What is the best way to lay Porcelain Paving?

Porcelain Paving needs to be laid slightly differently to natural stone paving. To get a good result, please follow this method to lay Porcelain Paving.


What is porcelain paving?

Porcelain paving slabs are made by firing porcelain clays in extremely hot kilns.  Recent developments mean that it is now possible to purchase porcelain slabs which have realistic colour and texture, mimicking many natural stone and wood materials.  Tiles can have texture embossed on the surface before the photographic image is added.  The better quality tiles have enough variation to create a randomised effect in the imagery.

It is important to make the distinction between porcelain and ceramic paving.  Materials such as terracotta are ceramic, and are very porous, and therefore extremely frost sensitive.  These materials are totally different from porcelain paving.

The finished porcelain slab is a very strong, lightweight and also virtually non-porous.

The low porosity of porcelain paving makes it very suitable for our damp climate.  The slabs don’t absorb moisture and will therefore not be degraded by the frost/thaw processes that occur during our winter, which can cause natural stone to flake, and terracotta to crack.

What is the best method to lay Porcelain Paving?

Laying porcelain paving is slightly different to laying natural stone paving.

Step 1

Prepare the site by digging out the site as usual, checking levels and drainage as you would for a natural stone patio.

Step 2

Lay a sub base of compressed scalpings to create a firm and level foundation on which to lay the porcelain paving. We recommend 100mm depth.  This will create a free-draining sub base which is always necessary if you are using our jointing compound. Buy Scalpings now>>

Step 3

Prepare a mortar mix of at least 6:1 mixed sand to cement, which is to be laid as a full bed.  More accuracy is required here than you might ordinarily need with a natural stone patio, as in the next step you will not have as much leeway for tamping down slabs to achieve their perfect level.

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Step 4


Due to the non-porous nature of porcelain paving, it is necessary to create a bonding bridge, so that the slabs will adhere to the base

If you omit this step, your paving will fail quite quickly after laying.

Before starting to lay the porcelain slabs it is necessary to prime the back surface of each slab.  Paint the reverse side of each slab with either a ‘slurry mix’- a wet cement mix, or a proprietary resin based primer. The slurry mix is the cheaper method, but can be messy, whereas the pre-prepared primer is easier to use, but costs a lot more.

Step 5

Lay the primed porcelain pavers on the full bed of mortar of 40-50mm thick.

N.B. We often receive queries regarding this point, as some experienced landscapers will lay porcelain slabs on ‘pedestals’ (ie several 50mm high blobs of mortar- at each corner and in the centre) or work over the top of an existing patio or hard surface. Neither of these methods are wrong.  However, they are not foolproof methods.  To ensure a good finished result that has longevity, a solid sub-base must be created. Any movement beneath the patio will cause cracking eventually on the patio surface.  Its your call!  Furthermore, when working over an existing surface, it is very important to ensure that the increased height does not breach the damp proof cpourse on any adjacent buildings.

Therefore we prefer to recommend the full mortar bed method.

Pavers will require tamping into position. Although porcelain pavers are strong, they will not withstand excessive hammering, therefore careful efficient tamping down is required.  In order to get a strong bond between the mortar bed and the underside of the slab it is necessary to ensure at least 70% of the paver is in contact with the mortar bed.

The strength of the completed surface relies on the bond between the mortar and the slab, therefore this stage is the most important.

Step 6

As the pavers are laid, joints of 6mm should be left, using spacers to ensure an even jointing space throughout.

There are many suitable materials available to create the pointing joint

At Stoneworld we favour Resiply Jointing Compound for all our paving.  This will create a perfect joint. Buy Resiply Jointing Compound now>>

Please call us on 01844 279274 for any further advice you require.  Our knowledgeable staff are always on hand for tips and advice.

16 thoughts on “What is the best way to lay Porcelain Paving?

  • 25th June 2019 at 6:47 pm

    What is the best slurry bonding agent to mix please,
    Regards Neil

    • 27th June 2019 at 11:52 am

      as stated in the post
      Paint the reverse side of each slab with either a ‘slurry mix’- a wet cement mix, or a proprietary resin based primer. The slurry mix is the cheaper method, but can be messy, whereas the pre-prepared primer is easier to use, but costs a lot more.
      We do not specify a suitable brand as many will do the job fine.
      The very important part of this process is that full 100% contact is made between the base and the underside of the tile. The bonding bridge helps create the right environment for that to occur.

      Hope this helps


  • 7th April 2020 at 8:16 pm

    Does the slab get laid whilst the slurry mix is still wet or is this better to dry thus providing a key?

    • 14th April 2020 at 3:32 pm

      Thanks for your enquiry.
      we are recommending the slab is laid whilst the slurry mix is still wet. It is the bond that you are looking for rather than the key. The liquid molecules will bring the two surfaces together more effectively using a suction bond.
      I hope this helps

  • 8th June 2020 at 5:13 pm

    Just wondering if you can help, I have some porcelain slabs (not ordered from yourselves) but we have found the slabs seem to have a bow in the middle which is making it extremely difficult to get the edges to meet up and we are wondering if this is normal or could it be a fault? I’m having difficulty in contacting the company so just thought you might be able to advise?
    With kind regards Lisa

    • 18th June 2020 at 11:02 am

      We have seen this before on stone slabs that have been honed. Some production processes cause this dishing. It is caused where cheaper tools are used to hone the surface, which are not as accurate as the correct tools would be. And yes, it causes issues for lining up the slabs. Thats where we came in- we replaced the material with our own which was of better quality. Not sure if thats what has occurred with your porcelain slabs, maybe?

  • 22nd June 2020 at 7:47 pm

    Hi, I am a builder with a few years of experience in laying paving slabs and I’m up to date with current methods.
    I have purchased some porcelain tiles for a small patio area in my garden and wondered if there is any reason why I can’t lay these slabs on a layer of sand on top of a concrete base I have already laid.
    I was going to use pedestals for speed and ease and drainage.
    This is my own property so I have no angry client if there’s any problems in the future but it would mean they would be easy to relay if need.

    Look forward to your reply

    • 26th August 2020 at 9:51 am

      This method is fine if you can be sure of the firm sub base and you are aware of the shortcomings of this method of installation

  • 12th July 2020 at 3:12 pm

    What depth should the mortar base be.

    • 26th August 2020 at 9:49 am

      We recommend using Rob Parkers Best Conclear on Natural Stone for cleaning cement spills

  • 12th July 2020 at 7:42 pm

    I’ve bought a slurry mix which says you have to let it dry fully before laying(nexus projoint porcelain primer).im confused,do I let it dry as it says or fit them while it’s still wet as this is what nearly all the others do.

  • 29th July 2020 at 10:07 am

    How deep should the cement mix be for a 20mm porcelain slab to be laid on.

    • 29th July 2020 at 3:08 pm

      Hi 40-60mm mortar bed will do the job

  • 16th August 2020 at 4:29 pm

    What happens if slabs are butt jointed with what is essentially a 1mm gap?

  • 14th September 2020 at 8:58 pm

    Hi there, our builder has suggested mastic on the steps instead of grout, is this usual as I would expect it would go mouldy and fail pretty quickly? Thanks

    • 24th September 2020 at 10:25 am

      We do not recommend using mastic. Don’t let him do that!


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