Slate is made up of different stones and rocks, making it both highly durable and brittle. Over millennia, the stones are melded together by heat and force from the mountains they form in.
Because of the materials that form the slate, it comes in many different colors. The most common are dark green, black, and grey, but you can find purple, gold, blue, and red tints as well.
What is Slate Flooring?
When made into flooring, slate can be used for indoor and outdoor areas. Unlike marble and other hard stones, it’s not cut and polished to size. Instead, the stones are quarried from their mountains in large slabs. From there, they’re further broken down to a generally accepted size, but not exact measurements. This ensures a natural look and feel.
Knowing what kind of slate you’re looking at can be confusing, however. Telling the difference is as simple as understanding what each name in its title means.
Types of Slate Flooring
Slate is named based on what has been done to the back of the stone and its face.
The two styles of backing are ungauged and gauged.
- Ungauged: This is the most natural state. Ungauged is usually used for outdoor purposes, like stepping stones. The back is jagged, so does better on the soft earth than on the hard ground. The roughness also makes the thickness uneven, taking away uniformity on all sides.
- Gauged: The backside of a gauged slate has been ground and flattened. These are ideal for indoor use as flooring because they are easier to fit nicely together and lay flat when installing.
The four styles of faces are cleft (natural), tumbled, honed, and polished.
- Cleft or “Natural”: Again, we start with slate in its most natural state. There are sharp edges and lines, making it pleasing to the eye, highly durable, and if any chips occur, they aren’t noticed as much.
- Tumbled: This one is bumpy like cleft, but the sharp edges are worn off, giving them a smoother, round finish.
- Honed: The face has been ground down or ‘honed’. There might still be a little texture, but for the most part, it’s smooth. Unfortunately, this method tends to dull the vibrant colors but works well with modern decor.
- Polished: Taking honed a step further, we get to polished. The face looks and feels as glossy as marble. This is the rarest state as slate is brittle, and often becomes very slippery when done.
Now come the combinations available - the back styles can be combined with the faces to make anything from ungauged, cleft slate (most rough and natural) to gauged, polished slate (most smooth and refined).
Understanding Your Slate
Now that you know what the different types of slate are, you can be confident in understanding what you’re looking at and/or for. You’ll be better equipped to choose the right slate for your needs and products to care for your beautiful slate.