Slate tiles are natural stones that are porous in nature. Since they are porous, they naturally retain water and easily soak up moisture from the surrounding areas. Whether or not you choose to seal your slate is a personal choice, but there are some pros and cons of using a surface-type sealer that adds a shine to your slate. While it can enhance the natural colours, it can also be detrimental when used in the wrong setting.
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As a general rule, you can use surface-based sealers that add sheen to your slate in any type of indoor setting as long as you understand that enhancing sealers require multiple coats per year to maintain the look. Foot traffic can wear off the sheen, and moving furniture or other things around can scratch the surface layer of sealer. The brand of sealer you use will determine the amount of coats you need to apply each year.
Exterior installations usually rely on penetrating sealers that maintain the natural look of the stone. While stone-enhancing sealers can be used in exterior areas, all depends on personal preference since most people who use slate in outdoor settings do so because of the rugged, natural look of the stone. Adding a polished sheen takes away from that natural look.
Wet areas, such as bathrooms or exterior deck floors that are exposed to regular moisture, can be sealed with a polishing sealer, but there is a drawback to using them in these situations. Natural stone is meant to breathe, and by applying a surface layer of sealer, you block the stone's ability to shed moisture. In some cases, this can cause moisture build-up within the stone itself, which can eventually lead to splotches in the stone's colour as mineral build-up occurs over time.
The most important part of using an enhancing sealer is regular maintenance and cleaning. While the type and brand of sealer you purchase will change the regularity of your maintenance, you should follow the manufacturer's directions to the letter when cleaning the slate as well as applying additional coats per year to maintain the glossy, shined look.
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