Five Questions to Ask Before Buying Countertops
Q. What grade of stone do you sell?
A. “First Quality!” There are different grades of stone in the market today. While they appear similar, there are color, structure, and quality differences that dictate how the stone is graded at the quarry. At GRANITE & MARBLE WORKS, you will only get the highest quality stone… “First Choice” or “First Quality.”
Q. Does your company handle all of the fabrication and installation of my stone?
A. Yes. We do not subcontract or outsource any part of the process. You will deal directly with GRANITE & MARBLE WORKS employees every step of the way. We will provide complete one-on-one consultation, guidance, and design expertise. We aim to make the process fun and easy for our customers… with hassle-free sales, service, and support.
Q. Can you repair any cracks, chips, or stains that develop over the life of my countertop?
A. Our skilled craftsmen are specially trained to do all types of repairs. They are not only technicians, but also artists!
Q. Can I buy my sinks and faucets from you? Who does the plumbing?
A. Yes. Not only do we carry sink and faucet options, but we’ll also do the plumbing work for you! Ask about our “Remove & Reconnect” service option.
Q. How do you stay connected to the stone market and industry colleagues?
A. GRANITE & MARBLE WORKS is a long-standing member of the Natural Stone Institute, the largest trade association in the world to represent the stone market, setting the standards for workmanship and ethical excellence. We are also the Capital District’s exclusive member of the Rockhead USA Group, a council comprised of the “Best in Class” stone fabricator executives all over the United States, raising the industry bar from better products, to better employees, to better processes. In addition, we attend industry conferences and international trade shows to stay up-to-date on the latest technologies, trends, challenges, and opportunities.
Marble In The Kitchen
Today’s designers and architects often suggest marble and other soft stones in a kitchen for aesthetic reasons. People have used marble in kitchens for centuries, and the patina that the stone develops from use is part of the beauty of the stone. This is a viable option provided you are aware of the intricacies of such an installation.
Marble and other soft stones can be porous and may stain easily. At GRANITE & MARBLE WORKS, we address this issue by applying a permanent sealer to the marble countertop upon installation. Sealing protects the stone from discoloration, but the surface of softer stones can be “etched” by acidic elements like citrus, vinegars, coffee, etc. If you use these products, you will likely experience etching on your marble. In addition, due to the heavy-duty use of kitchen counters, marble is a risky choice.
What If I Don’t Find What I Want From Your Inventory?
As an active importer of natural stone, we often have new material coming to us from one of our international suppliers. Please ask your salesperson if the stone you’re seeking is currently on order. We might also be able to get your desired material from one of our trusted domestic suppliers.
We are willing to fabricate stone from a local third-party and are happy to recommend a wholesaler. If you choose to visit a local wholesaler, please consult with us before giving them a non-refundable deposit. That way, we can verify that you are getting what you need to yield the best possible result. There are several things to consider when ordering material from a third-party:
- What’s the square footage requirement of my project?
- How many slabs do I need to minimize seaming and to keep the flow/grain of the stone going in one direction?
- Do I have long cabinet runs or a super-sized island that should be considered?
- What slab size would be best for my project?
- If I need multiple slabs, are the slabs sequentially numbered in the bundle? Are they book-matched?
- Are there any nuances with this type of stone that I should know? What is the care and maintenance of this material? How durable is it?
Most of these questions are best answered in a collaboration with the customer, supplier, and fabricator. Please let us assist you with this process.
“Book-matched” refers to how slabs are cut and finished at the factory. Large blocks of natural stone are brought to the factory from the quarry and cut into slabs by a special saw that works like a bread slicer. Every other slab gets finished (polished, leathered, honed, etc.) on opposite sides of the rock. When consecutive slabs are placed next to each other, they open up like a book and show a mirror image of each other.
Book-matching is very useful for fabricators when they would like the patterns of the stone to flow continuously from one side of a seam to the other. When the stone has strong movement or color variation, fabricators can simply continue the countertop stretch into the next consecutive slab. Book-matched stone gives a stunning result. On applications such as large kitchen islands, long cabinet runs, and shower walls where a seam is necessary, book-matched stone can look like abstract art.
Not all stone can or should be book-matched. It depends on the natural characteristics of each material. At GRANITE & MARBLE WORKS, we try to purchase book-matched, consecutive slabs whenever it makes sense to do so. Consult with your salesperson for the options available to you.
Overhangs & Support
Stone countertops can often be extended beyond the cabinets to give an added functionality to kitchen spaces. There are several variables that must be understood to determine when additional support is needed for overhangs. The maximum overhang depends upon the hardness of the stone, the intended use of the space, and the overall cabinet design. Extended islands, higher level bar tops, and peninsulas are some of the areas of the kitchen that may have an extended overhang.
We will discuss overhangs and support requirements at your template appointment. If needed, GRANITE & MARBLE WORKS will provide additional support(s) as part of our installation service and at no additional charge. This is accomplished by securing steel bars or plates between the stone and your cabinets, creating a permanent support that is almost invisible and does not hit your knees.
Pits & Fissures
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder! Pits and fissures add to the charm and uniqueness of natural stone.
