Porcelain or Natural Stone? Which is best? It’s a question that we get asked a lot!
Choosing the right paving for your project can be confusing due to the wide variety of options available, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t find the perfect option without having to compromise.
When starting a project, it’s always important to research your choice of stone carefully, taking into considering your design needs and personal preferences as well as the use that your space will see once the project is complete. Natural Stone Paving has been used in domestic and commercial projects for a number of years with stones such as Granite, Slate and Sandstone being the top choices, but the growing popularity of Porcelain Paving in recent years has seen a much wider range becoming available and has quickly claimed a top spot when it comes to garden paving due to the range of benefits and modern convenience that it offers.
Here, we’ll be exploring these differences between Porcelain and Natural Stone, so you can be confident in your choice of patio paving from day one!
1. Strength & Durability
Natural stone takes thousands of years to form and it’s often overlooked that the stone has been around for this long before it becomes a part of your home! As a result, the stone is very durable and hard-wearing and has been used for domestic and commercial projects for years. The slabs are suited to the British climate and will stand the test of time, even in harsh weather, retaining their grip underfoot and offering a robust, long-lasting paving option. Our natural stone is calibrated to either 20 or 22mm in thickness which is the recommended industry standard for exterior paving and provides the right level of strength underfoot for any regular domestic use in patios and pathways.
Granite is generally considered to be one of the strongest types of natural stone, but if your space is likely to see high amounts of traffic or will need to withstand the weight of vehicles when used for a driveway, you will need to use a thicker slab when choosing a natural stone. 25mm Granite or Granite Setts are much more suited to high traffic areas and driveways due to the additional thickness of the slabs which provides the added security. These thicker slabs are also more suitable for commercial projects as the excessive use that the stone is likely to see in public spaces will gradually wear down the stone over long periods of time.
Porcelain Paving is made from a mix of clay, sand and minerals baked at a high-temperature. The resulting paving slabs are non-porous, hard-wearing and extremely tough, with each slab calibrated to 20mm in thickness. This means that even a 20mm porcelain slab will be suitable to take the weight of vehicles and see excessive use in public spaces, meaning that you won’t need to spend extra on the added thickness. Porcelain paving tiles are also suited to the British climate and will withstand extreme temperatures and weather conditions without being susceptible to damage or becoming too hot underfoot in the sun!
2. Longevity & Maintenance
It’s generally advised to seal a natural stone to help prevent any staining, as well as helping to prevent the growth of any moss or algae. You may especially want to consider sealing if your stone is light in colour, as any stains will be more visible. However, sealing is not compulsory and there is a wide range of sealing products on the market which will provide various results. Some sealants will simply seal and protect, whereas others can be used to enhance the colour of your slabs. Sealing your natural stone patio will also help to protect against other general wear such as fading which can sometimes occur over long periods in places where the stone is likely to see excessive use.
As for when to apply a sealer, there are no specific guidelines and most landscapers and tradespersons will have their own tried and tested methods. Some people choose to seal their paving slabs before laying to prevent any staining during the laying process and others prefer to leave their stone unsealed for up to a year, allowing the sandstone to weather naturally before applying a sealant. We always advise speaking to a local tradesperson who will be able to assess the many variables within your environment and offer specific advice for your project.
There is typically no need to seal porcelain paving tiles as the non-porous slabs prevent any excess moisture from building up, meaning that your paving will not be prone to any build-up of moss or algae and you won’t need to worry about any excess rainwater or accidental spillage causing any unwanted growths. The low-maintenance paving slabs can simply be wiped clean with a damp cloth to remove any dirt or spills and for added protection, we recommend using the LTP Porcelain Tile Protector to help release anything which may have dried onto the slabs, however, as porcelain tiles are non-porous, anything that is likely to leave a stain won’t seep into the stone in the same way that it would in natural stone, meaning that it will remain on the surface and can be removed without too much hassle!
Porcelain paving will save you plenty of time and money in the long run, as natural stone will need to be re-sealed every 1-2 years and will often require a specialist cleaning product to remove any staining which are both things that you won’t need to consider when choosing porcelain.
3. Colours & Finishes
Natural stone is an entirely organic product quarried from the earth and therefore delivers authentically natural tones and colours. The stone displays beautiful variations from slab to slab, promising an outdoor area filled with character providing a wealth of design opportunities. Rainbow Sandstone, for example, is one of the boldest of all our natural stones. Each slab has its own unique qualities of intense swirls and veins, and bright purple and orange colouring to help your home to stand out! In contrast, Kandla Grey Sandstone features a palette of light and dark grey tones throughout and are very consistent for natural stone.
Riven, Sawn & Honed or Flamed Natural Stone? What’s the difference?
