The Ultimate Guide To Stone Tiles
The stone industry has been around before recorded history. Whereas it used to focus primarily on creating weaponry & tools, these days the stone industry is much more focused on making outdoor spaces look better!
Stone tiles, or slabs, are the main driver of outdoor transformations thanks in large to their versatility, durability and variety. There are two key types of Stone tiles or stone paving slabs and these are:
- Natural Stone Tiles – consisting of sandstones, limestones, slates or granites
- Outdoor Porcelain Tiles – new to the market, manufactured stone tiles which are experiencing a surge of popularity.
When purchasing stone tiles, we want you to be sure that you are not being mis-led and you are bagging yourself a quality product.
Read our ultimate guide to stone tiles, and learn:
- • The process of sourcing stone tiles,
- • How to identify a high quality slab from a bad one
- • Tips on making the choice as easy as possible
- • Tips on finishing up
Sourcing the Best Stone
Stone comes from all around the world and understandably, different quarries in different countries produce different quality stone tiles. Stone paving suppliers have different reasons behind deciding which quarry they source their product from. These may be:
- • Location of a quarry
- • Lower price of raw material on offer
- • Availability
If the main reason for the stone supplier is to source the cheapest possible and widely available stone then this does not result in a good product.
For example, Primethorpe Paving stone tiles are imported from a combination of India, Brazil and Italy and all for their own specific reasons:
- India – Colourful, affordable natural stone. Working closely with some of the most colourful stone in the world means we can import impressive colour palettes without breaking the bank.
- Brazil – Home to the best slate money can buy. Brazilian slate is the premium grade slate that we could find. It’s interesting, consistent and incredibly workable. The best natural stone we could find.
- Italy – European Italian porcelain is consistent and regulated. It has a fantastic aesthetic and is guaranteed to be perfect every time. The most high-tech stone tile out there!
Stone tiles are imported on huge container ships 100’s of tonnes at a time – efficient in terms of fuel consumption, so surprisingly green when compared to man-made products such as concrete slabs.
However, being shipped by sea can result in very long delivery times from suppliers. For example, sailing from India can take 10-12 weeks, and even longer in some instances!
It’s important to understand the supply chain and just how long some of these materials can take to arrive. When choosing your supplier, always ask where their materials are, and how long you will need to wait.
You don’t want to be placing an order and then be told later that you are expected to wait 2 more weeks for your delivery!
Stock control is what sets a good company apart from a great company!
How to Avoid a Negative Experience
It’s important you are aware of the stumbling blocks that can occur when buying paving, so you know what to try and avoid. Buying stone is not like buying an iPhone. There are variations and inconsistencies between ranges and differences between suppliers.
To help you avoid a negative experience during natural stone buying process,we prepared a handy checklist for you :
Always try to view in person
Make sure you visit your supplier to see the tiles in day light. Even though our website features quality product images, it cannot deliver in person experience.
Is the supplier happy to invite you
If you are unable to visit the premises, why not? Have they got something to hide? It’s surprising that they would not let you come and see the product in person.
Even if you can’t make it because of distance, it’s good to check whether visiting is an option. If not, it would certainly be a red flag.
Really cheap product? Warning
Cheap products are often cheap for a reason. You can buy or import natural stone for your patio at a bargain price, but they can come with huge faults.
The “false” savings are often not worth the trouble they cause
Some companies import cheap stone because they can sell it at a good mark-up. Those sellers have little-to-no experience in natural stone paving, and their business revolves around high profitability and not so much around the customers’ satisfaction. Be warned.
What do other customers say?
Additionally, check the company’s complaints, returns and customer service procedures. No company is perfect, and mistakes can happen. You need to know however, that if something does go wrong, you are looked after.
Once you’ve considered these things, you will have hopefully narrowed it down to a few select companies that can give you peace of mind when purchasing.
The Stone Tiles Choice: Key Considerations
Quality of materials
Distinguishing the quality is the most important thing! A garden patio is a permanent feature which can add a lot of value to your property, if done well.
Make sure that you are checking the following:
- Sizes – consistent sizes with common multiples.
