With warm earthy tones and a texture that is unlike not other, slate tiles offer homeowners a chance to upgrade their walls, floors, patios and more in a way that will add serious value and looks to their home. Whether you prefer something rustic or modern, slate has options that will entice you with its refined yet natural looks. Here are the basics you’ll need to know before getting started.
What Is Slate?
Slate is a metamorphic rock that actually comes from shale. When that shale is exposed to extreme pressure and heat from within the earth it causes it to flatten out and transform over time into what we know as slate.
Strength From It’s Formation
During this change slate forms layers that are wide yet thin. These layers can be cut out and still maintain their strength. Their toughness even when cut into thin slices makes them unique among other stones and very useful.
For example sate roof tiles for example are used around the world and can often last for up to fifty years or more at a time without having to be replaced.
Many More Colors Than Just Grey
Most homeowners automatically envision grey slate floor tiles when thinking of slate. Yet there are a many more colors to choose from and of course they can be used for many different applications to help you enhance the look of your home both inside and out.
The color of the individual stone is influenced by the presence of certain compounds and minerals. Typically you will see grey, blue grey, and black all which are result of carbon and graphite in the stone.
In contrast, when iron is present during the formation of the stone the results are gorgeous tans, reds and even purples. Green is seen when there is the presence of chlorite. Some slate is even pink or a rusty orange color.
Where in the world the stone comes from can also have an influence on its color since different places in the world are known for having more compounds and minerals than others. Spain, Brazil, China, India, the U.S., Wales, and parts of Africa are all well-known producers of slate and slate tile.
Ideally Suited For Tiles
The strength and durability of this stone really makes it a material that is perfectly suited for use as tiles both inside the home and outdoors. The fact that not only is each tile totally unique in texture but also coloration makes any tile installation in which they are used a stunning example of natural beauty.
By selectively placing individual tiles or even mixing them up you can come up with some really fabulous looking layouts. Slate tiles are resistant to water and this combined with their texture makes them a naturally slip-proof option that can work exceptionally well to help keep areas that are slippery when wet both safe and looking great. They are also very resistant to staining and bacteria.
Calibrated vs. Gauged
When shopping for slate tiles you will notice that they come in two basic types calibrated and gauged. Calibrated tiles are ones which have been ground down so that they are flat on both the top and bottom. These are often used in more modern interiors or on floors and walls that need to be an exact thickness along with those that are minimalist in style.
On the other hand, gauged slate tiles are ground down so that only the bottom of the tile is flat while the top is left in its uneven original state. They are usually the choice of homeowners who are looking for natural slate floor tiles, or ones for the wall for that matter, to help create a more rustic feel but that don’t have to be so even. Since they are more difficult to install, the installation should left to a professional.
While most other stone options such as marble, granite, or onyx tile are known for their polished finishes this is not the case with slate. Instead the surface is for the most part left how Mother Nature made it. Here are your typical options:
Without a doubt this is the most recognizable of all finishes because the face for the tile is left in its natural state from when it was cleft or separated from a larger piece of stone. It is uneven in texture and can hide dust and dirt very well.
Because it is uneven if a tile with this finish was to become damaged it would be very difficult to detect and most likely would not be noticed. The natural cleft finish is this most rustic of all choices and can provide excellent grip.
This is a matte or dull finish that is accomplished by grinding down the surface of the tile. It leaves the face of the tile totally smooth and almost satin-like and can be quite modern looking.
To create a weathered or aged look on slate tiles, they are tumbled in a drum with aggregates and chemicals. Tumbled tiles have a matte or dull look that will really look quite vintage in appearance.
For a texture that is similar to that of eighty grit sand paper, water with sand is hand rubbed on the face of the stone. This is a very popular choice for flooring installations in particular.
A favorite for use on walls indoors and out along with backsplashes and fireplaces split faced tiles offer a display of the rough natural texture that is so associated with this type of stone.
