Aluminum Windows Water Leakage Problems – Tips and Tricks

Buildings and architecture functions are protection and climate adaptation. Each component of the building play a role to achieve these main functions. Aluminum used as building material for windows and openings. Aluminum windows face a water leaking problems, due to Aluminum works and it surrounding. Aluminium windows and opening can easily resist rain water, but when it rains on a windy day this may occur aluminium water leakage. The wind will blow the rain horizontally, forcing it to leak inside the building. This post will discuss several tips and tricks to avoid aluminium windows water leaking.

Aluminum Specifications Tips

Aluminum system and specification play an important role to avoid water leaking. Read “How to Buy Aluminum Sliding Windows” article for more information about aluminum specifications. To select the proper aluminum system for the windows is important, where it has to be designed to resist wind forces. If the window shake it will affect the aluminium window and the filler between it and walls accrue water leakage. Selecting the aluminum system and profile depend on the window shape and direction.

For wide openings, windows that has four panels these is a special profile for the side profile in the middle of the window. As shown in the following photo, P profile enhance the aluminum profile resisting wind and horizontal forces. Also P profile works as a panel handle where hand can pull the profile to open the panel instead of pulling the panel from lock by a finger. For long two panels windows, a P profile will enhance it horizontal forces resistance.

Sliding panels doors with P profile for support wind forces
Sliding panels doors with P profile for support wind forces, Gaza 2020

For windows that contain fixed and sliding opening, the profile between the fix and open has to be one piece. Many aluminium workshops and contractors laying two profiles systems over each others. If the two system’s profile doesn’t lock, then it will leave an opening between the two systems. This open has to be filled with a filler to prevent water leaking. Filler will solve the problem temporarily, because filler can’t resist weathering for long period, then the window will leak rain water again.

aluminum sliding window and fixed systems have two profiles that has gap
aluminum sliding window and fixed systems have two profiles that has gap, Gaza 2020

Aluminum Accessories Tips

Rubber strips is used between glass and aluminium as a soft layer to protect glass and to prevent water leakage. There are two choices, rubber sealing strips – the two pieces- and rubber beading strips – U shape rubber -. Rubber sealing – the two pieces – are the inner and outer part. These rubbers are easy to install and easy to disassemble, and could disassembled with time because of panel opening and moving. Without rubber the glass will shake and water will leak inside. The second choice is to use rubber beading – the U shape – rubber, its covering the glass. U shape rubber are hard to install, and won’t remove by weathering. In addition to glass lay at soft rubber material making U shape rubber better then rubber sealing strips.

Rubber sealing strips problems - the two pieces -
Rubber sealing strips problems – the two pieces -, Gaza 2020

When wind blows the rain toward the aluminium window, it will hit the panels and slide down the the lower aluminium profile. The lower profile need to drain the rain water to outside while the wind is blowing water inside. It’s recommended in windy direction to use lower profile with a container, so before it drains inside the profile, then from the container it will drain water slowly to outside. The drain opening between the container and outside need non-return valve accessory to allow water draining during high speed winds. The placement of grooves between the rails has to face the glass panel in the outside direction. Also the placement of drain openings between the rails and the container are very sensitive. 

wrong placement of grooves between the rails, it has to face the glass panel in the outside direction.
wrong placement of grooves between the rails, it has to face the glass panel in the outside direction. Gaza 2019
aluminum sliding window non return valve, Gaza 2020
aluminum sliding window non return valve, Gaza 2020

Before Installing Aluminum Works Tips

Windows boundaries threads and sills have to be straight in right angles. So the angled aluminum window will fit exactly the wall opening. Craftsman need to leave a gap to avoid waving walls problem. The gap needs filling to prevent water leakage. Fillers are expensive and affecting by weathering, save money by having a straight well angled opening.

For better bonding between walls and aluminum use solid blocks for the opening sides, where screws will bond better. hollow block layers has less than a centimeter thickness, which it’s not enough for screws to bond.

