5 Tips for Installing a Slate Hearth

A slate hearth is an attractive feature that suits both traditional and modern architectural styles. Slate is a perfect material for any fireplace, because it lasts long and is easy to clean. Slate has a micro-crystalline structure that makes it very strong and stain-resistant, especially after a sealer has been applied to it. The numerous and varying natural designs and colors of slate provide a rustic feel that certainly creates a homey ambiance.

It is also more reasonably priced than most hearth materials in the market. Installing the slate stones yourself rather than hiring professionals would make it even more affordable. However, unlike traditional brick, slate usually comes in irregular surfaces and unequal lengths and widths. This is the main reason why setting up a slate hearth may prove more difficult.

1. Measure Correctly

After thinking through the design or pattern on your fireplace, determine the spacing of the slates and the measurements of the fireplace hearth. Once you have gathered the necessary measurements, you can either have the pieces of slate cut to your desired shapes and measurements by a professional or you can do them yourself. If you choose to do the latter, you will need a diamond-tipped saw or a hacksaw with a carbide rod blade. Keep in mind that this procedure requires you to frequently wet the saw with water.

2. Prepare the Foundation

Make sure that the concrete base is free of dirt, is dry, and is sturdy. Use a brush to clean the hearth bed, making sure that there is no debris of any kind left. Cracks on the concrete should be fixed before installing the slate tiles.

3. Use Thin Set Mortar

Use a fire-resistant thin set mortar, specifically those made of Portland cement, acrylic resin, silica sand, and a bonding agent as your adhesive. In a mortar pan, mix the thin set mortar with water until it attains a sticky, batter-like consistency. This mixture will bond itself to any surface, especially concrete, and become stiff and durable once dry. Using a trowel, apply the mortar mix to the underside of the slate. Carefully place each piece on to the concrete according to your design. Let dry.

4. Grout Seals the Deal

Since slate stones more often than not have uneven surfaces, it is best to seal them using a grout-release sealer. After sealing, apply the batter-like grout to the gaps. With a wet sponge or rag, immediately wipe off any stray grout to avoid blemishes in your work. Make sure to squeeze out excess water from the sponge or rag before using, as the water that leaks and mixes with the moist grout will make it weak. Any grout powder scattered on the slate should be wiped off with a dry rag or towel after the grout has hardened.

5. Wait until it Dries

Wait at least 48 hours for the slate hearth to completely dry before attempting to put any kind of pressure on it.