The Best Uses
There are many places you can use these tiles, and some of the best are:
Slate floor tiles come in a variety of sizes and shapes to help you transform the floors of your home. They are typically used in the kitchen because of the fact they are highly stain resistant and unlike other stone options like marble tiles, are not easily etched by acidic cleaners.
Because they are less porous (absorb a smaller amount of water) than other types of stone they make an excellent choice for bathroom floors as well. So much so that many homeowners even choose to use them inside their showers.
Slate bathroom tiles are also a very smart idea because their texture gives them a highly efficient natural grip that can help to prevent dangerous slips and falls on wet bathroom floors that would otherwise be extremely slippery and painful.
Their grip also allows you to use them on your stairs if you are more partial to stone than other materials. An added bonus of using slate on the floors of your home is that most colors and many finishes tend to cover up dirt, dust, and grime making them much harder to see.
As for size, since larger tiles tend to make a small room appear bigger, they are often used in mudrooms and foyers to help make them feel more spacious. But of course this same principle can work in kitchens, bathrooms, or any room of the house.
Many homeowners also prefer using large slate tiles because they allow you to see and experience the true beauty of each individual tile’s texture and one-of-a-kind markings. Smaller options such as mosaic tiles also are very popular especially in bathrooms because you get even more grip which is provided by their many grout lines.
Each mosaic tile is made up of many smaller individual tiles attached to a mesh backing for easy installation. They come in many different shapes and even tile patterns that would be very difficult to install otherwise. Whichever size you pick, it is very important that you make sure your tiles are rated for floor use and that they are properly sealed.
Slate wall tiles again are highly sought after for both kitchen and bathroom installations. They may be what you are looking for if you already have slate on your floors, but also really look fabulous when used with other stone options like travertine tiles and even hardwood flooring to complete a natural look.
On backsplashes they always are a treat for the eyes and can really make quite an impact visually even when the backsplash itself happens to be limited in size. They are often used to create a feature wall in the home which acts as a focal point for whatever room they are installed.
Split slate tiles are an excellent choice for this use as well as for tub and shower surrounds. But of course mosaics works amazingly well too as do small slate tiles. Wall tiles can even be used on stair risers to both complement slate steps, or even add an extra touch to wooden ones in this space that might otherwise go un-used and un-noticed.
Typically stone countertops are known for being expensive. However, using slate tiles you can have all the benefits of stone without the price tag of a slab or other more costly choices. Many homeowners even decide to do the job themselves to save more cash.
Slate actually is perfectly suited for the counter as it resists bacteria, staining, can handle high heat, and you won’t have to worry about damage from acidic foods like lemons. Just make sure to use slate floor tiles since they are thicker and more durable than those made for the wall.
With the proper sealing, cleaning can be as easy as wiping the counter down with a damp cloth. While it may take a little while to get used to working on an un-even surface, their texture is part of the whole appeal of slate, and a countertop will really go a long way towards helping to create the earthy feel you are looking for while matching other slate kitchen tiles or natural materials.
The fireplace is one of the most cherished features of a home. It provides warmth but also a place for us to relax in front of with the family, or even alone. Yet, it also can have a huge effect on the room it is situated in despite how few tiles are actually required to complete the project.
Slate not only works visually but it can also handle the extremely high temperatures produced without a problem. Just remember that that while wall tiles can be used for the surround, slate hearth tiles need to be rated as floor tile because of the extra abuse they will receive.
Slate is easily one of the most favored materials used for outdoor tiles. They are a safe way to go for an outside space not just because they are tough enough to handle the elements but because of their grip too.
You’ll commonly see them used on steps and also around wet areas like swimming pools and hot tubs where slips and falls are a major concern, but also on walkways and patios. They are a great way to add some truly unique colors to any of these places and at the same time to the look of your property as a whole.
When considering them for your patio it’s smart to remember that slate patio tiles will need to be installed over a concrete slab. Also depending on the type of slate you choose, some may be more porous than others.
If you live somewhere with freezing temperatures this most likely will be a concern as when freezing and thawing occurs it can cause water which has been absorbed into the body of the tile to expand and crack it.
