Installing Slate Tile: Welcome to DIY Hell

Slate Sucks.

The surest way to guarantee that I will tackle a project myself is to tell me I should not be tackling that project myself. Tell me it’s super difficult. Tell me it’s not for the DIYer. Tell me only very experienced people should try it. Flat out tell me that I can’t do it and I want to prove that I can do it all the more. I know. I have issues. I don’t know WTF my problem is.

Everyone and their mother (and the Home Depot tile guy) told me I should not be installing slate tile by myself.

I did it anyway.

And I cried the whole time.

Slate Tile Math

This was, by far, the most difficult DIY I have attempted to date. I never want to work that hard again. Every single aspect of this job sucked, starting with simply purchasing materials. Each box of tiles weighed a bajillion (or 35) pounds and I bought like a quadrillion (45) boxes. That’s .75 tons of tile. (For real. Tons.)

Boxes of slate tile on the shelf at Home Depot

Then there was the glue. Each bag was a crapzillion (that’s 50) pounds. I bought 6, so 300 pounds of special, heavy mortar for large, heavy tiles.

Bags of mortar on pallet for large tiles

Installing Crappy Slate Tiles

I started this project the week of Thanksgiving. (I know. It’s March now. I’m sorry. This project was really really hard. I only just finished like 5 minutes ago.) This was my progress after day 1:

Slate installation day one progress picture

Yep. That’s it. It took me a whole freaking day to do that.

Of course, being me, I had to make it just a little more challenging and install the tiles on a 45 degree angle. (Seriously. I don’t know WTF is wrong with me.)

I’d hoped that I’d kick ass on day two, having had one whole entire day to become an expert at setting tile. My progress was not amazing.

Slate installation day two progress picture

Hey, did you know you can’t use tile spacers with tiles that are not perfectly square? True story. There’s some visually impaired dumbass somewhere cutting these tiles on a saw and he’s like, “Meh. That’s close enough.”

Slate tile lined up with carpenter's square showing it's not square

I hate that guy.

And while we’re discussing slate being right angle-y challenged, let’s talk about the other ways in which it sucks. Each tile is a different thickness.

Picture with two slate tiles with very different thicknesses

How are you supposed to install a level floor with these reject tiles?? The answer is to use a crap ton of glue.

Hey, guess what happens when you use a crap ton of glue? It oozes. And then you have to spend hours and days and weeks and months scraping the glue out from between the stupid tiles.

Close up of four slate tiles with messy glue in between

Know what else sucks about slate? It’s fragile. I had to return about 20% of my tiles because they were broken in the box. Worse than that, I had about 6 tiles break after they were installed, so I had to remove them to set new ones. Remember all of that glue?

Shattered slate tile from being removed

If whoever owns this house after me doesn’t love slate, they’re going to despise me. It may have taken me months to install, but it will take them decades to undo what I have done. Strangely, that thought makes me happy.


It took me a few weeks to finish setting all of the tiles, then a few more to clean all of the glue out of the joints. (Scroll back up two pics to see that again while I reiterate here how much that sucked. Because it did really suck a lot.)

(A lot.)

Porous Tiles Need to Be Sealed

Next I had to seal the tile so I could grout. I took this picture midway so you could see the difference a coat of sealer makes. (I may not write much, but I’m always thinking of you. You’re welcome.)

Slate tiles installed on floor with half sealed and half unsealed

I used this sealer called 511 Seal & Enhance, by Miracle Sealants. My research told me that I should seal my porous tiles before grouting, so that’s what I did.

(For the eagle eyes: Yes, there’s grout in this picture. A reader asked me what product I used to seal my floor and I realized I never mentioned it when I wrote this post in 2016, so I came back here, five years later, to add this photo. I haven’t had to re-apply it since, so I can attest to its durability.)

511 Seal and Enhance tile sealant

511 Seal & Enhance

FYI, Grouting Sucks Too

Finally, it was time to grout. It may surprise you to know this, but I’m somewhat particular when it comes to color (Surely, you noticed the fifty shades of peacock blue on the wall…) I was not content to choose a premixed grout off the rack. (So tacky.) I found these great custom grouts at Lowes.