To prevent sliding doors water leakage, do a two levels in thickness of the lower door profile – the rails profile – to avoid rain water leakage. In the same method, window sill can be in two levels to avoid the rain water leakage underneath the aluminium. The two levels can be implemented using two marbles layers, The connection between the two marble could occur leakage. So the best solution is to cast the window sill from a mosaic in two levels,  to prevent weak areas between the two pieces. Before installing the aluminum window check the sill and if it bond well with the wall. sill crack or if the sill isn’t well bonding to the wall will occur rain water leakage. Wind will blow the rain between the cracks, as shown in the following photo.

Balcony tiles in two levels to prevent rain water leakage
Balcony tiles in two levels to prevent rain water leakage. Gaza 2020
napco aluminum sliding windows double rails, and two levels sills to prevent rain water leakage
Aluminum sliding windows rails, the sill have two layers to prevent rain water leakage, Gaza 2016

Installing Tips for Aluminum Works To Prevent Water Leaking

However aluminum system and specifications are important, also there are important things to take into consideration during installing aluminum woks

Silicone and polyurethane caulk, is a rubber adhesive materials, it design for expanding with weather differences. Expand in the winter when the aluminium collapse and collapse when aluminium expand to prevent water leaking. Silicone effect from weathering therefore it use for inside gaps only. Polyurethane adhesive products like SikaFlex used for outdoor side, however it cost 10 times of silicone price,  it has better weathering resistance. Before installing silicone or Sikaflex clean the window sill, otherwise the adhesive will stick with the dust instead of the sill. So clean the sides, use a blower then a wet cloth and after that use gasoline to clean the window sill. 

During installation use stainless steel screws instead of steel screws to avoid rusting. Also drill the screws in the sides, and do not drill screws at the aluminium lower profile. The screw will make cracks in the aluminum profile and sill resulting a water leakage.

Crack between wall and sill occur water leaking problems
Crack between wall and sill occur water leaking problems , Gaza 2019

FAQs

Does glass lay over aluminium when using sealing – two rubbers – instead of rubber beading – U shape – rubber?

When using sealing rubber strips – the two rubbers – and to avoid glass touch the aluminium. Aluminium contractors put plywood in 2 mm thickness at glass edges to be as rubber layer.

How to test aluminium windows water leakage?

Usually site engineers use water hose toward the aluminium window to simulate rainy and windy day. The test requires a high pressure water hose, therefore fire pipes stand could be used. For large scale projects, engineers ask civil defense to use fire fighting truck to test it toward the aluminium windows.

How to check rubber sealing and beading quality? 

Rubber has to be elastic, it will dry by weathering, test it before installation by tension the rubber by hand. If the rubber stay black it’s good, if it has a white color during tension, this means it’s dry and won’t work well. 

Parapets Capping and Windows Sill

Parapet is an extension of wall at top roof, balcony, stairs or a walkway, used as a guard rails. As the parapet function is guard rails, then it hasn’t been less than 80 cm. or it has to install handrail over it. Parapet is covered with capping to protect plaster, stone cladding, curtain wall or any other wall finishing material from water leaking. For same reason windows sill is used for the bottom side. The windows sill and parapets capping could make in different details and from different materials. This post will discuss capping and sill materials, details and recommendations for well installation.

Parapet capping for flower box, made of Palestinian marble, Gaza 2020
Parapet capping for flower box, made of Palestinian marble, Gaza 2020

Design Details

There are several design details for parapet capping and windows sills. There are different designs however they all have the same functions. Here we will introduce some of the parapets capping and windows sill design details.

sill and capping types : straight, round edge, double edge, round double edge, By Zahi Alrayyes 2020
sill and capping types : straight, round edge, double edge, round double edge, By Zahi Alrayyes 2020

Straight: simple but need to chamfer the corners to make the sharp edges safe.
Round edge: for better appearance and for classical style use a round edge capping and sills.
Double: for larger scale use double marble pieces to have thicker sill. This suite residential and commercial modern buildings.
Double round edge: for lavishness or large scale, use double round edges, it has extra cost than previous choices. Typically used for villas and high quality residential buildings.

