What to Ask When Shopping for Slate Tile

Cabot Slate Tile / SKU: 15188434

Cabot Slate Tile / SKU: 15188434

Are you considering purchasing slate tile for your home? If so, you will want to ask the right questions about installation, quality, and cost. The more answers you have, the more of an educated decision you can make when it comes to purchasing. Here are some questions to keep in mind to make sure you get exactly what you want and need.

Questions to Consider when Purchasing Slate Tile

What is Slate Made Out Of?

Slate is a foliated, fine-grained metamorphic rock that forms when riverbed or ocean sediments get compressed and then heated by the crust of the earth. It’s mainly made of micas or clay minerals and can have quartz in it as well. The color of most slate is gray and can range from light to dark. Slate also comes in red, purple, brown, green, and black. Its color will be based on the type and amount of organic materials and iron that are found in it.

Will Extra Material Be Needed for My Installation?


When ordering your material for slate, it’s recommended that 10 to 15 percent extra is allowed to account for wastage. This could be due to a variation in thickness, the style of installation, and cuts needed to fill corners. When working with square settings, an extra 10 percent should be ordered, while an extra 15 percent should be ordered for diagnosis settings.

Is My Slate Resistant to Damage?

When applied to a substrate that’s solid, slate is very resistant to damage. When the sub-floor used before slate installation is flexible, such as a plywood sub-floor that’s thin, the slate is at risk for cracking. This means it’s important to have a substrate that’s adequate before installing the tile. A waterproof membrane and moisture management needs to be in place when used in shower areas and washrooms, as slate is very porous.

How Much Will My Slate Cost?

Slate will vary depending on the quality. For gauged-grade A quality, expect to spend anywhere from $3 to $8 per square foot. If you want to save money, you can get off-grade or ungauged quality slate for $1.50 to $6. You have to keep in mind that you get what you pay for, so it’s smart to pay more to ensure it lasts longer.

Getting what appears to be a good deal by purchasing B or C grade material won’t give you a consistent shape, color, or size. The tiles might have broken edges or cracks in them, and might even be the product of unfair labor practices on the part of mining companies.

You’ll most likely need to hire someone to install your slate unless you’re a professional yourself. You want it to look clean, and you do not want to waste extra material while you try to figure out how it works. However, labor can cost up to three times as much as the actual material. Make sure to ask the installer if the quote they give you includes the materials, pre-installation prep work, adhesives, post-installation protective sealing treatment, removal of waste, and cleanup on top of the work of tiling. You don’t want to misunderstand what they’re quoting you and be stuck with an expensive bill after.

While it’s tempting to save money and do it yourself, it’s not that simple. Stone is very heavy, so it’s hard to move it around, and it can be brutal to set every tile in its position. Hiring someone will save you time and money in the long run.

What Texture Will My Slate Be?


Slate comes in several different textures. Gauged slate tiles are popular. These tiles get flattened out on the back when they’re being refined. The straight surface of this helps bond the tile more thoroughly with the grout when it’s being installed. Sometimes the backs are slightly scored, which creates rows that are even and can better grip the adhesive bedding.

Clefted natural slate tiles are another type of tile that have gauged smooth backs and an unrefined top surface. This allows the clefts, cracks, and bristles of the stones to show through. Many people like this for the rugged, powerful look it gives the tile that feels like it’s from the mountains. It also has good traction when it gets wet, which is something to consider if you’ll be putting it in the bathroom.

Honed slate tiles have an even and smooth surface. Some slate can take more honing than others, although it’s rare to see one as polished as marble. The look ends up being an even floor that looks precise. It’s also very comfortable to walk barefoot on a honed slate tile floor. However, a disadvantage is the stone colors will lose their vibrancy and luster over time. Their traction is decent, but can still be slippery when wet. The honing process has tiles that scratch easier and show stains more than others, especially solid color or lighter materials.

What Color of Slate Can I Buy?


There are hundreds of various slate colors that are available to choose from. If possible, go to a store in person to see how the color looks and get samples to bring back to put on your floor. You should buy one extra box at the minimum of the color in case you need to make repairs in the future. This way they’ll always match.

The hue of tile can change by different degrees based on the varying types of solid color slate. Some will only be one color and not change much from each piece, while others will have different variations with shadows and shades clouding the tile’s consistency. There are also slate materials that have two or more colors that contrast and combine across the surfaces. Each color is from a different material that’s present. For example, red means there is iron in the material. This means it won’t be good for outdoor materials, as rain will cause it to break down.

When you’re shopping for slate tile, make sure you know what questions to ask. This will mean you’ll be able to make a more well-informed decision and buy the right type and amount.

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