Slate flooring is one of the most versatile, attractive, and durable varieties of natural stone tile. The look of the multi-colored stone complements diverse design styles.
The natural beauty of its coloring is matched by its rare textured surface. Slate natural stone flooring is also one of the most lasting types of floor. It has inherent strength and stain resistant qualities.
Natural stone flooring is not just long-lasting and gorgeous, it may increase your real estate value. According to Realtor.com, some experts believe that an investment in flooring might be your “single biggest factor” regarding your return on investment (ROI).
Slate Flooring Basics
Slate flooring has amazing qualities that make it unique from other types of natural stone flooring. Here are some of the most important qualities to help you decide if slate is a good option for you.
What is Slate?
Slate is a metamorphic rock that is formed from shale or mudstone. It is a fine-grained stone with a layered, foliated, texture. The color of most slate is dark to light gray. Due to the presence of other minerals in the soil, slate comes in varying shades of brown, yellow, blue, green, purple, and red.
Types of Slate Flooring Tile
There are three main types of slate tiles: calibrated, gauged, and ungauged.
- Calibrated Slate Tile – Calibrated tile are those that manufactures have ground down to create a smooth surface on the top and bottom. Interior designers use these sleek slate floor tiles in modern and contemporary design.
- Gauged Slate Tile – Gauged slate tile flooring is ground smooth on the bottom but left with an uneven surface on the top. Decorators use these types of slate floors in rustic or more traditional homes.
- Ungauged Slate Tile – Ungauged slate tile is in its most natural state. It is not ground on either the top or the bottom, so its natural texture remains on both sides. Most ungauged tile is used in outdoor installations like stepping stones.
Slate Tile Finishes
There are several finishes available for slate floor tile, but we will confine our list to the most popular finishes: polished, honed, tumbled, and clefted.
- Polished Slate Tile – Polished slate is sanded to create a smooth and shiny surface on the top of the tiles. This does create a more slippery surface, so this may not be the best choice for rooms with water like bathrooms.
- Honed Slate Tile – Honed slate tiles are sanded smooth, but not enough to create a shine. Honed tile flooring has more grip and texture than polished tile flooring. This is a good choice for a modern floor look where you need some texture.
- Tumbled Slate Tile – Tumbled slate tiles have a more textured surface, but have softened edges and surfaces.
- Clefted Slate Tile – Clefted slate tiles, also called natural slate, have a rough and uneven surface. Its uneven surface makes it slip resistant. Most natural slate flooring is used in rustic or traditional design.
Slate is water resistant having a water absorption rate of just 0.4%. Therefore, this makes an excellent choice for rooms with water like kitchens and bathrooms.
All natural stone is long-lasting, and slate is no exception. Slate is hard, but it is softer and more brittle than another natural stone flooring.
Therefore, while it is resistant to scratches, it can scratch with heavy use or impact.
Slate tile floors are also fired and stain-resistant and hide dust and debris well. This makes it an excellent choice for heavy-traffic flooring materials.
Slate Flooring Maintenance
It is important to seal slate on a regular basis in order to maintain its resistance to stains and scratches. Use a penetrating sealer which will close the small pores in the stone. Reapply sealer each year for the best protection.
Also, try to avoid dropping heavy objects on slate tile flooring as it can crack. Replace any tiles that break to preserve the integrity of other nearby tiles. Save extra tiles from the initial tiling installation as tiles from other batches will not be an exact match.
Mop to keep floors clean on a regular basis. Use a cleaner that is made for natural stones, one without lemon or vinegar.
Location for Use
Slate is a versatile material and is used as roofing tiles, wall tiles, on countertops, and for flooring tile. Homeowners use slate tile flooring in both indoor and outdoor spaces.
For indoors, slate is popular in kitchens, mudrooms, bathrooms, and even living rooms. People also use slate tiles for outdoor patio and garden areas. For general purposes, tile for indoor use is 1/4 inch thick. Tiles for outdoor use range from 1/2 inch to 3/4 inch thick.
Slate tiles are brittle but hard. They are difficult to install without the help of special tools like a tile saw. Also, to keep tile from cracking, the subfloor needs to be installed to prevent flexing. This will keep the tiles and grout from developing cracks in the years to come. Therefore, while some homeowners can tackle this kind of project, some projects require professional installation.