Double marble emperador meduim sill
Double marble emperador meduim sill, Gaza Alhelou Station 2018

How to Select the Capping and Sill Materials 

Parapet capping and sill material has to have a low water absorption ratio and to resist weathering. So marble, granite, aluminum and concrete are suitable materials to use. 

Marble is a suitable material for parapets capping and windows sill. Select marble with low water absorbing ratio, also order pieces with more length to have fewer connections between marbles, usually it cut into 150 cm length. The connection will be filled with cement or marble adhesive. Marble is cheap, easy to install and to decorate. Marble effecting from weathering, marble veins and pores will enlarge. Tiny veins will allow water to enter through the marble sill and capping. This problem fixed by either filling the pores and veins by cement or marble adhesive.

Marble capping has defect veins and pores from weathering that accrue water leaking, Gaza 2020
Marble capping has defect veins and pores from weathering that accrue water leaking, Gaza 2020

Granite has low water absorption ratio and can resist weathering more than marble. But usually granite colors are dark and light colors have a high price. Also granite doesn’t have many pores that’s perfect with water absorption but cement mortar won’t bond well it. Therefore there are some chemical products we use for granite backside in order to make it rough for better bonding with mortar. This problem appears more after installing fixtures over the granite sill and capping, like handrail. Where opening a hole in granite after installation or even screws will shake the sill and disassemble it from cement mortar. Therefore we recommend to open holes in a method that won’t shake the sill and capping like, water jet.

Double round edge from Rosa Betta marble, Gaza 2020
Double round edge from Rosa Betta marble, Gaza 2020

Mosaic and terrazzo is a white cement material that cast in place. This will give more bonding to the parapet capping and sills. In my view point it looks nice when it has a light large stones like Perlato size 5. Mosaic and terrazzo is cheap comparing to marble and granite. Also it fit stairs and curved parapet. Long length sills requires expansion joint, it’s made from glass as shown in the following photo.

handrail parapet capping from mosaic, by Almamoura Company, Gaza 2020
handrail parapet capping from mosaic, by Almamoura Company, Gaza 2020

Installing Parapets Capping and Windows Sill Recommendations:

  • Install parapets capping and windows sill after the block works, and stone wall cladding and before plastering works. Paint the sills with lime and sand to avoid cement stick to marble during plaster and painting works.
  • Sill size, for width leave a cm or two for plaster works thickness, and leave 3 cm for tiles works. For the outside, leave two more centimeters to have a cantilevered sill. The cantilevered sill will allow water to slide away from the walls to prevent water dripping the wall. Also prevent water dripping by a grove in the bottom surface of the sill or capping. 
  • The capping or sill length has to be straight leveled. For the width make few millimeters slope toward the outside to allow water slide outside instead of leaking.
  • For corners use 45 or diagonal connections, they look nice and will bond together better than any other connection.
Parapets capping corner connections, Gaza 2020
Parapets capping corner connections, Gaza 2020

FAQs

What capping to use for curtain walls?

For curtain walls and aluminum composite panels  facade use aluminum capping. Aluminum capping can be done by a certain profile or customized from ACP. Remember capping and sill function is to prevent water leaking and the material has to prevent weathering, then aluminum is perfect.

Floor Tiles Skirting

Thin Porcelain tiles skirting, Gaza 2019

Floor tile skirting is a short wall tile to protect wall from water and to give the walls a nice finishing. The main function of floor tile skirt is to protect the wall from water during floor cleaning. Furniture against the walls will scratch and damage it, tile skirting keep a small distance between wall and furniture. Also tile skirting keep a nice appearance of the connection between tiles and walls. Floor tiles skirting can be made from different materials according to the space function.

skirt is protect the wall from furniture scratching, Gaza 2020
skirt is protect the wall from furniture scratching, Gaza 2020

Tile Skirting Height

Since tile skirting function is to protect the wall from water, several centimeters height are enough. The tiles skirting nice height is 7 cm, I have tried shorter and higher skirt but wasn’t nice as 7 cm in height. Keep in mind that for some special cases, like when the wall has marble cladding one or two centimeters are enough. Select skirting material with low water absorbing to protect marble from water. Select a black granite skirting it will look as a nice shadow line detail.

