Once You Get to Know Slate, There Is a Lot to Like
Slate can be thought of as granite is less-flashy, misunderstood cousin. Part of the reason for false conceptions about slate is that the material isnot found in many homes. But with a bit of research, it is clear that quality slate is a top choice for stone countertops. Here at Countertop Shopper, we are done the research for you. In the sections below you all find all the information you need to make an informed decision about slate counters.
Setting the Record Straight on Slate
Slate often receives short shrift in a debate over the top stone countertop materials, with homeowners contending that slate is too porous, too brittle, and stains too easily. Slate, however, can more than hold its own against stones such as granite and marble. It is, after all, the same material tha is featured on 100+ year-old roofs and used for flooring.
The key to selecting countertop slate that performs well and requires little to no maintenance is knowing where the slate comes from. Geologically speaking, not all slate is created equally. New York and New England are known for having extremely dense slate that is appropriate for countertop use. Other regions known to produce select quality slate are Wales, Quebec, and Newfoundland.
More recently, China, Brazil, and India have begun to export slate to the United States. Slate from these countries tends to be more brittle, inconsistent, and water absorbent definitely not the characteristics of a good countertop material. Although imported slate is priced considerably lower than local slate, its undesirable qualities do not translate into much of a bargain.
Here is what you can expect from high-quality slate that is quarried right here in the United States:
- Density: Per square inch, slate is denser than granite. This translates into excellent strength and a low incidence of breakage.
- Low Porosity: Slate also compares favorably to granite in terms of how susceptible it is to staining and water absorption. The stone is close to 100% non-absorbent and never requires sealing (although some experts contend that gray and black slate should be sealed occasionally). As a result, slate is antibacterial and an extremely hygienic surface. Staining and etching (from acids) are possible although not likely but surface marks can be rubbed out.
- Heat Resistance: Slate can handle hot pots and pans without incidence and is completely fireproof. In fact, the material is sometimes used for laboratory tables.
- Fade Proof: Even after years of use, expect your slate countertop to retain its original color.
- Low Maintenance: Soap and water or household cleaning products can be used to clean slate. If you desire a sheen or wish to even out the surface is appearance, apply mineral oil or a light solution of Murphy is Oil Soap and water.
- Color Choice: Slate is offered in more than just gray and black. Other color choices include red, mottled purple, variegated purple, and light or dark green. Like granite and marble, slate can have visible veining, although it tends to be subtler.
- Finish Choice: The most common finish for slate countertops is honed (i.e. matte). It is possible, however, to polish slate to a glossy finish. A matte finish is more appropriate for a rustic or, while a shiny finish looks better in a modern setting.
- Edge Choice: A honed, eased edge (a square edge with the sharp corners removed) is common on slate countertops, but decorative edging is also possible to fit any design.
- Other Uses: The low porosity of slate makes it suitable for many wet applications, including shower enclosures and sinks.
Despite this long list of pros, even the best slate has one weakness: it is soft and can therefore scratch easily. But the scratches can usually be wiped or rubbed away, and if you have a honed finish, the marks would not show that much.
Slate Countertop Costs
- Slate starts at $60 to $75 per square foot installed, but if you opt for high-end slate, do not be surprised if the project totals $100 to $200 per square foot installed.
- Aside from the quality of the stone, pricing is affected by local labor and material costs, the edge profile, countertop size and layout, the material thickness, and more.
- Accompanying slate is rise in popularity is an influx of questionable materials. Be sure to seek out a knowledgeable stone fabricator who can provide detailed information about slate slabs (the Vermont Structural Slate Company and Sheldon Slate are reputable U.S. companies with lots of good resources).