Since we can't seem to let a day go by lately without making some progress on the house, today I laid the slate tile floor that will be the hearth area around the wood stove. We chose natural cut slate over ceramic tile, partly because ceramic tile requires more processing and thus more energy to produce, and partly because it looks beautiful and natural! I didn't realize there would be so much color variation, but I love how it all looks like a subtle patchwork quilt. Do you see the symmetrical tiles, bottom center? I think, with the eye spots, it looks like a moth.
I was sweating it out, literally and figuratively. It was about 85 degrees here, the hottest it's been all summer and maybe finally close to normal. The sweat was dripping from my forehead onto the tiles. And for some reason I was very nervous about starting this whole process. What if a row started going crooked, and by the time I found out, everything was literally set in stone? I might have to look at my error for the next thirty years or more. But my fears were really unfounded; natural slate tile has so many variations, not just in hue but in thickness and even size, that it does not need to be perfectly straight, and the tiles do not need to be spaced precisely. As long as I worked all 72 tiles into the prescribed area, all was well. And I think all ended well.
I can see myself sitting there in my rocking chair, staring at that stone. For a long, long time.
UPDATE- There have been many good questions in the comments about the placement of the stove, etc. So I'll give all the details. The stove is going to be on the left side of the tile floor. We are going to build a half wall at the back of the tile floor to enclose the stove and act as a heat collector. I will be finishing this half wall with thin stones collected from around here...some day.
For placing the tile, we put down a layer of cement board, bonded to the subfloor with Ultraflex mortar, and we used the same mortar for bonding the tiles to the cement board. I still have to grout the tiles to fill in the spaces.
We have been planning for this hearth since the beginning. All of the floor joists are doubled (4X10 instead of 2x10) and we added extra pillars under the floor where the stove will be.