For tile cladding wall there is no need to install tile skirting. Another special case when there is a wall in less than 15 cm height, like what is used for handrail balcony or curtain wall detail. I prefer to avoid few cm painting wall over the skirting, therefore skirting could be higher or from the same material as sill to appear as a block of marble.

Balcony with low parapet height that need emperador sill full height
Balcony with low parapet height that need emperador sill full height. Gaza Alhelou petrol station 2018

Skirting Cutting Problem

Many companies produce tile skirting in a certain size, these skirts have a straight edges.  Other times, craftsmen cut tiles in certain heights to make the tile’s skirting. There are several methods to cut a porcelain or ceramic tiles either by manual tile cutter, grinder or a saw machine. Cutting tiles using manual tile cutter or grinder won’t have a straight edges. Craftsman will install bad cut edge at the bottom, to avoid it appear to the human eye. Then cement grout used to fill the bad cut edge connection. This cut method can be used if there is much tile pieces that have at least one straight edge. The best tile cut method is saw machine to have straight edges. Not all tiles contractors have in-site saw machine, therefore sometimes they send it to marble workshop to cut them.

skirting cutting problems, show that low edge has bad cut and filled with cement grout that has problems too. Gaza 2020
skirting cutting problems, show that low edge has bad cut and filled with cement grout that has problems too. Gaza 2020

Skirting Round Edges

At the British International School in Gaza project, it required a recognition from the UK. One of the main requirements to get the recognition was student safety, therefore they asked to round skirting edges. The marble flooring and skirting disassembled, then send them to marble factory to round the top edge. Full-body porcelain can round it edge, while full-color porcelain the round edge will have similar color to the edge and won’t look nice. However, can’t round ceramic or veneer tiles because the bisque layer is weak and have a different color.

Skirting round edge from Omani marble, Gaza 2016
Skirting round edge from Omani marble, Gaza 2016
Marble skirt in lathe profile for wall wood cladding
Marble skirt in lathe profile for wall wood cladding, Gaza 2011

Skirting Corners

It’s important to notice that skirting require a 45 degree cut as shown in the following photo. It can’t install over each other to avoid tiles bisque layer to appear. Half on half and other detailed connection doesn’t suite the skirting scale. Also 45 degree corner connection suite when the skirt has a top round edge.

Granite round edge skirting and 45 degree corners, Gaza 2020
Granite round edge skirting and 45 degree corners, Gaza 2020

Plaster Paint  and Tile Skirting Details

As tile skirting role to have a nice wall floor appearance, the wall-skirt detail is important. Most walls have plaster and painting finish and sometimes a wallpaper finish is used. 

For plaster craftsmen like to end their work 15 cm from the top of concrete. 10 cm is the finish floor level, then tile skirt require 7 cm. This means tiles craftsman have two choices either to lay skirting tiles over plaster works or to remove the plaster then lay the skirt. I prefer to remove the plaster then to lay tile skirt to have less thickness skirt. Another finish alternative, when plaster craftsman leave 20 cm from the top of concrete instead of 15 cm. This way they need to finish the 3 cm plaster after the tiles work finish and before tile joint grout begins. 

For painting works, the most important to make a sharp edge between painting and tile skirt, and it’s better to make a round edge to have a nice finish. Also for wallpaper it’s important to know where to end the wallpaper.

Thin Porcelain tiles skirting, Gaza 2019
Thin Porcelain tiles skirting, Gaza 2019
Thick Porcelain tiles skirting that have over lap bad connection filled with cement grout, Gaza 2019
Thick Porcelain tiles skirting that have over lap bad connection filled with cement grout, Gaza 2019

Tiles Expansion Joint

For high temperature countries like Arab Gulf, tiles expansion joint is important. In outdoor and large spaces expansion joint can be installed each 4 meters in both directions. Another expansion joint at room boundaries and in the connection between wall and floor. A centimeter that doesn’t have either tiles or a mortar, then it’s filled with rubber material like SikaFlex or other products. Then the tiles skirt will cover the expansion joint and won’t appear for the human eyes.

