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Unread 07-27-2006, 12:12 PM   #1
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Patio Slate project advice

My name is Lon and I'm new to this forum. Been doing as much research as I can and this by far has been the BEST resource of information and advice - so thanks in advance!

I read through the entire "installing slate tile" thread that goes back many years and picked up some great tips. However, I would like to ask some questions and get some advice for my particular project. And just so you know, the only tile exerience I have is setting some ceramic tile for a bathroom enclosure some 18 years ago.... An average job that is still holding up today.

Anyway, here's what I've got and hopefully some of you can chime in with some suggestions. I bought 400sqft of Indian "California Gold" 16x16 slate from a local landscape materials place. Next week I'll be starting the project of setting the tile on a cement slab patio approx 370sqft. I already figure I didn't get enough tile, but I'll deal with it when it comes (I know the supplier has tile on hand that I can pick up.)

So, here's some questions:
1. The cement was laid in 3 sections and is at least 30yrs old. There are 2 long cracks where the 3 sections meet. For the length of both cracks there is 1/16" or less spacing. What concerns me most though is about the last 4 or 5 feet there is a max 1/4" difference in height. Now I'm in CA - earthquake country - but I don't think this slab has moved/settled in the 21yrs I've been here.
Should I : a. use a leveler around the cracks (and other low spots) b. Is there such a thing as a cement grinder? or c. Just use a thick morter set and buttering the bottom of the tile should be sufficient to level it out?

2. Should I cut tile as I go? Or can I set all the tiles that don't need cutting first and then go back around the edges and posts? I'm sure wet saws aren't that expensive to rent, but would rather only rent for a day.

3. I was considering 1/2" space for grout to help the variation in tile thickness. Would 3/8" be better? I don't want to go thinner than that.

4. Any opinions on pattern. I would like to do a simple 1/2 tile offset between rows. The less cutting the better of course, so would a straight pattern be better?

5. There seems to be any number of methods and opinions on this, but let me know what you think of this plan:
a. correct low spots and slab irregularities with a leveler.
b. Open all the boxes, culling for broken, bubbled, sorry-looking tile - set aside for cutting.
c. I want to start on the edge/corner away from the house so that any non-square mistakes when the last cuts are made against the house. I'm figuring I want the straightest and squarest lines away from the house as you walk out. I plan on using a mason line/chalk to set my first lines and build out from there. Is this a reasonable approach?
d. Start setting tile from the corner. 1/2" trowel, using spacers and cutting as I go. (I'll cut the first row to probably 10-12" so that I'm left with a similar width against the house - as oppossed to having a 2" piece of tile that would look like sh*t. How much buttering on the bottom of the tile needs to be done?
e. Let set for 24hours, clean and seal tile before grouting.
f. I was planning on grouting using float, cleaning as I go. An easier or more preferred method?
g. Clean and seal again after grout is dry.
h. optionally, I may want to put on a stone color enhancer as I think we would like a wetter look.

6. LASTLY.... there are 3 transition areas I can't figure out how to handle. 2 of them will be tranitions from the slate to cement sidewalks, each only about 3ft wide. The other is a transition to pavers, about 6ft wide. I just installed the pavers and they are installed about 1/2" above the cement slab. But knowing now that the 1/2" tile AND mortor, the tile will be above the pavers. Can anyone recommend what I can use to transition between the different areas? I'm concerned about having a "lip" where the tile will get chipped up over time from the lawnmower, recycle bins, etc. - not to mention the tripping factor. Can I use something similar to what is used indoors between floors/tiles/carpets, door entries, etc.? most of that stuff only comes in silver, gold, etc. Any suggestions?

Wow, I'm really sorry for the length of this post. so thanks if you've actually made it to this point.

Any and all advice will be appreciated. I will continue to browse through this forum.
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Unread 07-28-2006, 09:30 AM   #2
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anyone? Was the post to long to stumble thru?

I'll be getting my materials later today or tommorrow.

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Unread 07-28-2006, 09:42 AM   #3
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first off, the Indian slate is very soft so you can cut it with a diamond blade in a skil saw.........that should help for starters.

