The Kitchen Designer

Thanks for stopping by! I'm Susan Serra, certified kitchen designer, and my mission is to take kitchen design style, function and analysis to a higher level. Here's why the kitchen has the most honored place in the home - all five senses reside in the kitchen.  Best...Susan  Contact: susan@susanserraassociates.com

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Kitchen Countertops - Slate, Yes, Slate!

Slate-2.jpgSlate is the quiet, little known, but serious, player in countertops for kitchens! Of course, slate is traditionally seen as a building material for flooring, roofing, cladding on buildings, wherever there is a need for a very strong, solidly performing material. So, why not kitchen countertops? I'll warn you in advance...mention slate to people in the biz, including countertop fabricators, and most likely you'll get, "No way, slate will stain and is too porous!" It could be followed by "You're nuts!" While I've been accused of being nuts on numerous occasions, it doesn't apply to this situation. Trust me...

Rarely marketed to kitchen and bath designers for some reason, slate is, perhaps, one of the strongest, if not the strongest, materials one can use as a kitchen countertop, even exceeding the properties of granite. Slate, as a countertop material, has numerous properties that we need in a hard working countertop surface. And, by the by, I'm VERY conservative in terms of recommending countertop surfaces to my clients. Countertops are expensive, permanent, materials, not to be taken lightly by a specifier. I don't. Slate works!


Slate is available in a variety of colors. Mostly understated, in middle to dark tones, the colors of slate are generally seen as:

  •     Red
  •     Deep Purple
  •     Deep Purple/Turquoise Combination
  •     Turquoise
  •     Gray
  •     Black

The look is quiet, elegant, strong, simplistic, nature-like, minimalist, dependent on its application within the room. Slate is almost always honed, although it can be oiled for a slightly more glossy look.


Slate-4.jpgDepending on the variety of the slate, the grain type and pattern can vary. Some slates, as Black Lace, has a distinctive highly textural, high-style look. Other slates exhibit very little graining whatsoever. Others are mottled. Some are quiet, with little graining, except for one strong, localized grain pattern, running through the slate, for a look of pure, natural beauty! Graining pattern/direction/type cannot be predicted.  Unless you want to schlep to the factory in New England, pick out your own slabs and tell them where to cut and where not to cut. Short of that, pictures of existing installations should prove to be a good guide.


Typically, slate edges are simple square edges with a very small radius top and bottom. Variations could be any edge one would see in granite. Due to the understated look, slate is not often seen with an ogee (OG) edge. Slate is perfect for a rough cut, exposed, edge. Perfect for today's uber-rustic-eco aesthetics.


Austin-Patterson-Disston.jpgOne of the best properties of slate is its extremely low absorption rate, lower than granite. Designers can consider most slates as being stain-free. I have performed testing on the turquoise/green colors and have found these slate colors to be stain-free. Slate in the gray/black family may need a sealer. As a result of slate's low absorption, the material can be considered anti bacterial in nature and totally eco friendly.

Some slates (and partially-metamorphosed “mudstones” which are incorrectly called slates) are significantly weaker, than the slates I am talking about and are more absorptive, softer and prone to delamination and “self-splitting”.  The slates that are good for countertops are found in the New England region.

Slab material generally is available in smaller sizes than granite, resulting in an additional seam or two. You should pay attention to seaming issues. Have your designer take a close look at how best to put the pieces together according to your cabinet plan.


slate-5-copy.jpgSoap and water, or even a tough cleaning product such as Fantastic can be used. If a sheen is desired, use a diluted solution of Murphy's Oil Soap and water. Apply, and buff off before it dries.

Scratches are easily removed, simply, with a sponge, during normal cleaning of the countertop. Deeper scratches are easily rubbed out with wet steel wool. Small white scratches are fairly typical to see during use over time, but are easily wiped clean during the day, if you see them at all.