Tiles Skirting Connection with Doors

The connection between door and tiles skirting is a sensitive detail. Where door frame install after tiles works and sometimes after the painting works to keep it clean. So site engineering has to give the tiles craftsman where the tile skirting ends. So when the door frame installed they have a nice finish together. Sometimes interior designers make a door frame base to avoid bad connection with tile skirt.

Bad skirting connection with door. Gaza 2020
Bad skirting connection with door. Gaza 2020
How to make curved walls skirting ?

Well, tiles and natural stone materials can’t bend according to the wall curve. Therefore the best solution is to divide the skirt into smaller width size according to the wall curvature. Dividing the skirt width will give a not bad solution that will have a bad appearance.Curved wall skirt using small width species, Gaza 2016

Skirt mortar problem, notice that the tile that doesn’t fill with mortar have echo sound. Gaza 2020

Beauty of Travertine Veins

Travantine is a natural stone classify as limestones. Travertine stone is unique by it veins, pores and holes, this what gives it more aesthetic value. These make travertine soft, absorbent and it doesn’t resist the weathering action well. Travertine become known by its veining, it’s the beauty of travertine. Also Travertine is known by its warm natural range of colors, in tones of beige, cream, brown, yellow, orange, red, gold, silver and a wooden like texture. Travertine formed in salted lakes from calcium carbonate. In most often travertine found in Italy, Turkey, USA, Mexico, Peru and Croatia. This post will discuss several topics you need to know before selecting travertine. 

Classic Travertine shows it pores, veins and texture
Classic travertine texture. By Zomord Marble 2018.

Travertine Applications

For thousands of years travertine is used as a common building material for walls and decorations. Since travertine has pores and holes, which is hard to fit some applications like floor, stairs and sinks. Travertine holes need to be filled, and pores to seal in order to achieve these applications function. Travertine holes could filled with cement grout or marble adhesive. 

Classic and noche travertine together. It's show travertine holes. Arrange travertine together.
Notice travertine holes. This is classic travertine beside Noche travertine -wooden like texture – at Alhoreya Building, Alzahra city 2019 by Zahi Alrayyes

Cement grout is holes filler, where cement will absorb water and it became darker. Also cement won’t have the same reflection as travertine surface. On the other hand, marble adhesive is available in many colors as well as transparent base. Marble adhesive doesn’t effect from water and will remain with the same color. The disadvantage of marble adhesive that it will break and fragment when exposed to sun rays. Therefore, as holes filler and joints between tiles, it’s better to use cement grout for outdoor and marble adhesive for indoor applications. 

Travertine back side. it shows the holes and pores
Classic travertine back side. by Zahi Alrayyes. Alzahra city 2019

Pores also affect how travertine will look over time, sealer can protect travertine and keep the surface beauty over time. There are several products in the market to protect travertine surface and keep the same glossiness or the rough surface. Be aware that rough surface is harder to seal, because it has more pores and it requires a matte sealer. 

Sink made of yellow travertine, The travertine holes are filled and pores are sealed
Sink made of yellow travertine. at Zomord showroom, Alburej 2017.

These solutions allow designers to select travertine as marble and granite, especially because travertine has unique colors and texture. The below photos shows the use of travertine as sink, stairs and other applications.

counter top sink made of noche travertine, The travertine holes are filled and pores are sealed
counter top sink made of noche travertine. By Zomord marble 2019

Travantine Veins

As mentioned above, travertine is unique by it softness, veins and holes. Travertine is groups of light and dark veins. The most important thing is to arrange travertine tiles before installation in order to have the continuous veins. Arranging will show the travertine tiles as art, a mass, or as slab of travertine. To have a continuous veins there are two methods, the continuous and book match arrangement. 

Continuous veins arrangement, when tiles are cut parallel to veins directions. Arranging tiles in stacked bond, or running bond that I recommend. Running bond is better because it will interlock the different tones together. Continuous veins arrangement is the best technique for travertine tiles.

