In the stone countertop market, there are two major categories to choose from, and we don’t mean marble vs granite. Countertops can either be purchased prefabricated (pre-cut) or they can be custom cut from the original slab to your project specifications. At it’s core, the difference between prefab and custom counters is when the slabs are cut. But in practice, the difference is astronomical.
The Difference Between Prefab and Custom Countertops
While the primary difference between custom and prefab counters is when the slabs are cut, the difference in experience, design freedom, and final result can be profound.
- Are cut to pre-determined standard kitchen dimensions and countertop shapes
- Assume where your sink and dishwasher will go
- Seams are wider and more visible when installed
- Available in limited color, grain, and grade of slab
- Cost less per square foot
- Are often pre-cut overseas and shipped pre-cut to your countertop provider
- Start with a whole slab
- Are cut by local stone fabricators to your kitchen’s unique dimensions and design
- Come in the widest variety of color, grain, and slab grade
- Cost a little more per square foot
- Lower carbon footprint from local providers
- Create ‘remnant’ slab to use in smaller projects
Why Choose Custom Countertop Fabrication?
Each homeowner who chooses custom countertops has their own unique reasons. We’ve worked with thousands of homeowners on kitchen and bathroom remodels and we’ve heard all those reasons a few dozen times. Not sure if prefab or custom is right for you? Let’s explore the many reasons why choosing a custom countertop fabrication might be the right choice for your renovation or new construction project:
1) Your Kitchen Isn’t a Cookie-Cutter Clone
There are millions of cookie-cutter homes, condos, and apartments built in standard dimensions; but your home isn’t one of them. Prefab counters assume you have one of the ‘standard’ kitchen designs often put in by home builders and multi-family construction designs. However, millions more homes are either custom designed or have been so uniquely remodeled that they no longer fit that cookie-cutter shapes.
Maybe your vision has rearranged the countertops, along with the location of your sink and appliances so a cookie-cutter prefab counter just won’t fit. Or maybe a previous owner or the original home designer left you with a delightfully unique kitchen. In these situations, prefab counter shapes may never fit and you’ll need custom counters for your beautiful custom kitchen.
2) Eliminate Visible Countertop Seams
Custom countertops are cut so that the seams between matching slab pieces are nearly invisible. Precise measurement and expert installation can practically make your granite or marble seems invisible once in place. Prefab counters, however, are cut for transport and the seams are never as precise as a custom cut. You also can’t guarantee two prefab pieces come from the exact same slab.
Installing prefab counters will often leave gapping seams with highly visible lines of caulk and sealant in-between. If you want that seamless countertop look, you’ll need a custom cut by skilled local stone fabricators who have measured your kitchen and are working with a solid matching slab.
3) A Wider Selection of Custom Slab Colors and Grains
There are hundreds of different colors and grains of natural stone to choose from for your countertops. When picking a custom countertop, you get to choose from the full array of slabs available on-site or that could be ordered by your countertop team. Prefab countertops, however, are more like shopping out of a catalog.
You can choose from the limited colors and grains available, but this limits your ability to perfectly match your kitchen’s design in both color scheme and grain detail. You also can’t guarantee the pre-cut counters that arrive will directly match the picture shown as the product changes from slab to slab.
4) A Higher Grade of Granite or Marble Slab
The grade of your countertop is the thickness and quality of the stone the counters are cut from. Custom countertops allow you to choose the grade when you choose the specific slab you want your counters made from. Understandably, prefab counters come in a preset selection of grades. If the stone design and grade you want aren’t available together, you’re out of luck.
Many homeowners choose custom countertops for a higher grade of stone in the colors they prefer, increasing the overall quality and beauty of their kitchen and bathroom design.
5) Unique Spacing for Sinks and Appliances
Where do you want your sink, dishwasher, and other built-in kitchen features? Shouldn’t these choices be yours to make? After all, part of the fun of remodeling your kitchen is moving the features to your preferred ideal locations. With custom counters, you can have the sink aperture cut anywhere you want in the countertop array. You can ask for an indent for a butcher block cutting board. You can ask for an extension or floating section for wheelchair-friendly prep. This is your freedom as the homeowner and visionary designer for your remodel.
If your vision of a dream kitchen layout doesn’t fit the assumed shape and arrangement of pre-fab shapes, then pre-fab counters won’t be your remodeling dream-come-true. Only custom-cut countertops can fit a custom-designed kitchen.
6) Planning for a Matching Island and Sectional Countertops
Another thing that prefab counters can’t do is let you get flexible with sectionals. Many larger kitchens have a ‘broken ring’ design with countertops surrounding the chef, broken up by doorways and pathways to make way for household traffic flow. You probably want each of your countertop sections to match the whole design and if you install an island, it should also match perfectly.
When cut from the same slab, your sectional and island kitchen design can be perfectly matched with invisible seams and beautiful custom features. Naturally, prefab counters just don’t come with enough creative pieces to put together your complex sectional dream kitchen. Or the matching bathroom counters.
7) Reducing the Carbon Footprint of Your Kitchen
For those of you looking for green materials and eco-friendly home design, custom countertops are actually greener than most prefab options. As we mentioned earlier, prefab counters are often cut overseas and the whole pre-shaped units are then shipped to your countertop dealer when ordered. However, green home remodelers can help you pick out a slab that was quarried relatively nearby (ex: North Carolina quarries granite, while marble can be found in Texas and Vermont just to name a few) and then cut locally to reduce the transport carbon footprint of your countertop selection.
8) Get Creative With Your Slab Remnants
Last but certainly not least, custom countertop fabrication comes with one very special bonus: Remnants. When your countertop is cut from a solid slab of granite or marble, the remnants are the smaller pieces cut away from the main countertop shape – like the cookie dough left after you remove the cut cookie shapes. These remnants can also be used in your home to make beautiful matching accents like half-wall toppers, mantelpieces, backsplashes, shard mosaics, and even stone serving platters.
Talk to your stone fabricators about using your slab remnants because they will perfectly match your countertops with accents throughout the home.
Why choose custom countertop fabrication for your kitchen and bathroom designs? Whether you’ve got a unique eye for countertop layout, value invisible seams, or have some great ideas for slab remnant projects, the benefits are diverse and persuasive. If you are planning a new countertop design for your home, contact us today and our team will be proud to help you choose the right slab, meet our stone fabricators, and bring your custom countertop vision into a beautiful reality. We look forward to working with you.