This article was first published on Natural Paving
Here Malcolm Gough, Group Sales and Marketing Director at Natural Paving Products (UK) Ltd explains why merchants should be prepared for a porcelain-paving boom and what they should look out for in quality porcelain products.
The development of the ‘garden room’ means that more people than ever before are investing in hard landscaping as a cost efficient way of increasing ground floor living space. When compared to single storey extensions, with an average cost of around £1,000 per square metre1, a typical installation of vitrified porcelain paving would come in below £120 per square metre.2
The appeal of the garden room stretches beyond the economies too, with trends of open plan and indoor/outdoor living on the rise. Many homeowners aspire for expansive kitchen-dining rooms that spill out into the garden through bi-fold doors and the like. What makes these spaces particularly attractive is the continuation of the flooring beyond the backdoor threshold and this is where the popularity of porcelain paving is making real headway.
Due to its hard wearing properties and beautiful appearance, porcelain paving is ideal in kitchen settings and with suppliers like Natural Paving Products offering flagstones in 20mm thicknesses as well a matching 10mm tile, homeowners can create seamless transitions between inside and outside. So what should merchants look out for in quality porcelain products and what should they avoid?
The first thing is origin. Italian porcelain paving is widely recognised as the signature variety and is most popular with UK customers. Products from Spain, Turkey and China are also available, however many of these will contain ceramic and cheaper alternative materials. Some maybe entirely ceramic and some may have a ceramic base with a top layer of porcelain. These types of tiles are a poorer quality and are not as robust as full-bodied porcelain.
Once merchants know to look for products that are 100 per cent porcelain it is important for them to understand that not all porcelain is equal. The second attribute they should look out for is the finish. Poorer quality porcelain options tend to be bland in their finish, with every piece within a pack looking very similar. Higher quality options will offer better textured finishes, better slip resistance and even have a multitude of different prints to reflect a more natural product.
In addition, it will be helpful for merchants to work with a supplier who offers a wide range of styles and sizes. Natural Paving Products for example offers nine different colours across three ranges – its Di Pietra range reflects a natural stone appearance with a naturally riven texture and has 52 connotations of surface pattern and shades, its Sabbia range provides a travertine aesthetic and Oceano offers shale print and smooth surfaces. In more traditional settings the Di Pietra range has proven most popular, alternatively where a modern aesthetic is desired white and light coloured porcelain offers smoother lines and a sleek visual finish.
Many suppliers only offer single sizes so it’s worth looking out for those that can offer project packs, circle kits and accessories such as steps, pieces for swimming pools and edging to provide the most comprehensive and creative opportunities for customers.
Porcelain paving is relatively easy to install and for the external flagstones the process is the same as for natural stone. However installers will need a specialist blade to avoid edge chipping when making any required cuts. The installer will also need to paint the back of each flagstone with a priming slurry to give a strong adhesion to the mortar bed as porcelain flagstones are a non-porous material. We would also recommend using a quality jointing compound suitable for the joint widths and depths of the design chosen. Once completed, on-going maintenance of the porcelain paving is minimal and very easy to clean and care for.
That being said, merchants can rest at ease by using suppliers that offer full ranges of maintenance and protection products and tools specifically formulated to work with their natural stone and porcelain paving such as Natural Paving Products and its Pavetuf range. The company offers a full package of products from paving to priming slurry, jointing compounds, cleaners, tools and porcelain cutting blades.
The final point to consider for merchants is choosing a supplier of porcelain paving that can offer quick delivery. Imported paving naturally has longer lead times than native stone but that is no excuse for excessively long waiting periods. Natural Paving Products has just extended its distribution network with a new dedicated warehouse for its range of porcelain paving, which offers vastly reduced delivery lead-times, as impressive as 24 – 48 hours, direct from this distribution centre.
In tandem with the popularity of bringing the outdoors in, and vice versa, porcelain paving is fast becoming a much sought after product for the design conscious customer. Natural Paving Products’ Vitripiazza range of porcelain paving is made of the highest possible quality of Italian porcelain available anywhere in the world and is supported by the company’s comprehensive range of accessories.