Continuing our post on “What to do with Balcony Planters in Singapore”, we explore the various flooring options for balconies of Singapore Condominiums, HDB flats and Executive Condominium Apartments. As our balconies are exposed largely to the sun, rain and wind, the flooring must be hardy, weather-proof, visually pleasing, gives good value for money, safe (but of course) and easy to clean (hands up, whoever does the vacuuming at home!). Another important, but often overlooked point to consider is the cost of maintaining the outdoor flooring over time.
We’ve rounded up 7 options for your balcony flooring here. There are of course many more, but we have listed those materials readily available in Singapore via contractors, landscape materials suppliers, outdoor flooring specialists, outdoor furniture retail shops and even online buying sites like Groupon. We discuss the pros and cons of each type of flooring so that you can make a considered decision when renovating your balcony for your new home. We know some homeowners are tempted to leave the balcony with balcony planters in the original condition from the developer but with so many beautiful and affordable outdoor flooring choices out there these days, why not take the opportunity to create a calming sanctuary right at your balcony?
1. Balcony Outdoor Flooring: Ceramic Tiles
Most developers usually hand over the balconies in a tile finish. If you like the look of the tiles, this option is going to save a whole lot of money. If your balcony comes with a planter, you can do various things with it as shared in our previous post. Tiles are relatively easy to clean, and you can then dress your balcony up with, say, outdoor rugs and an outdoor furniture set.
The disadvantages of using tiles are that they just look so plain vanilla and using them is rather like passing up a good chance to really shape every corner of your home to your ideal home. Plus, tiles do tend to get some hard water stains, rust stains and even mould in the grout. To keep them in tip-top condition, you need to get down on your knees and give your balcony tiled floor a good scrub every now and then. You can get a professional to come by and give your balcony a good acid wash every year, but that could set you back by a few hundred dollars.
2. Balcony Outdoor Flooring: Pebble Wash
Pebble wash comes in a variety of sizes and colours and you can opt to have them with or without the glossy finish on top. The good thing about this is that you can get your contractor to create different patterns with your pebble wash. For example, you can create blocks of dark gray and light gray pebble wash, or tone them from light to dark brown. It maintains a rugged, outdoorsy look that sets of outdoor furniture nicely. The drawback, and this is significant for those of you who cannot stand mould or dirt, is that you have to SCRUB your flooring very often to prevent mould on the floor. Moisture from rain gets into the grooves between the pebbles and is a breeding ground for green and black mould.
3. Balcony Outdoor Flooring: Cement Screed
For those who like an industrial look, you can consider applying cement screed on your balcony floor. You can finish it off with a layer of clear lacquer or epoxy paint or leave it in its most raw form. Whether you apply a layer of finish to the cement screed or leave it bare, you need to be aware that the surface of this finishing tends to be a bit grainy, as if you are walking on fine sand, and it may also feel powdery to the feet. No amount of mopping the floor will get rid of the grainy, powdery feeling, so think hard before choosing this option.
A disadvantage of the cement screed flooring option is that it tends to crack and develop fine lines after some time. If you use epoxy paint, the paint may peel and you may end up with paint on your feet when you walk on your balcony. Hard scrubbing or washing may exacerbate this problem.
4. Balcony Outdoor Flooring: Natural Wood Decking
This is one of the most popular outdoor flooring options. In temperate climates, there are many choices of natural wood decking like Ipe, Cedar, pine and more. Here in Singapore, we seem to be restricted to the usual chengal and merbau. One of the main reasons is because of our weather. Our wet tropical weather means that many types of wood cannot hold up here without warping or splitting.
One of the reasons people choose natural wood decking is for its close-to-nature look and feel. Natural timber feels great to the touch and is easily cleaned by vacuuming and mopping. As the surface of the natural wood decking can be easily scratched, take care when vacuuming or when shifting furniture around. Wooden decking has gaps in between wooden panels to allow for expansion and contraction. Objects, debris and food droppings do get under the decking. It does get difficult to clean under the decking without removing the deck itself.
Protective stains for decks deteriorate over time due to natural wear and tear and usage. This results in some parts of the decking looking more worn out than others. Depending on the type of wood and its pores and the age of the protective coating, stains may occur when contaminants penetrate the pores in the deck. Typically wood decking requires staining on an annual basis. To avoid darkening of wood colour through repeated staining, thorough sanding may be required to remove previous stains before applying a new stain. The process of sanding and re-staining the wood requires good weather when there is no rain so if you need the deck for a party, time your maintenance work way in advance to buffer for any bad weather.