Really only the gray and black stones need to be sealed as they are more absorptive in nature than other colored slates. Thus, mild soaps only should be used on these colors, so as not to strip the sealer. I usually get samples and then do a whole "food stuffs" test over a 24 hour period, beat it up in other ways and then evaluate.

I really love slate. It's eco friendly, it feels like butter to the touch, it's understated and fits many design aesthetics. I can't wait till I use it again for a project. Never had a client complain once installed, and I've installed quite a few slate countertops, only raves. And, THAT'S the test!

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Reader Comments (95)

I love slate floors and counter tops. Granite is so ubiquitous now that it's lost it's luster for me.

Great idea to use slate for kitchen counters. I love the look. In your opinion, better, worse or equal to soapstone?

June 30, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterMark R. LePage, AIA

So what is your opinion to Mark's question wrt soapstone

December 26, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterTerry

Thank you Terry for reminding me of this question. There IS no question, for me, that I prefer slate. I believe the properties are better as a countertop surface for several reasons, Durability, for one reason. There is no need to seal slate. Slate is not a soft stone, as many soapstones are and will not chip. One does not have to be concerned with a "patina" to monitor/keep up with via occasional oiling (which is not difficult in and of itself.) But, scratches, nicks, and dents can easily occur. Surface scratches can be removed by sanding, but the average homeowner would be very fearful of sanding the scratches off from their countertop, especially when it then becomes lighter in color in that spot (until it's oiled.) I think it comes with too much tricky maintenance for the average homeowner. That said, if a client is up for it, I'd go through all of the properties of it in detail, including maintenance steps.

December 26, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterSusan Serra, CKD

Thank you for the timely response.

I am in the process of getting my kitchen design et al together and am seriously thinging of getting soapstone to go along with my cherry cabinets. Plain an simple I like like the way the soapstone looks. Chips, dents and scratches are not a huge concern, I can always sand and oil or glue a chip back on, easily done. I just do not like high gloss granite or marble and the staining and sealing issues that come along with that product. Perhaps I should consider slate. Thank again. T

December 26, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterTerry

We installed a gorgeous red slate kitchen countertop. But "rings" from beverage contains are appearing on it and its only a few months old. Any idea as to what is causing this and how to get rid of them?

January 8, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterB

B, I don't know about the red slate. I know about the Northeastern unfading blue slate, and this doesn't happen on that slate. I would contact the company you purchased the slate from and get a complete care guide. Ask them also to check with the place where they got the slate from. Good luck and I'd love to hear what you are told.

January 8, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterSusan Serra, CKD

I have salvaged two beautiful gray/black one piece pool-table tops. I'm considering cutting these down for use as kitchen countertops. Do you have any recommendations or advice on this type of slate or the milling process?

January 23, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterEric

Eric, I have used gray/black slate in a kitchen, as a countertop, and this type of slate (it may or may not be the same type of slate as yours even though the color is the same) did need to be sealed periodically, so I'd do some testing on a sample. As far as the fabricating process, no, can't advise you there, I'm not familiar with how they do what they do in the shop! Glad you dropped by!

January 23, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterSusan Serra, CKD

I have just purchased a 15 year old mountain home with green and brown slate tiles on the countertops. I love the color and look but the tile is not smooth and level, it is uneven on the surface. My tile man says he can chisel layers off the top to improve the levelness of the countertop and then put a seal on it. Are you familiar with that procedure? Ele

March 7, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterEle

No, I'm not familiar with this. Maybe he could get a couple of samples of rough slate tile in a large size and show you what it might look like. I'd probably want to see samples first. Maybe you can get 18x18 or 24x24 samples, keeping one in its original condition.

March 7, 2008 | Registered CommenterSusan Serra, CKD

I have gray slate countertops. They are starting to get some stains, so I would like to seal them. What would you recommend sealing them with?

March 12, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterJenny

Jenny, I can't stand by any particular product. It's its own universe of sealants. I'd ask the manufacturer. But, you bring up the point that not all slates are non porous like the unfading green is. Sorry that you have stains. Oftentimes, there are ways to get stains out, but I'd recommend you speak with manufacturers who are familiar with slate, as opposed to other stones. I'd start there.

