Using Slate in Modern Construction Projects—A Complete Guide

Using Slate in Modern Construction Projects—A Complete Guide

Once in a while, going classic is exactly what a building may need. If you’re planning a new building project—whether you’re a construction contractor or a homeowner—that may be exactly what your project needs. Our suggestion: use slate.

Yes, it’s been around for centuries, but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be on your list of options for an ultra-modern home or renovation. It’s still a leading seller in the tile supply industry and for good reason.

We outline the important facts so you’ll realize which slate product you can add to your building.

What is Slate?

Let’s clarify what we’re talking about as some terms have been used interchangeably, such as these used predominantly in the 19th century:

  • Slate
  • Shale
  • Schist

Today slate refers to a metaphoric rock containing illite, muscovite and quartz. It’s formed from a sedimentary rock (called shale) that contains ash and clay. 

It’s a practical option as a building material as the rock can break along one of two lines, namely its cleavage or the grain. This unique breakability makes it easy to manufacture sheets of slate. These sheets are ideal for building as you can stack them. Since they’re quite flat they don’t take up much space, while providing excellent covering and protection: an ideal space saving solution for building structures.

Modern Slate Products You May Not Know About

A lesser known fact about slate is that you don’t necessarily have to decorate your home in the characteristic grey color most of us know. Other hues can also be found, especially in North Wales where these colors are mined:

  • Cyan
  • Green
  • Purple

That’s why you’ll also find many striking products from a tile company in today’s market, even slate in an Autumn color scheme.

An interesting fact is that slate—thanks to its insulating properties—have been used in the construction of electric boxes. Though it’s not common at the moment it was often seen in the 20th century.

So, what makes it THE construction item in 2019?

Why You Need to Consider Slate

The reason this classic building material never went out of fashion—and why you need to consider it still—is because it’s such a practical solution to many construction challenges.

The Benefits

During a building’s planning phase one may be tempted to use modern products, but slate needs to be one of the first considerations. It carries these benefits for both property developers and the eventual occupants.

It Looks Good—Always

Slate has natural aesthetic value. As mentioned you can opt for a different color slate but the well-known grey and black slate tiles present well on almost any building. It’s easy to create a neat surface. Since it’s reminiscent of age-old castles and cathedrals it even works on the subconscious mind to communicate class and style.

The tiles appear clean and because it doesn’t require much maintenance you get the aesthetic benefit for years to come.

The Practical Building Solution

It’s relatively easy to create a neat, watertight surface with slate as you simply use nails and hooks to fasten them; usually to a timber structure. This simple installation method means you don’t weaken the tiles much during installation. As you don’t create a lot of holes the tiles are still watertight barriers. Builders must simply make sure the slate panels are secured on two ends, so they don’t lift during extreme winds.

Construction options are quite versatile as you can use almost any nail type, including copper and stainless steel alloys.

It Protects in More Ways than One

A building is only valuable if it provides the shelter the occupants are after. To ensure everyone’s satisfaction an architect and construction consultant will use various products to prevent any problems. With slate, you get multiple solutions in one product.

Slate will protect occupants from the general elements such as wind and sun, but this product is even an electric insulator. What pushes it to the top of the list of valuable building substances is that it’s waterproof. Fewer preventative measures need to be taken which can lower building costs and even time spent on construction.

Even in areas where you expect extreme cold, a slate tile roof can be the solution as it won’t break because of frost and snow. As it doesn’t absorb water it won’t crack in those cold conditions.

Lastly, slate roof tiles should give occupants peace of mind since it can’t burn. Its fire resistant properties can affect home insurance premiums, once again an example of how it’s a financially sound option.

A Durable Option

You won’t have to replace the slate tiles any time soon since this is an extremely durable building resource. Some may say it’s the most durable option out there, with buildings’ slate surfaces looking phenomenal even 100 years or more after being built.

It’s an Environmentally Friendly Option

Its durability mentioned above is part of why it’s such an environmentally friendly option. You won’t have to replace slate surfaces often, so you’re creating a sustainable structure.

In addition, the process slate manufacturers follow is a greener process than what you’ll find with many other construction products. No chemical products are necessary for production and not even furnaces are needed. That means no burning of natural resources, no emissions, and no waste products.

Even in the long term, slate makes sense since its thermal insulating properties mean you don’t need an air conditioning system as much as in other structure. These buildings’ energy consumption is therefore notably lower which is good news for managing budgets as well as keeping utility costs low and therefore protecting natural resources.