In today’s natural stone industry, many species of granite receive a resin treatment at the factory where the blocks of granite are cut into slabs and then polished. The treatment is used to fill micro-fissures, indentations and other minor characteristics that are found in many natural stones. The reason for the resin treatment is to address what most consumers consider as imperfections, but in reality are “birth marks.” The consuming public gravitates to perfection, defined as no “birth marks,” and so the marble and granite industry tries to fulfill the desire.
– Marble Institute of America
Pits: Pitting is normally due to the fact that granite is a natural product that has a crystalline structure, sometimes resulting in small spaces between the varying mineral crystals. Various steps are taken during the finishing process to reduce the visibility of these pits, but they cannot be totally avoided in all stone types. Pitting will NOT become worse with regular use or with the passage of time.
Fissures: These look like hair-line cracks in the stone, but are just surface features and will not widen or grow over time. Fissures are a natural result of the heating and cooling of the stone during its formation millions of years ago. They do NOT affect the structural integrity of the stone.
Daily Care & Cleaning
To keep stone countertops clean, use a microfiber cloth to dust-off the surface. Clean with mild soap and water or a stone cleaner formulated with a neutral pH. Use a clean soft cloth for best results. Never use harsh chemicals or abrasive cleaners. Here are some other helpful tips for natural stone care:
- DO blot-up spills immediately. DON’T wipe the area, it will spread the spill.
- DO use coasters under glasses, particularly those containing alcohol or citric juices.
- DO clean surfaces with mild detergent and water.
- DO thoroughly rinse and dry the surface after washing.
- DO protect countertop surfaces with coasters, trivets, or placemats.
- DON’T use vinegar, lemon juice, or other cleaners containing acids.
- DON’T use abrasive cleaners such as dry cleansers, scouring powders, or soft cleansers.
True, you don’t have to seal engineered quartz materials… but the supposed “hassle” of sealing granite and the frequency required has been greatly exaggerated by. . . MARKETING (courtesy of manufacturers of competing countertop surfaces and producers of stone sealers). The “sealing” issue should not be a relevant factor when deciding between countertop materials.
DEFINITION: Sealers are below-surface, penetrating-type products (better referred to as “impregnators”), designed to fill the pores of the stone to inhibit staining agents from being absorbed by it.
Most of the stone at GRANITE & MARBLE WORKS is resin-treated at the factory, adding a layer of protection to the stone before we receive it. When we install your granite or marble countertop, the last step we take is to apply a permanent sealant to provide an extra barrier against liquid absorption. You shouldn’t have to do anything more to your stone, besides enjoy a care-free lifetime of use!
At GRANITE & MARBLE WORKS, we like to make things easy for our customers. That’s why we offer an optional service called, REMOVE & RECONNECT. For a nominal fee, we will remove/discard your old countertops, disconnect your plumbing, install the new countertops, and reconnect your plumbing… all in one day! Otherwise, in addition to removing the old counters, we ask that you disconnect the plumbing before we arrive to install your stone and reconnect the plumbing after we leave. If we are installing onto new cabinets, then your contractor/builder will take care of any water, gas, or electrical connections that are necessary.
Polished: A polished finish leaves a clean, glossy, and almost slippery appearance – similar to a glossy photograph – the full color, depth, and crystal structure of the stone is visible. It is created when a stone surface reaches its most refined stage. It is buffed to the highest level possible, giving the stone a very elegant and rich look. This is the most common finish used for countertops.
Honed: This is a fancy term for a “matte” finish – similar to a matte photograph – little to no gloss, non-reflective, non-slippery, satin appearance. This finish is created by buffing the stone to slightly less than the highest level. The result is a smooth but dull appearance. A honed finish refers to any level that is less than polished and therefore encompasses many levels of dullness.
Leathered: “Leathering” is the process of texturing granite or marble to appear less glossy. This process amplifies the natural characteristics of granite or marble, resulting in a finish similar to suede leather… not only soft in appearance, but also soft to the touch. The texture will vary depending on the type and composition of the stone, an act of mother nature which gives each material a unique color, feel, and appearance.
Discoloration: Staining vs. Etching
Staining: The porosity of natural stones varies greatly, and so does, of course, their absorbency. We seal our products during installation to help prevent staining; however, this process does not make the stone 100% impervious to liquid. Some stones may absorb liquids, and if such liquids are staining agents, a stain might occur. A stain is usually darker than the stained material, while the surface finish of the stone remains smooth.
Etching: Other “discolorations” have nothing to do with the porosity of the stone, but rather are a result of damage to the stone surface. If the discoloration appears to be lighter in color (may look like “water spots” or “water rings”), it is probably an etch mark. An etch mark is a chemical burn that forms when acid, ammonia, or alcohol comes into contact with the calcium carbonate element that exists in certain natural stones. These marks look like the finish or the shine has been removed from the surface of the stone. The area that is etched can feel a little rough to the touch. Etching is most common on marble, quartzite, travertine, onyx, and limestone surfaces.
GOOD NEWS! Stains can usually be removed and most etch marks can be repaired. Just give us a call! Our skilled craftsmen are specially trained to repair your stone and protect your investment.
Sink & Cooktop Cutouts
There is usually very little stone leftover from a cutout – the pieces that are left are irregularly shaped and need to be cut and polished. If salvageable, there is a charge to fabricate these pieces to make them suitable for use. [WARNING: Scrap pieces are heavy and can scratch your new tops!]