of slip-resistance.
With the introduction of industrial inkjet printing, high resolution digital designs could be sprayed onto textured tiles. This technique significantly improved the aesthetics of porcelain with finishes available in a variety of colours, textures and patterns and also enabled manufacturers to produce slip-resistant tiles.
Further advances in manufacturing have seen the introduction of moulds to produce 20mm thick porcelain tiles up to 1.2m lengths. These tiles are double the thickness of traditional internal tiles and are extremely strong and able to bear the weight of a car even if they are used with a raised floor support system such as Buzon pedestal system. Pedestal systems are an alternative to traditional mortar or other bedding materials and they were first introduced into the European market in 1987 by Belgian manufacturer Buzon. Pedestals can be used with a wide range of surface materials, including timber, natural stone and porcelain to create raised floors, terraces, green roofs, water features, roof gardens and balconies.
There are many benefits of using pedestals over traditional installation methods including a reduction in installation time of 50%. View our video:
Laying mortar is time consuming and can create long-term maintenance issues due to ground movement, ground decay and if access to services is required. In contrast, pedestals are fast and easy to install. Whilst the perimeter pedestals are bonded to the substrate, the majority of the pedestals are kept in place by the weight of the material above and no mortar is needed between the tiles or slabs.
Spacer tabs allow for 2-10mm gaps between tiles, this provides positive drainage which prevents ponding and therefore reduces the risk of slips. This free-draining alternative to cement-based techniques (that create impermeable surfaces) can help water run-off and water harvesting in roof terraces or balconies, plus make pedestal systems ideal for gardens and landscaping in flood-prone areas.
With some pedestals capable of carrying loads in excess of one tonne each, pedestals can be used in high-traffic areas and reduce the loads on substrates as they eliminate the need for screeding, and/or cement bends. This means fewer materials are needed and makes pedestals particularly suitable for balcony or roof space refurbishment, as the existing substrate does not have to be removed.
Pedestal systems also allow external and internal floor finishes to be at the same level, creating step-free access without the need for precision screeding and levelling of the substrate, particularly where interior and exterior meet. If porcelain tiles are used, a similar aesthetic can be achieved inside and outside – all that changes is the thickness (and texture) of the tile.
Height Adjustable Pedestals
Height-adjustable pedestals allow compensation for ground movements over time. Buzon pedestals use a screw-jack system to allow them adjustment between 11mm and 1,120mm. They also incorporate a patented slope-correcting device that can cope with a fall in substrate of up to 10% to keep the floor perfectly level.
Advantages of Raised Floor Systems
A big advantage of raised floor systems compared to conventional bedding materials, is the maintenance of any services hidden below. If a leak is detected or if a section of flooring is damages and needs to be replaced, a raised floor can be easily lifted to allow inspection and replace. Once repairs have been carried out with conventional bedding materials, it is virtually impossible to locate a leak and repairs can be disruptive. Often the only way of locating a leak or replacing damaged flooring it to break and remove sections which is expensive, time consuming and can cause damage to waterproofing membranes.
Exterior Porcelain Tiles
Exterior grade porcelain tiles, typically 600mm square and 20mm thick, are ideal for raised floor systems because of their high strength to weight ratio and the ability to take loads in excess of one tonne, even when only supported at their corners. Because tiles are the same size and thickness, they can be laid quickly without the need of skilled labour, they can be trimmed on-site or pre-cut off-site, if complicated shapes are required. In contrast, the natural variation in the thickness of stone slabs means sorting them before laying to minimise the adjustment needed in each pedestal, slowing installation. Stone slabs also have to be thicker (and therefore heavier) to stop them flexing and allowing them to carry loads through their corners.
Along with technical improvements, the demand for roof gardens, balconies and indoor/outdoor living in both new build and refurbishment projects, means that now, more than ever before, pedestal systems combined with porcelain tiles are an excellent alternative to natural stone and timber products.
For architects, the wide range of finishes and colours means choosing porcelain for hard landscaping not longer means compromising on aesthetics or safety. Developers, facilities managers and residents will also find the combination of highly durable, low maintenance materials and ease of access to services an excellent ‘fit and forget’ raised floor solution for their outdoor spaces.
The Benefits of Porcelain for Hard Landscaping
Porcelain tiles are resistant to:
- Thermal expansion and contraction
- Thermal shock
- Impact, scratch and abrasion
- Chemical spills
- Mould and algae.
Additionally, they are:
- Fire proof
- Require no sealing
- Easy to clean
- More sustainable than timber
- Stronger than stone