Classic and noche travertine, in continuous veins
Classic and noche travertine, in continuous veins. Alhoreya Building Gaza 2019 by Zahi Alrayyes

Diagonal veins cut is suitable to be arranged continuously or in book match arrangement. Marble and travertine tiles and slabs that has a clear diagonal veins are suitable for book match arrangement. Book match arrangement adds aesthetic value to walls, the wall will look as continuous paint of travertine. To have a continuous veins for book match arrangement, where the back of travertine need to be polished.

Book match travertine veins. Noche travertine, wood like travertine.
Travertine wall cladding by Kamal Abdelhadi. using travertine noche -the wooden like texture- Gaza 2018

The scale of travertine veins has an important impact, where most people consider smaller veins is more beautiful. This is true for interior scale, or in applications that is close to human eye. On the other hand the larger veins is more suitable for applications that has longer distance from human eye like architecture scale. Then in both cases you can enjoy the appearance of travertine veins to appear as a mass, or a natural rock.

Continuous travertine tile's veins
Classic travertine. It’s shows travertine as one mass. This by arranging travertine veins together. Alhoreya Building, Alzahra, Owned by Hossam and Wassem Salman Alhelou By Architect Zahi Alrayyes 2019

Travertine Cross Veins

Cross veins travertine is also available. Cross veins cut required a rigid and solid travertine stone. it’s popular for American Travertine, the orange travertine like the one in the below photo. It’s like particles of different colors and tones instead of continuous veins.

Cross veins travertine stairs cladding. American orange travertine
Cross veins travertine stairs cladding. American orange travertine by ORIGIN DESIGN Architect Zahi Alrayyes at GIZ office. Beirut tower, Gaza 2017.

Travantine Finish Surface

Travertine came in different surface finish, range from polished, matt, brushed to rough surface. Personally i don’t like travertine with high reflection, rough travertine surface reflect the less amount of light and sound. This makes it suitable for building cladding, where weathering will add more aesthetic value to it. Also it’s suitable for interior spaces, especially public spaces that require less echo wall cladding finish materials.

How to install travertine walls?

Travertine can install at walls either by casting, using cement mortar or glueing using tile adhesive. I prefer to install using transparent tile adhesive for two reasons. The first reason is that travertine has pores and holes which means cement could be pure during casting, which will look ugly. Another reason I prefer gluing, is also because pores and holes that tile adhesive could stick easy in them to enhance the connection between wall and travertine. To gluing the travertine it requires to plaster the wall in a good leveling, and remember that tile adhesive can’t have a thicknesses like cement mortar and casting methods.

What are the available travertine sizes in the market?

Travertine is available in similar sizes as marble range from, Slabs, Tiles and Stairs. Slabs are available in size of 1.7*2.8m in thickness of 3cm. Tiles are available in size of 30*60 and 120*60 in thickness of 1.8cm. Stairs are available in several sizes, where the thickness of going in 3cm and 1.8cm for risers. The length of the stair step typically is 120 and 130cm and could be longer. Also there are other sizes like 15*15*1.8cm in diagonal veins direction and also french set, mosaic and other decoration sizes. Travertine red shades french set.Travertine slab

Marble Stairs Detail; The Shadow Line

Select the suitable stairs finish is a hard mission, especially for homeowners. There are a variety of finishing materials, details and style. Marble is the common use material that is strong and has a nice appearance despite it classic style. Personally as much as I love marble but i struggle to find a modern details. The shadow line detail is a method to get a modern appearance, that is suitable for the most type of marble. The shadow line has flush clean look with no overhang nosing to have a modern appearance. With a thin black granite underneath the riser, it shows each step by itself individually.

Marble stairs, with shadow line detail
Marble stairs at Labib 2 building, Gaza Palestine By architect Zahi Alrayyes and marble from Zomord Marble.

when to use the shadow line detail

As mentioned before the shadow line detail is suitable with many kinds of marble. It’s the best choice with marble that have different tones like Flower Beige marble as shown in the below photo. The shadow line detail will separate each step by its own, then people will not easily notice the difference in marble tones. Also it’s suitable with marble that has many veins, it displays the beauty of each step. On the other hand, it’s not nice with clear marble that look similar tone and doesn’t have veins. It’s not a bad choice but it won’t add much to the marble and stairs. 