Slate Flooring Cost
According to HomeAdvisor, standard indoor slate tiles cost $4-$10 per square foot. Premium slate tile costs up to $15-$28 per square foot. On average, slate tile installation costs $10-$16 per square foot or up to $40 per square foot for high-end materials installation. For exterior slate tiles, look to pay between $9-$40 per square foot for materials and labor.
Slate Flooring: Pros and Cons
Slate flooring is a natural stone and has intrinsic beauty like granite and marble. There are unique problems with slate tile flooring which means it works in some areas but not in others.
- Durability – Tough flooring that will last for decades with proper maintenance.
- Water Resistance – Slate has low water absorption, so good for bathrooms and kitchens.
- Versatility – Slate tiles are crafted in a variety of styles that fit any decorative style scheme.
- Low Maintenance – Easy to maintain beyond sealing once a year.
- Appearance – Beautiful natural look and feel of stone with multiple color and size tile variations.
- Cleanliness – Slate flooring has low VOCs and does not off-gas like others like laminate flooring and some carpets.
- Installation – Installation for slate tile is tricky for beginners, so you may need professional help.
- Cost – Slate tiles have a higher price than laminate, vinyl, or carpet. Slate costs less than other natural stone flooring like marble
- Hardness – Slate tile flooring is difficult to stand on for long periods of time. It is also less forgiving when you drop things on it.
- Temperature – Slate is cold underfoot when the outdoor weather is cold. You can mitigate this by under the floor heating and rugs.
Slate Flooring Tile Design Ideas
Slate is popular in home design and used in a variety of settings. We have gathered some different uses of slate tile flooring so that you can see these varied contexts.
Slate Bathroom Floor
Slate is a popular flooring material for bathrooms because of its inherent water resistance. Unique Stone Imports used a rough textured slate tile in this contemporary rustic San Diego bathroom. Textured tile is ideal for bathrooms to increase slip resistance.
Outdoor Slate Tile Flooring
Landscape architects and home builders utilize outdoor grade slate tiles for patios and porch spaces. Shiffler Builders created this elegant slate patio and lined it with bricks to create contrast. Outdoor tile must have a PEI grade of 3 or higher to be suitable for the outdoors.
Slate Kitchen Floor
Wright Design created this European style kitchen using multi-size slate floor tiles. These honed tiles have a rounded edge to create the look of long wear over time.
Rustic Slate Tile Flooring
Slate tile does not always have a regular shape. Charleston Building and Development used irregular stone like tile to create the flooring for this rustic dining room.
Slate Tile Flooring for Mudrooms
Herringbone is a popular pattern for rectangular shaped slate tiles. This floor gives the mudroom an understated elegance, and because it is slate, it is also durable.
Multi-Colored Slate Tile Flooring
Slate has amazing color variation. Architectural Ceramics used multi-colored and multi-sized slate tiles to create this floor with a rustic traditional style.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)FAQ
Where can I find slate floor tiles for sale?
Look for slate floor tiles at local home improvement stores like Home Depot and Lowes. For more variety, look in your area for tile stores or look online. There is a wide variety of sizes and styles, so be specific in your needs as you look for flooring materials that will work for you.
What are the sizes of slate tiles?
The most common square sizes of slate tile range from 2 in x 2 in all the way up to 2 ft x 2 ft. There are also rectangular shapes including 3 in x 6 in, 4 in x 12 in, and 6 in x 24 in. and irregular stone shaped tile that varies in sizes.
Can I use slate tile outdoor and indoors?
Slate graded for just indoor use will have a PEI of 1 or 2. Outdoor tile will have a PEI of 3 or higher. Indoor tile is 1/4 inch thick and outdoor tile must be at least 1/2 inch thick to stand up to the wear and weather of outdoor use.
How can I create the look of a slate tile floor with other materials?
Look for light to dark gray ceramic or porcelain tile to create the look of slate without the high cost.
Why is slate floor tiling more difficult to install than other tiles?
Slate tile is hard and very brittle. You need specialized tools like a tile saw rather than tile snipping tools to cut the tile. You must create a level and stable subfloor so that the slate will not develop cracks over time.
There is no doubt that slate flooring will increase the beauty and real estate value of your home, but it is not an ideal option for everyone. These floors are expensive and hard underfoot. Slate floors are also an option that has a classic look and will endure for years to come.