Design tips for terraces and balconies with tiles

Blick in einen mehrstufigen Garten mit Holzzaun, grünen Beeten, gefliester Terrasse und Korbmöbeln

If you have a balcony or terrace, you usually spend a lot of time there in the summer. As soon as the first rays of the sun warm the air, it's time to clean up this outdoor living room and get it ready for the season.

If the old floor is cracked, uneven, or no longer meets the requirements, many owners opt for new flooring. There are a variety of floorings to choose from for this purpose: wooden planks, natural stone slabs or tiles radiate the noble understatement of natural materials.

Tiles and natural stone slabs can be used to implement a quite wide range of design ideas. We provide an overview.

Multi-talent tile

Tiles are very popular outdoors - and rightly so. As a flooring, ceramic coverings score with many positive properties when designing terraces and balconies.

Unbeatable functionality

In addition to attractive appearance, ceramic coverings offer functional advantages. While indoors dry and mild temperatures are constantly prevailing, the floor on terrace and balcony is exposed to the weather and has to withstand rain, sun and frost as well as strong temperature fluctuations.

A floor that weathers quickly or is difficult to clean will spoil the residents' enjoyment of the outdoor living room in the long run. However, this is exactly where ceramics fully score. Tile coverings are weather-resistant and easy to clean. When installed by professionals, they are hard-wearing, permanently color-fast and dimensionally stable. Whether red wine or barbecue grease, soiling can be removed easily and quickly.

The benefits of tiles at a glance

  •  dirt-insensitive
  • easy and rapid cleaning
  • hygienic
  • resistant to UV, frost and weathering
  • no deposit of moss and lichens
  • hard-wearing and robust
  • durable
  • lastingly colour-fast and dimensionally stable
  • treadproof and anti-skid

Design options in the open air

The days of dreary washed concrete slabs are over. Time for an embellishment! When choosing a new floor, in addition to personal preferences, the architectural style of the house plays a role. Indoor and outdoor tile coverings should visually fit together. Porcelain stoneware - as tiles with the lowest water absorption - offer countless design options. They are available in a variety of colors, textures and formats. Their versatile designs range from classic to timeless to modern.

Visual all-rounders

Wood is popular mainly for its appearance. However, compared to ceramics, wood requires more maintenance. Modern ceramic tiles therefore imitate the look of wood. They are more carefree than wooden planks and retain their beauty for decades. If you are in the mood for a rustic natural stone look, you can also opt for porcelain stoneware. This is cheaper than natural stone. Three-dimensional surfaces make tiles look like authentic natural stone. Tiles with a concrete look, on the other hand, create a puristic urban loft style. When choosing colors, barefoot walkers should bear in mind that black- and anthracite-colored tiles heat up more due to direct sunlight than lighter-colored ones. With lighter tiles, on the other hand, dirt is more visible.

Trend of large tiles

Large format tiles have been booming for several years not only indoors. More and more terrace and balcony owners are also opting for large sizes. Their low proportion of joints provides a modern appearance and make terraces and balconies look spacious.

By the way, the length of large formats is 60 to 120 centimeters. Tiles with larger dimensions are referred as XXL or also mega formats. In recent years, tiles have become increasingly larger, and today there are already tiles with a surface of four and more square meters.

Good to know: large tiles are more difficult to install than smaller ones. Their handling requires two skilled craftsmen and a tile adhesive mortar which is suited for large formats. For external floors we do not recommend to use tiles with a length over 60 - 120 cm.

The interplay of joints

The laying pattern of tiles affects the optical effect of the terrace and balcony. Their size determines which laying patterns are suitable for the design of the floor. Most often, builders choose the linear pattern (with linear blocks or columns) or the staggered pattern. For square tiles the diagonal pattern is also suitable. Individual accents can also be set in the outdoor area with the joint width and joint colour.

What must be paid attention to during application?

The prerequisite for a durable frost-proof tile covering is the correct application. Tiles can be laid loosely or firmly. Firmly bonded tiles have advantages: they are particularly stable and break-proof. In addition, their closed joints make the outdoor flooring easy to maintain.

he bonding of large format tiles is technically more demanding than that of standard formats. Planning and execution therefore always belong in the hands of professionals. In addition to level substrates, the craftsman's know-how is crucial to ensure that the ceramic floor on the terrace and balcony lasts and looks beautiful in the long term.

Substrate preparation

The larger the tiles are, the more level the substrate must be. The first thing the professional tile fixer does is to take a thorough look at the surface and prepare it carefully. The rainwater must be quickly drained away from the terrace and balcony via an appropriate slope. Therefore, the tile fixer will lay a screed with slope.

Weather protection of tiles

Proper waterproofing is essential to prevent damage. Moisture must not be allowed to penetrate the floor construction. Even small cracks in the joint can allow water to enter the structure. Then the tile adhesive mortar absorbs the water and stores it. This can lead to unsightly efflorescence, spalling and frost damage.

"Attention should be paid to a high-quality bonded waterproofing under slabs and tiles already during installation in order to enjoy tiled outdoor surfaces for longer."

Waldemar Pietrasch, tile expert of Saint-Gobain Weber

Flexible tile adhesive mortar

In conventional construction, skilled craftsmen use weatherproof waterproofing compounds and flexible tile adhesives. First, the substrate is to be waterproofed. Then the tiles are bonded with a cementitious adhesive. It must be very flexible in order to absorb stresses caused by temperature fluctuations. Cracking, through which moisture could penetrate, is thus minimized. Special systems in which all components are tuned to each other, are helpful. There are also combination products that can be used at the same time as watertight reactive coating and as tile adhesive mortar. This saves time and costs.

Floating-buttering method

Cavities under the tiles increase the risk of breaking in case of large format ceramic coverings. Hollow spaces should therefore be avoided. The risk is reduced by the so-called floating-buttering method during installation. This means that the tile adhesive mortar is applied both onto the substrate and also onto the backside of the tile.

Removal of old tiles

The previous tile covering does not necessarily have to be knocked off. Depending on the situation on site, experienced tile fixers can apply a new adhesive onto the existing tiles. Here, too, the prerequisite is a level substrate created by the professional. Noise caused by moving chairs or loud footsteps is particularly annoying to neighbours. For a relaxed co-existence it is advisable to consider measures for noise reduction.


An individual outdoor oasis is at the top of many people's wish list. Tiles are durable, easy to maintain and offer numerous design options. That's why they are often the first choice when it comes to designing terraces and balconies according to one's own ideas. Large format tiles are a megatrend. They radiate tranquility and generosity. Due to the high demands for fixing large formats (max. 1 x 1 meter) on the terrace and balcony, only qualified tile fixers should perform this work. Then the open-air living room will give pleasure for a long time.