Enter the realm of exterior floors that can transform the space of any outdoor space while performing to strict performance specifications.
Exterior flooring installation is paramount in achieving both functional and aesthetic specifications. Outdoor commercial flooring needs to perform in stringent weather conditions, taking into consideration direct exposure to sunlight, rain and hail, not to mention foot traffic. At the same time, it needs to be visually appealing and inviting, while servicing the needs of its end users.
There is a vast array of outdoor flooring options available, and rapid technological advancements have made available a range of new or evolved products that can transform the look and feel of any outdoor space. This article will identify and highlight the benefits of using each of these exterior flooring options.
Opting for concrete ensures versatility, especially with the advances in colouring techniques and stamping tools. Concrete can also be easily formed into any shape, and almost any hue imaginable can be achieved. It can be made to resemble other popular outdoor materials such as brick, natural stone and even wood, at a fraction of the cost – thus the reason for its reputation as being cost-effective and long-lasting.
Durability is another key benefit of concrete as it can withstand greatly varying weather conditions. Maintenance is easy because of its solid surface, which has the added advantage of not presenting any tripping hazards. Decorative cement surfaces should, however, always be sealed, as this forms the primary protection to the surface beneath, while preventing discolouration or fading on external surfaces over time. Floors can also then be re-sealed from time-to-time to enhance the surface and give it a fresh, newly laid look.
Creating concrete pavements also offers sustainable benefits in the long term and remains a popular solution when taking lifestyle costs into account. This is especially the case when looking at user costs, as concrete requires minimal maintenance which results in less disruption to end users.
The development of ultra-thin concrete pavements adds to the types of concrete required for low or high traffic areas.
Textured concrete finishes
There are product ranges in the South African market that combine practicality with beauty in terms of textured finishes that offer slip-resistance and highly durable solutions with the beauty of natural stone highlights.
A decorative concrete can be achieved by adding aggregates that are exposed during the finishing process. There is a wide variety of coloured stones; white, black, brown, pink as well as grey. These can be combined with one or two colours of stone as well as any pigment colour to get a unique robust, slip-resistant finish. These types of products are ideal for horizontal and vertical applications, and great for outdoor applications such as driveways, walkways, patios, etc.
Another option is in creating the look and feel of natural stone in every detail. The concrete should have bigger sized aggregates of at least 19mm – the bigger the aggregate the better. These types of products are ideal for indoor and outdoor floor applications, are easy to maintain and durable.
One of the biggest new trends has been ceramic or porcelain tiles that look like wood. This is predominantly due to the rapid rise in technological advancements that make the wood effect more realistic than ever.
One of the major benefits for wood-look tile flooring is its durable nature, especially as there are now several different tile ranges that have either traditional hand-scraped textures, full glossy options, or those made to look like distressed wood. There is also a variety of colour tones in wood-grain tile available.
Porcelain in particular is highly resistant to water, reducing the likelihood of stains developing. Consequently, the low absorption of porcelain tiles makes them ideal for outdoor installations in cold climates since they can be confidently used outdoors without worries of cracks developing due to freezing. They also respond well in high-traffic areas and are considered low-maintenance, keeping their appearance for years.
Ceramic tiles are equally attractive and also available in various colours, styles and designs while performing equally well outdoors as indoors. However, ceramic tiles are not as durable as porcelain and are subject to breakages, especially in high-traffic areas. As such, they may require more re-sealing in the space of a year to maintain their structure and fortify against wear and tear.
Two types are available in terms of decking, namely wood and composite. Both options are available in a variety of shapes and sizes that can be either painted, stained or left to weather naturally. A composite deck is comprised of wood fibres and occasionally recycled plastic resulting in a dense, heavy, weather- and stain-resistant deck board that won’t splinter, warp, rot or split.
Composite manufacturers offer a variety of colour choices – many that even emulate the look of traditional timber or exotic hardwood. Composite decks are also low-maintenance, requiring no paint, stain or sealant and, because they resists most weathering, warping and bugs, it won’t become necessary to replace rotten, uneven or insect-damaged boards.
It may also be surprising to note that timber decking can be more expensive than composites in the long-run, simply because wood requires on-going maintenance and sealing every year to ensure it maintains its exquisite looks. Maintenance on wood decking is done on a three-month cycle in the Highveld for optimum deck appearance. Even if maintained well, some softer wood deck boards will be ready for replacement in less than ten years, however in saying this, a good African or Brazilian hardwood decking can last up to 40 years without treatment as in the Brazilian timber known as Ipe and even longer if maintained.