Natural wood deck may crack over time and results in splinters. Splinters are hazardous to users and cause unnecessary pain and discomfort. If you have young kids or pets at home, ensure that your wooden decking is properly maintained. If you are using natural wood for planter box installations, it is imperative to ensure the wood does not corrode or rot or it could cause an entire collapse in the wooden structure supporting the deck.
When choosing natural wood decking, it is important to also factor in the maintenance costs as these can cost almost as much as the initial cost of the decking over its lifespan of 5 years.
Try to get an experienced outdoor flooring specialist to install your natural wood decking flooring for your balcony to ensure that the flooring is level and there is no warping of the wood strips.
5. Balcony Outdoor Flooring: Composite Wood Decking
Another popular outdoor flooring option is Composite Wood Decking. Composite wood is typically made of wood fibres, plastics, wood flour and other stabilizers. Composite wood materials are made from recycled wood fibres and hence do not splinter. UV Stabilizers in the decking enable the colour to last for years. If the composite wood is made of a homogeneous material, you can even sand it down after a few years to refresh the look.
As with natural wood decking, composite wood decking is easily cleaned by vacuuming and mopping. As the surface of the composite wood decking can be easily scratched, take care when vacuuming or when shifting furniture around. Wooden decking has gaps in between wooden panels to allow for expansion and contraction. Objects, debris and food droppings do get under the decking. Cleaning of the underside is difficult without removing the deck itself.
Composite wood decking does not splinter like natural wood and is safer from this aspect. It requires a protective coat re-varnishing every 2 years to maintain its glossy look and to prevent stains from entering open pores. One of the major drawback is the cost of the material, installation and maintenance. It is important to get an experienced outdoor flooring expert to install your composite wood decking to ensure a lasting and even installation.
If you are the sort who likes to DIY, you can get some deck tiles and install them yourself. You can mix and match with artificial grass tiles and create your own pattern!
6. Balcony Outdoor Flooring: Artificial Turf
First conceived for sports use, artificial turf such as GreenTurf landscaping synthetic turf are built with the same materials and technologies as sports turf which are designed for the outdoors and intense wear and tear. This has revolutionalized how landscapers, interior designers, architects and contractors design both indoor and outdoor spaces. They now have a durable, evergreen, safe and soft product that looks and even feels just like real grass to use. This has resulted in widespread acceptance of artificial turf for landscaping of landed homes, apartments and commercial buildings.
Artificial turf fibres are essentially extruded fibres of smooth textured finish and hence do not stain easily. Coffee or wine stains can be easily and thoroughly cleaned with water based detergents and a good rub. Having been tested rigorously by FIFA for pervasive use regularly, many good artificial turf products can even last up to 10 years. These materials may even have been tested for heavy metal contents, fire spread and toxic gases during combustion. These ensure that the artificial turf is safe for use in homes where our children and pets play.
One of the common mis-conception about artificial grass is that it is “dirty” and difficult to clean. This cannot be further from the truth. Artificial grass is hardy and can be vacuumed and washed thoroughly with mild detergent water. It can even withstand steam cleaning without damage to the fibres. Insects cannot thrive in artificial turf. The materials do not degrade over time and do not require regular maintenance. For balconies and balcony planter boxes, a drainage layer made up of drain cells and a filter membrane usually goes on the floor before the artificial turf is laid on. As such, debris and food particles do not pass through the turf and can be removed easily.
Its affordable price tag, promise of no maintenance and beautiful and versatile use makes it the top choice for homeowners when it comes to balcony outdoor flooring.
7. Balcony Outdoor Flooring: Outdoor Rugs
Outdoor rugs are made using synthetic fibres and can withstand being out in the elements. They come in various colour, shapes and sizes and are great for adding soft colourful touches to your balcony. They can also be used to hide ugly flooring, broken tiles or splintered decking if you are not prepared to overhaul your entire balcony flooring. Outdoor rugs are a bit more elusive to find than indoor ones, especially those that can maintain their colour even after being left on the balcony for years. The good ones tend to be a bit more expensive, but as they can last for around 5 years, it may be worthwhile to invest in a good outdoor rug. Retail shops like Ikea, Teak and Mahogany stock outdoor rugs of different qualities and are worth a visit to check them out.
We welcome you to leave your comments on these balcony flooring options we have listed here. Have you had any experience with using any of these? If you are still not sure of what to do with your balcony planters, visit our post here for more ideas. Join us in our next post where we share ideas on how to decorate your balconies with soft furnishing and wall art.