Made of compressed sandstone, slate has a texture and color unique among other metamorphic stones. It’s also unique in several other ways, which may confuse and worry homeowners and installers when they begin to work with it for the first time.
Slate tile comes in essentially two types: gauged and ungauged. Most slates coming from Vermont, and some from Brazil, are gauged. They are also fairly uniform in color ranging from blue/grays to greens.
Slates coming from China and India, however, are frequently ungauged and extremely variegated. This means they may vary in thickness from piece to piece –and within one piece – by as much as 1/2-inch. The tiles will frequently range in color as well, with the surface of the tiles containing several peaks, valleys, and crevices.
While this means that the installation may be time consuming, with the installer leveling each piece, it also produces a few positives for those who choose to use it.
Ungauged slate tiles don’t have a top and bottom like most tiles; they can be installed with either side facing up. This is a major advantage in a stone tile that varies so dramatically in color; if you don’t like the color of a tile, just turn it over.
Using an ungauged, variegated slate also means that your installation is filled with character and movement. This helps disguise things like scratches, stains, and dirt, making slate ideal for high traffic areas like mudrooms and kitchens.
Slate does has a tendency to spall for about three months after installation. During this time, the stone may be dusty, flakey, or have small pieces break off. This is normal and will resolve once the slate adapts to its new home.
Despite its unusual qualities, slate makes a beautiful addition to any space. Install it to bring character, life, and a unique substance to any home.