Tile Decking

Tile Deck

We have been seeing the terminology and concept of tile decking more and more over the last couple of years. But what is tile decking and is it the right choice for Canadians with our harsh climate that seems to change by the hour?

When people think of tile decking, they think of porcelain or ceramic tiles as you would find in your kitchen or bathroom. To a certain degree, this is correct. So, can you really put the tiles you installed on your kitchen floor outside on a deck creating a tile deck? The answer is yes and no. It will really depend on the style of porcelain tile you are planning on using and the installation techniques.

When you think of traditional tile installation, you have a porcelain or ceramic tile being installed onto a rigid flooring system using a mortar compound. The tiles have a uniform space between them, and that space is filled with a grout compound. A big part of successful tile installation is the state of the floor you are installing the tiles on. This is why you would install a subfloor or tile base system, such as the Ditra Matting by Schluter. A subfloor is an additional layer of plywood that is screwed down with a high volume of screws, ensuring there is no flex or movement in the floor. The Ditra Mat creates a secondary floor that the tiles bond to and remains stationary. If you have any flex or movement in the wood floor, it is not transferred to the Ditra Mat. If either of these installation techniques are not used, as the floor moves with normal expansion-contraction and flex, the tiles and grout could crack and dislodge.

So, can these installation concepts be used for tile decking with success?  This will really depend on the deck construction itself and type of tile being used. Firstly, it is very important that you select a tile that is designed and intended for outdoor applications. These tiles are usually thicker and have a higher density and PSI rating, which protects the tile from cracking. If it is ever chipped, these properties will prevent moisture from getting into the tile. Companies such as Del Conca and Kronos have beautiful outdoor porcelain tiles that will rival any you would find for the indoors. They are specifically designed to withstand the Canadian climate and are not affected by freeze-thaw cycles. You can even use ice melt products on them during the winter.

Secondly, when you think of a deck, you think of a framed structure with some type of decking boards attached. So instead of decking boards, can you attach plywood, then a subfloor or Ditra Mat? This would not be the best way forward, as it would be more labor-intensive, resulting in higher costs, and be prone to more moisture build-up on the framing which can cause more movement of the deck.

Instead, you may want to consider some unique and innovative stone decking products on the market that will allow you to install your tile decking – one of these products is aptly named TileDeck! Products such as TileDeck and Silca System are rigid subflooring systems that attach to wood or steel framing. These outdoor subfloor systems are perfect for tile decking. They protect the framing structure, allowing it to breathe and dry out, as well as providing a solid and rigid base to install your porcelain tiles onto.

The porcelain tiles are positioned using spacer tabs to create that uniform spacing and are adhered in place using an appropriate outdoor adhesive. The gaps between the tiles can either be left open or filled in using polymeric sand that would remain flexible. An advantage of using spacer tabs, such as StoneDeks SilcaSpacers or the Bison VT pedestal, is that they support the tiles slightly above the tile decking surface which allows for any moisture to drain off.

As people strive to find maintenance-free solutions for their backyards, the ever-growing availability of outdoor porcelain tiles and innovative stone decking products is making this a reality. Creating a tile deck is not only possible but cost-effective and a perfect maintenance-free solution for Canadians!