Brick Paver Series

Porcelain Tile Versus Traditional Pavers – Which is Better? 

 

 

By Forever Green Landscape Construction & Design – Bergen County NJ

Porcelain Pavers - The Social Media Craze...

Like everyone else, we are witnessing an onslaught of exterior porcelain pavers ads on social media attempting to brand porcelain pavers as the next and final go-to product for walkways, patios, pool decks and even driveways. Many of our customers want to know: What is the low-down on porcelain tile? Is porcelain tile a better choice over traditional interlocking brick pavers as a hardscape feature in a landscape design? 

We have a degree of experience with installing porcelain tile both interior and exterior. We have exponential experience installing interlocking brick pavers. Porcelain tile is an excellent product for the interior of a home. It makes for beautiful floors and walls and there are an array of patterns that can provide a multitude of different looks. Porcelain tile on the exterior of a home is a different story and a bit more complicated. Below is our expert analysis on Porcelain Pavers versus traditional concrete brick interlocking pavers. 

Ananlysis on Porcelain Pavers

"Porcelain Pavers Are Manufactured for Exterior Use"

Porcelain Pavers- NJ Procelain Paver Contractor- Bergen, Essex,Hudson, Union, Morris, Passaic County

First off, many distributors are trying to portray and thus sell their porcelain tile as being specifically engineered for exterior use thus utilizing the term “porcelain pavers” versus “porcelain tile”. We find this claim completely absent credibility. It would sound believable until you realize that a large majority of these large-size porcelain pavers are imported. Like many other products a large majority are imported from China. In that respect, is it reasonable or even realistic to believe that Chinese porcelain tile manufactures engineered porcelain tile with American patios and driveways in mind? Or is it more likely and thus more believable to understand that porcelain tile is being purchased in bulk and being marketed and sold where applicable as “porcelain pavers” to compete in the brick paver market? 

Porcelain Pavers- NJ Procelain Paver Contractor- Bergen, Essex,Hudson, Union, Morris, Passaic County

In addition to China, porcelain tile is being imported from all over the world to include Turkey and Italy just to name a few countries. 

 There is no credible evidence to date that we have seen to suggest that anyone is manufacturing porcelain tile specifically for exterior use. That’s not to say it can’t be used outside and in exterior applications. The reality is that thicker porcelain tiles 3/4″ plus began to be used outside in exterior applications as a matter of happenstance versus being “engineered” for exterior applications. 

Porcelain Pavers- NJ Procelain Paver Contractor- Bergen, Essex,Hudson, Union, Morris, Passaic County

Distribution & Supply of Porcelain Pavers

The second issue we found with porcelain tile is in the distribution and availability in stock. Because this product is largely imported versus manufactured here, we find yet another disparity to contend with. When products are imported, they are purchased in bulk and sold until the product runs out. There is no guarantee of continuity of the product as they are not manufactured lines of product versus being purchased imports. Thus if you begin with a certain porcelain tile on one project, you may not be able to find that same stone in continuity for another project on the same home six months to a year later. It becomes a bit of a gamble. 

Additionally, in cases where the distributor is a middle-man to an importer, the distributor has no real way of knowing the extensive and critical information on the availability of their supply line other than what is being warehoused at any given time. That is a lot of uncertainty to deal with for the New Jersey landscape industry which maintains a very small window of time to complete a years worth of exterior home-improvement projects. 

What happens if one should one have to effectuate a repair? This becomes very difficult absent a brand name and a definitive and predictable supply line. 

Brick Paver Supply and Distribution

NJ Landscape Show_Cambridge Pavers_Belgard Pavers_Uniock Pavers_CST Pavers_ Keystone PaversPorcelain Pavers- NJ Procelain Paver Contractor- Bergen, Essex,Hudson, Union, Morris, Passaic County

Interlocking brick paver manufacturers are far more local to the industry than their porcelain paver counterparts who are more closely associated to the import-export industry of foreign made products. 

We have routinely seen the paver manufacturers at local trade shows to include the annual NJ Landscape show at the Meadowlands convention center. Any serious product line questions can be answered by the manufactures right then and there. The locality based factor of the interlocking brick paver industry adds quite a bit more transparency to their operations, supply lines and stock as well as predictable continuity to of their product lines. If you begin a driveway in one paver, chances are you can match that paver in color and context if not with the same exact paver (your choice) in a follow-up project the following year and quite possibly several years later. Yes at some point paver lines are discontinued but this time period is completely more stable than our experiences with porcelain tile. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Cambridge Pavers Patio Installation Forever GReen Landscape Constrcution & Design - Cranford,NJ

Durability

PorcelainIn terms of durability, porcelain tiles are “for the most part” durable. We have seen and experienced a few issues, as common to all tile. Porcelain tiles are exponentially more prone to chipping than brick pavers. In some cases we have seen flaws in the durability of a porcelain tile finish. We have personally experienced (and caused) a failure in the finish of a porcelain tile from a high-pressure power wash application. Granted the pressure was very high and the same pressure perhaps could have caused a failure in a brick paver but none-the-less it is a vulnerability to be aware of.