I Install in cold country and We do things a bit differant (and more expensive) than is required where you are.

I will defer to one of our Former union california guys.
PM Shaughnn............he's an ex union california tileguy and he will give you exactly what you need to get you started.

In the meantime, go get yourself a diamond blade for that skilsaw
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Unread 07-28-2006, 01:25 PM   #4
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The biggest problem I see is the condition of the slab, you say it hasn't moved in years, it moves all the time, where the crack is not even can cause a problem, there are no membranes made to guard against vertical shear, you could level it with thinset feathered out a ft. or so, then use a crack isolation membrane over the whole slab and cross your fingers.

You also stated it's in 3 sections, I would also honor those joints, do not bridge them with tile, when one section moves and the other doesn't, kiss the tile above good bye, Yes, some membranes state that they can bridge expansion joints, but it is still risky, especially outdoors.
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Unread 07-28-2006, 02:00 PM   #5
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Todd - thanks for letting me know that the tile I have is "soft" - I think. Don't know whether that's good or bad in terms of wear and long term stability. I wish I would have found this forum before I bought the tile and done some research. As far as using the skillsaw, I'm certainly not opposed to it - especially since I just finished installing 150sqft of pavers and cutting 40 or so of those 2 3/8" suckers was a chore. I'm sure cutting the 1/2" slate will be physically easier. Still, might rent a wet saw - at least maybe I'll have cleaner, straighter cuts...

RD - I too am most worried about the slab. I know how the most important piece of this is starting from a solid, well-prepped base. I spent the extra time and didn't skimp when prepping the base for the pavers I just did, and I was pretty darn pleased with how they turned out. I just hope I can do the same with the tile.

Regarding the cracks and expansion joints. I've taken a quick look, no measurements yet, but I think I should be able to install the tile without having to cross-over the cracks - and create expansion joints as you suggest. I should only have to maybe cut down to 15 to may 13" of the tile, which I don't think would hurt the overall look of the space when it's all done.

Assuming I level as best I can, and use a membrane to cover, what do I put in between the joints that run where the crack is? I recall reading using a caulk; but how much? and then what? Do you fill the entire gap just as you would with the grout? Or will grout cover over the caulk? If only caulk, I would of course want to do some color matching and concerned of the final appearance.

Thanks again,
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Unread 07-28-2006, 02:12 PM   #6
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Hi Lon, Welcome aboard.

The Indian tiles are soft, as Todd mentioned. They are also flakey. Nevertheless, they should last a while in California. For 150 square feet, with the material being so cheap, I wouldn't worry too much. Not much to lose if it cracks, I mean. Use flexible expansion joint material in the joints over the section dividers. You can get it at a builder's supply in any color you need.

For thin set, I like Versa Bond by Custom Building Products. Good California company.
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Unread 05-30-2007, 07:41 AM   #7
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John - Eric here in Houston (South Shore Harbour)

We are having a patio extension poured and would like to install slate tiles over the concrete.

The existing patio is covered and perfect. We are going to demo an existing sidewalk and repour. The new patio will be exposed, possibly covered by an arbor.


1. What type of membrane / isolator should I use to prevent cracks, expecially over the joint between the old / new patio ? Redguard, Protecto ?

2. I have a connection at Emser tile - what type of slate should I choose for outdoors? I've read many posts about low quality slate - "slate" not REALLY being slate, etc.

3. What type of mortar should be used ? Is versabond OK outside in the weather ?

Thanks for the help!
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Unread 05-31-2007, 08:09 AM   #8
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Unread 05-31-2007, 03:09 PM   #9
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Im here in texas and i laid slate directly on my patio ~250 sqft. It went down super easy no membrane i have had it for almost 2 years now and i have not had a problem with it yet!

When i did this project i learned 2 things

1. grout it ASAP!!! i waited about 3 months and the dogs messed up alot of my tile (5-10) with thier bones droping them on the tile. But the stuff i grouted was fine and didn't get messed up at all.

2. BUY slate that has one flush side (there is a term i thing it's called grated???) i bought the cheap stuf and it was my first project so the whole thing is like a wave! but it adds to the rustic feel
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