Granite countertops can be tricky to shop for, since you only need to buy them once in the life of a home. For the majority of homeowners looking for granite, this is their first experience getting stone countertops installed.
The actual installation of granite is relatively pain free, taking only a few hours to a half-day. There’s really not much more you need to do to prepare for the installation than clean off your top drawers and make sure there is a clear path for installers to carry the heavy stone into your kitchen.
The buying experience, on the other hand, can be a bit more overwhelming if you don’t find a reliable fabricator right off the bat. Having worked on thousands of granite projects, we’ve got a pretty good idea what details matter when you are selecting a granite, marble, quartzite, or quartz countertops.
In this article, we’ll go over a few details that you won’t want to overlook as you search for the perfect counter.
Texture or Surface Finish of the Granite
First off, don’t forget that there are several different types of surface polish for granite, marble, and quartzite. “Polished”, “Honed”, and “Brushed or Leathered”, are the most used surface finishes on the natural stones.
Some homeowners love the shine of a standard granite polish, but if you are looking for something more subtle, you should learn more about honed granite.
It may seem like an insignificant detail, but the edge type, or “edge profile,” on a granite countertops can really make a big difference in the overall effect.
If you need help deciding between all the options that fall between a simple Eased Edge and a 6cm laminated Ogee-Over-Ogee Edge, check out our guide to picking the perfect edge.
Undermount or Drop in Sink?
Don’t know if you have a drop-in or undermount sink? Drop-in sinks have visible rims that sit on top of the counter. Undermount sinks, on the other hand, are attached to the underside of stone or engineered stone countertops for a smooth countertop area around the sink.
Having your sink under mounted or under counter sink with granite can add a little more to the cost, but it’s definitely an upgrade worth considering.
The finished look of under mounted sink is simpler, and you won’t have to worry about grime and build up collecting at the hard-to-clean rim of a drop-in sink.
Leave Room for Your Sink & Faucet!
As long as we are talking sinks, don’t forget to measure your sink base. (That’s the cabinet where your sink will go.) The average kitchen cabinet is 24 in. from front to back and your sink base will likely be anywhere from 21 to 36 in. from left to right. Make sure to measure inside the cabinet, because that’s the space that matters for your sink.
For an undermount sink, which requires more room under the counter for the hidden lip, you should allow 1 1/2- 2 in. on each side and more behind, depending on your faucet and whether or not you are getting granite backsplash.
Keep in mind granite backsplash will sit on the counter, taking up about 1 1/4 in. from front to back. How much room you will need for your faucet depends on the style. For example, if your faucet has a large handle that moves forward and back, you’ll need to leave room for it to move.
Your granite fabricator will be able to help you determine exactly how much extra space you need in your cabinet and behind the sink. Make sure to bring this up when they are planning your counters, especially if you’ve already bought your sink!
Does Your Overhang Need to Be Supported?
Including an eating area on your bar or island? The average adult knees will fit comfortably with a 12 overhang, but granite overhangs beyond 12 inches will need some sort of other support, such as brackets or corbels.
You need to know that some natural stones especially very exotic and beautiful stones tend to have some inherent fissures. We may have to add supports even for 12” overhangs when such type of stones are used in your project. That is where the knowledge of the stone fabricator comes into play to do the best thing suitable for each type of stone.
A great way to decide on an overhang size, especially when long legs or narrow walkways are a concern, is to attach a cardboard template to your counter and test different overhang sizes. If you decide on an overhang size that needs support, ask your fabricator what your support options are.
Other Places to Put Your Stone
Granite and marble have traditionally been used in many places besides the countertops. Whether you want to bring new stones into the mix or keep a consistent look across rooms, you should consider where else you might want to use granite now or in the future before you make the final purchase of your kitchen counters.
For example, if you have a fireplace that’s visible from or near the kitchen, you may want to use the same granite as you’ve chosen for the kitchen.
On a smaller scale, windowsills, kitchen or coffee tables, half wall caps, and powder rooms are great places to use extra pieces from your slab or coordinating granite remnants.
Fabricator Experience & Quality
Last but not least, you’ll want to be very intentional about selecting a qualified fabricator. Of course, price is important to most people, but granite fabrication can vary considerably in quality from one fabricator to the next.
Don’t assume that everyone is selling you the same product. Even if two fabricators have the same exact granite slab, fabrication and installation skill, and the machines they use makes a difference in the finished countertops.
You don’t necessarily need to shop extensively for companies as long as you make sure to spend time talking to your fabricator, learning about their business, and seeing whether they will work with you to find the right product and fabrication choices for your home, rather than simply getting a sale.
Here are a few particular things to consider when talking to your fabricator.
First, how well do they know the stones they have in stock? Can they talk to you about the characteristics of individual slabs and the fabrication methods they use on these stones?
Second, how is their seam work? Because of various reasons like length of granite slabs, design of your kitchen countertop, maneuverability etc. granite countertops need seams.
A well-done seam says a lot about the care the polishers and installers have for their craft. Ask your fabricator to talk about how they finish off seams and if they have examples or pictures of work they have done that you can look at.
Third, ask your fabricator about how they polish edges. Some low-end fabricators will drastically lower their prices by cutting out certain steps of the polishing process. This saves them money on tools and labor time, but an improperly polished edge will start to look cloudy and dull over time.
A properly polished edge will stay clear with its original shine forever, when correctly cleaned and maintained.
At the end of the day, the best research you can do is on the company you choose to fabricate and install your countertops. A quality fabricator will guide you through the stone buying process, making sure you are aware of all the important details and options.