Are Slate Floors a Good Choice for the Kitchen?
Expect an average slate flooring cost of between $5.75 and $12 per square foot for materials only.
The natural beauty of slate appeals to homeowners who want a statement floor with timeless good looks that is hardier than marble and offers more color choices than granite. This stone kitchen flooring is more affordable too, so it has a lot going for it..
In this slate kitchen floor report we will take an in-depth look at your options, the pros and cons of slate flooring, installation costs, cleaning, maintenance considerations and more.
Installing slate flooring in a kitchen is just one option if you are leaning towards a natural stone floor compared to more conventional choices like hardwood or vinyl. So, to help you decide between slate and some other stone tile let’s start by explaining exactly what slate is, what colors are available and which styling options you can obtain.
WHAT IS SLATE FLOORING?
Slate is a metamorphic rock produced through high heat and pressure deep within the earth. The result is a very strong, durable material ideal for flooring.
In the kitchen, the slate you choose should complement the cabinet colors – and shouldn’t clash with the countertops. Generally, the more color in the countertops, the less the slate flooring should have – and the other way around.
Tip: Local stores will probably let you take home samples. Online sellers sell sample tiles pretty cheap, so you can try a handful of options with your other kitchen components.
KITCHEN TILE SIZES AND OPTIONS
Tiles are cut in various sizes from 2” squares to 16” x 24” large tiles. Boxes of slate flooring often contain tiles of various sizes.
A good rule to work with is that larger kitchens need bigger tiles. Small tiles in large spaces make the floor too “busy,” especially if the tile has a lot of color variance. Large tiles, like 8” x 24” or 12” square, might look too big for the space if you have a galley kitchen.
Individual slate tiles are the norm, but you’ll see panels too, which are mosaic groupings of tiles fixed to a mesh back. Panels are typically about twice as expensive per square foot, but some of the extra cost might be recovered through lower installation costs.
Tip: Look for gauged tile – Slate floor tiles are split rather than cut like marble and granite tiles. As a result, the surfaces are rough and uneven. Gauged tile has been ground on the underside to lay flat on the floor, which is essential for kitchen use. Ungauged tile is uneven on the underside/back and is best used outdoors with a sand base.
What look do you want in the kitchen? Consider tile finish options.
Cleft or clefted slate, aka natural slate, has more texture, which gives it an Old World or rustic feel.
Honed slate is ground to create a smoother, somewhat glossy surface. The aesthetic is more refined and modern. Polished slate takes it one step further for higher gloss – but the polished tile can be slippery when wet. That’s not a good fit for the kitchen floor, though this material makes a nice kitchen backsplash.
PROS AND CONS OF KITCHEN SLATE FLOORING
From what’s been said, advantages and disadvantages of slate are likely already swirling in your mind as you consider the best kitchen flooring for your home. Here’s our list.
Pros of Slate Flooring
- Classic beauty in a range of solid and blended colors
- Tile designs to fit styles from traditional to rustic to modern
- Tremendous durability – indefinite longevity
- More resistant to moisture and stains than marble, wood and brick
- Competitive in cost with other upscale flooring
- A perfect choice over radiant heat systems
- Heat-resistant, won’t burn
- Cooler underfoot in summer; warmer than ceramic in winter
- Naturally free of VOCs
- Cleft tile is naturally slip-resistant
- Low-maintenance when properly sealed
- More resistant to dents, cracks and scratches than wood, laminate, cork and vinyl
Cons of Slate Flooring
- Higher priced than luxury vinyl and some hardwood flooring
- Labor-intensive installation is costly and not DIY-friendly
- Installation requires a concrete or backer board subfloor
- Costs more to repair and tear out that plank flooring
- Hardness can produce sore feet during lengthy food prep
- Can crack under dropped heavy objects – and items dropped on it are likely to break
Further Reading: If having read our pros and cons you still have doubts around kitchen slate flooring then you might like to take a look at some other options.
HOW MUCH DOES SLATE KITCHEN FLOORING COST?
The material is affordable – some would say surprisingly so. But quality installation requires experienced workmanship, so the labor cost is higher than the cost of installing plank flooring.
|Type||Cost Range/sq. ft.||Average/sq. ft.|
|Individual Slate Tiles||$1.40 – $12.50||$5.75|
|Mosaic Tile Panels||$9.00 – $20.00||$12.00|
The majority of individual slate tile costs from $4.00 to $7.00 per square foot with a smaller number of options on either side of that range.
Mosaic panels cost much more mainly because the slate is pre-sorted and attached to the mesh backing. Does this reduce installation cost? Probably by a little, though your total project cost will be 25% to 50% higher when panels are used.
We’ve noted that individual pieces vs panels is the main cost factor.
Where the slate is sourced is the second important factor in price. A lot of slate is quarried in the eastern US, but much of it is imported from overseas. Higher transportation costs of imported slate are directly related to higher prices.
