Stairs Tiles Design

before and after stairs tiles project, Gaza 2019 by Zahi Alrayyes

This project is stairs tiles as application for Using Tiles for stairs, the project is outdoor stairs for ORIGIN DESIGN office entrance. The old situation as shown in the before and after photo is black tiles and four steps of Rosa Beta granite. We have redesigned the stairs and garden to have four steps each in size of 120*150 cm. Beside the steps, will add grass in sloped level to enhancing stairs beauty, this beside rearrange and developing the landscape. Through this topic we will discuss stairs building stages from drawings, selecting tiles, building blocks, tiling and finishing.

Prepare Drawings and Selecting tiles

Stairs drawings designed according to available tiles at the market, usually designers have knowledge about tiles sizes at the market. The process after choosing the tiles size, is to select the proper tiles texture and color. In this project, I have selected parquet in size of 15*120 cm to fill area of 90*120 cm. Unfortunately, choices were limited in this size, and I haven’t like tiles texture and color for this size. As an alternative I have found 120*20 cm parquet tiles in color I like, but this size doesn’t fit the drawings. 4 tiles pieces will cover area of 120*80 cm, in addition to cut a piece to 120*10 cm, but it won’t look professional.

Drawings for stairs tiles, 2019 Gaza ORIGIN DESIGN

Another alternative in the market was a Spanish parquet tiles from UNDEFASA in size of 15*90 cm. This mean we can rearrange tiles where 8 tiles will cover area of 90*120 cm perfectly. For border tiles and risers, we selected light gray 120*60 cm Italian tiles from ABK in thickness of 7 mm. Both tiles color and texture match, and they add to stairs design beauty. 120×60 tiles need to be cut in size of 15*120 cm and few in size of 30*120 cm. In order to have a clear edge cut, we sent the tiles to marble factor to cut tiles using saw machine. Now tiles are ready for the next stage.

Building the Stairs

After ordering building materials from cement blocks, cement, lime and sand. And demolishing the old steps, in order to prepare the site for building as shown in the drawings. The block walls top-level built to be lower than tiles level by 5 to 10 cm. This due to block dimensions and to allow craftsman adapting the steps levels. Then to fill sand between steps walls, and top 10 cm was mix between sand and cement. The mixture between sand and cement will enhance the ground strength, If there is a water leakage it will become a concrete surface. After finishing these works, now we are ready for tiling stage.

Building stairs for outdoor using blocks and fill with sand and cement

Stair’s Tiles

Usually craftsmen begin to install stairs from first step at the bottom then going upward. in this case, it’s more convenient to use downward method by installing step tread then the riser. Another advantage of building upper level going downward because there is a certain upper level and flexible lower level. 

tilling stairs tread, professional  works. Gaza 2019

First of all craftsman arrange tiles at straight level, matching parquet colors together making area of 120*90 cm. Then add gray tiles around them, we face a problem where the gray tiles are 119.5 cm instead of 120 cm. Also parquet make area of 121×90 cm, we planned to install parquet without grout, but still there is a millimeter between each. The solution was to cut a 1.5 cm from a parquet tile to have area of 120*90 cm. Together with the light gray tiles it made an area of 150*120 cm. 

installing  tiles from up level to downward, Gaza 2019

After installing the step tread, for the riser we use regular connection, where tread will lay over the riser gives straight angle. Also risers between each other will gather using 45 degrees method, to appear as one mass. 

Tiles Finishing

Finishing showing the beauty, especially for tile edges details. Grout is important, we used Vitra Cement grout CG1 white color for the stairs. Using liquid colors to give it a color similar to tiles, The parquet color is mixed using black, brown and mustard color. For the gray color we mixed to the black and a little brown color to the white cement grout. Notice that to have a well bond cement grout to the tile, you need to clean cement and sand between tiles. Then to fill the grout probably and leave to setting well. Then using metal sponge, clean the rest of the grout, you need to clean tiles well because they are rough.  

Stairs tiles finishing, ORIGIN DESIGN 2019 Gaza Palestine.

Why tile size is 119.5 cm instead of 120 cm ?

This is related to shipping and size of shipping container. Tiles pack by cardboard to reach 120 cm, then it could fit the wooden plate. These few millimeters will save a lot of money. And sometimes this happens during cutting tiles at factory, Saw cutting will have the blade thickness around 3 mm. Therefore i prefer laser cutting tiles where it’s more accurate and thinner during cutting. 

Why not using a tile adhesive for the grout?

Tile adhesive will crack when sun rays reach it, so it doesn’t fit outdoor applications. Another reason not to use tile adhesive, that tile adhesive has fast setting, and it couldn’t clean the rest of the grout by metal sponge. It need to grind the material, this fit marble but tiles can’t be grinding.

