When choosing tile for outdoor use, natural stone and ceramic tile are two options. When choosing ceramic tile, the buyer needs to select a product the manufacturer labels as frost-free. In areas that undergo freeze-thaw cycles, frost-free tile doesn't absorb water and break when temperatures drop below freezing.
Ceramic tiles need to be uniform in size. The manufacturing process requires heating the tile to a high temperature in a kiln and then cooling it rapidly. As a result, tiles sometimes vary in size. In higher-grade tiles, the manufacturer removes tiles that don't meet specifications. The size variation makes laying such tiles difficult.
Natural stone tiles make a good choice for outdoor use. They are made of stone that withstands the elements, providing a durable surface for patios. The natural color variations fit well with many landscape designs.
When selecting tile, homeowners should consider the slip resistant factor of the material. The ceramic tile for outdoor use is often larger than those used in showers, where grout lines provide some traction, and it requires a special finish to ensure that home occupants or guests don't slip if the tile gets wet. Natural stone tiles are generally slip resistant with no special treatment.