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Granite - Answers to your Basic Questions
about this Popular Countertop Material

Courtesy Arch City Granite & Marble

We give our heartfelt thanks to Arch City Granite and Marble for allowing us to use their fine Granite Countertops FAQ as the basis of this somewhat abridged and reedited version. We've tried to glean the most important issues for you, our reader, who may be on the hunt for a new countertop and are considering granite.

Hopefully, this article will give you some basic information to help you work with your fabricator/installer to get the best possible granite installation. NH

What is granite?

Granite is a natural stone composed of several large mineral grains which are tightly packed. Because the major components of granite... feldspar and quartz... are harder than steel, granite has become a popular alternative to softer materials (plastic laminate, solid surface, etc.) for kitchen countertops.

Granite countertops courtesy Arch City Granite and Marble

How resistant is granite to damage in normal use?

Though granite is not indestructible, it has the greatest scratch resistance, heat resistance, longest useful life, resistance to most common chemicals and lowest maintenance of any other material currently used for countertops.

For example, knives cannot scratch true granite. Only diamond blades can cut granite! When purchasing granite, keep in mind that some stone types (gneiss and schist, for example) are measurably softer than true granite and can be scratched by knives.

What about the cost?

Due the abundant supply of granite from around the world and technological advances in both harvesting and preparing, granite has become more affordable than ever. When price shopping, consider granite's durability, damage-resistance and beauty when comparing it to the more fragile and less durable options on the market today. In fact, some non-granite countertops can cost as much or more than granite!

Does granite need to be resealed regularly?

If you use high quality impregnating sealers like DuPont Bulletproof sealer, you should have to reseal your granite every three years. If you use a cleaning liquid called Revitalizer also made by DuPont, you will not have to reseal your countertops ever. A gallon container of Revitalizer only costs $39, which will lasts 2 to 3 years depending on the size of your countertops.

Can granite be repaired?

Chips and cracks in granite can often be repaired. You can hire a professional granite fabricator or try one of the do-it-yourself kits. The kits use a plastic resin that hardens so smooth the surface, and the clear product makes the repair invisible on many types of granite, especially granite with distinct speckles, which help cover up the repair. However, some types of damage may need a professional's experience to make them as invisible as possible.

Repairs will never be as sturdy as the original granite, however.

Granite can have small pits that are visible to the eye and can be felt. What are they?

It is not uncommon to see and/or feel some small pits on the surface of granite slabs. These occur during the polishing process, when some weaker components of the granite can flake off. Remember... granite is a natural stone that is a combination of mostly hard minerals but also some softer minerals.

These small pits do not affect the strength or durability of the granite, but you should discuss these issues with your fabricator when making your choice of granite.

Unlike small repairs/damage that may occur to granite due to accidents, it is not advisable to fill large areas of pitting as it will affect the appearance of the granite. If the pits really bother you, you should consider purchasing a granite that has minimal or no visual imperfections.

Do seams in granite show?

Due to the limitations in granite slab size and/or the layout of your kitchen, many granite kitchen countertops have seams. In fact, placement of seams can be one of the most vexing parts of countertop planning.

The answer is Yes and No. So yes, seems are visible if you look carefully at the countertops (they are ALWAYS more visible to the homeowner). However, the goal of a good granite installation company is to make them as inconspicuous as possible. Arch City uses a CNC machine to make both surfaces mate as smoothly as possible, minimizing the gap to make the joint as perfect as it can be.

Sometimes the layout of the countertop allows the fabricator to place the seam in the center of the sink cutout which exposes the minimal amount of seam to the eye. However, there is some debate as to whether this location is more sensitive to movement since the changing weight of water, dishes, etc. can cause some movement in the seam that would not happen elsewhere in the countertop where the mounting is more rigid and the seam length is substantially longer.

What about the filled lines in the granite slabs?

A good number of granite colors that are very beautiful with a variety of colors and veins that flow in different directions, are not truly "granites" in strict geological terms. Though they are commonly called granites, they are actually Gneiss or Schists stones. "True granite" stones scale between 6 and 7 on MOH's scale of hardness (diamond hardness is 10). Whereas, the MOH's scale for Gneiss and Schist is less than 6.

In order to strengthen these stones to be used as countertops, they undergo a process called resinization, where epoxy resin is used to fill the weak spots of these stones. These slabs, with the visually filled lines, do not break or crack once they are installed, with proper care. If any problem does happen, it will happen during fabrication or transportation. Mascarello, Copenhagen, Louise Blue, Barricato, Betularie, and many more popular stones belong to this category. A lot of customers do not mind the fill lines and visual imperfections because of the beauty of these natural stones.

As with the pitting mentioned in the prior section, if you are a perfectionist and do not want any imperfections, then you should choose another type of stone.

What types of finishes are available for granite?

There are three finishes available for granite (though they may not be all available for any specific type you choose):

  • Polished: A shiny, glossy surface. This is by far the most popular. •
  • Honed: A matte finish.
  • Brushed: A rough texture. Suitable for outdoor kitchens, though some designers like to use it inside as well.

 

What about allowing my granite to overhang the edge of my island for more seating options? When is additional support or bracing needed?

