How to lay natural slate floor tiles

Natural black slate tiles on kitchen floor
6 July 2022

Natural black slate tiles on kitchen floor

A major reason people select natural stone tiles for their home is their ability to bring together natural style with domestic practicality. Combining these important elements creates a stunning aesthetic that helps make a house into a home.  

A particularly popular variety of natural stone tile is slate. This material has been used in homes for generations, as the slate surface has a truly evocative and eye-catching quality. 

If you are considering a renovation project in your home and particularly looking to revamp a certain space, then slate can be a strong choice. 

Laying these tiles in the right way, and having the full effects of the style you want to create with slate, is an important thing to get right. 

In this Stone Tile Company blog, we talk you through how to lay natural slate flooring to create a stunning look in your home. 

What makes slate stand out? 

Slate is a natural stone with a strong visual presence. Slate floor tiles provide the ideal basis for a room to come into its own. This material brings a sense of warmth and texture to any space. These are qualities that any home owner will naturally want to maintain, making slate a perfect choice for a renovation project.  

Slate’s suitability to various parts of the home also makes this type of tile a strong choice. With different finishes available for slate tiles, it is possible to lay slate floor tiles in bathrooms and kitchens, to hallways and living rooms. 

Natural riven slate tiles have a rustic and classical look, and are suited to areas that get a lot of foot traffic. Brushed slate is another option, with a softer finish that works wonderfully in living rooms, while honed slate is a popular choice for people looking to create a truly luxurious feel. 

How to lay natural slate floor tiles 

So without further ado, let’s talk you through how to lay natural slate floor tiles and create a beautiful surface in your home. 

Preparation 

The first thing to do is prepare the surface on which you will be laying your slate tiles. The surface needs to be completely secure and level in order to house the natural slate tiles you have purchased. The surface must also be clean and dry, and rid of any dust, grease or other loose materials.  

Grading 

Next comes the grading process. This involves organising your slate tiles into thickness batches, allowing you to start tiling with the thickest tiles first in the centre of the floor, and then ‘bed up’ your adhesive as required as you move towards the edges. As long as grading is done correctly, you will have a flat floor with no raised edges. 

Planning and Dry Laying 

Once your tiles are graded, start by dry laying the thickest tile in the centre of the room to bed the adhesive accordingly. 

Planning and dry laying allows you to create a pleasant mix of shades and colouring across the area your slate tiles are being laid. 

Planning and dry laying also helps you avoid inadvertently creating any unsightly cuts. The dry laying process also affords the chance to work out the optimum grout width for the natural slate tiles you have purchased. 

Cutting  

The cutting phase should happen after you have dry laid your tiles. This will help you to work out the dimensions required for tiles around the edge of the area you are tiling.  

Resizing and cutting slate tiles is fairly similar to what you would expect with any other tile type. So if you have cut tiles before, you should be comfortable enough with slate. 

If you have not cut tiles before, then it’s worth noting that the cutting tool you use will always determine how successful the cut through the tile will be. Our recommendation is to use a Wet Tile Saw, as these help you to cut quickly but cleanly, and leave a wonderful looking tile to work with.  

Fixing 

Once all of the above stages have been completed, it is time to fix the slate tiles.  

Slate tiles need to be bedded solidly, and we recommend using a cement-based tile adhesive to do this. A notched trowel can be used to apply the adhesive onto the substrate area. The trowel’s flat side can then be used to smooth over the adhesive to create a ridge-free bed on which to lay your slate tiles. 

One tip we recommend is what we call ‘back buttering’. This helps you achieve a strong bond with the whole tile.  

For riven slates, take a look to see if there are any areas on the back of the tile that require extra adhesive. Be sure to fill these, as this will create a flat bond and make fitting a smoother process with a better end result. 

Grouting 

Grouting is an important step in finalising the look and feel of your slate floor. We recommend using a flexible grout, and Stone Tile Company’s adhesives range contains a number of options suitable for all areas of the home. 

Once you have fitted your slate tiles, we advise starting off by grouting just a small area at a time. This can help you systematically work across your floor and add those finishing touches.  