A riven surface is created naturally when the stone is split along its layers, providing a truly authentic finish. This process leaves beautiful natural variations in texture throughout the surface of each slab, meaning that no paver is exactly the same, one of the main appeals of Riven Paving! Each riven slab features hand-dressed edges which add to the natural, organic look and feel of paving to create a timeless appeal to any traditional design. This style of Indian stone paving is suited to traditional settings and is a great alternative to Yorkstone, whilst also working out to be less expensive!
Sawn Paving is sawn straight off the block rather than being split naturally. The slabs are then cut down to size and the top surface is honed or sandblasted, creating a smooth finish with a slight sheen. Our Smooth Paving is sawn on all 6 sides, meaning that the 4 edges are also straight and machine-cut with a smooth finish to complete the contemporary look. Sawn sandstone paving offers an entirely different appeal to riven sandstone and features more pronounced patterns and colours. Our sawn sandstone has a level of natural slip resistance and, as long as the paving is maintained, the stone will retain its grip underfoot. We advise taking the usual care and precautions when walking on the slabs when wet, but the slabs are not known to be slippery and are designed specifically for outdoor use.
Our Granite Paving features a lightly flamed surface texture which helps the stone to retain its non-slip properties underfoot, even when wet! The lightly flamed texture is achieved by heating the surface of the slabs, causing some of the crystals within the stone to shatter, leaving the slabs with a textured surface, ideal for exterior paving. This may be something to consider for your project, depending on the use that you expect it to see. Flamed granite paving is not likely to become slippery underfoot unless the stone has seen excess use resulting in the surface texture being worn down.
Porcelain paving features a consistent, printed surface that beautifully emulates the appearance of natural stone. Our porcelain paving slabs are designed to mimic the traditional look of natural stone paving and our Rustic and Buff Porcelain options offer eye-catching variations designed specifically to resemble natural slate and sandstone paving with attractive variations in colour and design which are sure to catch the eye and compliment any traditional design. Other options range from the dark and striking tones within our Black and Nero Porcelain which will make a statement in any design and one of our most popular options is the Silver Grey Porcelain which offers some lighter and more neutral tones which will provide the perfect backdrop to any modern or traditional patio and is often used as a modern alternative to Granite. If you’re looking for something a little brighter still, the light and elegant tones within the Ivory and White Porcelain Paving will be sure to brighten up any dark areas to create an added sense of space to your design.
Our outdoor porcelain tiles are also impervious to fading and will stay true to their original colour, even when subjected to excessive heat and sunlight during the Summer months!
Porcelain paving slabs are flat and feature a lightly textured surface which provides the tiles with their non-slip feature. Unlike, natural stone, there are no riven surface options and provide more consistency in colour and tone, eliminating the need to consider any natural variations, with some options featuring a design that mimics the appearance of a riven surface.
Riven natural paving is available from just £19.15/m² Incl. VAT and at such an affordable price, it’s easy to see why natural stone is so popular for any type of patio or garden paving!
A smooth, sawn natural stone will set you back a little more due to the additional processes which the stone goes through to achieve the smooth surface and this starts from £21.60/m² Incl. VAT.
Keep in mind that natural stone will need a little upkeep and maintenance to maintain the paving and any unsightly stains may need an additional cleaning product to remove.
In comparison, porcelain paving starts at £24.70 Incl. VAT.
For porcelain paving tiles, maintenance is much simpler and the stone won’t need regular sealing.
For any tough stains, an additional product may still be needed to help lift the marks off, but the non-porous slabs won’t allow any liquid to penetrate the surface and cause permanent staining.
There’s no right or wrong answer to the question ‘Which is best?’ when it comes to Natural Stone vs Porcelain Paving.
Overall, Porcelain is stronger than Natural Stone. Not only is it denser, but it can also withstand higher temperatures and is not susceptible to staining or scratching. As well as this, being non-porous, porcelain is resistant to any build-up of moisture which can result in mould and other growths and requires little maintenance to stay looking its best all year round!
Natural stone, on the other hand, offers a range of unique and eye-catching finishes and although it needs regular sealing and treating, this is something that is quick and easy to do, and only needs to be done once every 1-2 years.
When choosing your stone, always take the time to consider the use that your space will see, as well as the look that you would like to achieve. Most people will only lay one or two patios throughout their lifetime and any type of stone will last for years to come, so it’s important to make the right choice in materials the first time round!
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Need A Hand?
If you need any help making a decision on the type of stone to use for your garden or patio, or if you’d like a free quote, we would be happy to help!
You can speak to a member of the team on 01206 700 599. Our regular business hours are 9 am-6 pm, Monday to Friday. You can also reach out to us via email at [email protected].