Generally Indian and Chinese slate are known to take in more water while Vermont slate from the United States along with the Brazilian variety are much less porous.
Even though most slate is resistant to water it should be sealed properly to protect against staining, damage, and to make cleaning and maintenance easier. An added bonus is that sealant will just about always work to bring out and deepen the natural colors and hues of your tiles.
The sealant should be applied after the tiles have been installed and before applying the tile grout to prevent the grout from staining the tiles. Many homeowners like to use what’s known as a stone enhancer with their slate tiles, which are sealers that will give your tiles a wet look and enhance the natural color of the stone while protecting it.
A wet look is a good idea for protection in areas like outdoor kitchens where oil or grease staining could be a problem. Typically you will need to apply a new coat of sealer once a year.
When grouting, many professionals find that using a caulk gun to help them complete the job is a much easier and safer way than the traditional method of using a grout float. All you need to do is purchase an empty caulk tube from your local home store, fill it with grout, and then load it into your caulk gun.
After cutting the tip, place it in the joint and run it along the length while squeezing the trigger. You’ll want to remove excess grout with a damp sponge when you are done. Because the natural texture of slate has many small crevices some grout may get stuck in them.
Some people don’t mind and leave it in, taking it as a normal part of working with slate. But, if you prefer your tiles to be totally clean you may need a toothbrush to help you get the extra grout out.
Cleaning Slate Tiles
Sweeping or dry mopping your slate tiles on a daily or regular basis will cut down on dust and dirt. A more thorough job can be done weekly using a stone cleaner made specifically for slate tiles. Although slate is more resistant to acids than other types of stone it’s always best to use neutral cleaners for example mopping them with a mild detergent.
Do not use anything harsh such as bleach. For wall and countertop tiles a damp sponge or cloth with warm water is all you’ll need. To help prevent staining it is always wise to clean up spills as they happen.
Slate Effect Tiles
There are alternatives for homeowners who are not so concerned with having all the benefits of real slate tiles. Options that look similar to genuine slate are known as slate effect tiles. Most often you will see them in vinyl and porcelain.
Vinyl tiles will have a slate-like image printed on them, are extremely inexpensive and don’t require any skill to install since they are usually peel and stick. Also, they don’t require any grouting or applying of sealant. They do need to be used indoors however, and in dry areas.
Porcelain slate effect tiles are much more realistic looking since they can be stamped with texture. Their colors look more like the real thing as well, because porcelain takes dye extremely well. These are a durable option that can provide grip and be used outside in wet freezing areas and indoors in wet installations like bathrooms.
Many are so convincing in appearance that they will fool just about anyone who sees them. Some homeowners will even use real slate on the floor and slate effect wall tiles in the same room or vice-versa which can save a few bucks.
Extra Slate Tile Tips
-When cutting tiles you’ll need a tile saw or grinder fitted with a diamond coated blade to cut through slate properly. Tools like tile nippers that are used to take chunks out of other materials will simply cause slate to crumble.
-As you are using your tile saw to cut, the stone will most likely end up flaking off smaller pieces which is totally normal so don’t worry. You don’t have to throw them away you can still use them in areas which aren’t as visible to the eye or simply as filler pieces.
-Black slate floor tiles can be framed with white grout for a dramatic and eye-catching contrast.
-Slate goes well with all sorts of other natural materials like stone and wood but don’t be afraid to mix it up a little, using it with stainless steel backsplash tiles or even stainless steel appliances can work too.
-When you have tiles of varying colors, you can use them to create a checkerboard tile pattern using the lighter colored ones as a substitute for white, and the darker colored ones for black.
-Don’t skimp on the quality of your slate, while it’s smart to shop around for the best deals you can save yourself a lot of disappointment and time by purchasing from a reputable dealer or company.
The info and tips above are more than enough to help you to get started out right with slate tiles. With traits and looks unlike all other types of natural stone they can last a lifetime with a little proper care. For your next upgrade make sure you keep slate at the top of your list!
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