Grout color swatches arranged on top of slate tile floor

I chose “Carbon Copy”. (That’s the “nose” in the sort of smiley face I just realized I accidentally made with the swatches.)

Pop quiz!

Grouting slate tile is:

A: An unexpectedly joyous experience. I finished early enough for a unicorn ride.

B: Pure evil disguised as innocuous, colored, wet sand. The unicorns are all dead.

If you picked “A”, you’re much too optimistic to read my blog. Or maybe you’re not that smart. Either way, you should probably go now.

Grouting slate sucks! Slate is bumpy and porous and getting the grout off takes a lot of rinsing and scrubbing and rinsing and bleeding and scrubbing and rinsing…

Grout haze on slate tile floor
Grout haze on slate tile floor
Progress picture of grouting full slate tile floor

Here’s a close up so you can see the stupid nooks and crannies. Slate suuuuucks

Close up of slate tiles to see how bumpy

The Big Reveal

I just realized I forgot to post a before pic. So here’s that…

Dining room with concrete floor

And here’s the after. Finally.

Dining rom with finished slate tile floor installed
Dining room with finished slate tile floor installed
Dining room with finished slate tile floor installed

OK, installing slate sucks, but slate so does not suck. Slate is freaking gorgeous. Especially when it’s installed by me.

Why You Should Not Install Slate Tile Yourself

As I mentioned, this was absolutely, without a doubt, the most difficult DIY project I have done yet. The naysayers had reason to nay. You should definitely not attempt to install slate tile yourself. Here’s why:

You are not me.

I never consider myself a beginner at anything. When I learn a new skill, I always skip straight to the advanced projects right away. I am that obnoxiously confident. Why wade around the kiddie pool when you can dive right into the deep end? You might think I fail a lot with this behavior. But, the thing is… I just… don’t. That is because I am amazing. I am Princess Spackle, DIY Ninja.

Dining room with finished slate tile floor installed

Take that, Home Depot guy who told me I shouldn’t try to do this project by myself.

In. Your. Stupid. Face.

Now, please enjoy this fun internet slider toy whilst Princess takes a nap…

* This post contains affiliate links

*** Time travel links! Click here to see how the walls turned out in my dining room and, if you like tiling projects, click here for another one that sucked to install, but turned out awesome. (Duh…)

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  • LaFawne

    Love it! Great job but….aren’t you seriously worried about getting blue paint on that gorgeous new floor? Then again, maybe not everyone paints like I do ( paint on every available surface, including ceiling sometimes)
    Anyway, so happy to see a new post!
    Rock on with yer bad self

    • My Crappy House

      Not even a little bit! That’s what drop cloths are for… Also, I’ve learned that it’s worth it to buy expensive paint. The colors are richer and, not only do they go on nicer, but they also barely splatter. They’re worth the extra $.

    • My Crappy House

      Thank you! Yes, each tile is so interesting! I was thinking they each look like a nebula in space. My floor is sci-fi.

  • rhonda

    The slate is gonna look great (Like my rhyme?) with the paint color on the wall. Have you chosen the color yet? After taking up the tile in my foyer, I have a slight (very slight) idea of the torture you went through. Seriously, You should pat yourself on the back because your house looks awesome.

    • My Crappy House

      Thank you! Yes, I actually have chosen the color. Of course, it’s a custom mix. I’m so difficult!

  • Sharon Turner

    Well done!! And, the floor looks terrific with the brick wall. So, are you gonna show us the final paint swatch, or keep us in suspense?

  • Lynn

    Welcome back! The new floor looks great. So sorry it nearly tortured you to death. My cry-through-the-whole-thing DIY project was wall paper. Shudder.

    • My Crappy House

      Thank you. It totally was torture! I could see wallpapering being cry worthy. I hope your project came out awesome. The chance of post traumatic stress lessens if your project looks pretty.

  • Missy

    It looks so beautiful! I think you need to take pictures and print them out and bring back to the Home Depot guy and Ninja kick him in the stomach. Take that you nay sayer!

    • My Crappy House

      I may go ninja kick him in the stomach and not even tell him why…

      On a totally unrelated topic, do you have bail money?