How much the stone has been processed affects the price too. Honing and polishing raise cost.
SLATE TILE INSTALLATION COST
Most homeowners who choose slate flooring for the kitchen hire a pro for installation. Slate flooring installation requires special tools and unique skills – and it presents challenges from start to finish that have to be successfully navigated for pro-quality results.
How long does it take to tile a kitchen with slate?
Expect tilers to be at your home from 3 days to more than a week depending on the size and layout of your kitchen.
How much does it cost?
Labor runs from about $6.00 to $14.00 per square foot.
The more obstacles like islands and doorframes there are to work around, the higher on the spectrum the labor rates will be.
SLATE FLOORING – MORE INFORMATION
Many readers aren’t as familiar with slate as they are with other best kitchen floor options. This section answers common questions about purchasing slate, installation and caring for a slate floor.
WHERE TO BUY SLATE TILES
The national home improvement store chains and local flooring stores carry some slate, but don’t expect a large selection in stock.
Instead, the store will likely have a limited number of physical samples plus a catalog for you to browse. The slate you choose will be shipped to the store, usually at low or no cost. Or you might be given the option to have it shipped to your home at a higher cost.
The online selection is usually better, but shipping can cost up significantly. Some online sellers offer free or reduced shipping on large orders – usually $1,500 or more, which is usually 250 to 500 square feet of material depending on the tile you select.
LIVING WITH A SLATE KITCHEN FLOOR – MAINTENANCE
These maintenance tips and practices will help you get the best performance and greatest enjoyment from your slate tile.
As you know, spills happen in the kitchen, and they can stain slate. Boost its stain resistance from the get-go by applying penetrating sealer to the slate and grout lines. Reapply it periodically per the recommendation of the installer to ensure stain resistance.
Your kitchen probably gets more traffic than any room in the house. Think about loose dirt and sand underfoot, scuffing the sealer when it is walked on. Banish the thought by using a broom or a brushless, hard floor vacuum on your slate tiled floor. A vacuum is more effective in removing debris from the crevices of clefted tile.
Wipe up spills promptly, and if the sealer is in good condition, even oil and wine are unlikely to cause stains.
Spot clean slate kitchen tile with gentle cleaner or a damp mop as needed. You’ll find cleaner formulated for natural stone flooring materials including slate, but any mild detergent floor cleaner will do the job.
What about a steam mop? We’re fans of steam mops for deep cleaning ceramic and porcelain tile, but not so much for slate. Steam can damage sealer, and once the sealer is compromised, the slate is susceptible to staining.
Do you stand in the kitchen for long stretches, preparing food and cleaning up? Rugs strategically located where you stand most will make the tiled floor more comfortable for your feet and back.
Rug Tips: First, avoid rugs with a rubberized back. The backing can trap moisture against the slate, which might eventually discolor the floor beneath it. Secondly, pick up the rug regularly to sweep under it – and keep the rug clean and free of dust/dirt. Grit beneath the rug will wear away the sealer on the tile.
HOW TO FIND THE BEST SLATE FLOORING FOR YOUR KITCHEN
The most important step is to browse your options. Slate comes in many colors, styles and sizes.
You will find tiles with very different looks, from understated grays that let your cabinets and countertops take center stage to colorful, vibrant blends that really draw the eye.
Set your budget too, and consider getting estimates from multiple local installers to see what your total project cost will be.
Is there an alternative? The closest option in terms of appearance is slate-look ceramic tile that costs $2 to $4 less per square foot. You will also find slate-look sheet vinyl and vinyl tiles, but those are at the other (lower) end of the cost/quality flooring spectrum. Is it worth considering? That’s addressed below in the Final Thoughts section.
BEST SLATE FLOORING BRANDS FOR THE KITCHEN
There are just a few major brands including MSI, Cabot and Emser. You will also come across a lot of slate tile that seems unbranded – at least the brand isn’t mentioned – and that’s OK. What matters is whether you like the color, style and shapes of the tile. We’ve recommended gauged tile for indoor use – and we might add that 3/8” and 1/2″ thick tile will hold up better than 1/4″ tile.
FINAL THOUGHTS FROM HOME FLOORING PROS
Choose wisely! Slate is expensive and lasts for decades, and you’ll be happy with your choice when you fully explore your options.
What about the alternatives? If homes in your neighborhood feature upscale flooring material like stone and genuine hardwood in the kitchen, then genuine slate will give you a better ROI than vinyl, for sure. If real slate is a bit of a stretch on the budget, then get estimates on having slate-look ceramic tile installed.
Of course, the opposite is true too. If your neighbors have vinyl and laminate flooring, then upgrading to genuine slate could be a classic case of overspending, and you won’t get a good return if you sell. However, if you plan to live there indefinitely, then sure, choose the flooring that makes you happy.
If you’re sure about tile but still not sure about slate, take a look at our kitchen floor tile ideas report.