Example of countertop overhang courtesy Arch City Granite and MarbleGranite countertops can often be extended beyond the cabinets to give an added functionality to kitchen spaces. At Arch City Granite this is a question we are asked every day. The standard overhang is 1 ½" from the face frame of the cabinets. This gives a good visual appearance because it creates a ¾" overhang from the door fronts. You can compare this to the 1" overhang typical of the laminate countertops you are looking to replace with granite.

The actual overhang may slightly vary depending on how straight the countertops are installed. Having the cabinets not installed in a straight line is not an uncommon problem. The Arch City Granite measuring person discusses these issues with the homeowners to come to a clear understanding of what variances can be expected.

For example, your fabricator can extend the 3 cm granite countertops up to a maximum of 8" from the cabinets unsupported. We can be a little more liberal and extend them 10" with strong granite verities like Tan Brown, Coffee Brown, Black Pearl, and other stronger stones.

We have to be careful when we install upper bar tops that sit on a 5" knee wall. These overhangs have to be supported by steel braces placed under the countertop and then screwed into the wooden studs in the knee wall. Any granite countertops with more than an 8" overhang should be adequately supported by steel braces.

Extended islands, higher level bar tops, and peninsulas are some of the areas of the kitchen that may have an extended overhang, up to 12". The placement of wood or metal supports that extend from the cabinets, sometimes called corbels, can hit your knees and are not visually appealing.

The ideal solution is to place steel bars, secured adequately, and is a permanent support that is almost invisible and does not hit your knees!

I've decided on having my granite overhang the cabinet. What is the ideal overhang width for my island or bar top?

For most people, a 12" overhang is more than adequate for seating without your knees hitting the cabinet. As mentioned above, extra support will be needed to be sure the granite does not break or crack under stress.

How do you attach a dishwasher to a granite countertop?

That would depend on your dishwasher. Because of the growing popularity of natural stones (such as granite) for kitchen countertops, many manufacturers offer special bracket kits that allow you to secure your dishwasher to the sides of your cabinets rather than at the top.

If this sort of installation is not possible in your kitchen (or you have an older dishwasher), the dishwasher will have to be attached to the under surface of the kitchen countertop to prevent tipping the machine forward when the door is opened. This attachment also prevents vibration during the dishwasher's operation.

At Arch City Granite, the dishwasher is attached to the underside of the countertop with a well-designed and patented bracket. This attachment is rigid enough to secure the dishwasher safely, while still allowing you to easily remove it in case you need to repair or replace the dishwasher in the future, without having to call a granite fabricator to do so.

If you want to "do it yourself", there are a variety of brackets that you can purchase either online or at your local home store. Though you can drill the granite and install an anchor, by far the simplest installation kits use epoxy-type adhesive to secure the bracket to the underside of the countertop and require no drilling.

Can I keep my existing tile back splash?

Yes. While replacing the existing laminate countertops, many of our clients choose to keep their current tile backsplash. You must consider the following points for better results:

The thickness of laminate countertops is 1 ½" and granite, marble, or engineered surfaces, like Ceasarstone, are 1 ¼" thick. The replacement causes a visible gap of about ¼" between the new granite countertop and the existing tile. This scenario applies in cases where the tile goes all the way down to the countertops. You can solve this problem by using one of the following methods:

  • Applying caulk in the gap with a matching color to the existing grout. The new caulk line will be about a ¼" thickness instead of the tile grout line of about 1/8". It is barely noticeable and an acceptable compromise.
  • If you have kept the grout from the original tile installation, you can use that grout to fill the gap. This is the best case scenario.
  • You can purchase and install a trim line from any tile supplier that fits between the tile and the granite countertop. This should be done by your tile installer.
  • Installation of a 4" back splash of granite over the existing tile which will completely cover any gap between the tile and the new granite. This is another commonly used option.

If your old laminate countertop has an integrated 4" back splash, you can purchase a granite back splash that will fill the gap between the granite countertops and the existing tile.

Or if you want, you can choose to have 4 ½" height granite back splash which will cover the transition between the bare wall and the existing tile backsplash, slightly overlapping the tile for a more finished appearance if the 4" height doesn't quite work of if the lower edge of the tile is rough or unsightly.

Do I need to reinforce my cabinets for granite installation?

No. Granite is heavy, typically weighing between 16 to 17 lbs. per square foot. But if you have standard manufactured cabinets (or custom cabinets of compatible strength), you do NOT need to add any reinforcement to your cabinets, assuming you are using 3cm (1 ¼") thick granite..

You may need some additional support in the corners of walls or it there is an excessive unsupported area or overhang. This will be determined by the template specialist (the guy who comes to measure) and he will be able to explain to you what will be necessary and whether or not you wish to do the work yourself.

How is the granite attached to the cabinets, and do the cabinets need to be absolutely level?

The stone countertops are places on the cabinets and, after ensuring that everything is leveled, a bead of silicon is applied at the intersection of the cabinets and the underside of the stone. This is sufficient to hold the countertops in place in a normal situation.

Many homes, especially older homes, have uneven floors and, often, uneven cabinets. Your granite installer is aware of this and will install wood shims as necessary to make the installation as perfect as possible.

 

 


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