  • Laura

    Fantastic! I love slate and it looks great. Even if you feel like you’re in over your head, you haven’t drowned yet.

    And I’m totally going to be running up and down the aisles of Home Depot this weekend with a grout trowel in hand, jousting style shouting “Hail Princess Spackle!” (Or maybe only in my daydreams).

  • Louise

    I’ve had slate in a few places two houses now and they are just gorgeous….and absolutely suck to install for every.single.reason that you mentioned. I know how to install it and will not touch it for DIY. In fact, the tiling professionals that I use hate my guts so bad everytime they get a call from me, because they know it’s slate. They hate it too, so don’t feel bad at all. My professional results do not look any better than your DIY job on this gorgeous Indian Autumn Slate. All hail Princess Spackle!

    • My Crappy House

      lol if I were a tiling pro, I think I really might pass on the slate jobs. I’d pick the competitor I hate the most, tell the homeowner they love to install slate and hand over their card. I’m so glad this project is finished. I’m never touching slate again!

  • Le

    I can’t believe you did it. It’s amazing.

    But unfortunately, you just can’t come over and renovate my basement into a cozy get away / office all by yourself. There’s just no way a little woman like yourself can do it. It’s just impossible…you just can’t can’t can’t do it.

  • C. Richard

    Yes, kick him twice. The second one’s from me! (Oh, then run like hell, NinjaGirl; I won’t be able to bail you out: all my moolah is going towards updating my apartment so I can sell it and buy a sweet little cottage in the country! : )

    You sound as if you’re my do-it-yourselfer sister from another Mister. I’ve committed to learning reno and home design skills in the face of total disbelief–and sometimes mockery and derision–from everyone except my teenaged son. Yep, that includes the soon to be bruised and pummeled know nothings at my local Home Depot! Just kidding, I’ve switched to Lowes. They don’t outright laugh in my face when I describe my upcoming projects. I don’t get it. Didn’t even professional tradesmen and women have to start at Square One? Does anyone really come out of the womb already “overalled,” and with a fully stocked toolbox and enviable roster of skills, ala Norm Abrams? I though not. Oh well, back to the trenches.

    My floors are all beautiful oak, that need striping, sanding and refinishing. Your slate one turned out beautifully. I send you verbal pats on the back, and two big thumbs up! Your “crappy house” is not so crappy at all.

    Success on your future projects; I’ll be looking out for your updates–and (hilariously written) warnings.

    Ms. Sassy

    • My Crappy House

      The disbelief started early for me. (You’re buying a house by yourself??) But those people have learned to shut their faces because I’m not fooling around over here. Sure, strangers still give me the “wtf… you can’t do this yourself” look, but I just smile knowing I can probably DIY them under the table. (The table that I built myself with my Kregg Jig…)

      Honestly, most of the time, the “experts” at Home Depot realize pretty quickly that I do know a little something and they’re respectful. Some of them are even complimentary (which you know I love…).

      Best of luck to you updating your apartment for resale. The market is getting good! Use people’s underestimation of you to your advantage. That’s what I do. DIY Ninja stealth…

  • barbara

    You are awesome. I once had an entryway retiled with slate, the installer hated doing it & everytime I walked by I could hear him swearing at me under his breath. It turned out gorgeous like yours & when I sold the home every single person who walked through loved it. Congrats on a job very well done. Now take some time to rest & drink some wine.

    • My Crappy House

      Thank you! The result is definitely the reward. I hardly cry at all anymore when I look at my beautiful slate floor…

    • My Crappy House

      I have your crazy blood. You definitely could do it yourself, but maybe you have the wisdom not to try. I’m not there yet…

  • Katherine

    Ditto my ancient French pile of rubble. Too much work for you.

    Your floor looks lovely. We had that exact Chinese slate in the kitchen of our house in Ireland. We chose it but didn’t install it. All those colors in it and we couldn’t ever, in 11 years, get the right paint color on the walls! Nothing seemed to work right with it. Your blue is going to look very nice.

