How to Repair or Replace Broken Pool Table Slate - CHEAP! - Welcome (2023)

So you have a broken piece of slate? Before you throw the whole pool table away, let’s determine whether or not it is repairable or replaceable. I have been working on pool tables since 2003 and have seen my share of broken slate (and was once even responsible for breaking it….sort of). I have learned a few tricks for repairing it or at least making the table playable.

Broken slate can mean a lot of things. To determine the best way to repair it, we need to know the severity of the break. I have seen a lot of slate that had a barely noticeable crack all the way through it. Some slate may be have a chip or chunk missing or may be broken into two or more pieces. Some slate has shattered into hundreds of pieces. And some slate has started separating into layers and maybe even started flaking off. Let’s categorize the severity as cracked, broken, shattered or separated.

Repairing Cracked Slate

How to Repair or Replace Broken Pool Table Slate - CHEAP! - Welcome (1)

If your slate is cracked but otherwise is still in one piece, the best thing to do might be nothing. You don’t want to break it apart to epoxy it, you may make things worse. I usually go ahead and level the slate as normal and then feel along the line of the break for any discrepancies as the leveling process may cause the crack to be more pronounced. Once the slate is leveled and you are ready to seal the seams, whether it be with beeswax, Bondo, or water putty (you can read about the pros and cons of each here), go ahead and give a light sanding to the slate along the crack so that you can’t feel any ridge and then wax over the crack just like you do the slate seams. Now that your table is set in place, your slate is going to stay put. Just be sure to take safety precautions if you end up moving it again, you don’t want it breaking in two while you are carrying it.

Repairing Broken Slate

If you have a clean break then I would recommend a high strength epoxy or super glue, I have had good results with this one from Amazon. Make sure to give it time to cure before screwing it down to the table to start on the leveling. Be careful not to use glues or epoxies that expand when they dry, such as Gorilla Glue. When the glue has set you will want to give a light sanding along the repair line to remove any ridge that might be present.

If you have a large chip-out or a chunk of slate missing, the best product I have found is Bondo or an automotive body filler. It dries very hard and bonds well. It is a 2-part epoxy, and mixing it just right is a bit of trial and error. Too much of the hardening cream and it will set before you are ready and not enough will take forever to harden. You will also need to sand this down level with the slate, don’t use too much or you will be sanding all day.

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Depending on the severity and location of the break, you may also opt to reinforce the slate by drilling a few holes through the slate with a masonry bit on both sides of the break, countersinking them and screwing some slate screws into a 2×4 or other block of wood for additional strength. These holes will likely be on the playing surface but they can just be filled in with the Bondo and sanded smooth with the slate.

Repairing Shattered Slate

Unfortunately you are probably going to be out of luck if your slate is shattered or you are missing large pieces. Even if you have all the pieces and could put the puzzle back together again, the weight of the slate would cause too much stress on any bonding agent to sufficiently hold it together. This is likely a situation where you need to replace the slate. Continue reading below for some inexpensive ways to find replacement slate.

Repairing Separated Slate

Slate is a sedimentary or layered rock. In time and with sufficient stress, the slate can start separating into layers and eventually these layers can start flaking off. This is not a very common occurrence and I have only seen it on old Brunswick pool tables. The chief cause of this is the method of attaching the wood frame or backing to the slate. Today the slate frame or backer is glued on and is commonly made of particle board or medium density fiberboard (the frame is attached to the slate so that you can staple the cloth on).

On older tables, particularly Brunswicks, the frame was made of solid wood and was attached with screws that went through the slate. Over time the wood can dry out and warp and now you have a fight between the wood, the metal screw and the slate, and the slate loses every time, this is what causes the slate to separate. Unfortunately you cannot reverse the separation once it starts and so replacement is your only option once it reaches the point of affecting the level of your playing surface. If you do have slate of this style, I would recommend loosening the slate frame screws a quarter turn to release any stress on the slate.

Replacing the Slate

I once worked for a company that ordered a new set of slate for a 9′ Brunswick Gold Crown 1. The old slate had started separating as described above. The cost for replacing all three pieces of slate was over $800 with shipping, that was just the cost of the slate, it didn’t include the cost of the service work to swap it out and reassemble the pool table. It was worth it for an old Gold Crown, but it may not be worth it for a used pool table you bought for $1000 or less. Below are a couple of sources for cheap slate.

The least expensive way I have picked up slate is perusing Craigslist for free or really cheap slate pool tables. I have picked up some really decent pool tables in that price range, but most of them are free for a reason. The cushions and cloth may need to be replaced and the table may have some broken or badly damaged parts, but usually the slate is in good condition. Keep the slate and dump the rest of the table.

Another source for cheap slate is your local billiard retailer. They have often acquired excess slate from various sources that they would be happy to sell at a cheap price. It’s cheaper than having to take it to the dump. They may also have some mismatched or incomplete sets because they have replaced slate for customers in a similar situation to you. I have done a lot of contract work for local billiard retailers and have on several occasions seen them sell a single piece slate for $100.

