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Slate Tile

Updated on April 22, 2010

Slate tile can be a great addition to any home both indoors and outdoors. Slate tiles come in many sizes, shades, and textures. Slate floor tiles are usually square and measure anywhere from twelve inch squares to twenty-four inch squares. There are also slate tiles that are unusual in size like a six inch square or a rectangular shaped tile. If the slate floor tile is larger than a twenty-four inch square then it is usually called a slate slab. The thickness of slate tile flooring varies from tile to tile but it is typically a quarter of an inch thick. Some tiles are larger though, with thicknesses ranging up to three quarters of an inch. Slate tiles can be used in any room of the house and outdoors. There are four types of textures for slate tiles. Clefted tiles are natural and are not polished or sanded down and are slightly reminiscent of travertine floor tile. They have a very rough surface. Honed tiles are grinded down until the slate is very smooth and flat. Polished tiles are an extension of honed and gleam like polished marble tiles. Finally, brushed tiles are clefted tiles where the sharp points and ridges are softened slightly. The most typical places you will use slate tile are for modern kitchen designs, both kitchen floors and backsplashes, foyers, bathroom floors, bathroom walls and showers.

Benefits of Slate Tile

There are many benefits to using slate tile. First, the tiles are usually darker in color so they hide dirt well. Ceramic tile, which usually comes in off white tones, picks up every spec of dirt and is hard to keep looking good. The darker colored tiles mean that you can use darker colored grout and the same thing holds true in terms of grout cleaning.  You can get away with cleaning a darker grout less often.  Other advantages are that slate tile is durable, requires little maintenance, is heat resistant, does not easily stain or scratch, and is slip resistant. Durability is key in high traffic areas and you want to make sure you install a floor that is going to last. If you are a klutz like me and are constantly dropping things in the kitchen then it is comforting to know that the tiles will not scratch easily if you drop things. Slate tiles are very durable once they are installed, but they can break easily during transit or during installation. If your kitchen or foyer is exposed to a lot of sun, you do not want the floor to get uncomfortably hot and this is not a problem with slate tiles. In fact, slate stays amazingly cool and can even be downright cold in the winter. One characteristic of slate tile can be considered an advantage or a disadvantage depending on your preferences. No two slate tiles are exactly alike and the same color. There are going to be variations from tile to tile. Some people like the variations and see them as natural, organic, or unique while others who crave uniformity do not like the disorganized look of slate tile floors.

Installing Slate Tile

Because slate tiles vary in thickness and are very hard to cut without breaking, you might want to ask the assistance of a professional when installing slate tile. Even if you find discount slate tile from a discount tile flooring store that does not offer installation, you can find contractors and floor specialists that will install it for you. Of course, you do not have to hire someone and doing the job yourself is a good way to save money. If you decide to install your slate tile floor yourself, whether for indoor or outdoor slate tile, the steps indicated here are only general guidelines.

First, make sure the floor surface is clean and level. If there are small inclusions or slight slopes in the corners, you can correct them later with extra mortar. Make sure you layout your slate tile before you start laying down any mortar. You want to map out the entire pattern first so that the tiles are ready and in order when it comes time to do the installation. If any cuts need to be made, do them in advance. You can buy small tile spacers to show you how much room to leave in between the tiles for grout or just put the tiles side by side if you do not want large grout lines. Once you have your floor patterned out, pick up the tiles in the reverse order that you will be using them so that you can just take the one on the top of the stack each time you need a new tile.

When working with mortar you need to be careful that you do not put mortar on too large of an area or it will dry before you get the tile down. When laying the slate floor tiles, push lightly because pushing too hard can crack or break the tile. You need to allow 24 hours for the mortar to cure. The next step is to caulk and seal. Opinions differ as to which step should be completed first. If you caulk first you need to ensure that you are constantly wiping any extra caulk off the tiles. Slate tiles are absorbent and will absorb the caulk and you will not be able to get it off once it dries. It is very important to caulk only a little bit and then wipe the tiles clean. If you seal first then you do not have to be as careful. However, if you choose to seal first you need to make sure not to get any sealant in the cracks where the caulk is supposed to go.

Slate Tiles Used Above the Floor

While most slate tile is used to cover floors, this does not have to be the case.  A slate tile backsplash is a good place to utilize this very durable and beautiful material.  If you are using slate tiles as a backsplash then you probably will not use regular square slate tiles, but rather stacked slate tile.  These tiles are very heavy and consist of what looks like several small bricks of slate.  The video below shows the installation of a slate tile bathroom wall.

In addition to tile backsplashes, you might also find slate tile used as an accent in furniture or decoration. For example, there is a breakfast nook set that is very popular online called the Santa Fe Breakfast Nook Set that uses inlaid slate tile on the back rest of a wrap around corner bench. There is a picture to the right. Just like with floors, the unique colors and textures of each slate tile make every piece of this furniture different. No two sets are identical so even though you are buying a factory manufactured breakfast nook set that many people have, it is like you have a one of a kind piece of furniture.


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    • abinavis profile image

      abinavis 7 years ago from Bat Island

      Hi Maria,

      Thanks for your great hub on slate tile topic. Indeed, installing tiles for some peoples looks difficult and impossible, but after reading your guidance on how to install slate tile, perhaps it make easier for homeowner do it by themselves and now it become possible. Looking forward to seeing your another great hub.