Facts About Granite Countertops
- The hardest natural material available (besides diamonds and quartzite).
- Virtually impervious to stains that may occur in the kitchen or heavy commercial application.
- Incredibly scratch resistant. Typically, we recommend you use a cutting board when cutting, or you will dull your knife!!
- Dozens of different edge shapes and thicknesses to choose from.
- Dozens of colors and types, magnificent designs and colors only found in nature.
- Easy maintenance, just soap and water will keep it clean!
- Permanent, everlasting granite is so durable that it will remain “new” in appearance indefinitely and will probably outlast the dwelling that it is in!
- Very, very competitive against man-made plastic granite (Avonite, Corian, etc.).
Not only do the different stone types have different physical properties (as touched upon above), but they also have different visual properties. Some have a more consistent/reparative look to their patterning, where others will have strong veining and variegation. As a product of Mother-Nature, all-natural stones will vary in appearance, texture, and character from slab to slab, and even within any given slab. Using consecutive slabs from the same bundle ensures the best color/pattern match possible across large areas. However, variation may be unavoidably noticeable due to the given slabs character and the shape of the granite countertop. An experienced fabricator will be able to minimize this by strategic placement of the templates and seams, to give the best transition from one countertop panel to the next. With highly variegated materials, it is advisable for the home-owner and/or designer to participate in the placement of the templates, so you can see what is and isn’t possible. Natural materials will also exhibit other characteristics like fissures, pits, and texture variations. To quote the
Marble Institute of America – Home Owners Guild to Natural Stone Countertop Installation (Page 8); “Fissures occur naturally in many stone types. A fissure is defined by the American Geological Institute as “an extensive crack, break, or fracture in the rock, which may contain mineral-bearing material.” The term “fissure” is used commercially in the stone industry to describe a visible separation along intercrystalline boundaries or the voids between mineral crystals. This separation may start and stop within the field of the stone or extend through an edge. A fissure differs from a crack in that it is a naturally occurring feature in the stone.”
Being a part of the stones character (as mother-nature made it), fissures cannot be considered defects or points of damage. Similarly, small pits and texture variations are naturally occurring and cannot be considered defects.
Your cabinet layout, along with bump-outs, end panels, and trim pieces (filler strips, decorative columns, etc) will all govern the finished size of your countertops, so it is very important that these are all in place and secured before field measurements and/or templates are made. It should also be noted that once templates have been made if anything is moved or changed, your countertops will not fit properly. Whilst the appliances need not be installed, the type/model/specifications do need to be known, so the correct allowances can be made. Countertops typically overhang the front of the cabinet box by 1 ½”-2”, to cover your door/draw fronts and fixtures, and allow room for the edge detail. Similarly, they will overhang the end of a cabinet by 1”-1 ½”. So your (example) 36”x 24” cabinet is going to have a top in the vicinity of 38”x26” (12.5% bigger area). This goes to highlight the importance of having the correct information when pricing out a countertop and avoids later surprises.
If you have a raised upper counter or bar that cantilevers beyond the cabinets or supporting wall, you will need to consider the following limitations, before additional supports are required.
For a ¾” finished top, you should not exceed 6” overhang.
For a 1 ¼” finished top, you should not exceed 10” overhang.
For a 1 ½” finished top, you should not exceed 14” overhang. 1 ½” tops will have a plywood subtop bonded in place for additional strength at the area of overhang. Once you exceed these overhangs, the customer will be responsible for providing and installing additional supports (corbels or brackets). In no instance should the unsupported portion of the top be more than 1/3 of the total top width.
At the time of template, any sinks being used have to be available, so the correct size/shape cutout can be made. When selecting your sinks, keep in mind that Undermount Sinks have a lip below the countertop, which has to clear the front of the cabinet, and leave room in the back for your faucets and backsplash. This typically equates to 4” in the front, and 5” in the back. You also need to be cognizant of your cabinet width… is it wide enough for your sink?
Water weighs 8 1/3 lbs per gallon. Some sinks will hold upward of 10 gallons of water, so that is 83 lbs hanging from the bottom of your countertop. In some instances, more fragile material will require added support for the sink. If you plan on using a cast-iron sink, you will have to provide additional support in the cabinets for the sink, due to their heavy weight. Farmer sinks should be installed prior to template.
Natural stone is quarried in large blocks, then cut into slabs, and polished. The block size (and subsequent slab size) varies based on conditions at the quarry. More fragile materials are typically cut in smaller size slabs. Some material will have a fiberglass backing, to improve stability in shipping. Typical granite slabs range from 7’-9’ long, and 4½’-6’ wide. The dimensions of your chosen slabs should be considered when envisioning potential seam locations. To minimize the appearance of seams, it is often useful to place them at Sink or Cooktop cutouts, so there is only a short amount of seam visible. Experienced fabricators will be able to determine the best location for seams to optimize the pattern match across the seam, whilst minimizing the number of seams and material waste.
Granite and other stones are heavy (~10 ½ lbs/SF for ¾” thick granite). An 8 foot countertop will be in the vicinity of 200 lbs. In the case of larger tops (long continuous runs or Islands), consideration has to be give to the feasibility of a two-man crew maneuvering the sheer size and weight of your countertops from your driveway, thorough your house, and positioning them on your cabinets.
The most common natural stone surface finish is “Polished”. This gives a glossy surface that reflects light, and emphasizes the color and character of the stone. Some stone types do not lend themselves to polishing, and will be “Honed & Filled”. This gives a matte finish that does not reflect light (Travertine as an example). A “Honed” Granite surface will have a greyer look to it, and the natural color in the stone will not be as predominant. An enhancer can be used to bring out more of the natural color, but it will not be as vibrant as a polished surface. There are other textured surface finishes available, like “Brushed”, “Sandblasted”, and “Acid Washed”, but the look of these is very dependent on the particular stone, so you should discuss the suitability of using these finishes with your fabricator.
Scheduling to avoid conflicts with other trades is important. You cannot have countertops installed if you have freshly laid tile on the floor. You can’t have countertops installed in the house is being sprayed painted. You should not have other trades (plumbers, electricians) working in the same area where your countertops are being installed.