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Natural Slate

It is a stone that has many uses. It is a very distinct looking rock with characteristics that distinguish it and make it stand out among its peers. This material called slate is, for a certainty, intriguing. In this article, we will cover some of the basic information about natural slate. As we do, we will also mention why people choose slate, what is properties are, and what to keep in mind when working with it. Then, we will consider how to care for and maintain natural slate surfaces.

Why People Choose Slate

As you might imagine, natural slate has a number of characteristics that make it appealing for those that select it as a material for all sorts of surfaces. What are some of those? They include:

  • Durability
  • Fire Resistance
  • Natural Beauty

One reason people select slate as a surface material is that it is durable. Durability is a quality that is very important to consumers and a material that is durable is appealing. Note what Wikipedia says on its slate page:

Slate is incredibly durable and can last several hundred years, often with little or no maintenance.

As that quote demonstrates, slate is by nature, a durable stone.

A second reason for slate's appeal is that it is fire resistant and energy efficient. These characteristics are important to some that want a safe construction material.

A third reason that many find slate to be the best choice for their project is its beauty. Its rustic appearance and distinct look make it an attractive surface material.

So slate is the choice of many because of its desirable characteristics. These characteristics contribute to the uniqueness of the material as well as its appeal.

Properties of Natural Slate

Every natural stone (and man made material for that matter) has a degree of hardness. In the world of hard surfaces, a materials's hardness is measured on the Mohs scale. Notice where natural slate comes in:

Mohs Scale of Mineral Hardness
Mineral Hardness Slate
Talc 1
Talc is a mineral that is the primary part of talcum powder.
Gypsum 2
Formed when seawater evaporates from the surface of the Earth. It is afound in drywall.
Calcite 3
A carbonate mineral found in many popular stones such as marble and limestone. It is often the primary constituent of the shells of marorganisms.
Fluorite 4
The mineral form of calcium fluoride. It is often used for ornamencarvings.
Apatite 5
A group of phosphate minerals named by the German geologist AbraGottlob Werner.
Feldspar 6
Feldspars are a group of rock-forming tectosilicate minerals that make up about 41% of the Earth's continental crust by weight.
Quartz 7
A hard, crystalline mineral composed of silicon and oxygen atoms which belongs to the trigonal crystal system.
Topaz 8
Topaz is a silicate mineral of aluminum and fluorine. In its natustate, Topaz is golden brown to yellow in color.
Corundum 9
Corundum occurs as a mineral in mica schist, gneiss, and some marblesmetamorphic terranes.
Diamond 10
Diamond is a solid form of the element carbon with its atoms arrangeda crystal structure called diamond cubic.

As you can see, varying degrees of hardness are associated with specific materials and slate makes its home in a spot that means it is toward the hard end of spectrum.

Colors of Slate

Slate's color is another property that we want to take a look at. Its color palette is not as broad as other natural stone, but there is variety nonetheless. Slate is found in the following colors:

  • Beige
  • Purple
  • Brown
  • Cyan
  • Black
  • Green
  • Grayish Tones

As mentioned, the variations are not as wide in the color spectrum as say, granite, but there is a bit of a selection you have from which to choose.

Slate's Low Porosity

It can be easy to confuse the hardness of a material with its porosity. However, these two aspects of a stone's make up are distinct. Just because a material is soft, that does not mean it is non-porous. Slate is a stone that is not particularly hard, but it has low porosity. In other words, slate is not a hard stone, but it is a material with low porosity. We will get into why that is important a bit later on.

Slate Fabrication

Anytime fabrication is done, there are factors that affect the process. Some of these factors include the environment, the material being fabricated, and the tools being used. If all of the factors involved are not compatible or if even one of those aspects is just little but off from where it needs to be, the results will show it. Let's look at an example.

Diamond Blades

One tool that is vital to fabricating natural and engineered stone is the diamond blade. However, not just any diamond blade will work for every material. As with most other products, diamond blades are made using different specifications.

Blade Matrices

One blade might use a bond material in its matrix that is softer than another blade. Some matrices are made using a harder bond. This affects how the blade cuts. And it affects how the blade cuts different materials too. One material might work well with a specific blade and the next material may not.

Blade Diamonds

The quality of the diamonds in the matrix of a given diamond blade and the quantity of the diamonds therein impact the way the blade performs too. We won't go off on a tangent about how the diamonds and bond material interact here, but it works in a specific way. How the interaction happens affects the way certain blades cut specific materials.

Because of this specificity in how blades perform, choosing a diamond blade designed for cutting slate is recommended. This is just one of the aspects involved in selecting the tools needed for fabricating natural and man made materials. There are others as well. But you get the idea.

Slate Care and Maintenance

Caring for natural slate is affected by one of the properties we have already mentioned. Namely, porosity. A material's porosity is involved in its maintenance needs. Stains and discolorations get into the stone via the pores of the stone. Therefore, the more porous a material is, the easier the stain-causing agents can penetrate the material. In what specific ways does a stone's porosity affect the care of the stone?

Sealing Natural Slate

Even though slate has low porosity, it does need to be sealed periodically. Sealing natural stone reduces the rate at which it absorbs liquid. This means it takes longer for a stain to work its way into the stone. Spills can be wiped up before the coloring can get into the pores. So appying stone sealer is a key part of maintaining natural stone. Determining when a slate surface needs to be resealed is as easy as spraying or pouring water on the surface and watching what happens. If the stone absorbs the water, it needs to have sealer applied.

Cleaning Slate

Periodically sealing slate is a good start in caring for it. But cleaning it with the wrong cleaner can undo everything in an instant. Some cleaners are formulated using liquids that destroy stone sealers. So using a stone cleaner formulated to clean sealed natural stone is important. Otherwise you may just be dumping valuable sealer out only to strip it away with the next cleaning.

Slate Stain Removers

For times when stains do get into the pores of a slate surface, it is important to know what to use for removing it. Selecting the proper stain remover for natural stone and using it according to the instructions on the container will produce the best results when and if the time comes to remove a stain from a slate surface.

In conclusion, there are many appealing things about natural slate surfaces. People select this material because of its natural beauty and durability. As we saw, it is available in a variety of colors. Working with it and caring for it do require knowing something about the material, but for many, the reward is well worth it. Educating yourself on this fascinating material is a key to working with it and even having it in your project.

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