Shadow line steps
Marble stairs at Labib 2 building, Gaza Palestine By architect Zahi Alrayyes and marble from Zomord Marble. The marble is Flower Beige a Turkish product that has a variety of veins and difference in background tones.

Installing shadow line marble stairs

The shadow line detail is simple and cheap detail comparing to another marble details. Because its regular straight steps with a 2cm black granite underneath the riser. Granite is prefer to used and not marble, because it’s thin we need a plain black color. Also granite is more rigid material to avoid the break the 2cm piece through cutting process. Personally I prefer black shadow line to be thinner than 2cm but then it will become weaker. There are three types of black granite, beside artificial stone read How to Select Black Granite article for more information. Artificial stone is not suitable because it will efflorescence and appear with with grey and white spots. The craftsmen need to cut the granite using saw cutting machine at marble factory, and then to glue it with the riser according to floor and riser height.

shadow line stairs marble installation
how to install shadow line marble stairs, Gaza 2019 by Architect Zahi Alrayyes. Marble from Zomord Marble and installed by A. Muhassien

In conclusion, It’s not the only modern marble stairs detail, but it’s suitable for marble that has variety of tones or density veins. The shadow line detail is cheap compared to another modern marble stairs details. Also it’s well-designed, the design is avoiding water collecting and has no fine details that could break in the future.

FAQs

Can i do shadow line detail for tiles cladding stairs?

Yes, where a piece of black porcelain can stick using tile adhesive to the step rise. Then it’s filled with cement mortar as shown in the following drawing.

Drawing for stairs shadow line detail using tiles cladding stairs. By Zahi Alrayyes 2020

Stairs Tiles Design

Development of outdoor stairs tiles, Before and after
Before and after installing stairs tiles for ORIGIN DESIGN office entrance. Gaza 2019

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 using 15*90cm parquet and white matt tiles in surrounding
Drawings for stairs tiles using 15*90cm parquet and white matt tiles in surrounding. GAZA 2019

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 large step oudoor stairs
Building large step oudoor stairs. Gaza 2019 by Zahi Alrayyes for ORIGIN DESIGN office

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 tile going and rizer using cement mortar
Tilling stairs tile going and rizer using cement mortar. Gaza Palestine 2019. at ORIGIN DESIGN office

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 cement grout, Vitra CG1 in light grey color
Installing cement grout, Vitra CG1 in light grey color. Gaza Palestine 2019. at ORIGIN DESIGN office

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.  

outdoor large stairs tiles using parquet and white matt tiles
outdoor large stairs tiles using parquet and white matt tiles. Gaza 2019 by ORIGIN DESIGN.
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

rough stairs tiles white color, at lighthouse restaurant Gaza 2011

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.

Tiles for stairs

Some manufacturers produce tiles for stairs, these tiles in width of 30cm and different lengths. What is unique of these tiles that it’s design with edge suitable for stairs and an anti-slip lines. Those lines are important to implement in stairs with tile, marble or granite finish.

Tiles for stairs with anti-stip lines
Tiles for stairs with anti-stip lines. Gaza 2019

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.

Gradone stairs porcelain tiles method
Gradone stairs porcelain tiles method

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 tiles 30*30 cm rough white color in a restaurant in Gaza 2005. The stairs is in a good condition comparing to 19 years old tiles in very busy public space.
Porcelain stairs, Lighthouse Restaurant Gaza 2019

PHOTOS FOR STAIRS TILES APPLICATIONS

Stairs Tiles with travertine lines
Stairs Tiles with travertine lines at Gaza 2016 by Zahi Alrayyes.
outdoor large stairs tiles using parquet and white matt tiles
outdoor large stairs tiles using parquet and white matt tiles. Gaza 2019 by ORIGIN DESIGN.

For more information and example check out Stairs Tiles Design post at TashteebBlog

FAQs

How to finish porcelain tiles 45 degree corners?

You have two options, for outdoor use cement grout, it won’t give the best solution. For indoor and away from sun rays, use marble adhesive it will give better appearance and finish as shown in the following photo. Notice that sample done by Zomord marble using 12 mm thickness porcelain. It used a marble adhesive, which is hard to paint in black color, because it base is white, it need much color to seem dark gray.
porcelain edges finish, using marble adhesive in black color. By Zomord marble Gaza 2020

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?

