OUTSIDE areas have become so important in all walks of life – providing an extension to the home or commercial space and, during restrictions, the only viable place to meet. So many consumers and businesses have invested in new patio and terraced areas during the past 18 months.
Many have opted for stone or tile finishes designed to run seamlessly from inside-to-out; it’s a trend that’s showing no signs of slowing but one which brings a new set of challenges.
The sought-after seamless aesthetic can be difficult to maintain. Issues arise because, here in the UK, maintenance regimes adopted indoors are rarely continued outside. While indoor tiles are sealed and regularly cleaned, patio tiles are generally ignored – apart from an occasional jet-wash and sweep.
Very quickly, outdoor tiles become darker, dirtier, and often more slippery owing to a build-up of moss, algae, and leaf matter. That seamless aesthetic is lost in a matter of months but it doesn’t need to be. It’s simply a case of not stopping at the door.
The idea of adopting a regular cleaning regime for outdoor tiles may seem a little strange but, elsewhere in Europe, regular mopping and cleaning of outside spaces is commonplace.
As our weather can be rather unpredictable, there’s perhaps an even greater need to keep on top of outdoor surfaces; it makes a big difference to general appearance, safety underfoot and reduces the need for future intensive cleaning and sealing.
How to maintain a seamless aesthetic
Step One – Protection
The first step to maintaining a good aesthetic is protection and external stone will benefit from a protective seal, just like stone used internally. For a safe, eco-friendly treatment, choose a quality, water-based treatment; they now offer even greater performance than traditional spirit-based products. They can also be applied over residual moisture, rather than having to wait until a surface is completely bone-dry.
This makes treatment in our unpredictable climate far more feasible. Before any sealant is applied, tiles should be thoroughly cleaned to remove dirt and residue. If this important step isn’t carried out, residue will become sandwiched between the tile surface and the protector, resulting in poor absorption, a patchy aesthetic and difficult ongoing maintenance.
Matt porcelain tiles (which are normally used outside) don’t need to be sealed in the traditional way. However, because they’re generally textured (to create a non-slip surface), they can be prone to grout staining.
Fixing residues and dirt become trapped in the ‘high-low’ surface, creating unsightly white marks which are hard to remove. This residue makes ongoing maintenance more difficult and potentially creates a slip hazard. To reduce the risk of staining, apply a porcelain protector before grouting. Application of a quality treatment will:
- Prevent grout and resins from taking hold
- Make the removal of any residues much easier, should they occur
- Improve and increase grout working times
- A further coat applied after installation will also make ongoing maintenance easier.
- Step Two – Regular maintenance regime
While it may not be practical to mop a patio as often as indoor tiles, it’s worth giving it a thorough clean every couple of months or so – ideally, three times during late spring/summer and a couple of times during the winter. Surfaces that are regularly cleaned will be easier to keep clean – and it will help maintain that aesthetic.
While a blast with a jet-wash may seem like the best method, it will only wash dirt off the tile surface, whereas as a specialist treatment will react with stubborn, ingrained residue and organic matter and help break it down. This is especially important with porous surfaces, like limestone and sandstone.
For a thorough clean, choose a quality external paving cleaner. A good detergent with a viscous formula will cling to surfaces without attacking the substrate, removing dirt and residue, including stubborn green and dark deposits caused by plants and leaves.
Some specialist products are designed to tackle specific issues, like black spot and algae, and most treatments will have a bleaching action, to help restore paving to its original condition. As a result, it’s advisable to carry out a test on an inconspicuous area first – and avoid contact with borders, as run-off could damage turf and plants.
For a more regular maintenance clean, an Intensive tile and stone cleaner that can be used indoors and outdoors makes sense; it simplifies the task, encourages a more regular clean and brings with it multiple benefits.
Mark Atkins is technical director, LTP