What to Know Before Purchasing Condo Balcony Flooring

by May 30, 2019Balcony Flooring Tips

Since the inception of Outdoor Floors in Toronto in 2014, I have learned a lot about interlocking (clickable) outdoor deck tiles. Much has changed over the years particularly with the introduction and subsequent explosion of robust wood-plastic composite (WPC) tiles into the Canadian market. Their predecessor cousins, WPC deck boards, commonly used in wooden backyard house decks, have been around since the 80’s and also underwent several iterations to ultimately become superior products because of their exceptional durability. The same evolution is occurring with WPC deck tiles.  Thus, not all composites are the same — they differ mainly in the type of plastics used  as well as the proportion of wood-to-recycled plastics. 

In the early 2010’s, when  1×1-foot WPC deck tiles first entered Canada making their way to outdoor balconies, porches and rooftop terraces, it became apparent that some had a flaw.  The problem stemmed from the matte surface finish on the top and sides of each tile.   This porous, non-capped feature made the tiles prone to watermarking and staining from grease and oils (see photo below).  This lack of a physical barrier also made them prone to water absorption (ingress) if the tile ‘sat’ in pooled water, leading them to premature weathering.  In some cases, it led to tile decay, rotting and even warping.  However, it didn’t take long for the remedy to enter the scene.  

First-generation WPC tiles did not have a cap barrier  preventing the influx of water from rain or snow.  After evaporation, darker pigmented splotches formed and could not be easily removed, leaving water marks behind.  It was caused by a chemical reaction between water and colour pigments on the tile’s surface.   Newer WPCs have a glossy-waxy (but non-slip) cap barrier preventing water ingress and markings.

Despite early teething issues, the main commonality among all composite deck tiles is their heavy-duty ‘backbone’.  This formed the foundation to which later improvements ultimately made it become superior to other tiles  made from plastics, rubber or wood.  Wood-plastic deck tile manufacturers soon discovered the type of plastic as well as the ratio of wood-to-plastic made them stronger and completely resistant to weathering, rot and decay.  Equally important was the development of a cap barrier (“capping”)  by baking in a microscopic glossy plastic layer during the manufacturing process.  This was the icing on the cake; almost literally.   It crowned the newer WPC deck tiles as KING of the Road, changing the world of deck tiles because they no longer were prone to water absorption and consequent warping or mold growth.  They were now waterproof, weatherproof, mildew- and mold-proof.  

Cross-sectional view of a composite deck tile slat showing the tough and durable “cap” layer
Zoomed-in photo of composite deck tile slat showing cap barrier

Over  the years 2017-2018, these heavy-duty deck tiles no longer had their plastic-looking finish created by the cap layer.  However, they still retained the cap’s barrier function.  The cap barrier also provided a substrate for chiseling (embossing) the tile, so that wood-grain patterns and textures could be applied during tile production process.  Moreover, under natural sunlight, balcony floor installations utilizing particular tile patterns such as parquet (checkered) or herringbone (tiles at 90º, to each other) thoroughly highlighted the faux-wood grain finishes.  It provided amazingly contrasted eye kandy.  This gave another positive jump in the evolution of composite deck tiles because they started to resemble real, natural wood.  This wood grain texture made them pleasing to the eye; amazing stuff when certain tile patterns were installed (especially herringbone) .  Capping and embossing also allowed for colour and wood grain variations among tiles of a particular line.  In fact, the newest tiles have colour and grain variations within a single slat of a single tile.  

Herringbone (zig-zag) floor pattern give the false impression that two different tiles were installed.  It was only one. Also, note the glossy (non-slip) cap finish to the floor’s surface

Finally and most recently, the cap surface layer was designed to increase slip resistance when walking on wet tiles.  This helped to minimize the risk of slips and falls.  It also incidentally led to an amusing feeling when walking barefoot on a tiled floor.  No shoes required!  In fact, wearing no shoes or slippers is highly recommended when it comes to high quality interlocking wood-plastic composite deck tiles.  Going barefoot feels great.  

Speaking of sunlight, WPC tiles are not susceptible to the fading effects of the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) light.  This is the case for plastic or wooden deck tiles which inevitably will fade after two years or so (depending on the amount of sun exposure).  To regain their original appeal, wood products must be sanded and stained which costs time and money.  Plastic tiles cannot be refurbished. 

Interlocking deck tiles made from Acacia are prone to premature fading from sunlight.  They will need replacement in 2-3 years.
Acacia wood tiles (from places like Eegkyah, Kosttlo and Houses-R-Us Depot) are not sufficiently robust to handle the harsh Canadian climate.

WPCs do not require maintenance other than the occasional vacuuming and spray mop.  “The end product of combining wood and plastic into WPC composites is greater than the sum of its parts”, many outdoor flooring and decking specialists concluded, as did the tile manufacturers, after their creation.  In addition, WPCs are resistant to the mould, rot and general decay that affect wood deck tiles in damp, moist environments.

Dilapidated Balcony Floor — Just dismiss the spray paint, oil marks and unkempt furniture for a second and take a close look at the surface of these old, wooden deck tiles.  Do you see it?  YES!  That’s right… moss! Mother Nature might have her way with wood products but not our wood-plastic composites.

Another fantastic feature of WPC patio deck tiles in addition to being waterproof and weatherproof, their plastic bases keep the deck slats elevated above rainwater.  Along with water channels designed to allow fluids to flow under the tile, these features prevent pooling of water.  Furthermore, slit-like holes between each tile slat encourages ventilation and water evaporation further contributing to water egress. 

DIY Gone Awry [“Aww-Rye”] Gallery

Conclusion:

Late-generation wood-plastic composite (WPC) deck tiles are superior to all other outdoor flooring products on the market

 

Why?

  • Exceptionally durable

  • Stunning visual appeal

  • No need for maintenance (other than biannual vacuuming and mopping)

 

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