Slate tile flooring is a an exceptionally beautiful and durable natural stone flooring option offered by Floor Coverings International of Largo and Seminole, FL, but there’s not a whole lot of information on it. So our team decided that we would fill the gaps and give you this post with everything you ever wanted to know about slate tile flooring.


slate tile flooring seminole


What is Slate Tile Flooring?


Slate is a natural stone flooring material that is quarried from out of the earth, usually from mountains. Slate is a metamorphic rock, which (if you’ll recall your elementary school geology) simply means that it is formed over long periods of time out of other existing rock types. These minerals and sediments include quartz, mica, muscovite, calcite, and often times biotite, chlorite, hematite, and pyrite, with occasional instances of apatite, graphite, kaolinite (the main mineral in ceramic clay), magnetite, zircon, and feldspar. These are all then compressed over long periods of time by heat and pressure until they bond into a homogenous, finely grained stone, which we know as slate. Slate is a durable, finely foliated, and brittle stone, which comes in a wide range of colors, depending on the location and minerals of the slate in question. It is often black, dark green, and gray, but can also include instances of red, purple, gold, and blue. Slate is quarried in large slabs, which are then cleaved, parallel to the foliation, into tiles of generally uniform size. Slate is quarried around the world as well as domestically, but is mainly manufactured in Asia. Slate tiles are used not only for flooring, but also wall tiling, back splashes, stepping stones, roofing, and a variety of other uses. Slate is probably the most common natural stone in general use.


Types of Slate Tile Flooring


While the color, quality, density, and permeability of slate can all be affected by the location it was quarried from, the main classifications for slate tiles are based on manufacturing. When slate tiles are in their most natural state, known as ‘ungauged,’ they are not uniform in size, and feature uneven, rough surfaces on both the front and the back of the tile. Ungauged slate tile flooring can be installed with either side of the tile facing up, and the thickness of the tile tends to vary between 1/8 of an inch and ½ an inch. This can make installation more difficult, requiring techniques such as ‘back buttering,’ or building up adhesive on the back of the tile in order to make it lie flat. Gauged tiles, while typically more expensive, will save you on labor costs because their backs have been ground down to a consistent flatness, which results in the tiles being pretty much uniform in size, with a thickness of about 1/16 of an inch. This classification of gauged or ungauged is generally unique to slate tiles, because tiles of other natural stone, such as granite or marble, are cut to size. Slate, on the other hand, is cleaved along its natural graining. Ungauged slate is generally used more in outdoor applications, such as stepping-stones. It also is more prone to spalling, which is when newly installed slate floors chip and become dusty before settling, usually for the first three months. While ‘gauged’ and ‘ungauged’ refer to the back of the slate tile, the other classifications refer to its surface. These include the terms ‘clefted,’ ‘honed,’ and ‘polished.’ If a slate tile is clefted, then the surface is kept the way it was when it was quarried, like the ungauged classification but for the surface of the tile. This means the surface will be rough, bumpy, and uneven. Many people appreciate the rustic, natural look that this gives to their slate floors, and refer to cleft slate as ‘natural slate.’ Cleft slate provides great traction and makes for an excellent non-stick flooring surface, but can be uncomfortable to walk on without shoes. Honed slate means that the surface has been polished smooth, so that the slate’s face is glossy and flat. This process can dull some of the natural brilliance of the color variations, but provides for a more contemporary and modern look. Honed slate is not perfectly glossy like marble, and will still feature some traction when touched by hand. Gauged Honed slate will be even more uniform in size than gauged cleft slate, and will usually be more expensive since it has been finished more. Honed slate is not as forgiving as cleft slate, as it is more likely to show dirt and chips. Polished slate refers to when honed slate is refined even more, until it shines and is as glossy as a material like marble. Polished Slate is fairly rare, as slate is not really suited for this sort of glowing finish, and both polished and honed slate tile can be quite slippery. So you have a fairly wide variety of slate tile flooring options available, from ungauged cleft slate that will be rough all around, to gauged honed slate that will look more sleek and modern. The sheer variety of slate types available make it a desirable flooring option.


