Traditional slate tile is created by splitting slate stone along its grain. Unlike some stones, which are monolithic, slate has a very pronounced grain that allows it to be split to very thin sheets using a hammer and chisel. Slate can also be cut to more precise dimensions using a wet saw.
In areas where slate is found naturally, it has been used to create very durable roofs for centuries. Because the cumulative weight of a roof covered with slate is tremendous, the shingles need to be split very thin to minimize the weight. Slate shingles can range from 1/2-inch thick all the way down to a 1/4-inch. Thinner shingles weigh less but are also more fragile and more prone to breakage.
Because slate used for flooring is sitting on the ground, it doesn't need to be as thin as roofing slate. Flooring slate should also be thicker because people are walking on it, and it needs to be strong enough to resist this force. At the same time, cutting slate thicker than necessary uses it inefficiently, increasing the cost of this already expensive material. The thickness of flooring tiles made of slate begins at 1/2 inch and can run all the way up to 1-inch thick. Flooring slate that is laid on top of a hard subfloor needs to be uniform in thickness to create a smooth floor.
For landscaping and outdoor applications, the thickness of slate is less critical than interiors, both because the standards are more forgiving and because slate that is applied to soil, sand or gravel can be worked in to create a walkable surface. Natural slate stones that have been roughly split to be useful for landscaping applications can range from 1/2 inch up to several inches in thickness.
Walkways that are made of slate can involve randomly-shaped stones or precisely-cut tiles, depending on the style and formality of the walkway. If the walkway is laid down on a base of gravel, varying thicknesses of sleep can be accommodated by pushing them down into the gravel to different degrees, creating an even walkway and minimizing tripping hazards. Professionally cut slate paving stones can range between 1/2 inch and 1-inch thick while natural stone will show a wider variation.
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