Check with the independent pool table installers as well (those who don’t have a retail store but just do service work), I bought a set of 3 piece slate a couple of months ago for $50 off craigslist and just sold it this week for $150 because the slate for the customers brand new table was lost in shipping. Getting the slate from one of these two sources might be a little more expensive than free off Craigslist, but you won’t have to pick up a whole table and dispose of what you don’t need, and you may have a better selection to choose from, especially if you are looking for a more scarce piece like a 7′, pro 8′, 9′, single piece or antique slate.

You don’t need to worry too much about it being the same brand of table, but you do want to make sure it is the same size table and 3 piece or 1 piece slate, depending on what you need to replace. You also want to look for slate of the same thickness as what you are replacing, i.e. 1 inch with a frame or 3/4 inch with no frame, this will make the leveling process much easier.

You have a couple of options with your replacement slate, you can either just replace the broken piece or you can replace all 3 pieces with your new set of slate. The upside of replacing all the slate is that you will probably have fewer problems in the leveling process as you wouldn’t have to worry about the slate being the same thickness, although you may have to get longer or shorter rail bolts to adjust to the thickness of the slate. The downside is that it is quite likely that the bolt hole pattern of the replacement slate may not match the bolt pattern of your rails, this will require drilling new holes in your slate. It is not particularly hard with a good masonry bit, but it is a bit time intensive. It would be much easier to drill out just one piece of slate rather than all three. The position of the slate screw holes shouldn’t matter, as long as you are hitting wood to screw into. The length and width of the slate isn’t a concern either as the measurements are all the same for pool tables of the same size, with the exception of antique slate.

My Worst (and Best) Experience With Broken Slate

At the beginning of this post I mentioned one occasion where I broke a piece of slate….sort of. Back in November of 2010 I agreed to move a single piece slate pool table as a 3rd job on the Saturday before Thanksgiving, it was last minute and was the only time slot I had available, although it required a 7 pm start time. Because it was a single piece slate, the job would go quicker although it would be more labor intensive. The table was a Hausermann by Educators, built in the 1970’s. It still had the original cloth and cushions which both needed to be replaced, adding a couple of hours to our late night. The table was a “gift” from the customers grandparents, so it had sentimental value, but no monetary value.

We successfully disassembled the table and loaded the 450 lb one piece slate. I covered it with blankets and then loaded the table legs and frame on top of it. As I walked across the slate with the table frame, I felt my foot turn just slightly. There was no cracking noise, but I pulled the blankets back to reveal a diagonal break in the slate across the length of the slate. Note: Hausermann is the only one piece slate tables that I have seen that actually screw the slate down to the table, unfortunately they are worthless ,tiny little screws and the screw holes are right near the edge of the slate, causing a weakness in the slate. This is where my foot landed and caused the slate to break.

I alerted the customer and gave him several options including replacing the table with a used table I had. Sentimental value won out and I agreed to repair the slate and replace it when I came across a free or cheap one piece slate. This added a couple more hours to our long night, but I shimmed and aligned the slate and sealed the seam with Bondo, making the break completely unnoticeable. We finally left at 2 am and ended up not charging for the re-cushion and recover, lesson learned…..almost. A couple of weeks later I found a free Fischer Cavalier in great condition, in fact I gave the guy $100 because it was so nice. I scheduled to swap the slate and carefully removed the two pieces of broken slate and replaced it with the Fischer one piece slate, this is when I found out that Hausermann, in their great wisdom, made a pool table with a playing surface of 45 inches by 90 inches, one inch wider and two inches longer than a standard 8 foot table. My replacement piece was too small. I replaced and re-leveled the broken piece and continued my search.

In a strange series of events, I found myself back at his house again a month later to remove the pool table. He had a house fire and the restoration company hired us to remove the table for the renovation work. While the pool table was apart I found a free piece of Hausermann slate on Craigslist. I was the second in line for it so I offered $75 for it, the first guy hurt his back so I got the slate. We replaced the slate at the reassemble and I was slightly above the break-even point on the whole fiasco. About 5 years later I was contacted again by the customer and he gave me the table for free after having no luck trying to sell it. I was tempted to take a sledge hammer to it and put an end to the saga, but instead I sold it for $400, and then acquired it again a year later when that customer bought a better table from me. I sold it one last time for $300 and hope to never see it again.

In the end of the entire saga, my actual out of pocket cost for the hired labor for multiple moves of the table, two replacement pieces of slate, two beds of cloth and one set of cushions was about $1000. My unrealized profit from the initial recover and re-cushion was another $200. My total revenue for the initial move, 2-part move for the restoration company, two sales of the Hausermann pool table and sale of the Fischer pool table was just over $2000. I learned a lot of important lessons and gained valuable experience with repairing slate. Doing the right thing for the customer has always come back to pay me in the end.

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