Flooring and Carpeting Slate Floors in a bathroom, porcelain tiles, natural slate

Flooring and Carpeting Slate Floors in a bathroom, porcelain tiles, natural slate

Flooring and Carpeting /Slate Floors in a bathroom


Expert: Dave Davidson — 6/27/2007


QUESTION: We are building a house and would like to use slate in the bathroom including the shower. We have read mixed info on the web regarding slate. A good friend has it in the shower and strongly recommended against it because its a nightmare to clean even though its been sealed. We do not want a maintenance nightmare. Are there different types of slate that are more durable to use in a shower? If we do not use slate, what is another option that has a similar look? How about using marble or granite? Or are we better off with a tile?

ANSWER: Hi Ann. Thanks for asking.

Slate is slate is slate. What you want to pay attention to is the texture and depth of the clefts in the surface. Slate is going to be more difficult to clean than a ceramic look a like due to it’s rougher texture in general.

There are lots of porcelain tiles that look like slate without the disadvantages, but lack the unique beauty of natural stone. To aid in cleaning natural slate, a topical sealer should be applied. A penetrating sealer will not soak into slate deep enough to be of any benefit. Use a high quality sealer such as Aqua mix enrich-n-seal. Have the sales person at the tile retailer your working with apply the sealer to a piece of slate your interested in. Take the piece of slate and a porcelain, slate look a like home with you. After a 24 hour cure time on the sealer, put them through a few days of testing. Give them everything you can think of, soap scum, red wine, mustard. Determine suitability for your house based on the tests. Marble is not as durable as slate and is a material I do not like to recommend for bathroom floors. Anything acidic will etch the surface of marble (except for certain green marbles), this goes for vomit, urine, tooth paste spit, etc. Granite on the other hand is extremely durable. Granite can repel anything encountered in the bathroom without any change in appearance.

Let your tests be your guide to suitability. Only you can determine what your willing to trade for the look you desire.

Check with your friend and see if they used a topical sealer. You may be able to help them out.

Hope this helps. If you have any further questions, I am here.

QUESTION: This is very helpful, and a great idea about getting a piece to test. I might just throw it in the shower for a week. You say that slate is slate. I have heard that Vermont Slate is hardier. Is this because the clefts are smaller? Also, in terms of using granite, is that possible in the shower? I have heard some varieties of granite absorb more water than others and some are more prone to water staining than others. Also, I guess some are not truly granite, but get categorized as such. I guess a test would sort that out as well, but just trying to understand all the issues. Thanks.

Flooring and Carpeting Slate Floors in a bathroom, porcelain tiles, natural slate


Hi Ann. It’s good to hear back from you.

I would have to disagree that Vermont slate is harder than slate found elsewhere. I don’t have any information on the varying hardness of slate from different areas of the world. It does seem to me that Vermont slate has by far fewer rifts in it than slate from Brazil and Africa. This may just be a factor of quality control at the quarries. Tiles that have rifts (separating layers) in them should not be installed. All slates are inherently soft stones when compared to granite and ceramic/porcelain tiles.

Different granites do have varying porosity. The porosity of granites is a really a non issue since the water protection in a shower is behind the tile to begin with. As porosity is related to stain resistance, a quality sealer will reduce the porosity and by you more time to clean-up spills. Water staining is something I would have no fear about with a granite. It’s a good idea to use a squeegee to remove the bulk of the water and soap from the walls after showering to reduce soap scum build-up. If you are on well water that contains a high enough concentration of minerals to stain granite you may want to purchase a water purification system. A good idea in all showers is to use a waterproofing that is applied directly beneath the tile layer as opposed to behind the backerboard. This will help the stone dry out faster than if everything behind the stone were saturated.

Granite is truly granite. If someone is trying to hock a man made composite as granite don’t be fooled. Many of these composites contain a certain percentage of granite and are more consistent in color but are not one in the same.

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