As I've discussed in previous posts, I made a number of compromises/decisions in the building process to reign in costs. At the same time, I've made a point to keep some of the building materials real for "substance." The house has a small footprint, so I knew that I wanted to use the same flooring throughout the first floor. I wanted something natural, pretty and—most importantly—easy to maintain.
In the country, it's inevitable that the outside world will get tracked inside. So, I wanted something for the floor that would disguise dirt. I knew that I liked slate, but all I really knew was that slate can range in color from an almost purple to blue, gray and even black.
A quick Google search led me to marblewarehouse.com, where I found the perfect slate tiles. Here's what I liked about them and what I learned:
- I bought large 18" x 18" square tiles, because I wanted fewer rather than more grout lines. Sometimes bigger is also better in a small space, because it's less busy and cluttered looking. I also had the installer lay them on the diagonal starting at the front door. I think the diagonal plan makes the floor look more expansive. The tiles don't look confined as they might if they were laid square to the the room.
- Slate can range from a very plain appearance to very variegated. I really like the variations of color, although I did make sure that it didn't include the extreme ends of the slate color palette: dark purple and black. I found Brazilian gray slate at marblewarehouse.com with beautiful figuring, almost like marbleized paper. The mud season has started in the Catskills, and the marbleized look of the stone does a great job of disguising light tracks from wet and/or muddy shoes.
- Always order extra, beyond the amount recommended by the seller for breakage in shipping. Given variations in the material, some of my tiles had no figuring at all. After the best tiles were chosen and installed on the first floor, we realized that we had just enough to tile a portion of the basement (the laundry area). Later, the builder advised me to buy an additional box of the tiles to keep on had for possible breakage in the future. If I waited until something was broken, I'd probably never be able to find something similar. It's already a bit of an issue, because the seller in California is out of the product at the moment. So, I'm hoping what he's getting in will be similar. It may be obvious, but stone is quarried and for consistency it's best to get all your stone material from the same quarry...even the same area of a quarry.
- Honed refers to the finish of the surface. It's smooth, but not slippery the way polished would be. Gauged surfaces are rougher.
- I did order the tile over the Internet (after buying a sample to check in person). The material was very heavy, and there was a significant shipping cost, but the price was so good that it didn't price the slate out of my reach. Besides, it was exactly what I had been looking for, and I couldn't find anything similar locally.