Sedimentary clay and volcanic ash are compressed deep with the earth, creating the metamorphic rock known as slate. Slate is formed in layers, giving it a cleft texture, which results in some maintenance issues. Although this stone does have some maintenance issues, households across American use slate in their kitchens, bathrooms, and other outdoor areas.
Slate countertops are produced around the world, including Spain, Africa, Brazil, the United Kingdom, and the United States. In the United States, slate is produced in New York, Pennsylvania, and Vermont. Vermont slate is prized for its excellent quality, durability, and hardness.
Slate Countertop Quality
Slate contains a mixture of minerals. These minerals in slate are responsible for the color and texture found in each slab of slate. High grade slabs of slate are nonabsorbent, stain resistant, dense, and hard. These high grade slabs do not need to be sealed and are resistant to etching. The higher the quality of the slate, the darker the color of the countertop will be.
Lower quality slabs are lighter in color, porous, and will scratch, etch and stain easily. In addition to this, the slate will flake, scratch, crumble, or chip. Dull spots (etching) will appear if the countertop is exposed to acidic cleaning products or foods. Low quality slabs are difficult to seal.
Slate Countertop Colors
Many homeowners think that slate is gray and dull; however, slate is available in a number of vibrant colors, including reds, blues, greens, golds, browns, blacks, and even purples. African slate offers the brightest colors. Slate from Vermont is also very vibrant.
As slate is exposed to the atmosphere, it can weather, creating interesting color shifts. If you do not want this feature that is exclusive to slate, you can choose a variety that does not fade. When choosing slate for your kitchen or bathroom countertops, choose carefully because colorful slabs of slate often vary in durability and quality. You want to ensure the countertop will not stain, etch, chip, or flake.
Slate is not one solid color. Instead, it will have marbling, lines, mottled colors, or lines throughout the slab. This coloration increases the interest and beauty of your countertops.
Slate Countertop Finish Options
Slate countertops are available in three different types of finishes. The finish you choose can impact the installation costs, the performance of the countertop, the durability of the stone surface, and the countertop’s repair and maintenance requirements. Let’s look at the three finishes and the benefits each finish offers.
- Natural Cleft Finish – The natural cleft finish is only available in slate thanks to its naturally occurring layers that are formed within the earth. The natural cleft finish creates an earthy, rough texture that blends perfectly with natural wood cabinets, floors, and other rustic features found in kitchens and baths.
Although this is the least expensive type of slate slab countertops, they require more maintenance. The rough texture will hide scratches; however, the rough texture can collect dust and grime. Over time, the texture can become worn, or will flake or chip. Repairing these countertops is virtually impossible. Any repairs will smooth the surface of the slate.
- Cascade Finish – This finish is between a natural cleft and honed finish in texture and cost. It features a slight ripple effect that hides scratches well. The cascade finish creates a flowing feeling perfect for traditional kitchens and bathrooms. The cascade finish slate looks amazing with both wood and white cabinetry.
Cascade countertops are easy to maintain; however, if they become damaged, any repair will be visible. The slight texture and pattern of cascade make it almost impossible to recreate when doing repairs.
- Honed Finish – A honed slate countertop has a completely smooth and silky feel. Honed slate countertops are the most expensive type of slate countertops. Honed slate countertops resemble honed granite or soapstone. The honed finish gives off a soft luster; however, when polished, it can have a beautiful glossy shine.
Honed slate countertops provide a sleek look perfect for minimalist inspired kitchens. Pair honed slate countertops with white cabinets for a classic kitchen or pair with wood cabinets for a nod toward traditional kitchens.
Honed counters will show up scratches and smudges; however, a color enhancing sealer can reduce the number of fingerprints. Finally, honed finishes are easily repaired.
Pros and Cons of Slate Countertops
Slate countertops are absolutely stunning and offer many advantages in the home; however, they also have a few disadvantages. Before you purchase slate countertops, you should know the pros and cons associated with slate countertops.
Advantages of Slate Countertops
- Beautiful – Slate countertops are prized for their beauty. The shifting colors throughout slate are not as bold as the color variations found in granite and marble; however, it is easier to create a uniform countertop throughout your kitchen or bathroom. Each slab of slate will have a slightly different appearance.
- Nonporous Countertop – Slate is nonporous, which means clean up is a breeze. Furthermore, slate countertops do not absorb liquids the way other unsealed stone countertops do. Because liquids cannot penetrate the surface of the slate, you do not need to worry about staining from oils, cleaners, tomato products, wine, or juices.
- Durability – Once the slate countertop is installed, it is incredibly durable. In fact, it is so hard that it is difficult to scratch or chip a high quality slab of slate.
- Heat Resistant – Because slate is a metamorphic stone, it can withstand heat well. You can place hot pans, electrical appliances, or hot hair tools without worrying about scorching or marring the surface. Because slate can scratch, it is still recommended that a trivet be used when placing hot pots and pans on your slate countertops.
- Affordability – Slate countertops are one of the most affordable stone countertops on the market. They are more affordable than crushed glass countertops, quartz countertops, granite countertops, concrete countertops, and marble countertops.
