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Old 05-01-2008, 08:55 AM   #1
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Slate tile


I'm doing my shower floor and walls in natural slate tiles. 1" tiles on the floor, 6" on the walls. Definately going to seal them properly before grouting, then seal the grout as well.

My question is...

There are so many variations and colors in the same batch, it is hard for me to compare apples to apples from vendor to vendor. The slate I see at Lowes seems comparable to the slate I see at tile specialty stores. In slate, is there much difference? Are there different grades to justify the different prices?

Any suggestions in dealing with slate would be appreciated. I've done literally tons of ceramic, but this is my first slate job.

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Old 05-01-2008, 09:41 AM   #2
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Yes, the quality of slate will vary from supplier to supplier. Best way to put it is you get what you pay for. Low grade slate will be difficult to work with. It usually has a lot of shaling. Also, you find a big variance in the actually sizes of each tile, whether it's the cut dimensions or the thickness.
Installing slate is challenging. Installing crappy slate is very challenging. I would pick all of the tiles you're going to use BEFORE you start setting them. This should keep you from getting surprised when you find a tile that's way thicker than the one next to it.
Now, you mention tiling the shower floor. I sure hope you have the proper slope and drain setup in there already. And I also hope you have waterproofed the shower area properly too. It would behoove you to do the proper steps BEFORE you tile. If you don't you are asking for big trouble down the road.
Tiling a bathroom and especially a shower is NOT as simple as sticking your tile of choice to the walls/floor and grouting.

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Old 05-01-2008, 09:43 AM   #3
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In my opinion slate in a wet area is a bad idea. Porcelain tile that mimics slate would be a much better choice.

Slates can contain all kinds of minerals, not the least of which is iron. Over time those minerals will leach out of the stone and stain everything around it. No sealer will stop or control the leaching.

In addition minerals from the water will also stain the slate and make it very difficult if not impossible to clean.
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Old 05-01-2008, 11:41 AM   #4
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Thanks for your advice and opinions Bud and Angus.

I haven't demolished the old bathroom yet, but will be installing a membrane/concrete floor with some serious good slope to it. I've found a very nifty proprietary floor system available at the tile shop here in town and will be using it under the shower floor as well as the shower seat (which will be pitched downward).

Now I'm concerned about using slate in the shower. The sealer that I'm going to use is a penetrating coating that leaves the tile with a glossy wet look, and is supposed to make it relatively impervious. I could talk the Mrs. into black ceramic for the floor if I had to, but she isn't going to budge on the walls.

The people at the tile shop told me that slate was ok for showers as long as you seal it and clean it with soap and water regularly. But, they're trying to sell me slate tile.

More thoughts and opinions would certainly be appreciated!
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Old 05-01-2008, 12:03 PM   #5
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I suppose it would depend on the quality of the slate itself. I won't disagree with Bud in general but my supplier of slate says it's ok to use in wet locations. Actually, slate is an impermeable barrier to water, and is considered to be non-slip. It is also non-porous and does not need to be sealed. Because it's non-porous, it is easy to clean. Again, let me specify, this is the slate that I use from my supplier.
Slate is chiefly comprised of quartz and illite, with mica, calcite, and minor quantities of other various minerals. Shades of red, purple and tan are related to varying amounts of iron that Bud speaks of. Red is due to the presence of Hematite, while green colors are due to Chlorite. Grey and black are due to carbon and/or graphite which happens to be my choice of slate on a shower floor.
I suppose you need to know the limitations of the slate you would be purchasing. Don't forget, slate is also used as a roofing material. But I have to reiterate, you must buy a quality slate, not some $2/sq ft slate from Lowes.

Last edited by angus242; 05-01-2008 at 12:13 PM.
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Old 05-01-2008, 01:21 PM   #6
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The Lowes stuff runs $4/sqft, but appears to have a lot of mica in it, which makes it sparkle. That is something that really turns us off. I'm leaning more toward the $6/sqft stuff from the tile shop.

I guess the major difference is where the slate is quarried. I'm just trying to determine how to tell the difference between good slate and bad slate.

The one thing that did attract me about the stuff at Lowes is that the back of it was machine grooved, which would give the thinset a better bite. Not too sure if the more expensive stuff had that or a smooth back.

Any do's/dont's as far as sealer? We want the "wet look" sealer, but will use whatever is best if it comes down to it. I'm sure that I'll need to re-seal periodically.

