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Bathroom makeover: slate bathtub surround, part 1

This is Part 1 of a five-part series, Bathroom makeover: slate bathtub surround

Do you wish someone had spent a little more money on your home's guest bathroom--especially the beige tile or acrylic panel bathtub surround? If you are embarrassed by a blah bath, it really doesn't take much to bring it to life by installing slate.

6 reasons slate is great for your bathroom makeover

Here is a six-point introduction to slate.

  1. Why slate? It's cool. It looks expensive, though it's moderately priced. Square-foot tiles can be a little more than a dollar apiece. You can find more exotic pieces for closer to $10. But keep in mind, you are covering a small area, maybe 30 square feet, so a couple dollars more for quality products won't really add that much to the price of your project.
  2. What is slate? Slate is metamorphic rock made up of layers of volcanic ash and clay compressed under tons of pressure through the ages. While it can be split into layers, it can be very dense.
  3. Where is slate from? Slate can be found around the world, with much of it coming from India and China. The biggest question is not where it can be found, but where there are facilities to produce a finished product.
  4. Isn't slate all gray? Slate comes with a variety of golds, greens, reds and purples, as well as gray and brown. Your tub surround doesn't have to look like a blackboard. Color depends on the minerals in the slate: it can look quite dramatic.
  5. Is slate flaky? Maybe you have heard horror stories about slate falling apart. Slate can flake, and cheap slate can flake horribly. And a slate tile can break in half when you lift it. Slate that has not finished its metamorphic process can be little more than shale, which is just a step away from mud. Buy the good stuff, and flaking will be at a minimum or nonexistent. You might find a great price on slate, but beware. If you see lots of broken pieces in the store, or if it seems to want to flake without end, you'd best stay away from it.
  6. What form? You can find slate in a variety of configurations, from small one inch inset tiles to 18 inch by 18 inch tiles. The slate can be clefted (split) so that the surface is uneven; if it is smooth on one side but still rough from splitting on the other side, it has been "gauged." Slate also is honed so that it is smooth but dull; the densest slate also can be polished.

Slate looks great as a tub surround, and you have a huge variety of choices. In part 2 we will plan your project.