Everything you need to know about Tiles Grout

Grout is tiles joint – small space – between tiles, this space function is to allow the craftsmen to align tiles together. Typically spaces between tiles range from 2 to 4 mm and it measured by plastic grout spacers.

The size of tiles joints can affect the tiles style either modern or classic. For modern appearance usually we recommend arrangement tiles directly with no space. This fit laser cut tiles case, where tiles are well trimmed at 90 degrees angles. On the other hand, saw cutting tiles will have classic appearance. Saw cutting tiles are cheaper than laser cutting tiles, but during manufacturing it could have a difference in tiles size. This could appear clearly by eyes therefore it’s better to use large tiles joint about 7 mm wide. However in classic appearance tiles it more beautiful to leave a large grout space, but be aware to buy a good brand ground to avoid color changing.

Grout function is to align tiles together and it’s not expansion joints, because it could fill by cement grout or in marble tiles cases could fill with epoxy or marble adhesive. Both fillers type could be colored to appear in harmony or in contrast with tiles. 

tiles grout important, and what to fill it. The photo is for a Creama nova marble, Gaza 2019

As expansion joint we recommended to leave around a cm between tiles and walls. The expansion joint will cover by tiles’ skirting. Expansion joints need to be clear from sand and mortar, then to fill with highly stretchable material like Sikaflex. Then it covers with tiles skirting.There is a special accessory for tiles expansion joints where it installed outdoors in high temperature countries.

According to ISO standards 13007, where grout classified according to materials to resin grout RG and cement grout CG. The cement grout classify to CG1 and CG2, of course CG2 is better. You can search about Iso standards 13007 for more information. Notice that there are few other factors affect grout quality. For example, the tile joint has to be clear from sand or dust, so the grout find a place it self. 

Cleaning Tiles Grout

Many people suffer from tile grout cleaning, especially floor cement grout. For cement grout, where cement has pores that could collect dust and dirt. Then the cement grout will become darker and look old. There are some chemical products that clean cement grout like Grout Cleaner from Fila. It will clean the cement pour from dust and dirty then partly close those pour. Designer sometimes use dark color cement grout, in order to protect it from color difference. Compared to epoxy or using marble adhesive as tiles grout, where it has less pour that won’t collect dust and dirt. The epoxy and tile adhesive grout is using only in indoor where sun will fragment it, making creaking and disassembled with walking friction.

FAQs

Can i use Portland cement as cement grout?

Yes, cement grout is made of cement, either white or Portland cement – gray -. Then add pigment to give it a color and zinc to enhance it strengths. So if you want cement color grout add zinc to Portland grout and use it as tile grout. Use black pigment to make darker grey if you like.

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.  

Palestinian Stone and Water Absorbing Problems

Palestinian stone as limestone has a high water absorbing ration. Specially that rough Palestinian stone surface is not treated for water absorption. The stone will yellow and convert to black color that have a bad appearance and could easily noticed. There are a few tips to take in consideration to avoid yellowing
First and most important to fix water leakage problems. Most usual problems happen in slab connection, where problems with indoor plumbing that affect the elevation stone cladding.
Also inverted beams around the building boundaries will prevent water to reach the Palestinian stone. The inverted beam has to be casting with slab to avoid water leakage. Another thing is to avoid installing water supply pipes at floor, and install the pipes in the false ceiling. In the false ceiling the problem will appear immediately, unlike floor installations. The cost of removing the false ceiling to fix the pipes is smaller than removing floor tiles for pipes maintenance.
Second tip is to temporarily connect stone together, use marble adhesive. Some craftsmen use gypsum to temporary connecting, but gypsum is organic material that wouldn’t stay for a long time. Then the place of gypsum mortar will be a gaps to collect water. The marble adhesive is better choice for traditional installing method – the casting -.
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.

Palestinian stone Njassa 25cm height using traditional installing-method
Palestinian stone Njassa 25cm height using traditional installing-method. Gaza 2017

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.