Slate Shower Sealing Tips
By Troy Cantini
Slate tile showers can have many problems and issues that are not present in most other types of tile showers. Slate is a natural stone that is formed in sedimentary layers along riverbeds. There are many different types of slate depending on where in the world the slate is mined from. Some types of slate will hold up better than other types of slate in wet areas such as showers.
Regardless of the type of slate that is installed in a shower environment there is always the risk of the slate tiles becoming damaged over time. The soft slate tiles can erode away over time in a wet shower environment. The different layers of slate can also start flaking or chipping away. Sealing a slate tile shower is not a 100% solution to all the problems that can happen in a slate shower. Still sealing a slate shower is the best thing that can be done to protect the slate from the damaging effects of water in a shower environment.
Sealing a slate shower requires using a different procedures than sealing a slate tile floor or other types of slate tile installations. Indoor slate tile installations that are not installed in a wet area like a shower can be color enhanced with an enhancing sealer or a topical sealer can be applied to give the slate a glossy or matte finish. You can not apply any of these types of enhancing or topical sealers in a slate tile shower. Enhancing sealers can easily bleed out of the slate tiles and discolor the grout. Enhancing sealers can also restrict the natural breathing process of the slate and cause the slate to not efficiently evaporate water and water vapors.
Topical sealers should definitely not be applied in a slate tile shower installation. Topical sealers will totally restrict the breathability of the slate tiles and grout. Over time water can become trapped behind the topical sealer and never properly evaporate from the slate shower tiles. This trapped water can over time cause water damage in the walls of your home. Also a topical sealer can damage the slate tiles and cause then to spall where the outer layers of the slate tiles become detached and flake away. Topical sealers can also start to peel off from the slate tiles and can also start to yellow and look dirty and ugly in a short period of time.
Before sealing a slate shower you should first clean it to remove as much dirt, mold and soap scum as possible. If a film of dirt and soap scum is present on the slate tiles then the impregnating sealer will not be effectively absorbed by the slate tiles. The slate tile shower should also be as dry as possible to allow the impregnating sealer to be completely absorbed by the slate.
The best sealer to use for sealing a slate tile shower is a high quality water based impregnating sealer. Slate tiles are extremely porous and need to be sealed with a quality sealer that has a large solids content. The large solids content of quality impregnating sealers will ensure that the sealer will effectively fill the voids in the porous slate stone. Cheap impregnating sealers will quickly become absorbed by the porous slate and their low solids content will do nothing to protect the slate tiles from the damaging effects of a shower. A quality water based impregnating sealer will protect the slate tiles while still allowing the slate to breath in its natural state. A properly breathing stone tile such as slate will evaporate water and water vapors from inside the stone and this ensures that the stone will exist in its natural most healthy state.
The most difficult aspect of sealing a slate shower is thoroughly saturating the slate tile shower walls with the impregnating sealer. The porous slate tiles need to be thoroughly saturated with sealer so it is best to use a cotton towel that is saturated with sealer for applying the sealer. You should saturate the towel with as much sealer as possible and wipe the slate tile shower walls with the saturated sealer towel. You should only seal one wall at a time.
Use the saturated sealer towel to continually apply the sealer to a slate tile shower wall for 5-10 minutes. Some of the sealer will probably drip down to the shower floor but this is to be expected when sealing a slate shower. You will also probably have to re-saturate your towel a few times while sealing the slate tile shower wall because the porous slate will absorb a lot of sealer. Continually apply the sealer to the entire slate tile shower wall and be careful to not allow the sealer to dry on the surface of the shower wall that you are sealing.
After you are done saturating the slate tile shower wall for the entire 5-10 minutes then it is important to wipe off all the excess sealer from the slate tile surfaces and the grout. You do not want the sealer to dry on the surface of the slate tiles or grout. The inherent porous nature of slate makes it unlikely that a sealer residue will be allowed to form on the surface of the slate tiles. You still do not want any pools of sealer to dry on the surface of the slate tiles or on the grout.
The easiest way to remove the excess sealer from the surface of the slate tiles is to use terry cloths or paper towels. Simply wipe the surface of the slate tiles with the absorbent paper towels or cotton cloth to remove any wet areas of sealer that are on the surface of the slate tiles and grout.
After you have sealed one wall of the slate tile shower then move on to seal the next adjoining shower wall. Continue the process until all of the vertical shower walls have been properly sealed. After you have sealed the vertical walls then the last area to be sealed will be the slate tile shower floor.
Sealing the slate tile shower floor should be the last area of the slate shower to be sealed. There will typically already be some sealer on the slate tile shower floor from sealing the slate shower walls. If the slate tile shower has a vinyl shower pan or is surrounding a bathtub then you only need to use paper towels to wipe up and remove all traces of excess sealer from these surfaces. When sealing a slate tile shower floor you can simply pour some sealer directly on the slate tile shower floor and use a towel to thoroughly saturate the slate tile shower floor with sealer. Allow the sealer to soak into the slate tile shower floor for 5-10 minutes and then remove the excess with the terry towel or paper towells.
After you are done sealing the entire slate shower then you should inspect it for any areas of sealer haze on the slate tiles. If a sealer haze occurs it is because the sealer was allowed to dry on the surface of the slate tiles or grout. It is best to remove any sealer haze before it has a chance to set and dry for a long period of time. The easiest way to remove any sealer haze is to use some more sealer on a saturated towel to reactivate the sealer haze on the surface of the tiles. Then you can use a dry cotton towel or paper towels to wipe away the sealer haze.
Sealing a slate tile shower can present some challenges for many DIY homeowners. It can be best to hire a tile and grout cleaning and restoration specialist to seal your slate tile shower for you.
You can read some valuable information and tips on how to hire a tile, grout and stone cleaning and restoration contractor at our contractor information page here. Tile Cleaning Service.
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