    FYI (although I’m sure you already know this because you’re smarter and far more talented than I am): that tile needs sealing a couple of times a year to keep it from going dull. It’s also slightly difficult to clean (nooks and crannies) but in my opinion worth it. It is so beautiful. And you did such an amazing job!

    • My Crappy House

      lol oh, you guys and your reverse psychology… A+ for effort!

      I’m treating my multi-colored slate as a neutral. I think probably any deep, muted color would go well. I can’t wait to see the blue with it

      I used a color enhancer/sealer that’s supposed to last 15 years. I actually really liked the dull finish, but I wanted to bring out the colors. I’m going to see how it wears. I’m not opposed to sealing it again down the road, but I’m OK with it if it gets a little less shiny over time. We’ll see how it goes. As for cleaning, that’s probably going to suck… lol

  • LaFawne

    We have been using Behr- and really like the coverage and sheen. What is your go to brand of paint? I do not anticipate repainting any time soon, but never hurts to have info ahead of time! Looking forward to the finished pic with the pretty blue walls-as usual, in awe of your energy and stick-to-it-ness. Not a word but should be!!

    • My Crappy House

      My FAVORITE paint to use is Benjamin Moore’s Aura line. I used that in my dressing room and also my office, and, while I DID use drop cloths, there wasn’t a speck of paint on them. It goes on beautifully. It’s quite expensive though, so I used Sherwin Williams Cashmere line in my living room. SW is expensive too, but they have coupons all the time for 30%, sometimes 40% off. Still, I prefer the BM Aura. I’ll probably spring for that when I paint the dining room…

  • _T_T_

    Well written — and I’m an editor! You totally captured the frustration and anger, and I enjoyed reading every word. And, BTW, *gorgeous* slate. A well-deserved, bowing round of kudos to you!

    • My Crappy House

      You know, I reeeeally like compliments on my DIY, but I LOVE compliments on my writing. Especially from an editor! Thank you so much

  • Doug @ Thumb and Hammer

    When we put our house on the market I had to replace a couple of broken tiles and re-do a lot of grout that had been installed by professional contractors.

    First of all, you have done a much better job than those contractors. I would hire you before I would ever hire them again.

    It was my first time working with tile and this is what I learned:

    1. Grouting sucks. Especially when the grout is black.

    2. Constantly rinsing and wringing out the sponge and changing the water every five minutes sucks. Especially when the grout is black.

    3. Anyone can do tile. It’s easy. And you used gray grout.

    But seriously, our floors were ceramic tile which were all the same thickness and the contractors didn’t get the floor anywhere near as flat and even as you got yours with the varying thicknesses of the slate tile. Those so-called professionals could learn a thing or two from the DIY Ninja.

    Amazing job! Absolutely stunning!

    • My Crappy House

      Thank you, Doug! That’s high praise! (And I love it!)

      At one point, I had 5 buckets of water that I rinsed my sponge in (one after the next, in order) to try and lessen the water changing. It didn’t work. Like, at all. They should make criminals of the worst kind grout out their sentences. There exists no harsher punishment.

  • Micha

    This blog combines all things I love: excellent, entertaining writing, amazing results, lots of pictures from the steps in the processes and a brilliant, strong, sassy woman. Thanks for existing.

  • Cheryl

    You did a great job!! I had no idea it was so hard to do a job like this, or that they were different thicknesses or that it broke so easily. So I think you did a superb job and you should be crowed queen of the year for attempting something like this AND having it turn out beautifully!

    • My Crappy House

      Thanks! I totally wouldn’t mind being queen of the year! I wonder where I submit myself for consideration…

  • Karin

    Love the end result! My flooring from hell was in our foyer. Concrete slab with not one but 2 layers of vinyl flooring adhered to it to the degree that I am certain it would emerge unscathed from a nuclear holocaust. NOBODY in ANY home improvement store had a clue on what I should do with it. Blank stares all around. Guess what you cannot do after removing glued down vinyl with a glue remover? Put tile on it. After torturing myself trying to *chisel* out the entire mess, I gave up and put that third layer on. I figured that if it was glued down that well, I would be okay. And so far the luxury vinyl groutable tile is awesome, but it sure would have been nice to have the real thing instead.
    You did a fantastic job and I definitely feel your pain!

