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Shopping for Granite: What to Know Before You Go

Protect Your Granite Investment

So you want a Granite countertop for your kitchen or bathroom, now what? Granite has been a popular natural stone for decades. Homeowners and designers alike rave about its durability, ease of maintenance and striking appearance. But how does one embark on a journey of purchasing Granite? The shopping experience can be overwhelming when dealing with cracks, veins and seams for the first time. Protect your investment by learning how Granite is classified, who grades it and how this relates to price.

Level Up

Two things ultimately determine dreamy Granite from the average are the level and grade. Level has everything to do with COLOR. The generic evenly-speckled beige, brown, black and gray granite you see in every condo building built in the late 90’s already has mass appeal and is considered low grade quality. Granite rich in gray and white stone basically telling a story through vibrantly detailed veins scrolling over unique pink and gold colored specks will classify on the higher end of the spectrum.

“Put quite simply: the higher the level, the higher the price”.

Getting the Grade

Next up, is the grade. What makes one slab of stone a higher grade than another? Grade is basically the imperfection meter. The less dings, dips, chips, fissures (industry term), the higher the grade. Seams also play a large role in grading. Fabricators have the ability to tailor seams (where two stones join together) in the slab strategically. Seams tend to disrupt the stones’ natural beauty. The less seams, the higher the grade and you guessed it – the higher the price.  

Shop Smart

Back in the day, acquiring stone was done locally. Supply and demand from the nearest quarry. Like many other household goods, worldwide distribution impacted the industry in both positive and negative ways. On one side, stones from across the world have been made available in your backyard. On the other, lots of these stones are mislabeled and poorly priced. Just like anything else, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.

How does this happen? Fabricators are not held to an industry grading standard. This means scammers are ready to sell you their high-level granite for an insanely low price. So lace up your tire-kicking shoes and shop around. Treat your countertop like you would your car. Is the mechanic trustworthy and reputable? Look on the website for client testimonials of success stories. Don’t be afraid to ask around, good old fashioned word of mouth continues to be effective.

Shopping for a kitchen countertop is a personal experience and a good retailer will handle your business carefully. Learning the in’s and out’s of Granite is no easy task. The absolute best way to get acquainted with the stone is to visit a few different retailers and be the judge yourself. Heck, you may find a lower grade attractive and save a bundle. Knowing what your like about specific qualities of Granite can help you find your dream slab a lot faster.

Learn more about Granite

Pros & Cons of Quartzite Countertops

Discovering Quartzite Countertops and Surrounds

Before discussing the pros and cons of quartzite it is very important to understand that quartzite and quartz are not the same material. Many people confuse these two when, in fact, they are totally different in origin and physical nature. Quartzite is a natural stone material. It begins life as sandstone which is transformed over eons by heat and pressure deep within the Earth’s crust. Quartzite is quarried, cut into slabs, and used for countertops, fireplace surrounds, wall coverings, stairs, etc.  On the other hand, quartz, not to be mistaken with the natural crystal, is a man-made building material. Quartz is manufactured from a mixture of crushed stone, sand, color additives, and polymer resins.

Quartzite Pros

Quartzite…

  • … is a hard and durable material that is well suited for use as a countertop, wall or floor tile, stairs, fireplace surround, and other home and building applications. At about 7 on the Mohs scale for hardness, quartzite is slightly harder than granite which runs in the range of 6 to 6.5 Mohs.
  • …resists heat and staining better than marble, provided that it is properly treated at least once a year with a recommended sealer.
  • …has the beautiful look and feel of marble but it is actually harder and easier to maintain than marble.
  • … is easy to clean―just use soap and warm water for everyday spills and cleanup. No special cleaners are needed, just remember to seal it at least once a year.
  • …is UV resistant so it is perfect for use in sunrooms or on the patio because it won’t fade or darken in direct sunlight.
  • …costs less than manufactured quartz, plus it resists heat and stains much better. While the use of a trivet or potholder is highly recommended on any countertop, the resins used in man-made quartz can melt or degrade when in contact with hot surfaces.
  • …is a versatile natural stone that’s on a par with granite for beauty and durability. It will complement any beautiful kitchen, bath, or living space.

Quartzite Cons

Quartzite…

  • …usually costs more than granite because it is rarer.
  • …is more prone to etching, scuffing, scratching, and staining than granite. Typical kitchen acids like orange juice or vinegar will etch quartzite, as will household cleaners and bleach. Grape juice, red wines, coffee and tea will stain unless wiped up immediately. Pots, pans, knives and even china can scuff and scratch quartzite surfaces.
  • …quality can vary so beware as a buyer of discounted quartzite and so-called “soft quartzite”. There is no such thing as “soft quartzite” because all real quartzite is hard mineral―remember it should have a Mohs scale of about 7.  Some sellers might even try to pass off dolomite (Mohs scale ~ 4) or even soapstone (Mohs scale 2-3) as quartzite.  The key here is to know your retailer.
  • …is not suited for the typical DIYer. These slabs are heavy and should always be cut and installed by a professional with trained helpers.

In conclusion, remember that all quartzite is not alike and that real quartzite is hard, is quarried as a natural stone, and is not related to the more expensive man-made quartz. Quartzite is available in many natural shades, colors and random patterns to give beauty, form and function to any room in your home. While quartzite can grace any room with exquisite, natural beauty, remember that it must be treated to prevent permanent scratching and etching.

Learn more about Quartzite Countertops