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Landscape Design

Exterior Wall Tiles

Ideas for using tile on vertical surfaces outdoors

  • Grease spatter makes ceramic tile perfect for around outdoor grilling areas. Beneath the copper vent hood of this marvelous outdoor kitchen in Louisiana is a tile wall that's central to the design and makes clean up a breeze.
  • Frost proof ceramic tile is the most versatile and beautiful choice for water features outdoors. Here a feature wall provides a field of unique hand made tile with waterline tile to match.
  • The vivid colors possible with glazed ceramic tile can create bold feature walls in the landscape. Here the combination of color and pattern provides the base color upon which the planting is displayed for dynamic contrast.
  • Mural tiles that combine to create beautiful images originated in Persia and make gorgeous focal points for feature walls. Here they are used in an alcove accented with faux stone porcelain tiles and a variety of other colors and patterns.
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The flexibility of tile means the same materials used on interior floors, walls, kitchens and baths can be extended into outdoor living spaces. However, many interior tiles are not suited to outdoor use, so often a frost proof alternative must be found that looks identical or nearly so. Low quality but beautiful Mexican tiles often used for interiors are totally unsuited to outdoor use where there is frost, so an entire industry of more dense look-alikes are vital to bringing the look outdoors.

Tile is traditionally used on vertical surfaces indoors. Outdoors it can be used to create a variety of visually attractive accents. Tile is perfectly suited to outdoor kitchens and built-in grills because it is heatproof and easy to clean with a wide range of colors and patterns to spice up these festive spaces. Use tile as you would indoors for backsplashes, work surfaces, facing masonry bases for components and to add bands and accent colors to any and all other materials. These and other vertical surfaces are a great place to use tile for vivid accents that can turn ordinary into exciting using weatherproof sources of color that remain beautiful year around.

At Fireclay Tile, Eric Edelson explains why color is such an important part of their products. "We make all of our glazes from scratch and hand mix them to have better control over what chemicals and materials go into the glazes. With over 250 colors, our custom tile manufacturing process allows customers a wide choice of great colors and we can also produce custom glaze colors upon request. We are among the earliest companies to remove all lead from our glazes. We can control what chemicals and materials go into the glazes."

Tile expert Jeff Dizmon explains that tile is often used on vertical surfaces. "We will apply it around an outdoor grill and the face of the structure below to make it easy to clean up oil stains. They're seeing the problem of oil build up in restaurants with concrete floors and even though they're well cleaned, you can't get the oil out and it becomes permanently discolored. Glazed tile can be wiped clean to look new every time."

"Too often tile is chosen at the last minute to solve unexpected problems on a project. The ability to apply tile to very small and very large block walls, what we call a feature wall, makes it a more aesthetic element rather than just covering it up. This is common for modern design where massive uniform surfaces are popular."

Most Common Wall Tile Applications

Fireplace surround
Outdoor fireplaces are ideal for creating stucco and tile effects for Spanish and Arts & Crafts style spaces.

Fire pit
The simple fire pit is easily banded or clad in vivid tiles to upgrade ordinary concrete block into a sleek modern form or a rustic cobble campfire.

Attractive cap for seatwall
Seatwalls made of concrete block can become a powerful color line in the landscape if the cap is composed of glazed ceramic tile. Glazed tile is smooth and easier on clothing than rougher surfaces, and the ability to integrate the cap tile with the wall face tile pattern adds new interest opportunities.

Raised planter cladding
Landscapes that feature raised planting spaces or retaining walls that hold back soil need accents to make them more attractive. Tile that may coordinate with paving, step risers or interior flooring is a great way to add beauty to an otherwise functional structure.

Wainscots for building
Many spaces can be both an indoor and outdoor situation. When covered with a solid shade structure the space underneath feels like interior but it's outdoors and thus exposed to moisture and cold. Here the walls of these marginal spaces can be upgraded by adding tile facing, which may add unique effects, particularly to a modern home where sleek tiles are desirable on outdoor surfaces. A tile wainscot also provides opporunities to use many colors and patterns to add year around interest to these spaces while protecting walls from moisture so the spaces can be thoroughly hosed down and cleaned.

Accents on perimeter walls
Often house walls that sit beside outdoor living spaces can feel overly large and oppressive. When clad in a truly beautiful tile such as glass mosaic, the wall becomes a reflector of light and color. In a whole different scenario, large picture tile mosaics can be added to this wall for Mediterranean style architecture that feature graphics and Mexican hand painted pictures.

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