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.

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. 

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