Norfolk Pamments: The Definitive Guide

What are Norfolk Pamments? 

Norfolk Pamments are a handmade, traditional terracotta floor tile that originate from Norfolk, UK. Norfolk Pamments are made from regional clays and are produced in small batches by skilled craftsmen. Although traditionally only found in Norfolk, these rustic Pamments can be used in any location. The rustic, irregularity in terms of their colour and surface is what gives Norfolk Pamments their characteristic charm. Norfolk Pamments are a great choice of flooring in building restorations, homes, garden, holiday cottage or church. 

Laying terrace with Norfolk Pamments at Thorpe Lodge

How are they Made? 

Norfolk Pamments have never been mass produced, and still aren’t- which makes them really special! Norfolk Pamments are made by individual craftsmen, and unlike the mass produced imports, Norfolk Pamments are never identical- which is what is so charming about them. Each slab of Norfolk Pamment varies in colour, and texture, and it is this that makes Norfolk Pamments so desirable. Just like traditional Norfolk Pamments, the slabs made today are very durable, and are guaranteed to last generations- ideal if you are wanting a floor that can withstand lots of foot traffic, for example in your kitchen, or living room. 

Norfolk Pamments are made from local Norfolk clays, with different clays chosen depending on the colour of the desired slab. All the clays used are natural, and contain no artificial colorings. Norfolk clay is used for terracotta Pamments, King’s Lynn clay is used for parti (mixed) colour Pamments, and Ely clay is used for dark red Pamments. Depending on what colour flooring you would like, you can choose a different Norfolk Pamment tile- without the need for paint, or artificial dyes- a great natural flooring choice! 

What are They used for?

Thorpe Lodge restoration Norfolk Pamment terrace

 As mentioned, traditionally Norfolk Pamments were only used in Norfolk, however now, Pamments are found all over the UK, and can even be shipped internationally. As Norfolk Pamments are extremely durable they can be used for pavements, paths and greenhouses. 

Norfolk Pamments also make for a great floor choice in homes and cottages due to their interesting colour and texture, and also because of their excellent thermal retention properties which make them perfect for pairing with under floor heating.

Traditionally, Norfolk Pamments were used in churches, and can still be found in Norwich Cathedral and Magdalene College in Cambridge. 

Large stock pile of Norfolk Pamments

Why are they Protected? 

Norfolk Pamments are a traditional flooring choice, and are still handcrafted in the traditional way. As a result, Norfolk Pamments a number of different national bodies have chosen to protect them in order to preserve England’s heritage. These bodies include County Councils and the National trust. As a result, if you are wanting to restore an old building in the UK, then using Norfolk Pamments could be the way to go as you could be adding to the heritage of the country! 

laying Norfolk Pamments

Laying Norfolk Pamments is a relatively easy task and so it is possible to lay Norfolk Pamments yourself, however there are trained installers who will happily lay the Pamments for you. If you opt for laying your own Pamments then it is important that you follow a few simple guidelines. 

Preparation

Before laying your Norfolk Pamments: 

  • Keep the slabs as clean as possible. 
  • Keep the slabs dry, 
  • Remove sharp edges on the slabs 

Adhesive

When laying your slabs you will need to use a good adhesive in order to ensure the slabs stay safely in place in your home, or garden. Depending on what type of flooring you have, the type of adhesive you opt for will vary. 

For floors without a damp proof membrane: 

  • Use a micro-porous (breathable) adhesive
  • You can choose between a hydraulic lime mortar (NHL & sharp/grit sand, ratio 4 sand to 1 lime) and a pre-made product. 
  • For floors with a damp proof membrane:
  • Use cement and sand, or a store bought tile adhesive 

For floors with under floor heating: 

  • Use a flexible adhesive which you can buy pre-made
  • This will allow for movement that can occur as a result of expansion and contraction of the adhesive due to heating. 

Grouting

When grouting between your Pamments you need to ensure that the slabs have been cleaned and sealed properly. Then, the grout you choose should be carefully considered because its flexibility can affect the floor. Norfolk Pamment producers often suggest that if you have under floor heating, or no damp proof membrane, that you should opt for a flexible grout. 

Additionally, as the grout colour can affect what the finished floor will look like it is a good idea to opt for grouts that complement the colour and texture of the Pamments- sandstone options are often a good choice. Once you have finished grouting, ensure that any excess grout is removed in order to ensure the Norfolk Pamment slabs look their absolute best. 

Sealing

How you seal your floor depends on the type of material that is under the Norfolk Pamment.  

For floors without a damp proof membrane: 

Norfolk Pamments that were laid without a damp proof membrane, or on a permeable base, should be sealed with a breathable finish. If you need your floor to also be hardwearing, for example if it has been laid in a public area such as a church, or a school, then you should look out for anti-slip, and waterproof, breathable finishes. 

For floors with a damp proof membrane:

Norfolk Pamments that were laid with a damp proof membrane, or those that were laid on wood, can be sealed with pretty much any sealant product that is available, even varnish would work. Often a basic matte floor varnish works well as it provides a waterproof finish that has a faint sheen. A great finished look for a kitchen or cottage! 

Traditional option

Traditionally, breathable seals were made from boiled linseed. These seals give a lovely darkened colour to the Norfolk Pamments, and can even enhance their natural colours. If you are want to go down the traditional route then this would be a great option, however if can require a lot of skill and patience, so it may be best left to the professionals! 

Norfolk Pamments are such a great flooring option as they are charming, traditional and hand-made. The history behind the flooring option gives them a really interesting element, and the different colour possibilities means that you can play around with style and such like.