Poolside paving: selection guide
Today’s building industry offers a wealth of choices for poolside paving, but there are key attributes you need to look for to ensure the most suitable option, delivering on both aesthetics and durability.
A couple of options have become particularly popular in recent times: hardy natural stone pavers — such as travertine, dense limestone, granite, quartzite, marble and bluestone — and 2 cm porcelain pavers. Both options are increasingly used in residential and public pool applications and (provided the selected paver meets certain criteria) can deliver a fantastic, long-lasting result. As naturally occurring materials, there are obviously geological forces at play that determine the quality of a paver, but the human element that guides selection and production of the finished product also pays a role. If certain standards in material selection and fabrication aren’t met, the result can be a catastrophic failure.
When it comes to natural stone, longevity depends on two properties: density and water absorption. A low-density, highly porous stone will be prone to deterioration from salt, as deposits enter the stone’s pores and form crystals, leading to internal weakening and exterior deterioration. The fundamentals are similar for porcelain, but the production process generally shows up the properties, thanks to laboratory testing of materials for compliance with various standards. By (somewhat ambiguous) definition, a porcelain tile is one with a water absorption rate of less than 0.5%, but there are additional considerations when assessing for longevity including body type, hardness and production quality standards.
Material selection incorporates many aspects — dimensional stability, production calibration, natural faults, surface finishing and functionality. The question is — how does the average Joe go about selecting paving materials that are going to last the distance?
There are a few ways to limit or reduce failure in both natural stone and porcelain paver applications without having an in-depth understanding of geology or tile manufacturing. By working with a good supplier, you can bypass the steep learning curve to access accurate information from the person whose job it is to grasp the nitty-gritty. These are some of the things you need to look for in a quality vendor:
Extensive knowledge and a good reputation
First up, make sure your supplier has an in-depth knowledge of the products they are selling, as well as the intended installation. Most good suppliers in the building materials industry need repeat business to survive and being a trusted source of information is key to bringing customers back. If a potential supplier doesn’t know that soft limestone is unsuitable for use around a pool unless sealed with a penetrating hardener, customers are likely to have problems with their installation and never return. A good supplier is up to date on industry standards and best practices, as well as understanding the performance limitations of all paver materials.
Ask about quality management
Although it can be difficult to guarantee the quality of any material before it arrives on our shores, there are measures that an importer can implement to avoid issues. In the case of natural stone, ask your supplier if they have procedures in place to guarantee quality. For example, they may have an inspection agent in the country of origin. When it comes to porcelain, find out if the manufacturer has ISO 9001 certification. Having systems in place that ensure quality of a product protects the customer and separates the cowboys from the professionals.
You get what you pay for
As with most things in the building industry, price is a reflection of quality when it comes to paving materials. Sure, you could pick up pavers for $40 m2, but what are you really getting? Most likely a poor quality product that won’t ever meet the needs of the application. If it seems too good to be true, it is! Carry out due diligence and ask why the product is so cheap (or expensive). Understanding the difference between a cheap product and a quality one could save thousands of dollars in repair costs if that product fails in application.
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