Outdoor vs Indoor Tiles: The Need-to-Know Differences

Outdoor vs Indoor Tiles: The Need-to-Know Differences

When you're planning a tiling project, it's important to pick the right material for the job. One thing to consider is whether the tiles will be indoors or outdoors. The location will influence which tiles are right for the job. Understanding the differences in outdoor vs indoor tiles will help you narrow down your tile selection.



Outdoor tiles have to contend with an issue that doesn't make much difference for indoor tiles: the weather. From the sun beating down on them to rain saturating them to frigid temperatures causing them to contract, outside tiles go through a lot each year.

For that reason, outdoor tiles need to be more durable than indoor ones. There are a few different factors that contribute to tiles' durability.

For one thing, exterior tiles should be thicker than indoor ones. Thick tiles are less likely to break, even with bikes or grills being rolled across them.

The material you choose is important as well. Porcelain is an excellent choice for outdoor tiles because of its nonporous nature. Natural stone, including marble and cobblestone, is also recommended. You can use limestone or travertine in temperate climates, but they're not good for places with cold winters.



The material that's used between tiles is known as grout. It serves to fill in the spaces and keep out dirt and moisture. The better the grouting work for your tile project is, the longer the finished product will last.

You can see an excellent example of grout in the kitchen floor below:

There are various grout formulas. The selection includes cement grout, which comes in sanded and unsanded forms.

To learn more about the different type of grout, check out this video:

While many varieties of grout may work for an indoor tiling project, you'll probably need to be more particular when tiling exterior surfaces. The grout that you choose should be rated for outdoor use. The available options may include cement grout and premixed grout.

It's important for grout to stay dry during the curing process. That means that you have to be careful to start an outdoor tiling project only when there's not rain in the forecast.

Many types of grout need to be sealed. For backyard projects, it's important to choose a sealant that's rated for outdoor use. It may do a better job of keeping rainwater from penetrating your tile design.

Keep in mind that hiring professionals for your tiling project means that you can leave the interior vs exterior grout decisions up to them.


Expansion Joints

Because changes in temperature and humidity can cause tile to expand and contract, building expansion joints into your layout is essential. An expansion joint is a strip of flexible sealant that can accommodate fluctuations in tiles' size and position.

Without proper expansion joints, tiles are more likely to crack, come loose or show other signs of damage. The surrounding grout may begin to crack as well.

Whether you're placing tiles indoors or outdoors, you always need to plan expansion joints at any spot where a horizontal surface meets a vertical one.

In this bathroom, for example, an expansion joint at the intersection of floor and wall is essential for keeping the tile in beautiful shape:

Flower Mosaic - View Details»

For large tiled areas, you also need to include some expansion joints throughout the layout.

In general, indoor tiles require fewer expansion joints than outdoor ones. Indoor rooms need expansion joints that are spaced 20 to 25 feet apart. For outdoor locations, the distance between joints must be reduced to just 8 to 12 feet.

Keep in mind that, for indoor locations that get a lot of natural light, you should use the outside guidelines rather than the indoor ones.



Some types of tile can be slippery when wet. Because outdoor tiles are regularly exposed to the elements, it's especially important to plan ahead for rain and snow. Textured tiles provide slip resistance that's beneficial for nearly all outdoor applications. When it comes to the patio around your swimming pool, you'll especially appreciate having friction underfoot.


Outdoor Tile - View Details>>

For indoor tiles, the need for texture varies. While sleek flooring may be a great fit for your living room, you'll probably want flooring with more texture next to your bathtub.

Natural stone tiles often have textured surfaces. You can see a lovely example in the bathroom below:

As you can see in the following image, pebbles and river rock are additional options for textured flooring materials:

River Rock Mosaic Stone - View Details / Get Quote »



Another tip for reducing the slip factor of your outdoor surfaces is to use unglazed tiles.

Ceramic and porcelain tiles come in two different formats: glazed and unglazed. To make glazed tiles, manufacturers bake a layer of glass onto the top of the tiles. For unglazed varieties, they skip this step.

Indoor tiles can be glazed or unglazed. You may want to choose glazed tiles in dry parts of your home that don't see as much foot traffic and opt for unglazed ones in the bathroom and other spots where spills or splashes are common.

Unglazed tiles are almost always recommended for outdoor use. Not only are they better at protecting against slips, but they're also thicker and less prone to damage from everyday wear and tear.

Porcelain Field Tile - View Details>>


To help you figure out which tiles to use inside your house and which to use outdoors, talk to a professional tile company. The experts at Artsaics understand the differences between outdoor vs indoor tiles and can help you select the right options for every part of your property. Contact us today to learn more about beautifying your home with indoor and outdoor tiles.

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