There seems to be nearly an infinite number of varieties and types of patio tiles on the market today. Some of the most common types are wood, stone, slate, marble, and ceramic tiles. Ceramic and wood are the most popular for ease of use and versatility.
Things to Consider about Tiles in General
When choosing your tile, there are several factors that should always be considered. Every type of tile, and even the varieties within a certain type, will have varying levels of hardness, durability, and temperature tolerance. Sealers can extend some of these qualities, but only to a degree. Be sure to consider these things in regards to where the tiles will be placed and how much use they will get, along with the style that you choose.
Porcelain and Ceramic Tiles
Patio ceramic tiles are made from clay and water that has been heated, often repeatedly, to harden the clay into a ceramic. It is important to note in choosing ceramic tiles that they are rated by the Porcelain Enamel Institute (PEI) and the PEI rating they carry determines the amount of heavy traffic that they are suitable for. Ceramic tiles with a PEI 3 rating or higher are generally considered to be durable enough for outdoor patio use. Remember that the lower the rating, the more susceptible your ceramic tile will be to cracking and breaking.
Beyond getting a good enough PEI rating, ceramic tiles can be bought in an extremely wide range of sizes, colors, and textures, which has made them popular for patio use today.
Porcelain is similar to ceramic tiles in the various designs and colors offered, and carry many of the same considerations (such as the appropriate PEI rating). The primary difference between porcelain and ceramic is texture, which is left up to you and your style plan to decide.
Slate and Wood Patio Tiles
Wood and slate patio tiles have several identical advantages over ceramic tiles. First and foremost, they are much easier to install. Both are made with interlocking pieces that snap together and can be laid out over any level surface. On a side note, make sure to lay down some sort of plastic layer underneath as a weed deterrent. Another advantage is that they use no grout or other adhesive like ceramic does. Grout is porous, which makes it much harder to clean than your tiles, but wood and slate tiles do not suffer this drawback.
The only distinct difference between slate and wood patio tiles is the specific look and texture. Wood gives a more country feel, while slate is a simple way of getting that rougher stone appearance. Slate can also be installed in the same manner as porcelain and ceramic if you want something that feels a little more permanent.