March 12, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterSusan Serra, CKD

Are Pietra Cardoso, and Pietra Grigia types of slate? They are both grey with some white veining.

March 13, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterTtacy

Ttacy, I do not believe they are forms of slate. That's about all I can tell you! Your best bet, regardless of what a stone is named, is to see how it reacts to abuse, including food substances, scratching, and so on. Give it a good test.

March 23, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterSusan Serra, CKD

I am in the beginning of our kitchen renovationa and have
referred to your site numerous times. It is wonderful..
I want to use Vermont Slate for the countertops but can not
find a supplier of this natural stone in NYC...many of the
marble yards have Brazilian or Italian slate which are inferior for countertops...can you recommend a supplier of
slabs?? We have a fabricator here.

April 13, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterAngela Ryan

Angela, you can probably contact any of those slate places yourself (although as a non professional, that's very risky, not knowing all the ins and outs of how to specify countertops) and save money or since you are in New York, I can help you. Email me at: sserrackd (at) gmail.com

April 13, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterSusan

I just bought two old pool tables with 1 1/8th inch thick Italian slate for $150.00. Does anyone know how to cut it? Any suggestions as to what I can use it for other than a fireplace hearth? Thanks

May 7, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterGord

I have been seriously looking at soapstone for our new construction home. How does slate compare in price with soapstone? My ex-husband was a master slate roofer, so I do know about different types of roofing slate. What type is best for kitchens with children?

May 20, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterlaura

I am considering using slate tiles for a kitchen countertop. They are 4x4 ,black tiles. Do you think this is a good idea since you are recommending solid pieces of slate?

June 13, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterLorri


The person from whom I am ordering countertops from says that I will hate slate countertops within a week because of scratches and stains. However, a friend of mine swears by them.

I have seen on the Vermont Slate site, summit slate used for countertops...do you know how this particular slate holds up?

June 25, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterJamie

I have a possible remedy for stains. Use baking soda and peroxide to form a paste. Put the paste on the stain and cover it with a saran wrap and seal it with duct tape. If you leave it overnight, it will pull the stain from the surface. Some stains may require re-applications. Hope that helps!

June 28, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterBecky

I love slate. I renovated my kitchen in my old house with them along side white cabinets. When I moved and sold my house in 2006, everyone that walked into the kitchen loved the slate countertops and slate floors.

I currently renovated my current kitchen with the same idea, slate and white kitchen cabinets. I just love the look of slate against white kitchen cabinets. But now since my appliances are black, I was wondering if anyone can give me any ideas as to what color I should make the backsplash. In my old house, my backsplash was wainscoating since the house was a bungalow...but now my current place is a townhouse.

June 29, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterWilliam

Gord, can't tell you how to fabricate it, but surely there are multiple shelving or tabletop or vanity options just for starters!

laura, I don't really know the cost comparison with soapstone. It depends on where you are getting the stones and what type of stones they are too. I'd imagine they are similar in cost.

Lorri, I think you will probably have to seal the black slate. I know when I used it on a job, it did have to be sealed. I see nothing wrong with using slate tiles.

Jamie, your best bet is to ask them at VSS. I think that probably has to be sealed. The only one I am quite sure of that does not have to be sealed is the unfading green, maybe another one of similar color. You will get no staining on the green colors. The scratches simply wipe off, unless they are deep scratches.

Becky, thanks for the advice. Again, one's best bet is to get samples and then apply a variety of food substances on them to check durability. But, I'll always stand by the durability of the unfading green color!

William, that combination sounds beautiful, I can see why you are repeating it. Is it the green slate you are using?

June 30, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterSusan Serra, CKD

How do you think a seam in a top made of slate will look on an island that is apprx 5.5" x 6.5'? The fabricators showed me a piece and the seam is the width of a hair. What is your take on this? Thanks for the advice in advance!

