Outdoor Terracotta Tiles: 8 Things You Should Know

Terracotta tiles are a popular choice for adding style, texture, and color to outdoor living spaces such as patios, decks, and walkways. If you’re considering using terracotta tiles outdoors, there are a few important things you should know before making any final decisions.

You can use terracotta tiles outdoors in limited applications and under special care. It’s recommended to limit the outdoor application of terracotta tiles to areas with hot, dry climates. Additionally, the tiles should be sealed to protect them from water damage, ensuring they last many years.

In this article, we’ll discuss five key points that will help you determine if outdoor terracotta tiles are the right choice for your project.

1. Hot, Dry Climates Are Best for Outdoor Terracotta Tiles

Outdoor terracotta tiles last long in areas with hot, dry climates. These tiles are naturally porous, which means they readily absorb liquids. They can degrade quickly in wet outdoor environments.

Terracotta tiles can soak in moisture and crack in freezing weather. But with proper installation and maintenance, terracotta tiles can withstand exterior conditions. In outdoor spaces, these tiles can cover patios, courtyards, terraces, garden walkways, and the pool’s surroundings.

2. Outdoor Terracotta Tiles Should Be Sealed

Terracotta tiles should be sealed to protect them from moisture damage and stains, especially in outdoor applications. If not sealed, the tiles can easily trap dirt and get scratched. Moreover, unsealed tiles can quickly soak in moisture, leading to cracking in freezing weather.

Sealing not only makes the tiles water-resistant but also enhances their beauty. Furthermore, it makes the tiles easy to clean because it reduces the ability of dirt and stains to stick to the tiles.

● How To Seal Terracotta Tiles

Terracotta tile sealants are available in various textures and colors. Follow these steps to seal your tiles to ensure their longevity:

  • Step 1: Let the newly installed tiles cure for several days before applying the sealant. Make sure the tiles are not exposed to water or moisture.
  • Step 2: Clear the surface of dirt and unwanted particles. Wipe or brush the surface to remove any remaining particles. Doing so ensures proper sealant bonding and prevents it from wearing out quickly.
  • Step 3: Test the sealant in a small area of the surface and observe it for at least a day before applying it to the entire surface. The test will allow you to determine how the product reacts with your surface, and you can make adjustments early.
  • Step 4: Apply the sealing coat. Get a brush or extended roller to spread the sealant evenly across the surface.
  • Step 5: Allow the sealing coat time to cure. Tile sealants typically dry in a few hours, but some may require days to cure completely.

Important: Keep the space you’re working in well-ventilated while applying the sealant. Because tile sealants are chemical products, the fumes they emit can irritate your skin, eyes, or throat.

3. Terracotta Tiles Are Not Water-Resistant Unless Sealed

Terracotta tiles are not waterproof and are highly absorbent. Sealing terracotta tiles makes the surface water-resistant, but the process doesn’t make the tiles completely waterproof. Terracotta tiles still tend to “breathe” and absorb moisture, which is necessary for preventing deterioration.

You can check for terracotta’s porosity or water resistance after applying the sealing. You may follow these steps for the test:

  • Step 1. Observe: Drop a bead of water on the surface. Observe how fast the water drop disappears.
  • Step 2. Sealant check: If the water soaks into the tile after 15 minutes, it would be a sign that the tile remains highly porous. You may need to apply an additional sealant coat.
  • Step 3. Water-resistant check: If the drop of water remains on the surface for hours or days, it will signify that the tiles have become water-resistant.

Sealant products come in various options, so make sure that you are choosing the right type of sealant for your terracotta surface. For example, some sealants can leave the surface slippery, raising the risk of accidental falls.

4. Outdoor Terracotta Tiles Can Last Decades

Terracotta tiles can last several decades on floors and walls if installed properly and maintained well. The product quality, finishing style, and application technique also influence the lifespan of terracotta tiles.

● Do High-Density Terracotta Tiles Last Longer?

Terracotta tiles are available in high-density and low-density options. The high-density tiles are thicker and hold up better against degrading elements. As a result, they’re more sturdy and durable. These are the best choice for high-traffic, damp, and outdoor spaces.

High-density tiles, with all their benefits, have a high price tag. But the investment is worth it if you’re looking for a strong, long-lasting solution.

The low-density can be an excellent option if you’re on a budget and looking to spend the least amount of money upfront on your tiling project. These tiles absorb moisture more quickly, which can shorten their lifespan when used in wet spaces or exterior environments.

Therefore, you should limit the application of low-density terracotta tiles to indoor spaces and light use.

● Glazed vs. Unglazed Terracotta Tiles

Although terracotta tiles typically come plain without finishes to maintain their natural appearance, you may find glazed finishing options. These have a protective, smooth surface coating. As a result, they have low water absorption rates, making them less susceptible to mold growth or cracking due to moisture intake.

Glazed terracotta tiles are the best option for outdoor spaces, though the tradeoff is that you lose their natural look. Unglazed tiles need to be sealed to protect against moisture and stains.

5. Terracotta Tiles Demand Great Attention 

Terracotta tiles generally have higher maintenance requirements than most tile types because of their porous nature. Terracotta tiles absorb moisture easily, which can lead to mold and mildew growth without careful attention.

Moreover, terracotta tiles can crack in freezing weather if they soak in moisture. Additionally, the tiles pick up dirt easily, especially if not sealed. This is especially true when terracotta is used in wet spaces such as bathrooms, kitchens, and outdoor environments in cold climates. If unglazed, tiles in such spaces must be resealed regularly to protect them from soaking moisture or getting stained. Sealed tiles are easy to clean and maintain.

You can keep your terracotta tiles beautiful and long-lasting with these simple maintenance steps:

  • Step 1: Regularly sweep the surface with a soft broom to remove dust, dirt, and debris. These particles can scratch the sealant protection, exposing the tiles to adverse elements that can accelerate their degradation. Consider vacuuming the surface to extract stubborn particles and prevent dirt buildups.
  • Step 2: Wash the surface at least once a week. Use a damp cloth or mop and a mild cleaning agent to clean the tiles. Avoid acid-based cleaning products because they can damage the sealant or cause discoloration. Pass a dry cloth over the surface to remove any remaining moisture after the wash.
  • Step 3: Wipe away liquid spills promptly before they can soak into the tiles. Unsealed tiles should be kept dry, or they’ll degrade quickly in moist conditions.
  • Step 4: Reseal unglazed tiles regularly. Apply the sealant after two to three years. Some sealant products provide extended protection. Outdoor spaces and heavy traffic areas may require more frequent resealing. Apply at least two coats of the sealant.

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