Using Tiles for Stairs

Selecting proper tiles for stairs is a hard mission, because stair is in high traffic area. Designers choice a high strength cladding material like granite because it’s solid. Due to high price of granite, usually people choose the cheapest granite type. Rosa Beta, has a low price because it doesn’t look nice, traders says “Rosa Beta is granite in marble price”. Using marble is the next option, but marble surface will scratch and fragment due to stairs’ high traffic. However marble is weak and nice, but could maintenance easily by grinding and polishing it surface. after maintenance and renovation marble will look as it’s installed yesterday. Porcelain tiles is economical choice, it’s artificial material where tile body could be different from tile’s face according to different types. This post will cover how to select tiles for stairs, what are riser and tread connections types and how to install stairs’ tiles.

How to Select Porcelain Tiles for Stairs

Selecting the proper stair tiles is a sensitive mission. Take in mind few things while choosing stair’s tile: the tile’s classification, the size of the tile, the glossiness, and finally choice anti scratch tile.

  1. Do not use ceramic tiles, ceramic body is weak and stairs has high traffic. Also ceramic’s body color usually is red and this doesn’t fit the connection between step’s riser and tread. Even for porcelain’s tile Choice full body tile or color body’s tile. 
  2. Choose proper size tile’s to fit stair’s width. In market, there are tiles in size of 120*40 cm and 120*60 cm. These tiles size fit with stairs’ in width of 120 cm or less. Using small tile’s size isn’t recommended because tiles will be weak and easy to break.
  3. Choosing matte tile’s or high glossiness, depends on the context design. Personally i don’t like glazed porcelain, because glaze layer is usually wave. Matte tile’s is a better choice especially for riser and step tread connection as we will discuss in the next paragraphs. 
  4. One last thing to take in consider especially for high glossiness glazed tiles. Due to stair’s high traffic, tile could scratch, it’s recommended to choice anti scratch tiles. Also you can test scratch resistance at material lab.

Stairs Tile’ Edges Types

The difference between marble and porcelain, marble’s edge could polish to have safe edge in nice finish. This due to marble’s body and surface are the same material. When it comes to tiles, even full body tiles, tile’s polished edge glossiness won’t appear as nice as the surface glossiness. Therefore designers look for special edge details for riser and step treads that fit porcelain material. There are several types for edge details either by installing tile trim or polished porcelain tiles: bull nose type, straight riser, or to use advanced details like Costa Retta or Gradone types.

Tile trim

This by installing a porcelain, metal or stainless steel tile’s trim at the connection between riser and step tread. The tile trim will have a hard edge however it doesn’t have a high aesthetic value.

Bullnose

This type of stair’s tile, by cut and polish the edge of step tread in round or semi-round end. The edge will be safe and hard to break. On the other hand, the tile has to be full body or color body, to allow edge polishing. Another disadvantage of this type that not all tiles contractors could implement it, because it requires special machines.

Bullnose stairs porcelain tiles method
Bullnose stairs porcelain tiles method

Straight or Angled Riser

Simplest way to install stair tiles. Where riser installed at right angle or acute angle to improve the safety of the staircase. In case of acute angle, craftsmen create a template to install riser, this makes the job easier and aligned. In right angle, tread lay over the riser, and 45 degrees edge use when tile’s body difference than the surface. It depends on the quality of tiles, remember that 45 degrees edge connection is weak.

45 degrees stairs porcelain tiles method
Straight 45 degrees stairs porcelain tiles method
Angled stairs porcelain tiles method

Straight Nose (Costa Retta)

This by creating a detailed step nose from several tiles pieces. Implement this type require an experienced craftsman. The void of nose is filled with cement mortar. Costa Retta is Italian word mean straight nose, this type has a high aesthetic value.

Costa Retta stairs porcelain tiles method

Large Step (Gradone)

This method also has a step’s nose but it’s simpler to implement than Costa Retta. This by gluing a tread as shown in the following photo. Gradone mean long step in Italian, also this type has a nice appearance.

Installing Tiles on Stairs

Installing stair tiles need a professional, he needs to also calculate the height of stair’s risers. Then making few millimeters slope at step’s tread toward downward. Tread slope is necessary to prevent water from collecting on each stair tread, for long periods of time. Tiles laid over cement mortar, and below the mortar a mix of sand and cement in 1:1 ratio. The cement and sand mix, will be a concrete when water reaches it through tiles or tile’s grouts. The last important thing to implement is anti slip lines at each step, this is necessary for outdoor and glazed stairs.

Conclusion this, installing tiles at stairs is economical but has to choose the right tile and install it the correct way. The following photo is porcelain tiles’ stairs installed 13 years ago in high traffic outdoor restaurant. Thousands of people pass through this staircase daily, the stair situation still good compared to it low price.

