Another Family Project






This article could be called “how to install a slate floor in the kitchen and laundry room, or what our family did over the Christmas holiday.” Like most families, we have some holiday traditions. Of late, our traditions could be titled, “House Crashers, the Holiday Edition— Year Three.”

Several years ago, our daughter’s house needed a new roof; and our visiting son wanted to try his hand at roofing—again. He bought his sister her own pink tool belt and matching hard hat. Last year, dear old dad was finishing the master bath, which included tile; this project was another one on which our son wanted a refresher course— with the addition of building a new fence. This year, the task was to remove old kitchen flooring, and replace with a ton of slate—-hohoho, oh what fun we had.

The first day was very rewarding. Demolition is usually a fun time; and with all hands on deck, we weren’t disappointed. Watching brother and sister work together as adults was its own reward— the bickering, of their childhood and teen years was gone; they were a team!

We finally uncovered the original 1930s linoleum floor in an Arts and Crafts pattern. Seeing the original flooring made more sense of the odd, green back splash tile; that is another project— not sure it will be a holiday one, though.  

Over the decades, there had been at least three floors laid, so getting down to the original was pretty exciting; it was like an archeological dig. Finding the odd nails used to secure the more recent subfloor was quite an experience; well, the removal of them at least, was quite an experience. There were hundreds and hundreds of them, and each one had to be pulled out using a rocking motion with channel lock pliers. So many nails and suddenly so few hands on deck!

Next was leveling the old sagging floor. We used a common leveling compound, a semi-liquid substance that seeks its own level and hardens to concrete. For the most part, this worked fine, and we moved onto matching sub-floors of decades ago and new construction, and adding some new plywood. That done, the backer-board went down, more leveling and then finally thin set and tiles.

Our daughter chose a natural slate. The pieces are gaged, meaning the underside is level, but the upper or show-side have the natural characteristics of slate. The look is very textured, which is what she wanted. The pattern she chose was a herringbone using 12X24 tiles. Larger tiles are in some ways easier to use; at least they cover a greater area in a shorter amount of time, win-win, but they are heavy. Thankfully, we were not covering a banquet hall, only a modest kitchen and laundry/service porch area.

Once the tile was secured, we used a stone enhancer to bring the slate up in color— that is to make it more black, less dark grey. We used a very thin grout line and used a very dark charcoal grout to lessen the contrast between the tiles and grout, giving the floor a more cohesive look.

We centered the herringbone on the back door, since that is the sightline from the living and dining rooms. Next, we’ll have to get the baseboards replaced, but that is another day. It is a beautiful floor and will last a lifetime, at least mine!

Not a job for the feint of heart or back, that is for sure; we did meet some new friends with this exercise: Aleve and Aleve PM.