- Colour – a nice variety of colour ranges, not too many grey slabs mixed in with colour ranges. As well as consistency of colour palettes. Raj Green should look as similar as possible to the last batch of Raj Green. Consistency and a good supplier is key
- Thickness – the thicker the better. The thicker the slab, the heavier the slab. A thin slab will pop up as the weight will not help keep it bedded down when the inclement weather arrives.
- Calibration – for an easy lay, slabs should be calibrated to make sure they can be laid quickly and consistently. You don’t want an uneven patio and well calibrated slabs can go a long way to help this.
- Shape – the edges are straight, and the slabs are flat - not bowed in any way. Cheap slabs will be off-square and banana shape if not quarried correctly.
Make sure your chosen supplier has plenty of positive reviews from lots of customers to put your mind at ease. The more complete the reviews, the better picture of the company you can create in your own mind!
Helpful and complete policies
You need to know where you stand if something was to go wrong. It’s important to know that the company will look after you in the event that something goes wrong.
You can visit the premises
As mentioned already, this is incredibly important. It’s paramount to go and view where you can. Many customers change their mind once they have viewed all the different ranges of slabs that are available and it also shows the company has nothing to hide.
Laying Your Stone Tiles
For a detailed laying guide, see our earlier article here: Complete Stone Laying Guide
The most important part of the any paving job is arguably the base that you prepare. There are lots of opinions on the laying depth required to create a top-quality job, most are in the region of 150mm depth to allow for foundations.
Once the base is dug out, next comes a layer of 50mm-80mm of hardcore which you can pack down with a powered whacker plate to give the patio a solid base. Then you can add your bedding/cement.
We would recommend going with a full wet bed over spot bedding every single time. With a full wet bed you can tap the slabs to the required depth with ease, and they will last a lot longer.
There are guides out there, but overall it is probably best to stick with an experienced professional who will get the base prepared to a high standard.
When laying, it’s important to make sure that all the slabs will fit together without the need for cutting them all to size. Slabs known as the “60 Series” are cut to size for this exact reason. They all have common multiples of 30cm which means they fit together effortlessly.
At Primethorpe, we only stock the 60 Series as we feel it reduces headaches whilst not inflating the price. Stick with these and you will find them very easy to lay in a great pattern!
There are a few ways that you can really add the finishing touches to your stone tiling project. Include the products listed below when planning your garden project and add them to your budget:
These small stone tiles work perfectly as edges that finish a patio area off beautifully. They are 10x10cm or 20x10cm blocks that can be laid around the border of your patio.
To bring the landscaping designer's imagination in you, discover some of our Granite Cobblestones here.
10+ years ago the go-to way to joint your patio was to use sand and cement. You’d find yourself on your hands and knees filling in individual gaps between slabs with this cement mixture. It was painstaking work and took a full day to complete on even just a medium sized project.
Thing’s changed since. Today we have ‘jointing compounds’ available.These are simple resin-based sands that you can tip out onto your laid stone tiles and simply brush into the gaps.
They are a revelation and have turned a full day job into an hour’s work.You won’t be disappointed!
Sealing is the final, optional process which you can do to protect your stone from the Great British weather. Over time, stone can lose its colour and fade, not ideal! You can protect against this by using a sealant. A quick coat 8+ weeks after your patio has been laid will protect it for up to 2 years and keep it look fresh. There are two main schools of sealant depending on the style you want:
- Colour enhancer sealer – these give the stone tiles a wet look and really bring out any colour in the stone. They are a fantastic option and are by far the most popular. Blacks look deeper, reds look warmer and greys really being to pop. If you enjoy the wet look, this is the way to go!
- Invisible sealer – if you prefer the natural look and still want to protect the colour rather than the stone tiles age naturally, this is the better option.
Both sealers are very good options. It just depends on the style you are looking to create. If you have any doubts, feel free to give us a call and we will be happy to explain a bit more detail how it works.
We hope this has covered all the basics of the things we feel you should consider. From finding a reputable company and trying to visit in person, to identifying what exactly you should be looking for in a stone tile. All of the above is worth considering and we hope it helps you come to a decision.
Want to know about the different types of stone that are available on the market? See our full guide specifically about natural stone types here: Natural Stone Paving Slabs Guide