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

Marble Floors Disadvantages

Installing Marble at Floor, ORIGIN DESIGN, Gaza 2019

Marble flooring give the interior an elegant appearance, however marble floor have many problems because marble is sensitive. Installing marble at floor is more sensitive than wall. At wall dust and water will slide away from marble, but on floor it remain at marble ruining it surface.

Level surfaces problem

One of marble floors disadvantages is surface level. After extracting marble from quarries , marble cuts into slabs using band saw or bridge type saw. Band saw produce a wave surface, comparing to bridge type saw it’s produce a straight surface. During installing of marble flooring, craftsman has to level the floor surface. IF the marble cut using band saw machines craftsman has to arrange the tiles in a way to avoid different surface level.

To check if marble surface leveled, keep you eyes at floor reflection, the reflected photo has to be straight not sporadic or wave. In case that marble surface isn’t leveled, it requires grinding marble and polishing it. Personally I don’t recommend grinding marble because original grinder will lose for longer period. 

Fragmentation of marble Surface

Another marble floors disadvantages is surface fragmentation. Marble floor has to be always clean, where dust and sand at floor with people movement will scratch marble surface, marble will lose reflection of marble. When small area in marble scratched it will affect other areas and will make the surface look bad. Although i prefer grinding marble only if the marble surface scratched, it will return as it installed last month.

Marble flooring disadvantages
Marble flooring disadvantages, Omani marble, Gaza 2016

Water as we discussed before, its ruin marble. Grinding marble surface can protect from natural factors like dust and water, but marble sides and back will gain water. It will gain water if there is a problem with sewage or water supply system underneath the marble. Therefore marble sides and back has to be protected against water and moisture. 

Porcelain Tile Mortar

Tile mortar used to bond tiles to wall. There are two main options as mortar, cement mortar and tile adhesive mortar. Cement material is not glue, dissolving cement with water become fluid state. It poured in between other materials pores and when it dries it becomes rigid and bonding different materials. Porcelain doesn’t have pores, means cement will not bond with it. Unlike ceramic where cement mortar poured into ceramics, it bonding it to wall. As well as, the wall need to be rough to increase bonding mortar to wall. Tile Adhesive is white cement, with materials like glue and other admixture to increase setting time. Since tile adhesive has glue, it’s better than cement mortar for porcelain.

Cement mortar make either from white or Portland cement. Portland cement has dark gray color, it gives the porcelain tiles darker tone color. Therefore white cement is better especially for white and light colors tiles. Mixing cement mortar at site, where each 50KG cement bag need 12 Sand buckets and 0.5 bucket of lime.  Lime gives the mortar elasticity to enhance workability, in high humidity areas we prefer to use hydrated lime S. Sometimes, craftsmen add shampoo to cement mortar which I reject because it weakens the mixture. Notice that cement has initial setting time, and mortar has to used within half an hour. When installing porcelain with cement mortar make a mixture of water and cement only, and pour it between tile and cement mortar.

installing large size tile by cement mortar
installing large size tile by cement mortar, 2019

Mortar adhesive is available in different types, ISO13007 has classified the tile adhesive in codes. The following table will describe the main letter used to write the code, and what each means.

ISO13007 table

To convert the above table to function
C1E : Internal use for ceramic flooring, small tiles
C1TE : Internal use for ceramic walls, small tiles 
C2E : Internal use for porcelain or large scale tiles flooring
C2TE : Internal use for porcelain or large scale tiles walls
C2TES1: External use and swimming pools.
C2TES2 : External use building elevations.

What is Salted Water Effect on Tile Mortar ?

Using salted water is forbidden in construction. Salted water reduce mortar life, the appearance of efflorescence and then tile will loose and fall. Always use a drinking water to protect the beauty of tile work and to increase it life. Since porcelain and ceramic tiles’ laid on  tile adhesive or cement mortar . Both has cement that contain calcium hydroxide which is formed during the cement hydration. When rain water pass through tiles grout will dissolve calcium hydroxide then tile will lose from mortar. Avoiding this use salt water resistant sealer admixture to mortar for avoiding this problem even with drinking water.

This information in enough to understand tiles mortar. Notice that low quality tiles mortar will ruin the tiles, take the right decision and feel free to ask any questions. 

How to select parquet tiles

In the last several years, parquet tiles – the wood like – become very popular. It gives a warm feeling to the space; it’s more suitable for house than a public space. In this article we will discuss the specifications of parquet tiles, to understand how to select and buy it.

parquet flooring
parquet flooring, Gaza 2018
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Methods of ceiling marble cladding

Marble ceiling cladding gives the architecture feeling of marble masses, the building appear as a piece of marble. However there are several types to install marble at ceilings, each method has advantages and disadvantages. Through this article we will discuss ceiling cladding methods,then you can make a decision about which method to use.

There are three methods of installing marble at ceilings. A method before casting the slab and two methods after casting the slab, one of them is using mechanical system. We will discuss the mechanical way of installing in another topic.

Before casting slab method

it’s the most common and simplest way of installing. Where marble place on the wooden framework, and it installs a steel inside the marble. Marble adhesive used to connect marble tiles together. This method sounds easy but it doesn’t reach a good result because it may move during concrete casting. Tiles could move, then it is recommended to put a mortar over the marble to enhance the bond and to protect marble adhesive from ruin by sun rays.

A problem facing this method, frameworks surface is hard to get it leveled, and any defect will appear clearly. Solving this problem can be either by chamfer the tiles edges, then it’s hard to notice its not level. Another alternative is to adopt the wood frame level, either by putting an over layer plywood to re-level the surface. For professional it’s recommended to make cladding surface lower than the rest of the slab by 5 cm. Then put sand into this area and arrange marble tiles as its verse tiling, then you can control the level precisely. 

marble cladding for ceilings methods
During working at marble cladding for ceiling, and before installing it rips blocks and steel bars. Gaza 2018
This craftsman, install Travertine tiles for ceiling cladding, using before casting method. He uses small marble pieces to gather tiles at same level by marble adhesive. Gaza, ORIGIN DESIGN, 2019
marble cladding for ceilings defects
marble cladding for ceilings defects, Gaza 2018

After casting slab – by casting method

This method has a better quality than the previous method, but it is not suitable for a large area. By making a new framework underneath the slab and by leaving the thickness of the marble and a space for cement mortar. Then steel wire will connect to the marble tile, after that arrange marble at the framework. Then connecting the marble wires to a steel mesh connecting to the concrete slab, and then it’s ready for concrete casting. We need to cast the concrete from the top, this by opening a 10 cm open at the concrete slab. But be aware to add more water to the concrete and extra cement to have a good concrete suitable for this job. It’s better to open several openings for casting at the slab. Because we need concrete to reach the top and air will get out through them.

After Casting method, Gaza 2018

As much as marble has a brilliant appearance at ceiling but also installing it is not an easy job, and it’s hard to fix and defects after installing. 

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. 

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