Saturday, November 3, 2007

A Guide to Selecting Granite Counter Tops


Congratulations on considering using granite for your new counter tops. Granite is becoming the number one material used for counter tops in all buildings and it should be. In a recent study by the Kitchen and Bath Association, granite counter tops are being used in nearly 1/3 of all new homes being built today. Granite is a durable material with many advantages over other materials traditionally used.

Granite is an excellent choice for counter tops. It is very scratch resistant. Most granite will not be affected by acidic foods. Hot plates can be placed directly on the surface. Some granites are somewhat porous and can stain very easily therefore proper sealing is a must. Granite is also available in polished and matt finishes. Granite is also expensive but is one of the most beautiful counter tops available.

Granite- Dispelling the Myths

Many of you will use granite for your new counter tops and you will run into many myths when shopping for granite. The following will help you deal with these myths and rumors.

Do not use granite. It is dangerous and can harm you. Granite emits radon and it can also harbor bacteria. Theses are some of the statements that are being rumored lately. They are absolutely not true. Lets take a look at each one of these rumors:

Myth #1- Granite can harbor harmful bacteria!

This statement is simply untrue. We Contacted The Center for Disease Control(CDC) and The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) to find out how many cases they had on file where granite has caused any illness or disease as a result of bacteria. They could not find one case, proving that granite will not harbor bacteria. In addition, you would expect one to clean their counter top on a regular basis.

Myth #2- Granite contains harmful radon gases!

This again is another myth that is untrue. This claim was investigated by Donald Langmuir, PhD, Professor Emeritus of Chemistry and Geochemistry at the Colorado School of Mines and President of Hydrochemical Systems Corp. Mr Langmuir response can be found at

Myth #3- Granite is difficult to clean!

Also, not true. Anyone who works with or owns a granite counter top, knows it is very easy to take care of. Cleaning requires wiping with a good stone cleaner. There are even disinfectant cleaners now available for both granite and solid surfaces. ISI members provide complete cleaning instructions with all counter top we sell and install.

What to look for:

Now that you have decided on granite it is now time to visit the shop and choose your counter top. As we mentioned not all granite is the same and you should look at the slab or slabs that your granite counter top will be fabricated from. The following are some tips that should help avoid any problems.


Your new granite counter top will be made from a slab of granite. A slab is a large rectangular piece of stone that your counter top will be cut from. Slabs come in various sizes and basically two thickness(3/4 and 1/1/4 inches).
Once you have selected the type of granite you like, then you will need to examine the slab very carefully. Look for imperfections, such as nicks, pits, etc. Some of these imperfections can be filled Check to make sure the granite is not scratched.
If we already have your template made, we will take the template and place it on the slab. This will give you a real good idea on how the counter top will look. If there are any unusual natural flaws, the template may be arranged so that these flaws are not on the counter top when complete. Now is the time to discover these flaws, not when the counter top is already cut.

Things to discuss with us before the slab is cut.

There are several things you need to discuss with before the slab is cut.

Seams: How thick will the seams be? A seam is where two pieces of stone meet. An extremely wide seam will be unsightly. Seams should be no wider than 1/8 of an inch.

Our shop will place the seams in areas that will provide full support of your new stone countertop.

Cabinets: Before we can measure or template your countertops, the cabinet installer must have the cabinets set and leveled. This is the responsibility of the cabinet installer.

Sinks, cook tops and fixtures. Before your counter top is fabricated it is important to have your sink, cook top, etc and all the fixtures you plan on using. Once we cut the openings for the fixtures and appliance it is too late. Even if a template is available, many times the fixtures and appliances will change and the template will not work. The only way to avoid this is to have the actual sink, cook top and fixtures available.

Door Pulls and cabinet hardware: It is important that the cabinet’s door pulls and hardware are installed. The reason for this is to make sure that the pulls are easily accessible when the counter tops is installed.

Overhangs: If you plan on having a large overhang on any of the counter tops there is a limit as to how much the counter tops can overhang without any additional support. Your fabricator should be able to guide you on the proper overhang limits. For overhangs larger than those recommend you should have them properly supported to withstand a persons weight. This means placing metal or wood brackets under the counter top.

Installation of your new counter tops:

There are also several things you will need to discuss with us about the installation of your counter tops. Of course this is best done before the counter tops is installed.
Here is what we will discuss with you that will make a smooth installation:

Fixture installation: Normally the installation of the fixtures is performed by a plumber. Most plumbers are professionals and know what they are doing, however many plumbers are not familiar with stone. The number one problem with installation of fixtures is the use of plumber’s putty. Plumbers putty is used on the fixtures to help seal them. Plumbers putty will also stain very easily. Make sure to tell the plumber to use a non-staining putty. Once the counter tops is stained with plumber’s putty it is very difficult to remove.

Acceptable repairs: Many times during fabrication or installation the stone may chip. It is common practice to repair these chips with a polymer type filler. This is considered acceptable by the stone industry as long as the repair does not effect the structural integrity of the stone and that the color of the repair does not detract from the appearance of the stone. Remember stone is a product of nature and it may have naturally occurring holes, chips, etc.

Fred Hueston is a nationally known stone expert and is the founder of The National Training Center for Stone & Masonry Trades and Stone University

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