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 consideration 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, as well as the pros and cons of each, 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 it 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 enough strength and durability underfoot for any regular, domestic use.
Sandstone is by far the most popular choice of natural stone paving due to the wide range of colours and finishes that are available but Granite, Slate and Limestone Paving all have their own benefits and appeals too!
Porcelain Paving is a man-made product, 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 capable of withstanding regular garden and patio usage with ease.
The non-slip and low-maintenance properties of Porcelain slabs make them safe for the whole family all year round and save you time and money on upkeep.
Outdoor Porcelain tiles are also ideally suited to the British climate. They 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.
Porcelain paving tiles are non-porous meaning that any excess moisture won’t be able to seep into or build up within the slabs, so your paving won’t be as prone to staining from natural occurrences like algae or any accidental spillages. The low-maintenance paving slabs can simply be wiped clean with a damp cloth to remove any dirt or spills!
For added protection, tile protector products are available just to help release anything which may have dried onto the slabs. 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.
As a result, 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.
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 is more consistent in colour.
The wide variety of natural stone paving products offers a huge range of colours to choose from and you’ll always be able to find something to suit the needs of your project.
Natural stones can be treated to offer a range of textures and finishes too. Each of these offers its own range of qualities.
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 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 traditional look of natural stone paving and offers eye-catching variations!
Kandla Grey Porcelain, for example, is designed to look just like Kandla Grey Sandstone with variations in colour and even a slightly textured surface to emulate the natural rivens found in Sandstone.
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 features some lighter and more neutral tones that will provide the perfect backdrop to any modern patio and are often used as an alternative to Granite.
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.
Our porcelain slabs have a flat surface with a light texture to them which provides the tiles with their non-slip qualities. Unlike natural stone, there are no harsh riven surfaces in porcelain, only a printed design to imitate the appearance of a riven stone. This helps the porcelain to keep its consistency in colour and tone, offering you more control over the finish and appearance of your space.
Natural stone paving has led the market for many years as an affordable and reliable option for a wide range of paving needs with Riven stones being cheaper than any Sawn, Tumbled or Shot Blasted options due to the natural finish requiring less work.
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, which is something that you may want to budget in.
Porcelain Paving entered the frame as a top-of-the-range option but has rapidly become much more affordable in recent years with prices now generally starting lower than some natural stones!
Maintenance is much simpler and the tiles won’t need regular sealing which will save you time and money in the long run. For any tough stains, a cleaner 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, Porcelain is resistant to any build-up of moisture which can result in mould and other growth, needing very little maintenance to stay looking its best all year round!
Natural stone, on the other hand, offers a huge 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.
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 take the time to understand the pros and cons of each and make the right choice in materials the first time around.
We hope that our guide helps you to come to a decision on your choice of paving and if there is ever anything that we can be of assistance with, please don’t hesitate to ask. A member of our team would be happy to help!
See Our Full Range Of Natural Stone Paving
Browse Our Porcelain Paving
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!