Very true, slate makes a heck of a roof. In the jurisdiction I work for, most of the homes have slate roofs. Many of those roofs are over 75 years old and look a lot like the new ones do.
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Old 05-01-2008, 02:18 PM   #7
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Like I said, my supplier says its slate is non-porous and therefore, can't accept sealer. When I use a sealer, I use the appropriate StoneTech product. In your case I would suggest:
http://www.stonetechpro.com/products/transform/e/
Some of their more potent products are solvent based and can be tricky (or hazardous) to use. This product may not give you the "wet" look but it will enhance the color.
http://www.stonetechpro.com/products/transform/ep/
If you truly want to go wet, you'll have to step up to something like this:
http://www.stonetechpro.com/products/transform/lac/
As for using thinset with slate, you want to back-butter the tile even if it has grooves. This will also help with some of the natural inconsistencies you may encounter with thickness.
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Old 05-02-2008, 01:39 PM   #8
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Check out Daltile. They have show rooms most places and have good prices, especially for slate. When cutting slate, don't worry about the wetsaw, just buy a good diamond blade ($50) and use your circular saw, it will cut like butter.
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Old 05-02-2008, 03:26 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by chelseadagger View Post
don't worry about the wetsaw, just buy a good diamond blade ($50) and use your circular saw, it will cut like butter.
that's flat out dangerous advice! First of all, not sure if you yourself have ever cut stone. Doesn't sound like it from your "advice". There are a number of issues here. Have you ever heard of silicosis? Google it and then rethink your comment.
A wet saw can be rented from Home Depot for about $50 per day. No need to buy a circular saw blade for the same price. A wet saw is used not only to make it easier to cut tile, but to also KEEP THE DUST OUT OF THE AIR. Can you cut stone dry? Yes. Are there precautions you need to take to do so? Absolutely. Do you know you need a special DRY cut diamond blade to use on a circular saw? Are you giving advice to dry cut stone indoors?
chelseadagger, you mention nothing about wearing a respiration mask or making sure a dry cut blade is used with a circular saw. Those are 2 very important issues you missed.
A wet saw is the better tool for this job.
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Old 05-02-2008, 04:36 PM   #10
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Yes, you do need to wear a dust mask and goggles to protect your eyes while dry cutting. However, it is a very easy task to cut slate with a diamond blade, I have just done so recently. Slate is a fairly soft stone and there is no need to rent a wetsaw if you already have a circular one and can buy a diamond blade for this and future use.
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Old 05-02-2008, 06:16 PM   #11
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Just because you can doesn't mean you should.
A wet saw is MUCH easier to use. You can make a much straighter cut with a wet saw and it's guide than you can by hand with a circular saw. Not to mention the dust issue.
In this case, it's a no brainer, rent a wet saw and save yourself the trouble.
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Old 05-02-2008, 07:31 PM   #12
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I'm a firm believer in the "buy the right tool for the job" theory. That is probably why I have $40,000 invested over the years in my workshop. I do all my own work to keep the prices down so I can justify buying more tools.

Yes, the diamond blade will work dry in a circular saw. But, it will be hard to cut sheets of 1x1" tiles that way! I wouldn't even risk it on a 6x6. I'm too anal-retentive about doing a perfect job.

I have a really good wet saw, and plan to use it.

I'll keep my circular saws around for rough carpentry though.
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Old 03-27-2010, 07:26 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by chelseadagger View Post
When cutting slate, don't worry about the wetsaw, just buy a good diamond blade ($50) and use your circular saw, it will cut like butter.
Funny, the guy laying slate down in my house said that his hand saw was turning TOO FAST and was screwing up the cuts, so he immediately stopped and drove an hour away to pick up his wet saw.

Outside of that example, your suggestion seems to go against common sense...
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Old 04-01-2010, 08:46 PM   #14
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Quote:
originally posted by chelseadagger
when cutting slate, don't worry about the wetsaw, just buy a good diamond blade ($50) and use your circular saw, it will cut like butter.
bulldroppings!
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Old 04-01-2010, 09:05 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by thekctermite View Post
I'm a firm believer in the "buy the right tool for the job" theory. That is probably why I have $40,000 invested over the years in my workshop. I do all my own work to keep the prices down so I can justify buying more tools.

:
Off topic - but does your HOer's insurance know about all your tools? Just asking 'cause my insurer suggested if I had anything over 10K in tools I should think about adding a rider and document them. Tools = high theft items.

(we added a rider for our garage because we have over 50K in car parts (sigh))

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