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What is…Porcelain paving?

The material choices for a new patio or paved terrace are vast and it can be difficult to know where to start. Do you go for limestone, granite, porphyry or sandstone? One material which has quickly gained a lot of popularity over the last few years is porcelain, an incredibly hard, durable paving material which has unique properties somewhat different to its other stone alternatives.

Porcelain paving is entirely man-made. The process for making it is complex, involving drying the ingredients of clays, sands and minerals, pressing them under great pressure, printing a pattern on them (yes, often involving industrial inkjet printers!) and finally firing them at temperatures close to 1200 degrees C.

The whole process produces units which can be easily replicated meaning they are excellent where  you need reliable uniformity in a design, for example in a contemporary layout where a crisp, clean  finish is desirable with little variation in them except for the coloured textures printed onto them. Over  a large area this gives a very calming, serene look but can be quite harsh if using a very light colour  over a wide area.

Italy is one of the main exporters of porcelain and units are typically sized for convenience at 600mm x 600mm, 600mm x 1200mm and 1200mm x 1200mm (very heavy units!) and calibrated to be 20mm thick. This makes it quicker and easier for installers to lay the units as there’s no randomness to the pattern. Prices vary depending on supplier but on average expect to pay anywhere between £35 - £60 + VAT per square metre for high quality paving (correct as of Jan 2024). Beware of very cheap paving as it’s sometimes not true porcelain but ceramic which has a higher water absorption rate and thus stains easier.

Another aspect of porcelain is its grip-resistance often stated as an R number. Go for 11 or higher to ensure it can be used in pedestrian areas subject to rainfall. Just like any other stone, although porcelain is very hard and doesn’t stain easily, it can be affected if laid under the canopy of trees as leaves and berries can leave stains if not cleaned off quickly. Rusty garden furniture can also leave marks on it. It’s low maintenance, but just like all the other options, it’s not no maintenance.

Porcelain isn’t always the best option for every garden and natural stone has great merit due its natural variations in colour and texture but porcelain does tend to lend itself to modern gardens in an easy to use material which can be a great investment.

If you’d like to see the ways porcelain paving can be used in your garden, give us a call today and we’ll show you some of the many options available.