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Slate comes down from the roof; for floors, counters, hearths. It's durable, affordable, even colorful.

Slate comes down from the roof

Slate has a wild side. It's known mainly as the dependably dark gray material of roof tiles, flagstone walks, and old school blackboards. But new access to quarries in countries around the world--from Wales to Africa and China--now makes it possible to find slate in a subtle rainbow of colors as well.

Technically, slate is a dense, fine-grain, clayey metamorphic rock that splits readily into thin but durable slabs. Minerals present in the rock cause its colors to vary widely--often within a single tile. Made up of layers, slate has a naturally uneven texture and a less formal look than surface-ground granite or marble, but its durability and colorful visual complexity make it a handsome and affordable alternative to those materials.

Slate is either "gauged" or "ungauged." Gauged slate has gone through a grinding machine--usually to smooth out only the bottom side, leaving the top (or "cleft") side alone. Gauged tiles are either 1/4 or 1/2 inch thick; you can lay them directly on a quick-setting mastic, as you would ceramic tile. Ungauged tiles are uneven on both sides, range from 3/8 to 1/2 inch thick, and are usually laid in a mortar base. Slate can be cut with a masonry saw.

Sealers, applied after installation, are optional. Usually offered in glossy, satin, or mat finishes, they not only emphasize the slate's natural range of color but also make the tiles easier to clean. According to one expert, sealers are more important for the grout, which is porous, than for the slate, which is so dense that it's almost impermeable. To find slate dealers, look in the yellow pages under Slate. Prices run about $3.50 to $5 per square foot, not including installation.

Photo: Our examples show range of slate colors; you'll find different trade names, including Strata Purple, Lilac Mist, and Westcountry (for black with tan). Standard sizes are 8 and 12 inches square, and "random" (undimensioned); some slates come in 6-inch squares. Sealing deepens colors, gives a glossy finish

Sea green (China)--unsealed

Multicolored (Africa)--sealed

Purple (Vermont, New York)--sealed

Pale lilac (China)--unsealed

Black with tan (Africa)--sealed

Multicolored (China)--sealed

Photo: Hearth and surround behind woodstove are surfaced with a multicolored slate from Africa; its color and pattern vary widely. Architect: Toby Levy, San Francisco

Photo: Six-inch tiles of Strata Purple form an elegant kitchen counter in a kitchen designed by architect Anne Fougeron of San Francisco

Photo: Tawny expanse of African slate called Prairie gives elegance and warmth to entry hall by Gerald Overaa, Lafayette, California
COPYRIGHT 1988 Sunset Publishing Corp.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1988 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Date:Apr 1, 1988
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