If you’re looking for a natural stone solution to put the finishing touches to your home, think slate flooring. It’s a budget friendly alternative to granite and marble, with gorgeous looks and practical properties that are especially suitable for kitchens and bathrooms.
Choosing your slate floor
Slate is made of fine grained rock comprising tiny clay minerals and small amounts of quartz and calcite along with other minerals that are similar to those found in granite. Slate, therefore, is strong and hardwearing, a perfect choice for flooring. Due to its natural composition, slate has a unique texture and a wavy pattern that give slate tiles their characteristic look and appeal.
Slate comes in a variety of colours, textures and patterns, making it a versatile choice for home flooring. Each different type has its own characteristics and maintenance requirements to ensure the stone keeps its beauty in the long term – an important consideration when you make your selection. Here are the main types:
- Coloured slate tiles
As already mentioned, slate comes in a range of colours including solid colour such as traditional black and greys, and multicoloured patterns. While your choice will ultimately depend on personal preference and your home’s interiors scheme, it’s worth pointing out that single hues can create a more uniform look that shows up debris and dirt more.
Multicoloured slate tiles feature unique patterns on individual tiles that are not only beautiful to look at but also have the advantage of distracting the eye away from any unsightliness.
- Riven, cleft or natural slate tiles
Slate of this type is rugged and thickly textured, giving the most nature authentic look. Typically gauged to get rid of extreme peaks and troughs on the front of the tile, it’s flat on the reverse. Importantly, there can be substantial variation in the level of ‘clefting’ between different batches.
In practical terms, the advantage of using cleft tiles is that they hide scratches and scuffs more easily than shinier versions, and are less slippery. Note, however, that it is not possible to buff or restore the surface of the tiles, once scratched.
- Honed slate tiles
The difference between riven and honed slate tiles is that the latter have a less rugged and textured surface. Cleft tiles are subjected to a grinding process to produce a more even surface that is more comfortable to walk on, particularly indoors.
On the downside, the honing process can remove some of the striking colour of natural slate. What’s more, you will find that dirt and debris, scratches and stains will be more visible on honed tiles.
- Polished slate tiles
Polished slate tiles glisten with a satin sheen. The finish is achieved by extensive honing to produce an even surface and a polished appearance that is actually quite uncommon to find. These are the most delicate slate tiles you can choose.
While the smooth surface is most susceptible to showing dust and dirt, stains and scratches, it also makes it easier to keep these slate tiles hygienically clean. For kitchens, bathrooms and other hygienic areas in the home, this will be your best choice of product.
Sealing your slate floor
Like many other natural stone products, slate is naturally porous. Left untreated, the surface will absorb water and other liquids, leading to discoloration and staining that is hard and often impossible to remove. Liquid ingress can even degrade the mortar bed, the underlay and the subfloor below.
This is why it is essential to have your slate floor professionally sealed during installation, both before and after grouting. You should ensure your floor is resealed regularly, ideally every 6-12 months. Less than that and your slate floor may develop a more aged and weathered look more quickly, with more stains appearing over time.
When it comes to choosing the right sealant, there are two suitable products: A below-surface sealant will penetrate deep into the stone to clog pores and block access for any unwanted agents. A barrier sealant should then be applied to the surface to provide a clear, protective coating.
Cleaning your slate floor
The trick to a beautiful slate floor in your home is not just the right choice of product, it’s knowing how to look after it properly. Here are 6 important tips to help you maintain and preserve your slate tiles for the long term.
Rule Number One is to keep loose dirt and debris off your slate floor. These minute particles act like gritty sandpaper, with predictable results if left undealt with. Every time someone walks across the floor, it will scratch a little bit more, increasingly wearing down the protective sealant.
You should sweep your slate floor frequently. Use a soft bristled broom that won’t scratch the surface and cause damage. If you prefer to vacuum rather than sweep by hand, make sure you are using the soft brush attachment to protect the floor.
Use a damp or dry mop to clean tiny bits of dust and dirt from your slate floor, using light, even strokes. If wet mopping, wring the mop out well so it isn’t sopping wet, which can leave puddles on the floor while the liquid may penetrate through the grout and cause damage underneath.
You should never use abrasive or acidic cleaning products on slate tiles, since harsh chemicals can react with the natural stone and strip the sealant. Instead, a gentle yet effective detergent mix consisting of a few drops of washing up liquid in a bucket of water should do the job fine.
If you’re looking for a safe disinfectant for your slate floor, use alcohol. Mix 100 ml into 1 litre of water and apply with a sponge or mop. For hard or set stains, try scrubbing with a towel or cloth until removed.
To remove stubborn stains from individual slate tiles, the best method is to use hydrogen peroxide. Mix a few drops into a litre of water and apply to the affected area with a mop or sponge until the stain has gone.