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Slate Countertops & Surfaces

When consumers search for countertop materials, there may be a number of materials that come to mind. However, chances are that slate is not among the first. Slate countertops & surfaces though are resilient and they work very well with specific design styles. Additionally, slate surfaces are durable and provide years of use when properly cared for. In this article, we are going to look at the natural stone called slate. We will explore its properties, consider the care and maintenance of slate surfaces, and also note some of the applications of this intriguing natural stone; including countertops and much more.

An Overview of Slate

What do you think of when you hear the term slate? Do you have a mental image of stone that is somewhat subdued with deep, rich color that has a bit of a grayish green hue? Perhaps you think of the old chalkboards that once were used in classrooms before they became "blackboards" (a different material). Or maybe you think of playing a game of billiards on the famous green felt covered surface that has that firm, tough sounding thud/clank when a billiard ball gets dropped onto it. Finally, if you have an affinity for sayings, you might be thinking about "wiping the slate clean". If any of those came to your mind, then your train of thought was hitched to the engine that is the natural stone from which all of those objects, expressions, and concepts stem.

What is Slate?

Without giving a dissertation on the material, we will briefly summarize this unique stone here to give you an idea of the makeup of the material. Natural slate is a finely grained metamorphic rock. Wikipedia.org defines this material this way:

Slate is a fine-grained, foliated, homogeneous metamorphic rock derived from an original shale-type sedimentary rock composed of clay or volcanic ash through low-grade regional metamorphism. It is the finest grained foliated metamorphic rock.

Slate forms in a few colors, these include:

  • Gray
  • Green
  • Purple
  • Cyan

The hardness of natural slate registers from 2.5-4 on the Mohs scale so it has a hardness similar to marble, onyx (the banded calcite variety), and other calcareous stone materials. We will come back to this aspect of the material in a little bit.

So to sum up what we have mentioned thus far, slate is a somewhat "soft" metamorphic rock that comes in a handful of colors and is very fine grained. We will elaborate on these properties in a bit. But now you may be wondering, 'Can it be used for countertops?', 'What is slate used for?' Let's look at those questions now.

Can Slate Be Used for Countertops?

The short answer to the question, "Can slate be used for countertops?" is yes, it can. To elaborate though, let's mention some things to keep in mind when considering slate as a kitchen countertop or worktop. First, as we already mentioned, the color selection is not vast. Yet, there are specific design styles that are conducive to the look and feel of slate. For example, a rustic design style would make a great home for a piece of natural slate. Additionally, the industrial design style is a nice fit for the material. And there are others as well. You also want to be familiar with the care and maintenance of any stone surface you use as a kitchen countertop or other surface. We will circle back to this in a little bit. What about slate's usage for other surfaces?

Other Slate Surfaces

What about the use of slate for other surfaces? Applications other than countertops and worktops also are compatible with this material. Exterior and interior uses for natural slate are options. Additional slate applications include:

  • Sidewalks
  • Patios
  • Table Tops
  • Walkways
  • Roofing Tiles
  • Flooring
  • Cladding

Properties of Natural Slate

When it comes to the properties of natural slate surfaces, the material shares some traits with other natural stone. On the other hand, slate also has some very specific characteristics that make it unique from other stone materials.

Common Natural Stone Properties

Like virtually all other natural stone, slate has pores. Even though slate is relatively less porous than other natural stone, it does have pores and that means that it will absorb liquid, albeit slower than other natural stone materials.

What Makes Slate Unique?

Slate though, is a material that features its own distinct qualities. For example, it is able to be cut thin enough that tiles can be formed which are light enough to be used for shingles on a roof. Other natural stone does not offer this ability; they would be too heavy for the roof.

Caring for Slate Countertops & Surfaces

As mentioned above, slate has distinct characteristics and it shares traits with other stone. These qualities mean that slate will need to be cared for in a way that is designed to keep it looking its best after you have installed it. The recommended treatment program for natural stone is a multi-phased program. Let's look at it now:

Periodic Sealing

Since slate is generally less porous that other natural stone, the treatments may not need to be done as often, depending on how well you perform the other phases of the treatment. And since each slab varies in its porosity, the best way to determine if your surface needs to be sealed is to do an absorbency test. The faster the stone absorbs water, the more it needs to be sealed. Sealing slate as it needs it will help the stone resist staining that can be caused by liquids that get into the pores of the stone.

Using Proper Slate Cleaner

Even if you seal natural slate correctly at the proper intervals you will not realize the benefits if the wrong daily cleaner is not used. Stone sealers work well for keeping liquids out of a stone material. However, using the wrong cleaners on a stone surface after it is sealed destroys the sealer. If the appropriate cleaner is not used the consumer could remove the sealer right after it is applied. Therefore, it is recommended that a pH neutral natural stone cleaner be used for cleaning slate on a daily basis and stay away from cleaners not designed to clean natural stone surfaces.

Slate Stain Remover

I addition to sealing and cleaning slate regularly, it is also likely that you will need to remove a stain at some point in time. When this is needed, you can usually make use of a poultice powder or another specialized stain remover designed to fight the discoloration in the stone.

As we have seen in this article, there is quite a bit to be aware of when it comes to slate countertops and surfaces. Slate is a material that like other natural stone may be used for a number of applications. It works as a countertop material and several other surfaces. It shares traits with most natural stone but does have unique qualities of its own. At any rate, it is a good option for consumers in specific situations and if chosen and cared for properly, will last a long time.