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Any comments on slate tile throughout?

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Joined: Sep 25 2003

Our floor coverings have been removed and we are down to the slab. We are considering slate tile throughout the house, or a floating wood floor in the bedrooms and tile in the rest of the house. Does anyone have slate in the bedrooms? Does slate feel too hard on your feet/back? How is it to maintain?

Jen in Palo Alto

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Joined: Mar 22 2003

Hi Jen:

We do not have slate, but do have ceramic tile throughout our entire Willow Glen home, including bedrooms, closets, and bathrooms - Everything. I will speak to the hardness issue, since tile and slate will be the same in that regard.

We thought long and hard over several years before ripping out all the filthy carpet and vinyl and putting down tile and we are glad we did. For us, it was the best flooring choice, as we both have allergies and wanted something both clean and durable. Also, we (Eichler owners) have an advantage that other homeowners do not have, well actually two of them, relative to flooring. First, our homes are on slab - widely considered the optimal substrate for tile, and second, they have radiant heating - eliminating the coldness that some worry about with tile.

After living for 2 years with our tile floors, here is what I can say:

-When they say that tile is hard on the feet, they are not kidding! Both hubby and I had to give up going barefoot COMPLETELY. If we forget, even for one trip down the hall, we pay for it later with shooting pains in the bottoms of our feet. We even had to change to a different kind of house slipper and we now wear clogs with thick rubber soles. As far as the back and knees, which others sometimes mention, we have not noticed any difference there, but I would still avoid tile if you have back trouble, just to be safe.

-I do a great deal of cooking and baking, and the tile is very slippery when wet. Also, light tile like ours can look dirty very quickly in food prep areas. So, for safety and also to provide additional cushion for my feet, we have a long rubber mat (10-feet long) designed for the restaurant trade, in front of the sink and main cooking areas. For something more aesthetic, you can use a sisal or jute runner, such as those sold by Williams-Sonoma. We did this for a while, but I got tired of throwing them away every 3-4 months. They cannot be washed, but we can take our rubber mat outside to hose it off.

-Everything dropped on the tile shatters in a million pieces. It has no forgiveness at all. This is not a problem for us, as we do not have kids, but if you do, it could be a consideration.

-The acoustics are different with tile, and it allows sounds to carry much more than carpet or even wood. Again, not a problem for us, but it could be for those with larger families or if you are very sensitive to noise. On the other hand, some may never notice the difference at all. It depends.

-Tile is easy to clean. You use a stick vac to get up particles, then a wet mop to clean. I find Swiffers to be invaluable, both the wet and dry varieties and I use them often. And the best thing about tile is that when it is clean, it is REALLY clean. You can use harsh chemicals on it without causing damage. Just be sure to seal the grout thoroughly. Also, since natural slate is quite porous, the stone itself should have several coats of sealant applied.

From an aesthetic point of view, tile and slate both look great in Eichlers. You just need to be sure to use as few flooring materials as possible, to prevent chopping up the open floor plan. Several of our neighbors have slate, and it is lovely.

I hope this helps. Let me know if you’d like me to e-mail you off list, a couple of URL’s for some very active discussion groups on home remodeling and on tile. Great sources for additional consumer feedback.

Cathye

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Joined: Mar 20 2003

Cathye covers the pros and cons pretty thoroughly. I can add the following comments specifically about slate tile.

- Slate tile is excellent for radiant heat transfer. Also, if you have sun hitting the floor, the heat transfered to the slate is an added bonus. It feels great under foot and will radiate for quite a while after the sun has set.

- Slate is not ideal for barefooting around the house. But a lot depends on the amount of clefting (unevenness) in your choice of slate. As Cathye said, slippers are recommended.

- Choose larger slate tiles (16x16). To me, the grid pattern of slate usually seems more pronounced than ceramic tile. Using larger tiles make it seem less busy.

- Slate in the master bedroom works just fine for the heating reasons mentioned above. If you prefer to set your feet on a soft surface in the morning, a small area rug might suffice. Otherwise, you'll probably want to stick with carpeting.

- Slate in the kitchen may be a problem if the slate has a lot of clefting. The clefting makes it more difficult to clean. If the slate has a fairly flat surface, it can work just fine. The slate, when sealed, is pretty much indestructable though.

- For a family room area, you might want to consider how you use the space. If family members like to sit on the floor, you'll probably want a softer surface than slate. Or you can make sure there are area rugs or floor cushions available.

