What are the Pros and Cons of a Slate Hearth?

Anna B. Smith

The benefits of installing a slate hearth are its versatility in both color and appearance, its natural resistance to fire, and the ease with which it can be cleaned. The downsides of choosing a slate hearth for a home are the difficulties it presents during the installation process. Slate hearths are relatively affordable and can be installed by the homeowner or a professional contractor.

A piece of slate.
A piece of slate.

A slate hearth is a type of fireplace surround made of a specific kind of stone. Slate can be used with electric, gas, and solid fuel fires. Solid fuel fires are those that burn using coal or wood.

A slate tile.
A slate tile.

Installation of a slate hearth can be slightly more challenging than creating a traditional stone hearth using bricks or tile. Bricks and ceramic tiles typically have equal measurements and can be laid so that no cutting is required to adjust the size of the hearth. The challenge comes in because slate stones are not always uniform in width and length, and must occasionally be cut to fit into the desired space. Both slate and bricks are available for purchase at most local home improvement stores.

Slate pieces can be cut with a diamond-bladed saw. These cutting tools may be rented from an equipment rental company, or the individual pieces of slate may be taken to a home improvement store where a trained staff member can cut them to the required measurements. These saws frequently require water to cut the stone and should generally only be operated by a skilled professional.

This stone can be adhered to a concrete base surrounding the fireplace using thin set mortar. Fireproof adhesives are also available for use specifically around fireplaces. Any type of grout may then be applied to the tile joints, once the mortar has dried.

Slate stones are generally characterized by their rough, uneven surfaces. When applying grout lines, the slate stone may tend to hold the grout along the surface of the stone more than a piece of tile or brick. To avoid leaving grout within naturally-occurring pits along the surface of the slate, seal the pieces before applying grout.

Despite the small challenges this material presents during installation, a slate hearth creates a beautiful and rustic look around any fireplace. The materials are typically easy to find in local home improvement stores, and are often affordable. Though the homeowner may wish to read several instructional guides before beginning such a project, the challenges it presents are not too difficult for an intermediate level do-it-yourself craftsman.

Slate is available in a variety of colors, which can be found to match virtually any home decor. The material is also very heat-tolerant and provides a sufficient barrier between the fire and other building materials used in the area. It is typically easy to clean and resistant to bacterial growth, providing a long lasting hearth for many years of enjoyment.

Slate has a wide range of naturally occuring colors.
Slate has a wide range of naturally occuring colors.

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