When most consumers think of flooring, they usually envision tile in the bathroom or hardwood throughout their home. If you prefer to spend most of your time enjoying Mother Nature, outdoor flooring is a great way to change the look of your patio or yard.
Outdoor flooring options in 2020 range from traditional choices like brick and wood to more interesting alternatives like playground flooring. In our guide, we’ll cover all the top options and break down the pros and cons of each one.
What are you going to cover?
The term “outdoors” can cover a lot of ground, both literally and figuratively. That’s because the terrain varies from one home to the next and someone in New Mexico or Arizona will have a different set of issues to deal with than someone who resides in Maine. Always consider your needs as well, along with any future plans for your backyard.
Are you going to cover an area of your yard or just redoing the patio? That’s important, and so is what lies beneath your new outdoor flooring. Grass, concrete, and sand are the three most common elements you will encounter, and each presents its own set of challenges. Pavers on grass are fairly simple, but tile over turf and wood over rubber will require plenty of prep work.
Understand your Land
What’s the current state of your backyard? Is the area where you want to install flooring sloped or completely flat? Knowing the lay of the land is critical when you are going to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars on outdoor flooring.
Before you debate rubber tiles or composite deck boards, take a minute and look at the area around your home. If you have experienced any issues in the past with sinkholes or animals that love to dig, proceed with caution. Chipmunks can be cute, but not when your flooring sinks because they decided to live beneath your brick pavers.
Consider wandering animals, the grade of the ground, or any previous issues with your land before settling on a style. It’s not a bad idea to have your ground tested if you plan to place a roof over your new patio or will use thick, heavy stones in your yard. You won’t need a permit to put down rubber mulch or tile your patio, but you still need to have a sound plan if you want to complete your project successfully.
Outdoor Flooring and the Elements
The last thing you will need to debate before choosing a style is the weather; something that’s easier said than done these days. The weather can certainly be unpredictable. If you’ve lived in your area for a few years, you should have an excellent idea of what to expect in regards to highs and lows, but there are other things to consider as well.
The sun, wind, and rain are outdoor flooring’s worst enemy, and not even the best options can withstand the elements forever. Concrete can crack, wood will fade, and a hail storm can make a major mess of your tile. If the area where you will install flooring will be covered, you can get around some of the issues brought on by the elements, but you still need to understand what they can do.
Sunlight and UV rays are generally not friendly with any type of flooring. UV rays can fade or darken wood and heat up other materials to uncomfortable levels. Even if you don’t plan on being barefoot, the glare from the sun off a white tile can send you running for your shades. Over time, sunlight will age most materials, just like the wind and rain.
While some regions tend to stay hot and dry most of the year, you will want to invest in a good umbrella if you live in Seattle. Most people aren’t going to sit outside in the pouring rain unless it’s under an awning or covered patio, but water introduces a new set of problems with tile, stone, or any porous materials.
Snow isn’t as much of a concern as extreme swings in temperature, but even those can be mitigated if your flooring has the right ratings. Cold weather won’t have a major impact on wood, but it can freeze your new pebble pit solid or cause tiles to come loose.
The Best Outdoor Flooring Options
There is no perfect type of outdoor flooring as everyone has different needs. With that in mind, our list of the best outdoor flooring options covers a wide range of materials. That includes flooring you can install yourself with a minimal amount of effort along with materials that may require a degree of professional assistance.
Natural Outdoor Flooring Options
When you want your patio or flooring to blend in with the outdoors, using a natural material is your best option. Your imagination can run wild from a design standpoint even if your choices are more limited, considering there are only a few alternatives.
Wood has been used as an outdoor flooring option for decades, and while you can’t just use any type of wood, it is a versatile material. Redwood and cedar are naturally resistant to weathering and will last longer than treated lumber, hickory or oak.
You don’t want to place real wood in direct contact with the ground as it’s organic, so eventually, moisture and rot will creep in. Domestic species are more prone to the weather as well, which is why IPE and exotic woods are ideal for outdoor use.
For the outdoors, you will want to consider wooden deck boards or wood floor tiles. Both look great, just keep the weather in mind when choosing a species. You will also want to familiarize yourself with pressure washers and sealants as you will need to maintain outdoor wood flooring fairly frequently over the course of its lifetime.
If wood is not durable enough for you, consider stone. It won’t fade from sunlight like a stained plank, and it’s far more permanent. That can be a double-edged sword, however, so choose your stones carefully when considering style and texture.