In general, I think slate is an excellent floor choice. As all floor choices though, it very much depends on how you and your family use the areas.

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Joined: Sep 25 2003

Thanks for your comments. What do you think about breaking up the flooring? For example what about wood in the bedroom wing and then slate and wood in the rest of the house? I have heard that continuous flooring really makes sense for Eichlers....?

Thanks

Jen in Palo Alto

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Joined: Aug 28 2003

I think it depends upon the size of your house. When we moved into our 1400 sq. foot Eichler every room had a different flooring material, from white ceramic tile (showed every spec of dirt), 2 kinds of carpet, and 2 kinds of vinyl. We felt that this made the house very chopped up, feel smaller, and it looked terrible as well. We opted to install the same flooring (cork) everywhere except for 3 bedrooms which have sisal carpeting. If I had to do it again I would have done the whole house in cork and used area rugs in the bedrooms.

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Joined: Jul 1 2003

(1) The previous owner installed a high quality Italian tile that looks like slate. The tile seems to have high cleftness - - - uneveness -- - - (eichler1, thanks for the new word) so conventional mopping leaves considerable dirt. California indoor-outdoor living also means you bring in a lot of outdoor indoors. We tried a orbital cleaning machine; the cleaning fluid & action suspended the dirt but there was nothing to suction it up - - a slippering residue also remained. My wife is researching a hot steam cleaner as a solution - - cleaning action to loosen the dirt but also a way to remove the dirt. I suspose smooth surface tile or slate would not have this cleaning problem.

(2) The previous owner tiled (same tile) every room except the small BR's which has pergo flooring. I think the MBR was tiled because the shower & bathroom area would get wet (just a guess). In any event, I suggest large tiles 16+" square. I supose the previous owner felt wood or wood-like flooring in BR's is more appropriate for that space - - I agree. The hallway is tiled though.

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Joined: Nov 11 2003

We went with WilsonArt and love it. Easy on the feet, easy to clean and it looks great.

Dave & Tina Swider
Lower Lucas Valley
San Rafael, CA

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Joined: Mar 20 2003

Regarding the cleaning of slate and other materials with uneveness...
We had a thin layer of cement poured over our existing slab, which led to similar cleftness. I've found through trying a lot of methods, that vacuuming the floors and then spraying it with Windex (NO WATER!) and wiping up with a cloth mop (large flat surface with washable terry covers) worked the best. The windex does not leave residue and with the mop dries up almost instantaneously. However, I must say I haven't tried a steamer!

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Joined: Mar 20 2003

Two years ago we installed a multi-colored slate (16 x 16) to all our rooms except the 3 back bedrooms (we put new carpet in those rooms). We love the slate in our bedroom and we just took some of that new carpet and had some bound to make a area rug for our room. Overall we are very happy with it and get nothing but compliments from everyone who enters. It keeps the house cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter. It is a lot of floor to wash, but much cleaner then carpet. We did a simple grid pattern in all the rooms with the slate except for the hallway. In the hallway it's called a traveling pattern which matches the pattern we installed in our walkway leading up to the front door. I picked the multi colored slate because it's what we used on our driveway and walkway and so I love the flow into the house too. If we had not used it on the outside of our house then I think I would have picked a slate with just one color in it. It would then look even simpler in our house, which of course in Eichlers is a good thing. I was worried about the noise factor, but I think Eichlers are much noisier houses anyway with just the thin paneling separating the different rooms and the hollow bedroom doors.

Would I do it all over again? Yes since overall we love the slate.

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Joined: Mar 22 2003

It's my understanding that you can buy slate that has already been honed in some way to remove the clefting, making for a perfectly even floor. Also, as to using larger tiles (>12"), I have seen this done in several homes and it looks outstanding! If you do it, be sure you hire a highly-skilled contractor, since the larger the tile, the more difficult it is to get a perfectly even and level floor throughout. Every little imperfection in the slab gets magnified. Skilled tilers will use leveling compound first, before laying the tile. We have one neighbor with large slate throughout the common areas of her home and it is gorgeous. We have another (a contractor) with 20" limestone (with the smallest grout lines I have ever seen -- so they must have used non-sanded) and it was also beautiful.

As to the # of flooring materials I would say that the best is to use one throughout and 2nd best is to use two --one for the common areas and another for the bedrooms. The bathrooms are a toss up, since they are mostly hidden.

Cathye

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