Porcelain definitely requires a degree of delicacy in handling above brick pavers via its tendency to easily chip. Once placed however, we find porcelain has significant durability. However, we believe the jury is still out on a lot of the claims made on its lifetime durability since it its a new product to the exterior hardscape market. It’s one thing to promote the durability of porcelain as a paver laid at a hotel pool deck in Naples Florida. What happens to porcelain after the salt trucks lay down the third application of road salt following a typical New Jersey January nor’easter? It is really unknown at this point and the manufactures claims have to be taken with a grain of salt. 

Brick Pavers The durability of brick pavers at this point is a known quantity. Brick pavers are extremely durable and handling of them is exponentially less delicate. 

Brick pavers, once placed, are extremely durable. They have proven to be able to stand up to the New Jersey winters, road salt and heavy traffic. 

The brick paver durability limitation comes its ability to withstand facial degradation over the course of time. Early generation pavers have endured significant degradation with both loss of color and degradation of face. The facial integrity of many early generations of pavers wore away exposing the aggregate of small stones, making the appearance look less colorful and less appealing when first installed. This is something promised to be remedied by porcelain ( That remains to be seen). 

However new generations of pavers seems to have addressed this issue and show promise that pavers will have a more complete and sustained look over the course of their installation. 

Style & Design

NJ Landscape Show_Cambridge Pavers_Belgard Pavers_Uniock Pavers_CST Pavers_ Keystone PaversPorcelain Pavers- NJ Procelain Paver Contractor- Bergen, Essex,Hudson, Union, Morris, Passaic County

Porcelain: This is undoubtedly the strongest attribute. Coming from the tile industry, the possibilities of style and design are endless. 

Porcelain also provides a great opportunity to get back to a more natural and traditional mortar based look. Many porcelain patterns also closely resemble natural stone  which is truly a timeless look.  

Brick Pavers: This is an area where pavers will have a hard time competing. While the look and style of brick pavers have greatly improved and continue to improve, brick paver design is constrained by the manufacturing process. Until that changes porcelain will maintain a significant advantage in the category of design and style. 

Porcelain Placement & Installation

Blue Stone Porcelain Paver Walkway/Patio_Glen Ridge, NJ 07028 Essex County,NJ Porcelain Pavers_Contractor Install

Porcelain: The point and purpose of the term porcelain “paver” is to associate its use as a dry-laid product one and the same as a concrete brick paver. Tiles after-all are synonymous with mortar and the expectation of using tile is that they will be mortared into place. However this would severely limit their application in the NJ hardscape industry to companies who have good masonry skillsets. Thus porcelain pavers are offered as a true dry-laid product… but are they? 

There is nothing that prohibits porcelain from sitting atop a dry bed of stone dust leveling base apart from any other stone. However, the issue we found is in the containment system. 

Our custom masonry based containment systems we used for pavers ( Belgian block and bullnose pavers) do not match up well with porcelain. Porcelain having a more refined look badly clashes with these masonry products. As a result we feel the true and proper placement of porcelain is a mortar based application where the edges of the porcelain are the finished border and the porcelain is held in place by mortar. 

However this equally calls into question and limits where and how porcelain should be used. Using a mortar based system defeats the purpose of a paver as a dry-laid system to resist upheaval forces over a large surface area. 

Porcelain does boast a platform system where the tiles can be installed on top of a hard plastic elevation system. While this may be realistic for a Raddison hotel rooftop, it is a not feasible nor practical reality for a New Jersey residential application. 

Brick Pavers Placement & Installation

Elevated Patio_Composite Vinyl Railings_Circle Kit_Cambridge Pavers_Nutley, NJ 07028

Brick Pavers: Brick pavers have proven that they can be laid practically anywhere. Brick paver manufacturers provide a plastic containment system to hold the pavers in place in a true dry-laid application. While we were never a fan of the plastic containment system and never use it, the system does exist and can be utilized. 

,There is no need to lay brick pavers in mortar. Quite frankly, it would be a waste of time. It is a true dry-laid system that enjoys the benefits of resisting cracking and upheaval associated to mortar based systems. 

Brick pavers match very well with traditional masonry containment systems ( Belgian block, bullnose pavers and brick) where porcelain tile does not. 

While we are fully capable of wet-laying a masonry product in a mortar bed, many landscape design companies are not. This inequality in skills-sets may force poor outcomes with the installation of porcelain as a dry-laid product. Although similar skill-sets are required to lay brick pavers, companies can still choose to utilize a plastic border. No such border exists for Porcelain. Leaving any dry-laid product “uncontained” ensures it will separate and come apart. 

Findings

Porcelain: Porcelain shows a lot of promise as an exterior hardscape product. However the jury is still out on how this product will fair over time and what vulnerabilities, if any, will surface. 

Recommended Application: Wet- laid mortar based 

Recommended Usage Areas: Ideal for patios and light traffic walkways and small square footage surface areas. 

Non-Reccomended Usage: Driveways and large surface area projects. 

Best Attribute: Style & Design 

Worst Attribute: Unknowns concerning long term use as a hardscape product/ no compatible containment systems 

Brick Pavers: Brick pavers are a locally produced and distributed known quantity that has provided a predictable working knowledge of what can be expected of them over time and how they can be utilized.

Recommended Application: Dry Laid. 

Recommended Usage: Driveways, Heavy Traffic Walkways, Large Square Footage Surface Areas, Small Square Footage Surface Areas.

Non-Recommended Usage: None

Best Attribute: Versatility in usage areas and predictability as a known quantity

Worst Attribute: Style and design limitations, potential for degradation of product’s look and  texture.