You can use a variety of stone outdoors, but some options are more common than others. Travertine, granite, slate, and marble are the easiest to source, although marble can be slick in the rain and expensive. Basalt, bluestone, and quartzite are other ideal alternatives for outdoor use depending on your needs.
Stone is typically sold in cut form like tile or as flagstone in irregular shapes. The downside to outdoor stone flooring is the fact it typically needs to be sealed, and it can be harder to work with than wood. It’s also a bit more expensive and may cost more for a professional to install.
Tile is the chameleon of the flooring world even though it’s not quite as natural as wood or stone. When wood won’t work, and stone is too expensive, tile is the perfect choice as it can resemble either material. It’s also a cheap outdoor flooring option compared to materials like travertine, composite decking or rubber.
With clay-based tiles, you have two options with ceramic or porcelain. The latter is more durable and excellent in wet areas, but slightly more expensive. You can read more about the differences between the two in our guide. The most important thing to remember with tile is the slip-resistance rating along with the temperature outside.
You will also need to grout and seal both styles of tile periodically. It’s
Whether you are short on time or want something easy to deal with, synthetic flooring options are a great alternative to natural materials. While there are dozens of materials you can use that fall under this category, here are a few of the most popular.
Cheap Outdoor Flooring Solutions
Tile, outdoor carpet, decking, and stone may be the materials most people turn to when looking for the best outdoor flooring, but they are not the only options available. Below is a quick list of some unique budget-friendly outdoor flooring options for 2019, including a few “loose” materials that are ideal for the bare ground.
Outdoor Flooring Prices
While we’ve touched on pricing in regards to one material being more expensive than another; outdoor flooring prices can be difficult to wrap your head around. Each type of flooring has a countless number of variables which can raise the cost, and you have to consider the overall quality as well.
Price per sq. ft.
Rubber Flooring, Inc.
Flagstone Rubber Pavers
16” x 16”
Montagna Rustic bay
6” x 24”
Field Day Rollins Twist
18” x 18”
Rubber Flooring, Inc.
Helios Composite Deck Tiles
12” x 12”
0.5 cu. ft.
Emerald Gold Lawn Turf Roll
While our chart gives you an idea of what to expect, it doesn’t account for any materials needed to prep the ground or patio. Tile will need grout and wood will need stained or sealed, so always plan ahead. It’s also important to remember that the best outdoor flooring needs to suit your needs, not impress your neighbors, so keep comfort in mind along with any plans for your property in the future.
Q: What is the most resilient material to use outdoors when fading and UV exposure is a concern?
A: Usually, natural materials like sand, pea gravel, stone, or tile. Wood will fade outdoors, and even the best outdoor carpet isn’t immune to fading caused by the sun.
Q: Can I use deck boards for an outdoor patio if they come in direct contact with the ground?
A: That all depends on the type of decking you plan to use. Some brands of composite deck boards are made for use around marinas and docks, while other companies have lines that are designed for direct contact with the ground.
Q: Is artificial grass or outdoor turf recyclable?
A: Artificial turf is sold by hundreds of manufacturers, and is often made from recycled plastics. While certain parts of artificial turn can easily be recycled, the infill, backing layer, and other parts are harder for some recycling facilities to deal with.
Q: Which type of outdoor tile is the most durable for outdoor use?
A: In our opinion, that would be stone, tile, or gravel. Stone tile or pavers can last for decades, along with other materials made from natural rock or stone. Some composites will hold up well for years as well, but don’t measure up to natural stone.
Q: What type of outdoor flooring is the easiest to clean?
A: Any flooring with a flat, smooth surface. Outdoor carpet, artificial grass, sand, and gravel can be difficult to keep tidy depending on your surroundings, whereas a patio made from composite boards can easily be swept clean. Stone is easy to keep tidy as well provided it has been sealed.
Q: What type of outdoor flooring is the most eco-friendly option?
A: Natural stone in all of its forms or tile. Any type of material will have to undergo a manufacturing process, but rock, gravel, and stone are the greenest alternatives to use outside.
Q: What’s the most affordable type of natural wood for use outdoors?
A: Redwood or Cedar, although it depends on the manufacturer and can be affected by your location as well. IPE will last longer but can be quite expensive.
Q: Does rubber flooring produce VOCs, or will it smell?
A: Many synthetic materials can put off an odor after being installed in your home. While that’s possible with thick rubber mats or tiles, the smell should fade quickly, considering the product will be outdoors in the open air.