Because they are made from all-natural clay from the earth, terracotta tiles have a rustic look that is kind of ‘rough around the edges’ as compared to other styles of tile. Sometimes people don’t realize that terracotta tiles are usually handmade; therefore no two will look exactly the same. They vary in thickness, texture, color and appearance greatly.
Overall terracotta tile is a very rugged type of tile. Most tiles use the Mohs scale of hardness to determine endurance. Some can be very thick, while others that are meant more for indoor traffic may be thinner. This is decided within the creation process. The thicknesses vary between 10 mm – 30 mm and depending on the type of gloss or polish that is applied will mean the choice between indoor or outdoor installation.
Yes, terracotta tiles can be placed outside and will truly enhance an outdoor décor. Some people like to place terracotta tile near an outdoor pool, patio or as a walkway to a garden. But this also depends on the climate. Terracotta tiles typically prefer warm weather or temperate climates instead of cold weather or four-seasonal climates. The frost simply doesn’t mesh well with terracotta tiles and can cause them to crack, split, break or chip.
Another consideration is how much water the outdoor area may experience. Most terracotta tiles only have a thin layer of glaze, so they can absorb water. Any cracks will let in too much moisture and once the water soaks through, it can cause hairline cracks or splits in the terracotta tile. This is not to say that all terracotta tiles are off limits in all places. It really depends upon where you live. That’s why you might find many Spanish Revival or Southwestern style homes to have terracotta tile but rarely will you see any terracotta tiles outside of a New England or Midwestern home. They may be used inside but are less likely to be chosen within these types of décor, simply because people often use the materials of what is popular within their own regions.
The majority of terracotta tiles is indeed used outdoors and gives off that luxurious rustic charm that you might find at a swanky resort. Terracotta does have a good resistance to high traffic situations and can be very resilient. Because they have a porous nature, most tile distributors will recommend a sealant. The wear and tear will not be so graceful and the colors may turn depending on how much wear they get, but the good news is that terracotta ages very well and develops a vintage “Old World” charm that is one-of-a kind.
Use caution if choosing terracotta tiles for your outdoor project, but that doesn’t mean you should overlook their viability altogether. They look very nice if they are properly treated and kept up. In other words, frequent maintenance or reapplication of the sealant. If you just install the terracotta tiles and never do anything to protect them or use them, eventually they will look a bit rough and craggy. Don’t expect terracotta tile to look perfect, even from the first day they are brand new. They are one of those tiles that must be coddled to and appreciated as an artful element in landscaping.