However, the choice between composite and wood decking is dependent on individual choice and specification. There are those who will continue to long for the natural warmth and beauty that real wood decking provides. Wood, as a “living” element expands and contracts according to weather conditions, requires proper and regular maintenance and cleaning, and sealants more regularly, but for many, there is an appeal and inherent drawing card to using the “real deal”, which has been installed and used for an insurmountable amount of years, and as such, it can be expected that this old favourite will continue to astound and enthral those seeking to ensure that a deck performs and exceeds expectations in terms of aesthetics.
Clay brick paving
Clay brick pavements can withstand extremely high-levels of loading and are suited to a vast array of landscaping applications, such as pedestrian walkways, vehicle driveway accesses with residential, commercial and municipal projects. So too, they maintain their interlocking form – when the underlying earth and materials move, clay paving adjusts itself to accommodate the movement of the underlying soil and therefore prevents cracking of the pavement system.
Further benefits include long-term cost benefits: they provide an easy repair and recycle solution; they are slip- and skid-resistant due to their natural textured surface and highly abrasive characteristics; and they allow for fast installation, ensuring time management and budgeting issues remain in-check.
The material is also considered environment-friendly and maintains its colour consistently and permanently throughout the product and will not be affected by any form of UV light. The beauty and rich colour of clay pavers is an inherent property of clay material as colour is not added as an artificial dye or pigment during the manufacturing process.
Stone and seamless quartz paving
Stone and resin can be combined together to create a beautiful alternative paving system to traditional concrete. These systems are known as Polyurethane encapsulated stone floors that create or transform an exterior floor to be a long-lasting, weather-resistant and visually appealing. In terms of application, the two-part Polyurethane is mixed on site and combined with alluvial quartz stone and troweled over an existing surface, to create a dazzling seamless Polyurethane stone floor resembling a quartz carpet.
Some key features of quartz flooring is that it is completely seamless and puddle-free, as water flows ‘through’ the system. These seamless quartz floors are considered ideal for patios, pool decks and outdoor spaces because they are stain resistant, UV stable and extremely durable. In addition, they can easily be cleaned with mild detergent and water if necessary.
The numerous benefits of artificial grass or turf have opened the door to a wide range of design options. Artificial grass can be successfully installed outdoors as its composition is such that it won’t be adversely affected by varying weather conditions, be it direct sunlight, rain, hail etc. It also has the durability to withstand heavy foot traffic or even the use of heavy equipment.
Artificial turf is gaining significant interest in the flooring industry, and has been used as the primary choice for several sports stadium fields, outdoor play areas, or outside commercial buildings that provide retail and office space. It’s easy to maintain and clean, and doesn’t require mowing, watering, fertilizing, weeding or trimming.
At first glance, its appearance mimics the exact look and texture of actual grass, which is why it is a popular choice for interior designers and decorators. It is also cost-effective in the long term due to various factors, with low maintenance and easy cleaning being the main advantages. Its strength translates into an exterior floor that will last for several years, while maintaining its aesthetic appeal when treated as per manufacturer’s instructions.
As artificial turf continues to grow in popularity, it can be expected that a range of high-quality yet sustainable products will be manufactured to create hard-wearing exterior surfaces that look good, and that, concurrently, will be valued for their environment-friendly properties.
Car Park Decking
A car park conjures images of heavy traffic in the form of vehicles, equipment and people. As such, it is understandable that the flooring needs of a car park has to accommodate such wear and tear, especially with regards to safety.
For these reasons it is very important that the correct waterproofing and surfacing materials are specified to ensure a long-lasting facility that is structurally protected. One of the main reasons for a car park decking system is to protect the concrete from carbonation as well. The type of deck coating materials used are primarily dependent on where in the parking facility it will be installed e.g. on a multi-level or underground, and the conditions that the material will most likely be subjected to on a regular basis.
The type of product chosen should also enhance visual appearance, dull-up car park environments effectively and prevent water entry into any car parking structure. In addition, the following should also be taken into consideration before deciding on a specific coating and/or product:
• Waterproof capability
• Climatic exposure
• Noise reduction
• Type of slab design
• Visual appearance, line markings, parking bays, etc
• Dynamic load
• Movement capabilties
Once these and other factors have been thoroughly considered, a product with a specific functioning capacity can be specified, with the confidence that it will perform successfully. The right product specification is just as important as using the right specialist applicator.
Acknowledgement and thanks are given to the following for the information contained in this article:
www.homeflooringpros.com; http://www.doityourself.com; www.paversearch.com; www.pebblepaving.com; www.concretenetwork.com; and FLOORS in Africa VOL 30.6