| Tiling a Concrete Slab

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Utdoor tile can be made of several different materials and is available in many colors and styles. A popular current trend is to use natural stone tiles with different shapes and complementary colors, as demonstrated in this project. Tile manufacturers may offer brochures giving you ideas for modular patterns that can be created from their tiles. Make sure the tiles you select are intended for outdoor use.

When laying a modular, geometric pattern with tiles of different sizes, it’s crucial that you test the layout before you begin and that you place the first tiles very carefully The first tiles will dictate the placement of all other tiles in your layout.

You can pour a new masonry slab on which to install your tile patio, but another option is to finish an existing slab by veneering it with tile—the scenario demonstrated here.

Outdoor tile must be installed on a clean, flat, and stable surface. When tiling an existing concrete pad, the surface must be free of flaking, wide cracks, and other major imperfections. A damaged slab can be repaired by applying a one- to two-inch-thick layer of new concrete over the old surface before laying tile.

Tape measure Pencil Chalk line

Tile cutter or wet saw Tile nippers Square-notched 1 rowel 2×4 padded with carpet

1 lammer Grout float Grout sponge Angle grinder Caulk gun Tile spacers Buckets

Paintbrush and roller Plastic sheeting Thinset mortar Modular tile Grout

Grout additive Grout sealer Tile sealer Eye protection and work gloves

Stone tiles can be laid as veneer over a concrete patio slab—a very easy way to create an elegant-looking patio.

Tile options for landscape installations:

Slate and other smooth, natural stone materials are durable and blend well with any landscape but are usually expensive. Quarry tile is less expensive, though only available in limited colors. Exterior-rated porcelain or ceramic tiles are moderately priced and available in a wide range of colors and textures, with many styles imitating the look of natural stone. Terra cotta tile is made from molded clay for use in warmer, drier climates only. Many of these materials require application of a sealer to increase durability and prevent staining and moisture penetration.

Tools for installing exterior tile include:

A wet saw for cutting tile quickly and easily (available at rental centers—make certain to rent one that is big enough for the tile size you install), an angle grinder with a diamond-edged cutting blade (also a rental item) for cutting curves or other complex contours, a trowel with square notches (of the size required for your tile size) for spreading the mortar adhesive, spacers for accurate aligning of tiles and setting consistent joint widths, a straight length of 2 x 4 padded along one edge (carpet pad works well) for helping align tile surfaces, a grout float for spreading grout to fill the joints, and a sponge for cleaning excess grout from tile surfaces.

Materials for installing exterior tile include: latex-modified thinset mortar adhesive that is mixed with water (if you can’t find thinset that is latex modified, buy unmodified thinset and mix it with a latex additive for mortar, following manufacturer’s directions), exterior-rated grout available in a variety of colors to match the tile you use, grout additive to improve durability, grout sealer to help protect grout from moisture and staining, and tile sealer required for some tile materials (follow tile manufacturer’s requirements).

 

A good surface is free from any major cracks or badly flaking concrete (called spalling). You can apply patio tile directly over a concrete surface that is in good condition if it has control joints (see below).

A fair surface may exhibit minor cracking and spalling but has no major cracks or badly deteriorated spots. Install a new concrete sub base over a surface in fair condition before laying patio tile.

A poor surface contains deep or large cracks, broken, sunken, or heaved concrete, or extensive spalling. If you have this kind of surface, remove the concrete completely and replace it with a new concrete slab before you lay patio tile.

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