You are likely to get some grout residue during this phase, which needs removing for a clean look to prevail. Use clean water to shift this, otherwise you risk distributing the grout residue across the floor further. If you do end up with a cloudy appearance on the slate surface from grout residue, Grout Stain Remover can be used to fully clean your tiles.  

Sealing 

Though slate tiles have prevailed for centuries without being sealed, we recommend doing so in order to provide resistance against wear and tear. Sealing also makes it easier to clean slate tiles, preventing dust and dirt from building up on the stone’s surface.  

Sealing also has the benefit of bringing out the natural beauty of your slate tiles. Sealants can do this by enhancing the colouring, veins and patterns on the slate surface, and the Stone Tile Company team will recommend sealers based on the tiling you have selected.  

It’s best to thoroughly clean your slate tiles with warm, soapy water or with Grout Stain Remover before sealing. This helps shift any unwanted particles that have made their way onto the slate’s surface.  

It’s best to apply the sealant 24 hours after grouting, and this can be done using a small sponge roller or lint free cloth. Look to apply thinly to penetrate for approximately 15-30 mins. Then look to the surface with a clean dry lint free cloth to remove any excess. 

We would advise applying the sealant to an area of 1 square metre at a time, and then allowing for 30-60 minutes before applying a further coat. The sealant should dry within about 2 hours, but be aware that it can take three days before the seal is fully resistant. Be sure to check the specific instructions of the sealant you purchase as well.  

Cleaning and Maintenance 

Slate tiles generally do not require much by way of maintenance. Look to give them a brush and mop once a week, and use a mild detergent in order to protect their condition.  

By following these tips, it is possible to use slate tiles to enhance the vibe and feel of your home. 

Slate tiles, like all natural stone tiles, can come with subtle colour variations and may differ very slightly from the tiles you see on our website. But rest assured, the differences are miniscule. 

Considerations for different slate tile finishes  

There are a few specific things to consider when it comes to installing slate tiles. For natural slate tiles, there are typically nominal dimensional tolerances of up to +/- 2mm. These come about due to the way the slate is hand cut. All this means is that grout widths may need to be slightly altered in order to accommodate for this. Our team can offer specific guidance in this area, so you are in safe hands. 

Another consideration is specifically regarding riven slate, and where and where not to use this tile. As beautiful as the finish is, we recommend not using riven slate in areas of the home where you are likely to be barefoot. So this would include areas such as bathroom floors, or floors with underfloor heating. Brushed slate tiles are a better option here, as this finish provides a gentler, softer feel on a bare foot.  

A further thing to keep an eye out for is the varying thickness of natural black and charcoal grey slate tiles. The tolerance for these tiles is around 12mm +/- 3mm. It is worthwhile grading your slate tiles into thickness batches before you fit them. This allows you to start tiling with the thickest tiles first in the centre of the floor, and then ‘bed up’ your adhesive as required, as you move towards the edges. If done correctly, you will have a flat floor with no raised edges.

Buy slate floor tiles at Stone Tile Company 

Here at Stone Tile Company, we have an excellent selection of slate floor tiles available for you to buy and add to your home with ease.  

Our main slate page has a whole host of gorgeous slate floor tiles from which to choose, with different finishes and styles available.  

If you are looking for a beautiful black slate tile, then our natural black slate tiles are a truly superb choice and very popular. And our brushed black slate tiles are spot on for areas of the home with higher footfall, with these working wonderfully as transitions between indoor and outdoor areas. 

Rustic grey slate floor tiles are a particularly popular choice at present and we have seen our Natural Charcoal Grey Slate Tiles really take off. These are some of the most popular grey slate floor tiles in the UK, and can really enhance your home’s look and feel. 

For lighter shades and a warmer feel, we recommend our Natural Sheera Multicolour Slate Tiles. These provide a cottage-like feel and a homeliness that can have a truly positive effect on any interior space. 

Shop with Stone Tile Company 

We hope this guide has helped put your mind at ease and prepare you for a slate tile installation. Our range has some of the best natural slate floor tiles in the UK, so don’t miss out. 

Be sure to take a thorough look through our fitting guides and general installation guides for more information.  

You can also take a look through our delivery options here, and if you have any questions, simply contact our team. We will be happy to offer our support.