    • My Crappy House

      I can tell you SO feel my pain! Flooring nightmares suck. I have another one going on in my basement. I can’t level the floor down there because it’s painted, so I’ve been peeling the paint off with scrapers and a heat gun – I don’t want any chemicals to ruin the concrete. It all sounds so simple in theory until you get into it. I’m sorry you weren’t able to install the “real deal”, but I bet it looks lovely. The new “faux” materials do a pretty good job of looking real. And they’re usually lower maintenance, so there’s that. I’m probably going to end up putting vinyl on my basement floor.

  • Jengland

    Well done! Could have used your tiling skills when I was(still)tiling my shower. I started in December- one wall and a floor left. ( I actually went to my knees crying one day)
    I so understand your anger and frustration. You channeled you feelings well and conquered Grasshopper.

    • My Crappy House

      I love how everyone really gets how awful this was. I’m sorry you have first hand experience! We can at least be happy we’re not professional tilers. They must hate life… lol

  • Cheridal Nicholson

    I had 234 new emails in my one account and guess whose mail I didn’t delete so fast?! Ok, yeah, it was yours! But I almost did ’cause I’m a ninja too but a bit older than you and don’t move that fast anymore. Anyway, I said “well look who’s posted something” and turns out it was funny and informative also. No kidding – I’m not just full of
    flattery, you know! At my ripe old age of 72, I learned something from YOU! That slate would be easy to install if it were made properly but it’s not ’cause it’s real and the real stuff is sometimes flawed, huh? Honest, I didn’t know it was different thicknesses or had uneven edges. So no, I won’t be a ninja on this product! But you did a lovely job on yours! And the blue whichever one it is, will be lovely too!!!

    • My Crappy House

      Thank you! I’m glad your ninja deleting skills were a little slow. The real stuff is usually flawed, which DOES make it a pain in the butt to work with, but I also think the flaws make the end result more beautiful. I can say that now that it’s done. During the installation, I wanted all slate everywhere to burn in hell, but I’m over that now

  • Mom

    Your floor looks amazing. You are amazing. I always felt you took after me, I mean cause you have my genes but now I think you were switched at birth. You make me laugh out loud. BTW I’m not switching you back you’re too entertaining …….most of the time????

    • My Crappy House

      Wait a minute. Let’s not be so hasty. What if my real parents are rich? I could have a kitchen ASAP…

    • My Crappy House

      Hot Pockets and macaroni and cheese. So… not much. I need to address the wood floor before I can do the kitchen. Patience, grasshopper…

  • Tammy Bottomley

    Amazing work! The floor is just beautiful! Glad you stuck with it….not that you would do anything else… nice afghan btw…the one I’m making you is going in the trash now.

  • Shannon

    I love it when people tell me I can’t do something. I don’t announce they are stupid, I just quietly go about proving them wrong. Then I smile sweetly when they compliment me and say “I just couldn’t see it.” In my head I’m totally trash talking. Your tile adventure has amped me up to go ahead and install the river rock tile I want in my entryway. Everyone says it’s going to look odd and be hard to clean…yeah…so…whatever…this is totally happening.

    • My Crappy House

      I love it! River rock will make an AWESOME entryway.

      I am also quiet when people nay say, but I totally gloat after I’m done. I suppose the mature thing to do would be to just smile and say thank you when receiving the inevitable compliments, but I’m just not that mature…

