Porcelain vs sandstone paving
Porcelain or sandstone paving? Which is the best? It’s a question you might ask yourself before embarking on a garden revamp. It’s worth considering carefully your answer given porcelain paving has become an increasingly popular choice over the past few years. You may wonder if it is as good as natural sandstone, for example, which is a material used still for many landscaping projects.
Porcelain or sandstone paving? Which is the best? It’s a question you might ask yourself before embarking on a garden revamp.
It’s worth considering carefully your answer given porcelain paving has become an increasingly popular choice over the past few years.
You may wonder if it is as good as natural sandstone, for example, which is a material used still for many landscaping projects.
Here, we try to make the decision easier by considering the pros and cons of each.
Which is more durable?
Porcelain tiles consist of compressed clay that has been imprinted with a high-resolution image to make it look like natural stone or wood. Slabs are fired at a high temperature to create a tough, resilient product with exceptionally low water absorption, so if you’re seeking durability, porcelain is built to last. It’s also among the best options if you are looking for something that can withstand the impact of heavy use.
Unlike porcelain, sandstone is created naturally over thousands of years and as a result is pretty hardwearing. Sandstone is tough and thick enough for patios and driveways, although it isn’t a match for porcelain when it comes to durability. Sandstone is suited to the UK’s weather and heavy use, but it does take more looking after than low-maintenance porcelain.
Verdict: Porcelain has the edge because it is designed to be intrinsically hardwearing.
What about resistance to water?
Porcelain tiles are super water-resistant, meaning excess moisture won’t be able to seep into, or build up within, the slabs. As a consequence, your paving will not be prone to staining from moss or algae. It also means that because water evaporates quickly from the surface, it is slip-resistant, making it perfect for outdoor projects.
Sandstone has a higher water absorption rate than porcelain, and has a reputation for being porous. Leave your sandstone slabs unsealed and they’ll become discoloured after a few months as water gradually seeps into the stone.
Verdict: Because sandstone needs to be resealed every one or two years, and may need specialist cleaning, it is porcelain that wins out on water resistance.
Which is kinder to the environment?
If you want a material that helps you to do your bit when it comes to preserving the planet, then porcelain slabs tick all the boxes. They are eco-friendly because they are created from natural raw materials with minimal waste. When porcelain slabs are made, any waste is recycled and goes back into the manufacturing process. They also contain no waterproofing agents, varnishes or resins that can be harmful to the environment.
Sandstone is also eco-friendly. It is natural, biodegradable and its manufacturing process does not require any harmful chemicals. It does need to be resealed, but on the whole you won’t be damaging your green credentials if you pave your garden with sandstone.
Verdict: When it comes to being eco-friendly, both porcelain and sandstone are sustainable materials.
Does the surface scratch easily?
As mentioned above, porcelain is hardwearing which makes it a scratch-resistant option. You won’t have to worry too much if your patio or pathway is used constantly by every member of the family.
Sandstone is softer than other types of natural rock, which can result in scratches and dents if it is not looked after properly. These won’t be too much of a problem if your sandstone paving has a more rustic look, but it will if you want a smooth, contemporary finish.
Verdict: Porcelain is the one to choose if you are worried about scratches on your pavers.
Which looks the best?
Porcelain is made from refined clay and naturally occurring materials that are exposed to significant pressure and fired at high temperatures in a kiln. This is known as the ‘vitrification process’. It is then followed by inkjet printing to create a wide range of beautiful finishes, some of which are made to look like natural materials. And, of course, their durability ensures they keep their good looks over decades.
Sandstone is entirely natural, and as each slab will be completely unique it will deliver a beautiful authentic look for your paving project. Sandstone comes in a spectrum of colours and a number of finishes, although it doesn’t offer the variety of porcelain.
Verdict: It’s a subjective and personal choice between the two for their good looks.
Does porcelain need more looking after?
When it comes to paving do, you really want to be cleaning and sealing it every few months? No, we thought not. Low maintenance is generally a high priority for most of us with busy lives, which is why porcelain has gained in popularity. Each porcelain paving stone is naturally stain-resistant. This is because of its low porosity – less than 0.05 per cent. What this means is that it doesn’t absorb as much moisture as other types of stone and anything that might stain will stay for longer on the surface, requiring only a quick wipe to remove it.
Once sealed, sandstone is also easy to maintain because you can clean it with a pressure washer and it won’t change colour or be damaged. To keep it looking great, it just needs brushing occasionally and washing with a cleaning solution.
Verdict: Both are fairly low maintenance, but porcelain has a slight edge over sandstone.
Which is simpler to install?
There’s no getting round the fact that porcelain slabs are more difficult to install than other favoured alternatives like sandstone. This is because cutting them requires specialist equipment, as well as knowledge and technique. Also, their porosity means that extra adhesive is required at their base to ensure they are kept in place.
Sandstone paving is much easier to cut and install, which is why it is used for many different kinds of paving projects. Basically, it is possible to make over your paved area as creatively as you like. Sandstone is highly malleable, which means you can even make complex designs using slabs of different sizes and shapes.
Verdict: If you want pavers that are easier to install, then sandstone is the material to choose.
Are they fireproof?
Even in the BBQ season, you need not worry that your perfect porcelain patio will accidentally go up in flames. This is because it is fireproof, and resilient enough to help stop fires.
Sandstone too is non-combustible, which is why it is used so much in the construction sector. It has natural density and it is this which makes it take a longer time to burn through.
Verdict: Both porcelain and sandstone are fire-resistant materials.
Which is heavier?
Porcelain tiles have been created with layers of clay which are fired at high temperatures. This creates a heavy material that, because of its weight, may not be suitable for all projects. It’s advisable that wherever you plan to place the slabs, the area you choose can bear its weight.
Sandstone doesn’t have the same density of porcelain and therefore is lighter.
Verdict: Sandstone may be the best choice if you need a lighter material for certain areas of your garden.
Which lasts longer?
If laid properly and looked after, porcelain slabs can last for decades – maybe as long as 50 years – and they will keep on looking good with the minimum of maintenance.
Sandstone’s longevity depends upon how well it is looked after. For example, if you neglect to seal it and don’t give it a regular wash, it could start to look scruffy in time.
Verdict: If you want pavers that last with the minimum of maintenance, then choose porcelain.
Which is cheapest?
Porcelain tiles are usually more expensive than sandstone slabs. That is because they are manufactured to a precise specification, creating a product that is hardwearing and designed to last. Not only that, installation is trickier and so will cost more.
There are plenty of cheap variations of sandstone out there, so if cost is important to you then you’ll probably opt for this attractive natural material.
Verdict: Sandstone is cheaper, but a low price tag isn’t always the best criteria when it comes to choosing the stone for your project. A cheaper sandstone probably won’t last as long, or retain its looks like porcelain can. So, if budget permits, it is always best to choose your materials for their suitability for the job.
Still want to know more?
If you are considering whether to update your outdoor space, why not check out our range of high-performance porcelain paving.