When you’re buying tile, you may begin to wonder if there actually is a difference between indoor and outdoor tile or if you can use any kind of tile for any project.
The short answer is that there is a difference between indoor and outdoor tile, and the type of tile you use can affect the outcome of your project and how long it lasts. Let’s break down the key differences between indoor and outdoor tile, why they matter, and what you should consider when choosing tile for your home.
5 Ways Outdoor Tile Is Different From Indoor Tile
When you’re looking at indoor and outdoor tile, you’ll notice these differences:
1. Outdoor tile is thicker and more durable.
Outdoor flooring needs to withstand the elements, including harsh weather conditions, as well as many types of heavy-use outdoor gear such as bicycles and grills. Outdoor tile is designed for these tough conditions. On the other hand, thin tile designed for bathroom walls will not be able to put up with the same level of wear and tear.
Tile durability can be compared by looking at thickness measurements and a tile’s breaking strength, which is the amount of force needed to break the tile. Generally, you’ll find that outdoor tile is more durable than indoor tile.
2. Outdoor tile is usually more scratch-resistant.
The surface also varies between tile styles, and using the right tile for your needs can help you avoid scratches and scuffs. Whether you’re looking at porcelain tile or natural stone tile, those rated for the outdoors are designed to be scratch-resistant against dirt and footwear. Tile for indoor areas such as living rooms or bedrooms wouldn’t need to be as tough.
3. Outdoor tile is UV-resistant.
UV-resistant tile is formulated to withstand sun exposure while preserving the tile colors. All outdoor tile sold by Emser Tile is UV-rated to keep your patios and decks looking great. Indoor tile is generally not designed to have the same UV protection, and indoor tile could fade or discolor if it’s used outside.
4. Outdoor tile is usually textured for better grip when walking.
Generally, outdoor tile will have a textured surface with more grip. If some of the smoothest indoor tile were installed outdoors, the surface could become slick when wet. You can compare the slip resistance of tile by looking at the Dynamic Coefficient of Friction (DCOF). A higher number is better suited for exterior installations or wet areas such as pool decking.
5. Outdoor tile doesn’t absorb water.
Outdoor tile typically has 0.5 percent or less water absorption, making it perform better in the elements and protecting it from freeze-thaw cycles. For example, if wet or porous tile froze, the embedded moisture would expand, causing hairline fractures or tile cracks. For indoor applications, water absorption rates can be flexible because freezing temperatures aren’t a concern.
What Happens If You Use an Indoor Tile Outside?
Because outdoor tile is designed to withstand outdoor conditions, you’ll get the best results if you use outdoor tile for outdoor spaces. If you use indoor tile in outdoor areas your tile project could have a shorter lifespan, the colors could fade, or the tile could be scratched or cracked.
The rule of thumb with tiling is that it’s generally OK to use heavier-weight tile for lighter projects, but not vice versa. In other words, it’s all right to use outdoor tile indoors, even though you shouldn’t use indoor tile outdoors. The same principle applies to wall tile. It’s OK to use floor tile on the wall, but wall tile shouldn’t be used on the floor because it’s not rated to withstand the weight of foot traffic.
What Factors Should You Look for When Choosing Your Tile?
When choosing your tile, look to see if it’s designed for indoor or outdoor use. These manufacturer guidelines take into consideration all of the aspects of tile surface and durability to help you get the best results. Follow their recommendations and only use indoor tile in indoor locations.
For outdoor applications, also look at freezing or non-freezing ratings. Some outdoor tile can withstand the snow and ice of being used on exposed floors in freezing climates. Others can only be used in warmer climates.
If your installation is near a pool or on a bathroom floor, look at the recommendations for use near water. This will tell you about the tile’s surface texture and finish so you can get the right tile to match your needs.
Also, look at the product’s ASTM standards to see the results of the internationally recognized third-party product testing. These technical specifications can help you feel confident about product quality, and they can also give you the details to compare the performance of multiple tile options.
One of the easiest ways to choose a tile is to start with the application location. Whether you’re thinking of tiling your outdoor patio floor or your indoor shower wall, lookbooks of tile options can help you focus on the tile designs that are suited to the location’s needs.