Paving the Way for Porcelain Pavers Outdoors
November 5, 2020
Text by Maria LaPiana
Discovering Porcelain Pavers
Estuardo Juarez, a sales associate at Gault Stone & Landscape Supplies, remembers the first time a customer asked him what he thought of using porcelain pavers for an outdoor project. The customer knew he didn’t want natural stone, and he’d heard that porcelain was durable, requiring little maintenance. Juarez wasn’t very familiar with the material, but he was intrigued, so he did some research—and liked what he saw.
That was six years ago. “Using porcelain pavers outdoors was unheard of here in the Northeast,” says Juarez. “The choices were few, availability was low, and prices were on the high side. But I could see the potential.”
Today, pavers made of porcelain—a chameleon-like product that can mimic the look of concrete, wood, and natural stone including bluestone, slate, travertine, limestone, and sandstone—are in high demand. “Porcelain pavers are more than beautiful,” says Juarez. “Their functionality is outstanding. They’re stronger than natural stone, non-slip, and easy to clean. Plus, they resist moss, mold, and mildew, and they’re not susceptible to freezing. The appeal is understandable.”
Debunking Porcelain Myths
It was a hard sell for a while. First, the Gault team had to debunk the myths that many have about porcelain in general—that it is delicate and fragile (think porcelain dolls), limited in its applications, and wildly expensive.
And then they had to get homeowners, architects, and builders to think outside the New England box. “Fairfield County tends to be very traditional, with its fieldstone walls and bluestone flooring,” says Juarez. “Porcelain was originally more popular on the West Coast because the product design was more modern and less suitable to our unique landscape style. Customers would say, ‘Oh, yes, they’re lovely. I could see them in San Diego—but not here.’ Once we started educating our clients, and as more styles were available, they took off,” says Juarez.
The Benefits of Porcelain Pavers
Simply put, porcelain pavers are very dense tiles made of high-grade porcelain fired at thousands of degrees, making them hardwearing and an excellent choice for outdoor construction or renovation projects. They can be used on everything from roof decks, terraces, and balconies, to walkways and pool-deck areas. “Porcelain pavers have so many good properties, it’s hard to know where to begin,” says Juarez.
- They’re naturally sealed and non-porous.
- They resist harsh weather conditions and won’t crack like natural stone. They can even be treated with ice melt without adverse effects.
- They’re non-staining. If a pet has an accident on the patio, you can wash it off with no mess.
- They’re non-slip, which makes them great for spaces that get a lot of use, especially from children. They’re an excellent choice for high-traffic areas and spaces used for entertaining.
- They’re easy to clean; brushing with warm soapy water is often all that’s required to keep them looking new.
- They stay cooler than natural stone in summer, so they’re perfect around pools.
- High-definition finishes won’t fade—even when exposed directly to sunlight for long periods.
For decades, porcelain was used primarily indoors—in kitchens, mudrooms, entryways, and baths. It was adapted to suit various design styles, so it’s not surprising it would eventually find its way into a variety of alfresco applications. The ability to create custom patterns is a captivating feature. Porcelain may have started as a darling of contemporary design, but the explosion of colors, sizes, and shapes has left no style stone unturned. Says Juarez: “We find they’re being used increasingly in indoor/outdoor spaces, and because they suit both casual and sophisticated environments, they’re the go-to material for today’s modern-farmhouse style.”
A Designer Chooses Porcelain Pavers
Diane Rath of The Rath Project recently discovered Gault’s outdoor porcelain collection for her family’s home. “When we began looking for material to complete a pool surround and patio, we thought for sure that bluestone would be our pick—it’s beautiful, classic, and complements the colors of our midcentury ranch. Yet, when we met with Estuardo, who brought us inside to view the porcelain collection, we were astounded that those 24 x 24 tiles weren’t actual bluestone! And once we learned about the durability, we were in,” says Rath.
“As an interior designer, a goal that I take very seriously to achieve on each project is finding harmony in both form and function. Therefore, it was a real treat to find a product that’s just as appealing to the eye as it is to our busy, sometimes messy lifestyles. And knowing that we had come across an outdoor tile, that we excitedly used in our own home, that I can also recommend to any of my clients is a huge win,” Rath says enthusiastically.
Pricewise, porcelain pavers come in at the higher end of more conventional materials, but the quality is worth it, says Juarez. And there’s another good reason to choose them. By its nature, natural stone comes from quarries worldwide, so supply and pricing can easily shift based on current events. “But our porcelain pavers are made in the United States, in independent factories dedicated to their manufacture,” says Juarez, “Because of that, I’m pleased to say we are able to keep up with the demand.”
Porcelain Pavers Come in Many Styles
For the best selection of porcelain pavers—including color, size, style, texture, and finish—Gault Stone & Landscape Supplies (with showrooms in Westport and Bethel) has you covered. Here is just some of what they offer:
- Bluestone: Smooth, tumbled, or cobblestone finishes; square or multi-size cube patterns.
- Travertine: Crosscut pattern in colors ranging from silver and cream to tan.
- Stone looks in a variety of colors. Finishes include quartz, limestone, marble, slate, and more.
- Wood: Light and dark shades.
Gault Stone & Landscape Supplies, Westport and Bethel, Connecticut, gaultstone.com