Do It Yourself Installation: Installing Slate Floor Tile

Slate tile floor installation made easy: A step-by-step guide for the home repair novice.

Versatile, unique, and always in vogue, slate flooring can add character to any room. And with its cost efficiency and durability, slate currently remains one of the more popular flooring options. Most importantly, installing slate tile can be a simple assignment with a little time, and just a bit of patience.

The first order of business in slate installation is floor preparation. Remove any carpeting, baseboard trim and other material inside of the room. All fundamental repairs need to be made at this time, and the floor must be cleaned from top to bottom. For tile to be installed, the flooring must be stable enough so the slate and grout will not crack. It is advisable to install a tile underlayment or a cement backer recommended by the slate manufacturer. If the slate is to be applied over a wooden sub-floor, it is crucial that the wood is a least 1 and 1/4 inches thick. To increase the density of the current sub-floor, fasten plywood to the flooring, spacing the screws every eight inches on center. Finally, apply a thin coat of water-based urethane to the top layer of plywood to prevent possible water leakage. Now that the existing flooring is primed, it is time to begin the task at hand!

The layout and design of the slate tiles is a significant part of the job. Natural slate tiles are available in various shapes and hues, so there are endless possibilities in composing a unique motif. It is a good idea to lay the slate on the floor without adhesive first to create a pattern. For an interlocking pattern, lay out all the pieces using plastic tile spacers in preparation for the grouting process. If using different colored slate, disperse the colors randomly to produce a vibrant effect. Not feeling creative? Never fear! There is always a pattern printed on the carton of tiles or included with an insert inside the box. It is still suggested to lay the slate without adhesive first to create the pattern the manufacturer envisioned.

Once a design has been established with the tiles, it is time for the adhesive, a cement-based thinset. This powder contains ultra-fine grains of silica sand and special acrylic resins. When mixed with water, this sticky substance adheres to anything it comes into contact with. Spread the thinset on the floor maintaining a grout space as recommended by the slate supplier. Press each piece of slate firmly into the adhesive to secure a proper bond.

Before the grouting process can begin, the slate must set for at least 24 hours. The grout should have the consistency of damp sand. Prepare only enough of the mixture to be used in 30 minute intervals or the grout may harden in the container. Apply the grout to the joints with a sponge float, making sure the joint is completely filled with the mixture. Work the grout back and forth at a 45-degree angle to the slate tile. It is critical to remove all excess grout with a damp sponge before proceeding to the next section of the floor. Once the grout dries on the slate, it is extremely difficult to remove.

When the grout has hardened, clean the surface of the slate and along the grout lines by vigorously rubbing with a piece of cloth. A quite popular way to clean slate is to scatter sawdust over the finished floor, and then rub the sawdust on the surface of the tiles and the joints with a piece of burlap. Wait three days, rewash the floor with water only, and then sponge dry.

Now, step back, admire the distinction of the sparkling floor, and bask in the brilliance of accomplishment. The mission is completed and a new, chic room awaits.

© High Speed Ventures 2011