Cost of Slate Tile Flooring


Slate is a pricier floor covering than some, and will definitely cost more than low end flooring options such as laminate, vinyl, or carpet. Slate tile flooring tends to cost more than ceramic tile flooring, but this is not always the case, especially in relation to high-end ceramics like porcelain tile. All the same, slate is still the cheapest of the natural stone flooring options, and will come much cheaper than a marble or granite floor. There is wide variation between the prices for slate, with costs ranging from $5.00 to $20.00 per square foot. This is directly related to the fact that there are such a wide variety of slate types. The price of your slate floors will depend on things like country of origin (with transportation costs adding to the price of exotic foreign slate), and denser slate will tend to cost more. Keep in mind that slate tile flooring can also have higher installation costs, especially if it is ungauged.


Installation and Maintenance of Slate Tile Flooring


As we’ve said, slate can be particularly wily as far as installation goes. Sealers should be applied to slate during installation, as slate flooring can be prone to stains, and there is a wide range of permeability within slate varieties. After slate has been sealed, grouted, and installed, you might want to consider applying a color enhancing sealer to bring out the natural vibrancy within your slate tiles. This will deepen the colors of your floors, mimicking the way that wet stones look more brilliant than dry ones. Also, as we’ve mentioned before, slate floors are prone to spalling for the first few months after installation. Don’t be alarmed by this, it’s a natural process, as slate is a naturally flaky and cleft stone, but do be sure to sweep everyday or else the dust will build up. After your slate floors have settled they require fairly minimal maintenance. Regular sweeping and occasional damp mopping should be enough to keep your slate floors dust and dirt free. If your cleft slate floors chip, don’t worry about replacing the tile. The color permeates throughout the stone so it will hardly be noticeable! Honed and polished slate floors may require extra care though, as dirt and damage will be more visible on the surface. Avoid acidic cleaners or spills. Things like lemon juice or vinegar will absolutely damage your slate floors, and while slate floors can last a lifetime, don’t shy away from resealing if they need it.


Advantages of Slate Tile Flooring


Slate tile floors are prized for their distinctive and particular beauty. The sheer range of colors and styles available means that a slate floor can fit nearly any design aesthetic. This versatility is just an additional benefit, since what many people like about slate is its distinctive appearance. The marbled, uneven striations and surprising pops of vibrant color against more subdued grays and blacks are a very sought after look. Slate tile flooring is equally capable of looking charmingly rustic with colorful clefted tiles, as well as elegantly contemporary with monochromatic, gray honed tiles. Slate floors are statement floors, and are sure to cause comment in your home. The versatility of slate flooring also extends to where it can be used. Slate can work in nearly any room in your house, and is well suited to places that will be in frequent contact with water, such as bathrooms, kitchens, and mudrooms. Unlike hardwood floors that will warp or carpets that will stain and mildew, slate flooring can even be used to tile the inside of your shower, due to its superior water resistance. Along with repelling water, slate resists stains as long as it is sealed well, and because it is so low maintenance, quickly mopping up a spill is all that’s needed. Slate is also one of the most durable flooring options available. If it’s approved as a roofing material, you can bet it will be able to stand up to even the most high traffic areas of your home. This makes it an excellent floor covering for people with pets, as you won’t have to worry about your dog’s claws scratching up the surface of your floors like they would with hardwoods. Cleft slate won’t get slippery and is perfect for both outdoor and indoor uses because of how tough it is. On top of all of this, slate is a perfect flooring option for people with allergies, as it is resistant to bacteria and easy to clean. Slate is also fire proof, so it will keep your family safe.


Downsides of Slate Tile Flooring


While there are many great benefits to slate tile, like any flooring, it has its drawbacks. We have already covered the installation issues that might come with slate tile flooring, and the fact that as a natural stone, it tends to be on the pricier side. Slate’s durability comes from its hardness, but this means that it is also hard underfoot if you stand on it for long periods of time, causing sore feet and irritating people with joint problems. While slate is very hard, it is also quite brittle, meaning that tiles have a tendency to crack if something heavy is dropped on them, and because of the intense variations among slate types, finding a matching replacement might be difficult. Slate is also cold underfoot, although this could be a boon to those of us who live here in Florida!


Whether or not you decide that slate flooring is the right choice for you, we hope you choose Floor Coverings International of Largo and Seminole, FL for your next flooring project!


Photo: Palette7