Help me be grout-free.
March 4, 2011 11:25 AM   Subscribe

What material should we use as the flooring of a raised outdoor patio? The tile isn't hacking it.

At the back of our house there is a raised patio outside the second floor. This is not what is commonly called a "deck", with wooden or synthetic planking forming the floor, and an unfinished underside. Instead, it is more like an outside extension of the second floor. The top surface is ceramic tile, and the bottom is finished to form the ceiling of a lower patio. The edge is closed and banded with siding.

This patio is on the north side of the house, so that it never gets direct sunlight. Consequently, it dries slowly after rain or snow. Over the years, water has infiltrated through the grout between the tiles, and freezing and thawing cycles have caused some of the tiles to heave and buckle. We are fed up and frustrated with tile, and want it replaced. But with what?

Stamped concrete has been recommended, and has the advantage of having no grout seams to fail. However, I'm not convinced it's the best solution. What are some alternatives? I'm not averse to synthetic materials; I just want something tough, weatherproof, and somewhat attractive. Does such an outdoor flooring material exist?
posted by dinger to Home & Garden (9 answers total)
How about decking tiles? They're interlocking, so there's no grout; as well as wood they appear to be available in natural stone as well (although weight might be an issue there).
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 11:33 AM on March 4, 2011 [2 favorites]

Stamped concrete, at a minimum, will be 2"(50mm) thick. In addition to the enormous weight on the structure, this may interfere with your door or pose a tripping nuisance. I don't recommend it. There are much thinner polymer based applications that might work. I am not sure of their freeze/thaw durability.

What's the substrate? Concrete? Strip off the tile and clean off the concrete. You can stain it, though the stain will have a LOT of character (i.e. variability, flaws) due to the previous tile installation.
posted by Xoebe at 1:06 PM on March 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

After re-reading my post, I think may have left you with the feeling that the polymer should be applied over the tile. No, the tile and grout should be stripped and the concrete substrate cleaned thoroughly before applying anything to it.
posted by Xoebe at 1:10 PM on March 4, 2011

Best answer: I think the answer depends on what is underneath the tile.

It could be wood, in which case the cracking could be a result of flexing of the wood structure. If this is the case i would recommend some sort of the synthetic decking material like trex on top of a waterproof membrane on top of subfloor.

If it is conrete I would strip it to concrete and apply an outdoor rated epoxy sealer like they use on garage floors.
posted by bartonlong at 1:28 PM on March 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

bartonlong's got it right, you need to know what's under that tile before deciding how to replace it. Is the whole structure concrete, as in a big slab? Or has someone done something odd like put the tile over a wood deck? Before you put something new down you really need to know whether the structure is in good shape and capable of handling whatever it is you're considering. It's entirely possible the existing structure is a nightmare of half-assed work and may need to be completely replaced. You'd want to know this before you risk any more money on it AND the safety of anyone being on or below it.
posted by wkearney99 at 7:21 AM on March 5, 2011

Response by poster: Sorry, I should have explained the construction in more detail. The patio is built just like the floor of a home: joists covered with a plywood sub-floor. Because it's outdoors, there's a rubberized waterproof membrane on top of the subfloor, and the tile is on top of the membrane. The bottom of the structure is covered in beadboard, forming the "ceiling" of the lower patio.

The contractor explained that the stamped concrete would be about a half-inch thick, and the structure can support at least that much weight.
posted by dinger at 9:43 AM on March 5, 2011

Concrete is just going to crack like the tile did on that structure. There are ways to beef up the structure to get around this but it is going to be just as if not more expensive than using the right material for your current situation. Concrete cracks anyway so putting it on a flexible support structure will just allow those crack to widen over time and the surface to fall again.

You need to put down a flexible waterproof covering that is outdoor rated. I would think you can build some kind of deck out of either wood (cheaper but higher maintenance and shorter life span) or man made materials (high initial cost but virtually maintenance free and last longer than the house). The key thing for whatever your build is to provide a pathway for the water to leave without soaking in and ruining your structure.
posted by bartonlong at 9:59 AM on March 5, 2011

Response by poster: I should emphasize that the problem with the tile, not the structure. The structure is stout, waterproof, and not an issue.

"You need to put down a flexible waterproof covering that is outdoor rated"

Yes, that was my original question. What to use to replace the tile.
posted by dinger at 4:08 PM on March 6, 2011

I don't know your budget or aesthetic sense or the surrounding part of the house. I would use some kind of trex synthetic decking (or equivalent-there are lots of brands). Preferably with tongue and groove or some other interlocking mechanism. I would also ensure that there is somewhere for the water that gets through the decking has a place to go. Try talking to the decking guy at your hardware store for what the actual product you want is. You might get lucky at home depot but there is likely a full service hardware store nearby and they can help you out.
posted by bartonlong at 4:39 PM on March 6, 2011

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