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Landscape Design

Cost of Outdoor Tile

Find out what factors affect the price of having outdoor tile installed

  • When a tile project involves mosaic patterns that include smaller pieces, this complexity can drive additional labor costs.

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Every tile project includes its own unique set of conditions that influence cost of construction. Whether it's a remodel or new construction can have considerable influence on whether there is any surface preparation required prior to laying the tile. In climates that are very wet or where there is winter frost, the quality of the tile and tile setting techniques may require more materials or labor to ensure waterproofing. As always, the ability of the tile setter can also have an influence on the work because a landscape contractor who lays basic quarry tiles may cost far less than a tradesman. For the do-it-yourselfer, pricing may be altered significantly.

All estimates are typically divided into labor and materials. This separation allows final material choices to be changed to massage the budget while labor remains relatively equal. However, using tile outdoors may require a great deal of surface preparation to create a project that looks great tomorrow, next year and perhaps a decade later. Some contractors may not consider adequate surface preparation and therefore their labor costs may be significantly lower. This is why it's important to pay close attention to the scope of work in your contract, particularly with remodels where a number of older slabs or questionable surfaces must be readied to accept tile.

Tile Price Ranges

  Saltillos Quarry Handmade
May not provide any substrate.
$1.50 sq. ft. $2.25 sq. ft. $2.75 sq. ft.
May provide moderate substrate.
$2.50-3.00 sq. ft. $3.00-4.75 sq. ft. $4.25-6.00 sq. ft.
High quality work.
$5.00-6.00 sq. ft. $5.75-6.75 sq. ft. $5.25-6.25 sq. ft.
Material and installation for 12x12 red clay    

Jeff Dizmon, a certified tile expert warns, "High end tile no longer adds value to your house, so it's not a great choice for a rental or if you're going to flip the house. You need an expectation of the lifecycle of your house and how long you'll be living with that selection to find the right tile at the right price.”

Dizmon also encourages his clients to beware of hidden costs generated by a short time frame. "There are three words that really matter: quality, speed and price. You can have two, but never all three. If you want quality, forcing the project into a short time frame drives up the price because contractors have to go beyond their usual practices to get it done. Allow your contractor more time and you'll have a quality project at a good price."

Furthermore, Dizmon thinks like a newspaper reporter and suggests customers do the same. "Think who, what, when, why and where, to understand most of the cost influences."

Who will lay it?
An experienced contractor may charge more than a handyman, but the job will be done right the first time. Dizmon stresses the importance of using a licensed tile setter to ensure the tile warranties apply, that the substrate is properly prepared and that the tile job enjoys the kind of longevity you expect.

What kind of tile did you select?
Quality tile is more consistent with less breakage so there's not so much loss during installation. Very large slabs of porcelain, for example, can be more time consuming to move and lay.

When do you need the project completed?
The shorter the time frame for the installation, the more it will cost. Dizmon stresses that most tile must be ordered and that can take at least two weeks to be on site without express shipping overages.

Why are you getting the job done now?
Try to avoid setting a hard and fast date in conjunction with the completion of your project. This places added stress and cost that may not be worth it in the long run.

Where is the project?
Hard to access areas can increase installation costs. Limitations can drive increased the labor charges as tile, grout and tools must be carried to the site.

Factors that Influence Cost

Substrate applies to any surface that will accept tile such as a concrete slab for flooring or a masonry planter wall. Tile, due to its limited tensile strength is highly vulnerable to movement in the substrate that can result in tile cracks or uneven results. Costs can build when substrate is old or a combination of new and old slabs that may shift over time. In addition, a topping slab may be required to create a uniformly level surface to integrate two or more substrates.

Complexity of site
A small patio with many nooks and crannies will take more tile to set the tile because so many will require cutting. The more tile cutting required, the greater the labor costs overall. While it may not be too great a challenge for an experience tile setter, a less experienced setter may find this factor far more time consuming.

Complexity of patterns
When a tile project involves mosaic patterns that include smaller pieces, this complexity can drive additional labor charges. Even a simple accent band around the edge of a patio can increase cost. If specialty bull nose edge tiles and other unique shapes are involved as well as reoccurring polychrome accent tiles in Spanish paving all drive installation costs up from 5% to 14% over a more ordinary pattern.

Moving water away from a tiled surface is vital to its longevity. Some projects, particularly those involving pool decks or surfaces adjacent to pool decking, will require special drainage systems. Often long, narrow trench drains are involved which run along the grout joints so that special care must be taken when installing the adjacent tile. Similarly, finishing a tile job that must drain to an area grate may also require special care.

Grout joints
The width of grout joints can range from very narrow with porcelain to an inch wide with Mexican Saltillo pavers. When these joints require special care such as glass tiles using grout that does not include sharp sand to avoid scratches, additional costs may occur.

Mexican Saltillo pavers tend to be poorly fired and therefore a sealer is always required. This is an essential additional step to these installations that will add material and labor costs. Higher quality quarry tile that is better made in the same size can be laid without sealers. Compare the cost of sealing at installation as well as resealing over time with the base cost of these popular 12 x 12 patio tiles.

Custom Tile
In the handmade tile world, custom designs are highly valued by top end designers. Whenever tile is custom made it will be more expensive, but for those who want the look or a tile that is unique to their home or project, this may be worth the extra cost for a site specific product.

Companies such as Fire Clay Tile and Granada Tile are geared to produce custom colors or patterns for their customers so they don't carry a great deal of general tile stock. Eric Edelson of Fire Clay Tile echoes the words of other U.S. tile makers. "Our California made product is less expensive than other hand made products because it uses so much recycled material. Cost and looks are the decision choices but our product has a story. So few things allow human attachment to the origin or story of something in the house, so people can have a relationship with the tile when they know it comes from something recycled."

At Granada Tile, Melanie Stephens says "One incredible thing about our Echo line is that we have 32 colors and 200 different design molds. Our client can lay any color into any mold, so the possibilities are endless. You can really see that this is your project and you can really customize it with your own tile choices. We'll keep the popular ones in stock for those who don't have time or design and custom work is always available."

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