Balcony tiles: requirements, types, advantages

Torben Schröder

A naked concrete surface on the balcony of a home often looks unattractive and is not very pleasant to walk on – especially barefoot. Balcony tiles enhance both the appearance and the feeling of well-being. There is a wide selection of different products available, ranging from simple wooden tiles to heavy natural stone slabs. In this article we give you tips on what to take into account for each material.

A young woman is sitting in a chair on a balcony with a dog lying next to her.
© Getty Images

In this article

Check the structural analysis of the balcony

The foundations of balconies in typical multi-family units are usually made up of a standardized steel or concrete construction with limited structural resistance. This is generally impossible to improve. A standard balcony has a load capacity of between 300 and 500 kilograms. Heavy additional balcony flooring would have a negative impact on the load-bearing capacity of the entire balcony construction and of the balcony base, and in this case is out of the question.

In a single-family house, especially if it is newly built, you as the builder-owner have a greater influence over the structural properties and can plan a more massive construction that will support the laying of heavy balcony tiles.

Below we list some ideas for making your balcony floor visually attractive and pleasant to walk on.

Wooden balcony tiles: warm and comfortable

The absolute classic among building materials, wood, is also an option for balconies. A wooden floor provides a cozy feeling, is versatile and will match the style of any house or adjoining room.

The following principle applies to balcony floors: the more robust the wood, the better, because it should be as weatherproof as possible. Hardwood species such as oak or ash are the best solutions. Softer woods such as pine and Douglas fir also work if they are waterproofed sufficiently. Other possibilities are tropical woods such as mahogany, teak or Bangkirai. The advantage is that the wood is very weather and fungus resistant.

The most common form of wooden flooring for a balcony is tiling. In principle, wooden tiles will fit on any surface thanks to their compact dimensions. They consist of wooden squares that are screwed to a net-like substructure made of plastic. This serves as drainage and allows rainwater to run off easily.

A big advantage is that you can lay wooden tiles on an existing concrete floor without any additional preparation. If necessary, the tiles can be removed just as quickly without leaving marks on the surface underneath. But watch out: since the mesh of the wooden tiles becomes quite rigid once assembled, the balcony floor must not have any uneven areas before you lay the tiles, as this could damage them. You can improve the surface with a leveling compound from the DIY store.

A commercially bought product: the My Home click tile reveals its secret in the “click” in its name: thanks to a simple click system, you can quickly connect the acacia wood tiles, which are 30 x 30 centimeters wide and 2.4 centimeters high. The price per square meter at Coop Bau+Hobby is 50.45 francs (price on 15 December 2020).

Two children are sitting on a balcony eating radishes.

Wooden tiles – in the form of click tiles – give your balcony a homely atmosphere.

Balcony tiles made of WPC: easy to clean and durable

Wood Polymer Composite – or WPC for short – is a composite material consisting of 70 to 80 percent wood and 20 to 30 percent plastic. It combines the best properties of both materials. It is moisture resistant, robust, non-slip and splinter free – typical qualities offered by plastic. In addition, the maintenance is kept within reasonable limits. But unlike plastic, the grained surface looks very natural and has a pleasant feel.

WPC is usually available as large boards, which can be arranged in a jetty look. Waterproof sheets of bitumen form the first layer on the balcony floor. A longitudinally aligned substructure of aluminum rails and stilts can then be mounted on top. Finally, WPC planks can be laid out crosswise and fastened into place.

A commercially bought product: this click tile from Gfellex is a slightly more compact WPC alternative for the balcony. It is laid directly on the balcony floor using a plug-in system. Each 30-by-60-centimeter tile consists of four strips that give the visual impression of being connected. Each tile costs 9.70 francs (price on 15 December 2020).

View of a dark tiled balcony with lots of plants and a high pond.

Looks like wood, feels like plastic: a floor covering made of WPC combines the advantages of both materials.

Ceramic balcony tiles: robust and versatile

It’s a frequently asked question: “What exactly is ceramic? I thought it was only for bathrooms.” The answer is that it is a material that consists mainly of clay, loam and water. This mixture is washed, ground, dried for several hours and then worked into the desired shape. The last step is to fire it at high temperatures of more than 1,000°C. This process makes the finished product extremely robust and ideal for use as balcony flooring.

Since ceramic tiles are industrially produced, they can take on any color and imitate many structures, such as natural stone and wood. Additional benefits: they are non-slip and easy to clean, as they only absorb small amounts of water.

The surface underneath plays an important role when laying these tiles. In order to prevent subsequent frost damage, you must install a moisture barrier, for example in the form of a sealing coat. If your balcony is open at the sides, we recommend adding rain protection made of foil or wood. You can use a special adhesive to fix the tiles to the ground. Leave gaps that you will later grout.

A commercially bought product: despite its name, the Payitaht patio slab, available from Mosafil, is suitable for other places in addition to patios. It belongs to the porcelain stoneware category, an extremely hard and therefore even more robust type of ceramic production. The smooth, gray surface will give your balcony a simple but effective look. It will set you back 54.06 francs per square meter (price on 15 December 2020).

View of a balcony. A table and two chairs can be seen in the foreground.

With their neat look and extreme robustness, ceramic tiles are the classic balcony flooring.

Balcony tiles made of natural stone: heavy, but beautiful

Before you decide on natural stone slabs, there is a very important question to answer: can your balcony actually withstand the load? Stone slabs weigh 80 kilograms or more per square meter. Since a standard balcony has a load capacity of between 300 and 500 kilograms, this could prove too much. You should therefore always consult a structural engineer.

If it turns out that your balcony is suitable, then you will be able to take full advantage of natural stone for your balcony flooring. It is extremely stylish, tough and durable. As it gets older, the stone can be made even more attractive by applying a light patina.

There is a huge choice of types of natural stone. Dark slate creates a very sophisticated atmosphere, whereas limestone travertine will give your balcony a Mediterranean flair. Granite appears almost mystical due to the inclusion of minerals and quartz.

Laying natural stone tiles is quite laborious and costly – leave this work to a specialized company.

A commercially bought product: whether you fancy Rooterberg sandstone, Onsernone from Ticino or Andeer stone from Val Schons – the Swiss company Emilio Stecher from the municipality of Root specializes in the processing of local natural stone. Just take a look at the homepage to see if there are any suitable tiles for your balcony.

View of a balcony with a table and three chairs. A cat is sitting on a windowsill.

Before fitting natural stone slabs on a balcony, you must first have the maximum load determined.

Conclusion: balcony tiles are aesthetic and practical

Nobody likes to walk barefoot on bare concrete. For this reason, you should fit an extra layer of flooring on your balcony. There is a wide range of tiles available, and each different material has its advantages. Whether you opt for homely wood or tasteful natural stone – your balcony will look more attractive, and you will feel much more comfortable when walking on it.

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