- Hygienic – Slate countertops will not harbor any bacteria. The nonporous surface prevents bacteria from entering into the surface of the countertop. When you clean your countertops, you can be sure that all germs are removed, and none are hiding inside the surface of the countertops.
Disadvantages of Slate Countertops
- Sharp Edges – The corners of a slab of slate can be quite sharp and brittle. Most countertop installers recommend using a bullnose countertop edge profile so that the corners are slightly rounded off. Bullnose edges help avoid injuries and decrease the risk of cracks.
- Scratches – Sharp objects such as knives can scratch the slate countertop. To help protect the surface of your countertop, always use a cutting board.
- Color – Although slate has distinctive coloring and variations, many homeowners consider the colors muted and dull. You can counteract this by using bright colored accessories throughout your kitchen or bathroom design.
How to Care for Slate Countertops
Although slate countertops are hard and nonporous, it will take time for liquids and oils to seep into the countertop thanks to its slow absorption rate. Late does not hold stain the way other types of porous countertops like wood and marble do.
To keep your slate countertop looking great, dust using a microfiber cloth weekly to remove surface grit and dust. Abrasive cleaners, products that contain lemon, oily detergents, and vinegar should be avoided. Furthermore, do not use cleaners that contain wax.
Although soap will not harm slate countertops, it should not be used on a regular basis because it can cause a film to build up on the surface. This film will attract dirt, dulling the surface of the countertop. If you have used soap in the past and a film has formed, it can be removed using a soap film and hard water cleaner like this one.
Use a pH neutral stone cleaner to clean your countertops. Method is great for cleaning natural stone especially slate countertops. Apply following the manufacturer’s instructions to help prevent water spots from forming. If dried on food is stuck to your slate countertop, damp a cloth with the cleaner and allow it to stay on the slate surface of the countertop for around fifteen minutes.
Avoid heavy scrubbing or using a steel wool cleaning pad on your slate countertops. If stuck on food cannot be removed after the treatment described above, dip a soft cloth in boiling water, wring the cloth out, and allow to sit atop the stuck on food for fifteen minutes. Then, using a plastic scraper, gently pry the stuck on food off the countertop. Follow up by wiping the surface down with the cleaner. Dry the countertop using a soft, absorbent cloth. Buff the countertop dry to prevent water spots and mineral spots from forming on your slate countertops.
Do You Need to Seal Slate Countertops?
Slate countertops typically do not need to be sealed; however, to ensure the slate countertops repel liquids and oils, a water test should be done to test the porosity of the stone. A high quality slate countertop is exceptionally dense and will not stain. If the countertop is made using a lower grade slate, liquids can enter the slate, resulting in a stain. If you have a lower quality slate countertop, you should perform the water test and then seal if necessary.
How to Seal Slate Countertops
Slate countertops should be sealed as soon as your countertops are installed. Sealing slate helps protect staining and damage. To seal your countertops, clean the countertops using a stone cleaner. Allow the stone to thoroughly dry. Apply the impregnating sealer to your following the manufacturer’s instructions.
Topical sealers should not be used on slate countertops because it can affect the finish of the countertops. Additionally, topical sealers wear over time. When the sealer begins to wear, the countertop will need to be resealed. Resealing requires removing the old topical sealer and applying a new layer.
Slate Countertop Costs
The cost of slate varies depending on where the slate was mined from, the color of the slate (blue and gray shades of slate are the least expensive), the quality of the slate, the finish of the slate, and whether the slate is offered as a tile or a slab.
Slate countertops may be produced using either slabs or slate tiles. Slate tiles are cheaper than slate slabs; however, they are harder to take care of due to the grout lines. Additionally, slate tiles do not provide the same elegant look as slate slab countertops.
You can expect to pay $45 to $70 per square foot for slate tile countertops. Conversely, slate slab countertops run between $65 and $115 per square foot. The total price of the project will be influenced by the number of cutouts and the complexity of your countertop configuration. For example, a kitchen with multiple angles or corners, or kitchens that require additional seams can add to the overall cost of the slate countertop.
Slate countertops provide your kitchen and bath with a pleasing aesthetically cohesive design. The unique texture only available in slate countertops add to the warmth of the natural stone countertops. Slate comes in a variety of color combinations, including blues, grays, blacks, reds, purples, and golds.
These natural stone countertops are durable and heat resistant. Unlike other countertops, they do not react to acids and do not etch. The countertops are dense and resist the growth of mold and bacteria. To prevent chips from occurring along the edges of the countertops, countertop specialists recommend rounding the edges and corners.
Slate countertops should only be cleaned using a pH neutral countertop cleaner designed for natural stone surfaces. Avoid using detergents as they can dull the surface of the countertop. Finally, buff the countertop dry with a soft cloth to help prevent water spots from forming.
If you appreciate the earthy look and feel of natural stone in the kitchen or bathroom but are on a limited budget, slate countertops may be just what you are looking for. Slate countertops are durable, naturally stain resistant and add a touch of earthiness to the kitchen and bathroom.