  • MJ

    Sitting here with my best friend, who was a contractor and what he told me broke my heart for you. He says he installed slate in his own house years ago, and every piece was the same thickness. Which leads me to believe that you were give a batch of tiles that were seconds or worse. It’s my experience that stores will stick women with crap jsut to get rid of it. As in the (recommended by a friend) lawn mower store in a nearby city that sold me a mower that would not start after the first mow. I emptied out the oil and put it in my car that does not have a trunk and i sniffed gas for one solid hour on the road. Left the machine for work and when i got it back, it still did not work. Left it in the basement for years as no DIY mechanic wanted to pay me half of what I’d paid for it. Finally met my best friend who fixed it in a few minutes early in our relationship. It was not new, but had been used and the filters were filthy. They must have spent some time cleaning it up to look new. Often I’ve been used and abused this way, but now i look at the financial exchange as a business and not as an opportunity to be nice and make friends. It has taken me a long time to get to this place,but i hope you will refuse sub-standard projects in the future and maybe raise a little hell with Home Depot for putting you through this un-necessary misery!!!!! But i bet women know not to buy their slate there already….(insert here whatever computer junkies these days substitute for LOL) You could make a bit of extra cash writing this up for a magazine, with photos, but w/o mentioning HD(I suspect). I love the way you write, though your language is so 21st century. You make your points fine enough to stab a salesperson in heart…LOL)
    Hang in there and keep on keeping on. ????MJ PS, my friend says, for next time, use Popsicle sticks to space tiles.

    • My Crappy House

      Oh, don’t feel too bad! It could very well be that your best friend bought more expensive slate that was more uniform. I only paid $1.50 a square foot, so you get what you pay for. The trauma of the installation has passed and now I’m left with a beautiful floor, so I’m all good. It’s definitely true that we women do get taken advantage of in certain situations (and, seriously, F the men that do it), but that wasn’t the case this time. Home Depot sells cheap slate and I was fully aware of the inconsistencies from tile to tile when I bought it. Well, the thicknesses anyway. The tiles not being square was a small surprise, but once I realized that, spacing by eye was easy. I’m still laughing that you said “for next time”… Like that will ever happen! hahahaha

  • Mark

    Why does anyone think this tile looks good. You may have installed it well, but I hate it, it looks but-ugly, I just brought a house in crazy market where u don’t have a choice, now I realize I☹️ Effing hate it!!! Didn’t really notice it while house shopping, now I’m thinking wtf is this crap in my kitchen, it is Uncleanable. The floor in my condo was clean enough to eat off it, seriously I could drop a slice tomato on the floor and pick it up and eat it without a doubt. This slate, would be great for “nasty people” who never clean anything because you cannot tell if it’s dirty or what!!! Can I lay linoleum over it? Is my current thoughts. Because you are right about removal being 10x worse than installation, I viewed many videos, it looks like the worst nightmare ever!!! Actually thinking to sell house and go back into the effedup housing market agai;??? Crying now.

    • My Crappy House

      Oh, Mark. I feel your frustration. Truly. There have been many crappy design decisions, made by others, that I have cursed whilst undoing them. I’m so sorry you’re having to remove slate. YES, it’s a horrible nightmare of a job you’re facing. Slate sucks.

      That said, I still love my slate. It looks awesome (to me) and, poor housekeeper that I am, it always looks great. I do agree with you about it not being appropriate for a kitchen though. Having it in my dining room, it’s not really subjected to food stuffs like a kitchen floor is. (Yes, we do bring food into the dining room, but we’re freaking civilized here and our food stays on the table.)

      If your slate is anything like mine, you cannot lay linoleum over it. It’s too bumpy (which, I suspect, is one of the reasons you despise it so.) I’m sorry. However, one thing you seem to have going for you is your anger. I would suggest you channel that rage into the demo of your slate floor to make way for a floor that does not suck (to you).

      Or… it IS a seller’s market…

      Good luck, Mark!

  • Cathy

    We just installed that exact same slate in our over the barn greenhouse (actually, hubby did, but I am sealing it). We had it up there for 3 years before getting around to installing.
    What did you use to seal it? I was using aqua mix sealers choice gold, but want more of a wet look. There guy said enrich and seal, but I do like how yours looks. And did it hold up? Have you had to re-seal after 5 years?

    • My Crappy House

      You inspired me to update this post a little and add what sealer I used. It’s called 511 Seal & Enhance and you can get it here. (That’s an affiliate link.) I used most of a quart to seal this floor which is about 120 square feet. I think it’s held up really well for the last five plus years. It’s not as glossy as it was when I first did it (which is fine by me, as I wasn’t going for gloss), but the color looks as vibrant as I remember it looking when I first applied it. I’m very happy with how it’s held up. I included a picture of the sealer in the post above and I just took it today on the existing floor, if that helps you.

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