July 3, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterAnna McCaffery

I had green slate countertops installed in my kitchen in upstate NY (Lake George). I had wanted soapstone, but the contractors recommended slate. My husband and I went to Sheldon Slate in Granville, NY to see what slate was all about. The owner gave us a tour. There's a lot of history and science involved. It was all quite impressive. A lot of work goes into making a countertop. If you have the opportunity to go see the operation, do it. I have no stains so far. I haven't used any sealer.
They have all colors, even red and purple and black.

July 3, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterDodie

I am renovating a kitchen and we're looking at granit. I came upon your website and I love the slate and think it would look great with cherry cabinets.

My question is can slate be smooth as a surface for counters? I know that slate often has an uneven rougher quality, that while beautiful, for counters doesn't seem practical. Also, what would be the closest location to Ithaca, NY (central NY) to find manufacturer and look at slabs?

July 4, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterNishkala

Nishkala, slate is not only smooth, it's like butter! It is so dense and tightly grained, that, when honed, it is super smooth, it's fantastic. I'm not sure what's near you, but I'm sure there is something near you. Just google "unfading green slate upstate new york" and I'll bet you'll get some good sources. Or, get a sample from some other places in New York or upper New England and just go by those samples.

Dodle, thanks for your feedback. Yes, I KNOW you will not get stains if you use the unfading green slate. It is a great and extremely durable surface.

Anna, I don't love the idea of a seam here, but how about if the seam were in a semi circle or some sort of freeform curve so that it looks more artistic then...a seam?

July 5, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterSusan Serra, CKD

Thanks Susan. So you are recommending the unfading green honed slate for counters then? Is that the only form of slate for counters? I love the green idea.. think it would work very well with the cherry cabinets.

July 7, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterNishkala

One more question - do you know the cost of slate in comparison to granite?

July 7, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterNishkala

Nishkala, absolutely, the unfading green. No, there are other slates, but I believe most of them have to be sealed. Maybe there is another green type that doesn't, but I do not know the accurate name(s).

The cost should be very similar to granite.

July 7, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterSusan Serra, CKD

Wonderful! thank you Susan. I am excited about this. We were looking at granites, but while it's a beautiful stone, I didn't feel very excited about that material. I will get some samples and consider.

July 7, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterNishkala


How does the purple slate hold up as a counter?

I found this link from a Vermont slate company. I love the color.


July 8, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterEsther

Nishkala, good luck and report back!

Esther, I have not used that color, although I have samples of it. I'm not sure if I did my usual testing on this sample, I don't think I did. Just be careful to see larger slabs of it if you can. In small samples it looks quite blotchy.

July 8, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterSusan Serra, CKD

We have installed multicolor slate flooring in our kitchen. We are soon to paint the cabinets a light cream color (may change my mind before its said and done). Looking for suggestions on either black or stainless appliances, as well as countertops. Thank you!

July 15, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterKerri

I'M making counter tops out of old school blackboard slate. I've tested it as a microwave countertop for 4yrs. It looks as good as the day it was installed. Yes, I sealed it. The only problem is the thickness which varies between 5mm & 10mm so that some sort of edging is nessesary. I used wood molding on the test top (I like it, my wife doesn't. Guess who wins?). I'll use strips of slate for the kitchen tops.

July 25, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterMARLIN

Kerri, the slate in multicolors sounds great. I think stainless appliances sound the best and there are so many options for countertops, depends on if you want the floor to be strong, depends on if you want contrast or what. So many issues here. Look at pictures, that will begin to get you focused.

Marlin, thanks for your feedback, very interesting!! Let me know how the tops turn out.

July 29, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterSusan Serra, CKD

Some sources online suggest oiling slate countertops, a la soapstone. Would that be necessary with unfading green?

July 31, 2008 | Unregistered Commentersue j.

Absolutely not necessary. Interesting question, however, and I think I will try it on half of a 12x12 sample I have to see if it even absorbs, as this slate is so dense. Off to add some oil.....I'll report back.

