7 Things Your Designer Should Ask Before Choosing Marble or Granite Countertops
No matter how beautiful or well-executed the overall design, the wrong countertop can ruin a kitchen or bathroom remodel. Most designers have an incredible, innate sense of how to create beautiful kitchens. However, there are things they should ask you before selecting a marble, granite or stone countertop for your home, says stone fabricator Sinan Sepkin, founder, and owner of Academy Marble.
1. How high-tech is the fabricator?
Is the fabricator you’re considering “old-school,” or “digital”? If you want a less expensive, more accurate countertop, ask. Your fabricator should be using the latest technology to cut and route the edges of your countertop.
“We used to cut templates out of wood, place those on the stone, and ask the customer to imagine what it’s going to look like when it’s installed,” said Sinan Sepkin, owner and founder of Academy Marble and Granite. Forgive the pun, but hand measuring with a tape, using wood templates – that’s stone age technology.
“Now we take a high resolution, digital photo of the stone, put the digital template on our monitors and show the customer how the countertop will look in 3D before we even cut the stone,” he said. “Our state-of-the-art water jet machine cuts the stone. We guarantee 1/32nd of an inch accuracy on all our stones,” Sepkin said.
Customers get to see how the veins match up at the scenes, and how it will look overall. This lets them get the features in the stone at the part of the kitchen where they want it. Holes for sinks – both under and over-mounted, and spray or soap accessories are exact.
2. What’s the best stone for your lifestyle?
Designers and homeowners have similar, but different goals for their kitchen and bathroom counters, Sepkin said. “I love working with designers. They truly appreciate the beauty of stone countertops. They know what they want. They appreciate the subtleties in the color, veins, and the beauty of the stone. But they sometimes forget to explore how their client will use the countertop.” That’s why he suggests homeowners take an active part in selecting their countertops.
If you’re a homeowner or designer considering stone countertops, think about how the countertop will be used, as well as how it will look:
- Marble – Marble is a stunning stone with timeless appeal, but scratches easily.
- Granite – Granite is a natural stone that does not need a large amount of attention, and is only less hard than diamonds.
- Quartzite – Quartzite is actually harder than granite. In fact, it’s harder than all the other popular stones used in countertops. Less expensive than other stones.
- Quartz – Quartz is bold with durability and is very low maintenance. It wipes clean with a damp cloth and a bit of soapy water. No abrasives cleaners are needed. It’s not good with heat
3. What style stone do you want to use?
While stone of any type is not good with heat, may appear similar, no two natural slabs are exactly alike unless they are bookend. If you’re planning on matching countertops – for instance, a slab that runs around the walls in your kitchen and an island in the center of your kitchen, you should take into account how each area will be used. Color, the type of stone and its veining may look beautiful, but how will it perform? Your fabricator will also help your designer pick a slab that has the right amount of “movement” as well. Other things you want to consider:
- Honed or polished? Honed marble or stone lacks the shininess and reflective qualities of polished stone. The feel and look of the stone have more of a satin-feel. Honed stone feels smooth and velvety to the touch. Pros: Honed finish can be fixed easily if scratched.
- Sealant? With the recent advancements in sealers, every natural stone should be sealed to ensure your investment is protected. Sealant can keep your stone looking beautiful for up to 15 years
- Day-to-Day Use. If you’re a cook who’s always in the kitchen, if you have children, throw a lot of parties, or use your kitchen on a daily, regular basis, consider quartz or granite. Both have a luxurious look, natural stone, durability, and scratch-resistance that recent advancements in sealers (sealant lasts 15 years) can keep beautiful.
- How much maintenance will the countertop require on a day-to-day, and week-to-week basis? Quartzite is the lowest maintenance stone countertop you can buy. Pros: All it needs is a wipedown with a soapy sponge or towel to clean. Cons: Not very resistant to heat (melts at about 300 degrees Fahrenheit).
4. Who pays for mistakes in the cutting or installation of the counters?
Mistakes happen, but you don’t want them happening when you’re paying for a very expensive slab of stone. Unlike many stone fabricators, Academy Marble and Granite’s policy is, “The crew who measures the kitchen for a stone countertop, is also the same crew who installs the countertop. They use a digital measure, eliminating the mistakes of the old hand held tape measures.
“We have a process that ensures no one makes a mistake with the measurements, or with moving the stone through the house. Having the same crew from start to finish ensures if the stone cracks or the measurements are wrong, we know it’s our mistake to fix.”
Cutting your stone correctly is just the beginning. The installation process matters too. Heavy countertops such as granite or quartz need at least two sets of hands and a very good understanding of how to install the countertops. Incorrectly installed countertops can create torque, which can lead to cracks or stress fractures after they’ve been installed. Stone countertops are also heavy and difficult to maneuver once the installers get them inside a house.
Think past the stage of selecting and cutting the stone and ask the fabricator who they use to move the stone. “Stone flexes. It’s heavy, and crews can hit walls and damage the home when moving a countertop through the home. Make sure your installers aren’t just men with big muscles, but a crew who regularly installs stone countertops. Never try to install a stone counter yourself. “It’s a difficult, complex job,” Sepkin said. “The stone is heavy, and it’s easy to break or chip if you don’t know what you’re doing.
5. How much time am I willing to spend maintaining stone countertops?
There’s no denying that white marble or granite countertops are stunning features in any home. But they have to be maintained to stay beautiful. How much time are you, the homeowner, willing to invest every day, every week, every month to ensure that class countertop stays as beautiful as the day it was installed? Consider whether you cook daily, have kids, throw a lot of parties, or pretty much stay out of the kitchen altogether,, except to go to the fridge. Share your concerns with your designer, and the fabricator to find the best stone for your lifestyle.
6. What kind of edging should I choose?
There are more than a dozen kinds of edge designs for stone countertops, but the six most popular among consumers are:
- Half or full bullnose
- Mitered edge
- Laminated Ogee over a full bullnose
The type of edge you select determines the impact of the overall design of course, but it also affects the efficiency, safety, and style of your new kitchen. Sharp angles make your countertop stand out, softer; rounded edges make the design fit into a room better. As far as safety, the waterfall countertop edge has no edges, or sharp corners, making it safer for families with young children. Remember, most non-standard edge options are considered upgrades. Expect them to increase the cost of cutting, polishing, and installing your countertop.
7. How much bang can I get for my buck?
You can’t get a full kitchen counter out of remnant pieces, but if you have a small kitchen, a small counter, or very little counter space (think wet bar, tiny home, etc.) you can save money by using remnant pieces. Remnants are parts of a larger slab that remains after a countertop is cut. Remnants are a cost-effective, eco-friendly choice for smaller projects like vanities, fireplace surrounds, and Islands.
On average, granite and quartz cost about $50 to $100 per square foot, while soapstone countertops cost $70 to $120 per square foot, including installation, a typical 30-square-foot slab of granite or quartz costs about $1,500 to $3,000, while a soapstone countertop cost about $2,100 to $3,600. By choosing remnant pieces for smaller areas, shelving, and accents, you can save an average of 25-50% – depending on how many remnant pieces the fabricator is looking to sell.
Finally, realize that you’re about to make a major investment in your home – spending $500 to $3,500 or more on a slab of rock. Take time to do your research, speak with your designer, and even visit the fabricator to get all your questions answered. Academy Marble and Granite welcomes visitors, customers, and designers who want to see our process, and how the machine cuts. Contact us to set up a time to visit.
Schedule a Consultation