Considering Granite Countertops?

Q. What are the most important things clients should consider when deciding to use granite for their counter tops?
A. The top most important thing to remember is granite is a natural stone. Granite is not perfect by any means. The stone has texture and fissures (which some people perceive as cracks) and each slab is NOT exactly the same thickness. Pitting is common with the stones that have a lot of quartz in them. Pitting can occur when the granite is cut for a countertop and with just normal wear and tear in your kitchen.

Granite is not easy to work with because it is a natural stone, so 99% of the time installation is NOT a one-day job. Installers usually must come back a second day to fill in pits and shave down certain parts to ensure a smooth finish and good fit.

Because no wall is ever straight or cabinet completely level, there will be gaps!!! The countertops will need to be shimmed to make them level and when the straight countertop or granite backsplash meets with the wall, there may be gaps that must be filled. This is typically the case in older homes using existing cabinetry. Matching a straight granite countertop with older cabinetry and walls that are not level, straight, or plumb, may take adjustment to ensure the best possible fit.

Q. What are the different types of granite?
A. There are different types of natural stone (marble, granite, onyx, soapstone, and quartzite) commonly used for countertops today. the Marble Institute of America (MIA) and Building Stone Institute (BSI), known as MIA+BSI, the Natural Stone Institute, is a great place to obtain information about the different types of stone and their characteristics.

Q. Are there any types of granite not suited for kitchens?
A. There are natural stones that require more maintenance for the kitchen. Because they’re softer stones, marble and onyx can be etched or scratched by acidic liquids. Soapstone scratches very easily as well, however, the scratches can be buffed out with a fine grit sandpaper, and some scratches may be able to be oiled out. Harder varieties of granite are better suited for kitchen countertops. The MIA+BSI, the Natural Stone Institute is a reliable source for the characteristics of the stones –

Q. What are the pros and cons of granite?
Pros – Granite is very durable and one of the hardest stones. It is highly scratch resistant and if sealed properly has a low absorption rate. It can withstand heat up to about 480 degrees Fahrenheit, although direct heat is not recommended. There are ENDLESS colors and patterns to choose from, that match every style.

Cons – Granite needs to be sealed once a year, however, a 15-year warranted sealer is available. The lighter-colored less-dense stones have a tendency to stain easier, but again if sealed properly staining shouldn’t be an issue. Radon is an area of concern for some. The MIA+BSI, the Natural Stone Institute addresses this concern in this article –

Q. How can granite be damaged?
A. Chipping can occur if heavy objects are dropped on the edges. Chips can be repaired with an epoxy. If direct heat is applied to the quartz stones it can cause pitting, which also can be filled.

Q. What is the average lifespan of a granite counter top?
A. If properly cared for, granite can last a lifetime!

Q. How do you keep granite clean? Is it true it resists bacteria?
A. The MIA+BSI, the Natural Stone Institute is a reliable source for care instructions –

Q. What does the “templating” process entail?
A. In replacing an existing countertop with a new granite countertop, your countertop must be completely cleared off so that a template may be created. All of your selections will be discussed with the “templater.” They will go over the radius on the corners and any design ideas you have. At this point the templater will use a laser to measure your countertops. This can be done with your existing tops on or with just your base cabinets in place, however, they cannot be moved after your countertop has been templated. Once the templater has measured, your pieces will be drawn out on their system for you to see. They will provide a hard copy of your template for you to approve with all of your selections.

Q. How long does it take to select granite and have it installed?
A. It depends on the customer. Some customers spend years selecting their granite, while others make all of their selections in about 30 minutes or so. Once you have made your selection you are put on the schedule for templating and installation. Depending on the time of year, the time frame may be adjusted slightly, but normally it takes about 7-10 days to template and another 7-10 days for cutting and installation.

Q. Do customers need to reinforce their base cabinetry to support the weight?
A. If your cabinets were installed within the last 30 years normally they can withstand the weight. We do not know for sure until the existing tops are removed to see the structure. Sometimes additional support needs to be installed along the wall.

Q. Are there other things to consider?
A. If you are not doing a renovation, but are just replacing your old countertop with a granite countertop, you must keep in mind that this is construction, construction is messy, and there will be dust involved with the installation. Although the installers clean up after the project is finished, they may not be able to catch everything. You may need to do a final cleanup after the dust has settled.

We would like to thank our granite countertop designer, Lauren McLaughlin, for her contribution in writing this article for the EMC Home Improvements blog.

If you are considering a granite countertop for your kitchen or bath and would like more information or a quote, please contact David Snyder at, 410-937-8196, or Derrick Snyder at, 410-937-4677.

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