When you’re choosing your material for any renovation, it’s helpful to know where the material comes from and what it’s all about. See below for our quick guide to slate, to answer all of your slate-related questions.
Where is slate commonly found?
Typically, you will find lots of slate in Western Europe, North America and South America.
What type of stone is slate?
Slate is a metamorphic rock that’s fine grained and foliated (layered).
What can I use slate for?
Slate can be used for internal walls and floors, as well as external flooring and roofing, making it an extremely versatile stone.
How is slate formed?
The process of slate forming can take over 500 million years! A large percentage of the world’s slate resources date back to before dinosaurs. The earth’s movement causes rocks to be buried or squeezed, which heats the shale rock and changes the minerals chemically, forming metamorphic rock (slate). When a metamorphic rock is formed under pressure, its crystals become arranged in layers. Slate, which is formed from shale rock, is like this. Slate is useful for making floor tiles because its layers can be split into separate, flat sheets.
Fact: Around 90% of Europe’s natural slate is found in Spain.
Where can you find distributors of slate?
Slate is distributed all over the world, however China and Spain have the highest number of distributors of world slate resources. However, Canada, United States, United Kingdom and Brazil also have distributors.
Notable sites in China include Dongmu Quarry, Zingzi County and Ziyang Quarry. Notable Spanish sites include Quiroga, Ortigueira and Mondonedo. All of these areas are renowned for being rich in high-quality slate.
It is widely regarded that the world’s best slate comes from China, Spain and Wales.
How is slate mined?
The rock face is drilled into and explosives are detonated to free the rock. Large chunks of the rock are broken down and sized rocks are transported to a separate site for preparation. In the preparation process, sized rocks are cut into a rough shape and then chiselled into an exact shape, depending on the purpose. The slate is then treated and packed for transport.
- For internal wall tiles, use an impregnating sealant to give a stain barrier and to deepen the colour of the slate.
- For internal floor tiles, use a surface sealant in a matt, satin or gloss finish to protect the slate from everyday use.
- For outdoor flooring, clean external slate on a regular basis (preferably yearly) with a mild patio cleaner to keep the slate looking its best.