Porcelain stairs, Lighthouse Restaurant Gaza 2019

Mediterranean climate and curtain walls

Mediterranean climate is characterized by warm summers and mild winters. People rely on air flow most days of the year, However for some days need heating or air conditioning. Traditional architecture adopt with the climate. where buildings take a shape and orientation to adapt with passive ventilation.

Curtain walls openings , Gaza 2018

The arrival of globalization and it impacts on Mediterranean architecture resulted modern architecture. large openings and curtain walls became the image of Mediterranean streets, resulting in a problem of thermal comfort. The curtain walls increase the temperatures in internal spaces through solar radiation and the small openings. Despite the success of curtain walls in northern countries, even in hot climate countries that depend on air conditioning. Those climates require mechanical solution to reach thermal comfort zone. Modern architecture converted Mediterranean area to a place that depend on mechanical solutions, this require extra fuel and electricity bills from residents.

As we all know that curtain walls opening use swing opening type toward outside. Therefore, it doesn’t allow air to enter inside spaces. This beside the solar radiation on the glass surfaces taking us away from thermal comfort zone.

This problem takes my thinking of how we could gain the beauty of large openings and curtain walls while keeping ventilation into our space?

Porcelain Tiles Size & Space Scale

As an architect, who’s always looking for new materials in the market. recently I noticed that traders and tiles showroom compete to provide a larger scale tiles. Before 2017 the larger common tiles size was 60*60 cm, then I begin to find 120*60 cm by 2017, then it reached 100*100 cm by 2018. Since they could market and sell these sizes, the market now in 2019 is full of large scale tiles even on sizes of 70*305 cm and 150*320 cm. Some products with high glossy, Matt and others with rough surfaces. 

Porcelain Texture

Personally, I love large scale tiles, however others always think that tiles size is related to space scale. The grout between tiles isn’t the thing in my view point. I keep my eyes on the texture, the veins size. This beside the tiles’ arrangement, the grout size and color. I like 120*60 porcelain tiles which have stone like with rough texture, or a Matt surface with veins, This tiles size show the texture clearly and show the beauty of continuous veins.

Installing a large scale tiles

On the other hand, Installing a large size tiles require a skilled craftsman, where it could install regularly using cement mortar indoors. But as porcelain is solid has fewer pores that doesn’t allow cement to bond with tiles. The large size of tile means more weight, which requires installing use tile adhesive. The adhesive has glues which increase the bond between the wall and tiles. Since tile adhesive is the best choice to install large size tiles, there is an important requirement to prepare the surface. The surface need to be leveled because craftsman can’t control the thickness of tile adhesive. Therefore cement block walls need to be plastered leveled, in order to have a nice wall tiles.

Large size porcelain tiles as any product have advantages and disadvantages as mentioned above. Now after reading this you can decide if the large size tiles fit this space or not. Feel free if you have any questions!

large tiles look like marble, Gaza 2019
large tiles look like marble, Gaza 2019

Palestinian Stone

Palestinian stone is located at West Bank Mountains. Commonly it caved in a rough texture to use in building facade cladding and for decor.

As Palestinian stones are limestone extracting from different mountains. Thus stone types are various according to location. Each stone has it physical specifications, where they vary in absorption ratio, rigidity and strength of bearing, leading to price differences. Most famous stone types are Njassa, Shyoukh, Slayeb, Tafouh, Barezit and many others.

Palestinian stone types

Njassa and Shyoukh are white. However Njassa is more white and has less absorption ratio which will remain white for longer type. In other hand Shyoukh Band 160 found deep inside the mountain, which is similar to Njassa stone specifications. Slayeb is red and yellow stone, its solid with a low absorption ratio. Taffouh is that yellow stone, while Birzeit is varied from yellow to grayish green but it yellow is more hue than Tafouh. There are other types found in Palestine like Beersheba stone in Negev desert. Its light gray color stone in similar tones, this gives architecture seem like it built from one stone building.

Stone extracted then cut in slabs then to different sizes and thickness to fit the required application. What’s makes Palestinian stone unique in facade cladding, its has a rough face where it shows architecture massive. The well-known two major sizes, the 25 cm height and 12 cm height its come in 3 cm thickness and random widths. Personally I consider 12 cm height is more beauty in scale and details, however 25 cm scale and details appear differently because it requires a different caving techniques. Increase stone thickness could be a solution to have the large size appears in nice details similar to 12 cm stone size.  

Stone types, cut sizes and arrangement have various alternatives, resulting huge methods to build and design of the building facade. Here are some photos of buildings elevation designs that created by Palestinian stone.

building using Slayeb stone , Gaza by ORIGIN DESIGN
Palestinian stone by ORIGIN DESIGN
Proposal for Palestinian stone building in Gaza using rough and smooth stone.