Flooring for Exterior Terraces: A Guide to Choosing the Perfect Solution

In this article we will review various options for terrace and balcony flooring, evaluating the safest and most practical frost-resistant solutions, including for raised floors.  We will look at which technical characteristics tiles for an exterior terrace must have and draw inspiration from an innovative finish by Cotto d’Este, focusing on surfaces designed to maximise the aesthetic continuity between indoor and outdoor environments.

Exterior spaces like terraces, balconies, porticos, and verandas are becoming increasingly important. In fact, the world of outdoor design now offers countless solutions that combine style and functionality and allow us to enjoy these spaces year-round. These are spaces which, today, are characterised by a seamless continuity with the interiors of homes or public spaces, serving as an expansion that is increasingly perceived as necessary.

If you need to tile your terrace or choose new balcony flooring, then it’s time to explore the materials available on the market. Among these, porcelain stoneware stands out, not only for its technical qualities, but also for the wide variety of looks, formats, and finishes it has to offer.

Terrace and Balcony Flooring: The Ceramic Technologies Available

When it comes to tiling a balcony or terrace, whether covered or not, porcelain stoneware has two choices to offer. In fact, the term “porcelain stoneware” refers to similar, yet distinct and specific technologies, each with their own characteristics, functionalities, applications, and price. So, which tiles should one use on a terrace or balcony? Here are the options:

  • Traditional porcelain stoneware is available in a variety of attractive surface finishes, ranging from more or less matte to more or less textured depending on the “look” of the individual collection.  Among these finishes, there is often one designed specifically for outdoor use, with levels of slip-resistance that vary depending on the context. For example, a covered veranda or portico requires a different degree of traction as compared to the area around a pool.
  • Outdoor stoneware is designed exclusively for the most challenging outdoor applications and can withstand heavy loads. With a thickness of 20 mm, this technology permits dry installation (without adhesive), for example on grass, gravel, or sand.  Alternatively, when installed with adhesive on a suitable concrete base, it can even withstand vehicular traffic. Given the fact that they are intended for outdoor use, these surfaces are always particularly rough, and able to ensure a high degree of slip resistance.

The Technical Characteristics of Porcelain Stoneware for Balconies and Terraces

Both of these technologies come with all the benefits that have made porcelain stoneware so successful for outdoor use, including on tiled balconies and terraces. Let’s see which among them is essential for these types of applications:

  • frost-resistant
  • slip-resistant
  • waterproof
  • easy to clean
  • durability of texture and colour

Tiles for Balconies and Terraces Installed on Supports: All of the Benefits

When it comes to tiling balconies and terraces, an option to consider is installing porcelain stoneware on adjustable supports.  This type of solution requires the use of 20 mm thick tiles and, since it does not require a levelling screed or adhesive, it is known as “raised” flooring. The height of the pedestals can be adjusted, making it possible to create a perfectly level floor despite the slope required of all external spaces.

Other benefits of this solution are:

  • The speed of installation.  Installing tiles on pedestals is significantly faster than using adhesive and allows the floor to be walked on much sooner (there is no need to wait for the adhesive and grout to dry).
  • An accessible subfloor. Installing tiles on supports creates a space underneath where systems can be concealed, yet easily accessed if needed.
  • Drainage of rainwater.  The gap created by the pedestals facilitates water drainage, thus preventing stagnation and infiltration.
  • Ventilation of the subfloor. The raised pedestal system creates a gap between the flooring and the surface of the terrace, facilitating ventilation and preventing the formation of mould and humidity. Additionally, this gap contributes to improving the thermal insulation of the terrace, reducing heat loss in the winter and heat absorption in the summer.

Many of Cotto d’Este’s collections offer a 20 mm thick outdoor version. For this reason there is also a manual dedicated to raised floor installation.

Terrace Tiles That Blend Seamlessly with Interior Spaces

The aesthetic continuity between indoor and outdoor spaces is a value that has increasingly gained importance over time. With this comes the need to integrate terraces with living rooms, balconies with kitchens. Indoor and outdoor spaces thus become natural extensions of one another, facilitated by advancements in window design, which have increased the glass surface area and minimised the bulkiness of the frames. With fewer visual barriers, these spaces are often treated as a single hybrid environment, to be furnished in a cohesive manner. Consequently, the flooring becomes the most important element for establishing aesthetic continuity between these indoor and outdoor areas.

This has lead to the need for specific finishes for internal floors and for terrace tiles, ensuring that they can be placed side by side without any discernible differences in colour or texture.

 

Cotto d’Este’s  Safetouch technology does even more. By combining maximum slip resistance with a smooth surface texture, it offers seamless continuity, both inside and outside, meeting even the most stringent standards. This technology is available for the Pura and Lithos collections.

Safetouch represents a new generation of surfaces perfect for balcony and terrace flooring. Essentially, the glass micro-granules used for this surface are so fine that, to the touch, one does not feel the roughness characteristic of traditional non-slip surfaces. Nevertheless, at the microscopic level (imperceptible to the touch), the surface maintains enough irregularity to ensure an optimal coefficient of friction.

The Terrace According to Cotto d’Este

In Cotto d’Este’s catalogue, porcelain stoneware is available in both traditional thicknesses and the 20 mm thickness, primarily in various stone-look collections, a look that has always been a focus of the brand’s aesthetic research. Regarding the technological segment that we have termed “traditional thickness”, it’s important to note that, since its foundation, Cotto d’Este has made a deliberate choice, both as part of its identity and in order to differentiate itself from the rest of the ceramic market, to increase the thickness of this category of tiles from 10 mm to 14 mm. These few millimetres make an enormous difference in terms of the tiles’ durability. In addition to the aforementioned Pura and Lithos collections, we would also like to highlight the Limestone and Secret Stone collections, two of the brand’s long-standing best-sellers.

As for the 20 mm thickness, a perfect example of this technology tailored to the outdoors is the Blend Stone series, a stone-look collection that, in the 20 mm version, achieves a slip-resistance rating of R12, perfect for various outdoor applications, even in public settings.

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