Even though you operate in the modern world it’s an age-old building product that’s the solution to modern green living.

Easy on the Pocket

With all the benefits listed above, you may expect an extremely high cost, but slate once again impresses when it comes to managing your budget.

Firstly, it’s a relatively affordable product to build with. The real benefits lie in the long term effects as slate requires very little care, repairs, and replacements of slate slabs. Thanks to its durability building owners save huge amounts in maintenance costs for years after the building is finished.  

Using Slate in the 21st Century

That’s a quick rundown of why slate is so popular and why it should be on construction companies’ shopping lists, but industries change. Is this still relevant to the modern market?

The truth: It is especially relevant to today’s market.

The common mistake many people make is to think of slate as a roofing solution only. In reality, the 21st century building industry sees slate used in many more applications than ever before. Some uses stem from the desire to add a classic feel to new buildings, while other methods are the epitome of modern design.

Cladding

Cladding is done for various reasons:

  • Aesthetics
  • Waterproofing
  • Insulation

When you use slate as cladding you solve many building challenges in one as it’s naturally an exceptional insulator. It’s also waterproof and presents well.

Regarding the latter, it’s helpful that you can easily match slate with the look of many other building materials. It works well whether your design incorporates natural tile and stone, glass, brick or steel. The hues rarely seem out of place whether you want to create a classic look or make a modern statement.

As mentioned above, thanks to insulating properties, slate cladding can limit utility costs, making for a more environmentally friendly structure.

As cladding, slate can be used on almost any building surface.

Interior & Garden Design

Slate can easily be cut to size for various decorative features, whether inside or outside a building:

  • Table coasters
  • Adding a wall to a garden
  • Decorating an interior wall with slate backsplash tile add ons
  • Writing surfaces to make notes with chalk

Kitchens

Slate’s properties of aesthetics and durability make it a good candidate for long lasting features inside the home, such as the kitchen. A popular use is turning a piece of slate into a practical tool such as a whetstone to sharpen knives. This can be a unique and handy permanent fixture—even in a workroom—or a portable unit.

Occupants can also use slate as stylish platters or plates or as kitchen floor tiles.

Furniture

The beauty of slate has been mentioned multiple times. It’s more than acceptable to use it as prominent features in a room. Whether it’s for a fixed or movable piece, a slate table top can make for an eye-catching piece of furniture in a modern home.

This works whether the theme is modern or classic. Stone is timeless and creating a sturdy piece that communicates power & stability should be a welcome option in any home or office.

Flooring

Moving all the way down, slate is strong enough to endure heavy duty use such as people walking across the natural slate floor tiles on a daily basis. That makes for stylish and impressive flooring.

Once again the benefit here is the neutral aesthetics of big slate floor tiles. The hues will suit almost any décor style so you’re not too limited in options when picking out furniture.

Miscellaneous

Developers, architects, and construction consultants should challenge themselves & think outside the box. With the many benefits that come with slate products, you have every reason to consider it for unique applications.

Some use this durable stone when erecting commemorative stones as it’s sure to last for a long time and it doesn’t take much to maintain it. It will present well every day, giving the person or event the honor it’s due.

Important Slate Maintenance Tips

As mentioned slate is a low maintenance construction option, but knowing how to take care of it will optimize the occupants’ experience.

One risk of using slate tiles is that they may scratch. For example, pushing heavy furniture across a slate floor may leave marks. This can be treated with oil, but the results may be permanent so homeowners should take care. Maintenance can include the following:

  • Know that regular sweeping is required, especially in the first few months after installation. While the tiles are still settling small fragments may flake off but it will stop eventually.
  • When cleaning slate, use products that are meant for natural stone. You may think natural products are best, but vinegar or lemon isn’t ideal for slate floors.
  • You can prevent staining by using a sealer. For optimum results, this application should be repeated, usually on a yearly basis.
  • Slate may not be 100% smooth after initial production, but if it’s a problem it can be corrected with sealant.

[Conclusion]

It’s been around for centuries and thanks to its durability the slate tiles you use in construction projects now could be here for centuries to come. That proves it: in a society where consumers and service providers often chase the latest innovations, it’s often wise to return to using objects of the past.

A dark slate tile surface can add the X-factor to a new building now and later on it will become the legacy you leave behind.

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