A metamorphic stone that is formed in layers, slate differs greatly from many other stones in both looks and performance. While other metamorphic stones, such as marble, are prone to staining and absorbing moisture, slate is relatively non-porous and performs well under the water and lemon juice test with little staining or etching.
Slate’s natural cleft and honed finishes, however, do scratch fairly easily. Whether it’s a chair dragged over a floor, or a knife used on a counter, scratches on the slate show up as white lines and marks that do not disappear when wiped with a cloth or soap and water.
These scratches dull and take away from the beauty of the stone, but they can be very easily removed or disguised so that they are less noticeable.
Some scratches on natural cleft slates can be buffed out using scouring pads of progressively fine texture. It’s important when using this method to work wet, and to make sure not to work over too large an area, or the repair may become more visible than the original scratch.
If there are scratches covering large areas of the slate, they can be hidden and helped to blend in with the rest of the stone by deepening the color of the scratch. To do this, use either a color enhancing topical sealant or apply mineral oil to the stone. Both will darken and deepen the color of the slate, while at the same time blending the scratches into the surface so they are invisible to the naked eye.
Color enhancing sealers do not wash off with neutral soaps and waters, and can be reapplied as needed or on a yearly basis. They will also help to protect the stone from future damage and help render it more slip resistant.
Scratches are very common on slate floors and counters. Remove them or hide them using these methods to preserve the beauty of the stone.
Natural stone makes a beautiful statement no matter where it is installed. Sometimes, though, too much stone within one space makes it lose some of its appeal. That’s when combining it with another material within the same room or area helps to bring back its luster.
There are numerous reasons why you may want to combine stone with other materials. For example, some colors of stone, such as blue, can be expensive. Therefore, mixing a tan stone with blue glass helps to inject some color into the room, but without driving up the expense of the project.
Other times, the other material becomes a backdrop to show off the stone more clearly, such as framing a backlit onyx top with wood. The wood defines the onyx and makes it more special within the room. It also helps to make the counter thick enough to hide things such as the back lighting that a slab of onyx may not be large enough to contain by itself.
Natural stone can also help elevate a design, making it feel more luxurious and elegant than it would be on its own. For example, adding a stone mosaic border or stone mosaic shower floor to an otherwise porcelain tiled shower helps create the feeling of luxury and splendor in an otherwise dull space. Stone also adds a degree of variation and interest in an area where the tiles may be flat or have little to no variation on their own.
Using natural stone in the same area, but adjacent to, a field of another material also makes a statement. In a kitchen that has granite counters, it sometimes benefits the space to use another material on the backsplash, rather than using more granite or even another stone. In this case the two materials complement one another, so that neither one ends up overwhelming the space.
Natural stone can be combined with glass, porcelain, ceramic, or metal to beautiful effect. Consider blending in some stone to any application to enhance the look and style of the area.
There are a number of different methods of cutting tiles for installation. Some of the more common methods involve scoring and snapping or using a pair of nippers with a carbide tipped pencil. And while these methods are suitable for installing ceramic tile, or even some types of glass tile, they are inadequate when working with stone.
Stone tiles, and to some degree high density porcelain tiles, cannot be scored and snapped in the same way that a more brittle ceramic tile can be. Most stones are too hard and dense to be able to snap along the line without extreme amounts of pressure. The few stones that may be able to snap without that amount of pressure may not fracture cleanly. Slate tiles, for example, may fracture along many different layers, resulting in a jagged cut rather than a clean one.
Similarly, standard nippers do not have the jaw strength to cut through stone mosaics without crushing them in the event of a more brittle or fragile stone.
When cutting stone tiles, a wet saw with a diamond encrusted blade will always give the best cuts. A wet saw cuts the stone without any pressure, removing a small amount of the stone while the water keeps the blade cool enough to avoid overheating due to friction. The edges of stones cut this way can be tightly fit together, because the edges are tightly defined. In the same way, if the stone needs to be drilled, a diamond tipped drill bit dipped in cooling oil can quickly grind through the stone to make the necessary hole without smoking, overheating, or breaking the stone.
Stone mosaics can be cut in sheets on a wet saw as well, but if individual stones need to be cut, stone nippers should be used. Stone nippers have a large enough jaw to be able to snap the mosaics cleanly without crushing them.
Using the right tools will help ensure a good stone installation every time. Always use tools designed for cutting stone to get the best results.
The kitchen backsplash, or area between the counters and the cabinets, can be tackled in many different ways. Some people choose to use a decorative tile or stone there, others use wood, beadboard, metal, or glass. One option that also gets used frequently is to have a small piece of the countertop material mounted vertically at the backsplash. This piece of stone is usually about 4-inches in height, but can as high as 6-inches, or as small as three.
There are many reasons why you may want to get a 4-inch slab backsplash. In kitchens that have a lot going on, this simple backsplash can keep from making the entire room get too busy. For example, a kitchen that uses a lot of very busy granite may look too chaotic with a separate backsplash; the 4-inch backsplash gives some protection to the wall, without adding additional pattern.
There are also times the backsplash is only needed in a small section. For example, tile is used as a focal point behind the stove, but isn’t needed or desired on either side. This can allow for some protection of the wall, without competing with the tile design.
If the counter is set at two heights to make a seating area, a small piece of the counter material can form a backsplash between the two sections to create some unity and give the half wall some protection as well. This is particularly useful if the backsplash material being used elsewhere around the room wouldn’t fit in here.
Keep in mind that using a slab backsplash does take up more space on the counter than tiles will, simply because the slab will be about 3cm thick. And while it is possible to tile above it at a later date, it can be difficult or expensive to remove and replace with tile entirely.
Keep the slab backsplash in mind for those occasions when tile won’t suit the room. You may find it the perfect complement to your kitchen.