July 31, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterSusan Serra, CKD

I will anxiously await your reply on the oiling. While I don't mind the effort, I dislike the residual greasiness oiling can leave. I have run into it in friends' kitchens with both soapstone and butcher block which have been recently oiled. Everything you place on the surfaces gets oil on it.

In the meantime, this blog item is my defense if and when my KD nixes the slate, and I am anxiously awaiting my slate samples from Vermont!

You have been such an invaluable resource in all things kitchen, and I am so grateful you are willing to make the time and effort to share with us out here in web-land. Thank you so much, and know we all appreciate you.

August 1, 2008 | Unregistered Commentersue j.

Well, after I posted that reply, I promptly forgot to do it. However, right now, there is a sample up in my kitchen which has oil on half the sample. So, I will try to report back tomorrow. Thank you so much for your kind comments.

August 1, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterSusan Serra, CKD

A thank you from me as well for taking the time to write such a detailed description of this surface. We are soon to remodel our kitchen and slate meets our counter criteria and I never would have known of it otherwise. Thank you!

Sue J -- from whom are you getting samples? I live about as far as possible from Vermont while still in the continental US. I'm not sure how easy it is going to be for me to find slate here.

August 1, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterNell

Hi Nell. I am getting my samples from Vermont Structural Slate (website easily found by googling that name). Samples are free, and they are very helpful over the phone and responsive on e-mails.

I am on a forum with someone from California who bought slate from a company in New England. They found an experienced fabricator/installer for her in her area who did the measuring, etc. Then the slate company did the fabrication and shipped the pieces to CA. The installer put them in. She loves them and said that, even with the shipping, her experience was that they were not more expensive than granite. They would do something similar with me, and I live in RI.

It may be that there are stoneyards in your area which carry the stronger New England slates, but I wouldn't know how to find them...

August 1, 2008 | Unregistered Commentersue j.

Thanks, Sue!

That wouldn't be the gardenweb site, would it? I think I read that post.

I will call Vermont Structural next week. I've called the major stoneyards in the area and no one has it (and I got the "are you serious" from one of them).

August 1, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterNell

Yes, indeedy, it was the GW forum, Nell.

As for the "are you serious," that would scare me, but if Susan Serra says it's a good thing, then I'm totally confident that it is.

Speaking of which, Susan, any news on the oiling front? ;-)

August 2, 2008 | Unregistered Commentersue j.

Take a look at this post: http://www.thekitchendesigner.org/journal/2008/8/2/slate-countertop-test.html

Anecdotally, I can report that I have not had a single "call back" from those clients for whom I've installed a slate countertop. No questions/concerns/issues after it's been installed, whatsoever.

August 3, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterSusan Serra, CKD

I just found out today that brazillian black slate may be an option for me as a counter. I really like the look compared to everything else that I have seen. Sounds like it make not be the best quality. Has anyone had experience with it? Good or bad? I'd love to hear, my contractor needs me to make a decision and I am known for ending up with buyers remorse. Thanks much!!!

August 4, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterLaura H

I think the "are you serious" comment was someone assuming I meant the other kind of slate (I'm not sure what the proper term would be). I explained it was just a certain type and that seemed to help but still no interest in helping me get it. I noticed a few similar responses on gardenweb. Again, I think people assume a more porous kind.

August 4, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterNell

Laura, I've used black slate on a job. I'm not sure where it came from, I think, also New England, but it did have to be sealed. Your best bet is to get a sample and put a variety of food items on it. Get as large a piece as you can. Oh, and tell your contractor to relax. :)

Nell, yes, many people in the biz assume it's the non porous type.

Your sample tests are your truth!

August 5, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterSusan Serra, CKD

If you can use products, manufactured as close to your home as possible, you will be more planet friendly. Still, if you ship out of a state in the USA, you are far more sustainable than if you buy products shipped out from another country.
Just something to think about.

August 10, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterSuzanne Green

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