Kitchen Granite Countertops – selection and installation tips

 

Kitchen Granite Countertops – selection and installation tips

There’s more to selecting granite countertops than picking a pretty sample at the store and hoping you’ll be happy with the results.  Here are some things I found out, that will help you get a stunning countertop that you’ll be happy to live with.

Polished black granite – gorgeous, streaks easily, shows finger prints, and water spots. Some varieties of black granite are bad and may give you problems.  My opinion is high maintenance.

A polished surface will show crumbs and other debris, but will provide more protection for the granite than a honed surface.  If you select granite with variations in color and grain, it may help to disguise anything that didn’t get wiped up.

Never pick your granite countertop from a sample chip in a retail store.  Go to the wholesale yard and chose the slab(s) you want (have it tagged once you choose a fabricator).  The color variations and grain patterns on some types of granite will vary greatly, with one slab being be the best you’ve ever seen, and another of the same type of granite being be the worst you’ve ever seen.   Take a sample of the flooring and cabinet with you to hold against the granite to help you in selecting the slab (I like to choose the tile after the countertop, since there are more tile choices).  In most cases, you will only be using small sections of the slab for each counter.  Bracket out sections on the slab to help visualize what a section of counter will look like (It’s easy to just love a whole slab, but not when it’s cut up into pieces). Run your fingers along the edge of slab, feeling for any cracks.  Reject any slabs that have a crack.  After you’ve found a slab you like, have the yard break off a corner piece for you.  The slab under cool fluorescent lights or sunlight may not look the same as it will under the lights in your kitchen, so you need a piece to look at in your environment .  See this you tube – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VM10axdBRmU&feature=related).

 Now that you have a piece at home, test it to see how porous it is.  Not all granite has the same porosity!  In fact, if the porosity is less than .25%, it doesn’t need sealing. If you are a neat freak who is always wiping up things the second they hit the counter, then this might not be an issue.  If things don’t get wiped up right away (my house), then don’t skip this step.  The first test is the lemon test.  Put a few drops of lemon juice on the granite.  If it develops dark spots quickly, then it needs to be sealed.  If it doesn’t absorb at all, then it may not need to be sealed.  Try the same thing with water and mineral oil for about 10 – 15 minutes.  If it doesn’t darken the stone, then it might not need to be sealed.  Next, try things that might be spilled and not wiped up right away – cooking oils, mustard, salad dressing, wine, etc… on the backside.   Let it sit overnight, and then check to see how bad they stain.  If there is considerable staining, then get some 511 sealer from Home Depot, Menards, or Lowes and seal the top and try it again.  The granite I chose for my kitchen did not stain with this test, and I’ve never had a problem (6 years after installation without sealing).

Ask your fabricator if the type of slab you chose is a good one.  Not all stone labeled granite is really granite, for example Uba Tuba isn’t granite – it’s charnockite.  And some types of granite are notorious for having problems (pitting, fissures, etc…).

Make sure the top of your cabinets is level.  Put a straight edge on top of it to make sure.  Some fabricators will give you an agreement to sign before they start, that will insist on cabinets being level within 1/8”.  If they are not, they could cause the granite to crack when pressure is applied (standing on the counter or pressure on places such as the front edge of a sink).  Ask the fabricator what they do about cracks during installation, and get it in writing.

Need an overhang for a countertop?  Try using the 2/3 on and 1/3 off rule (at least 2/3 of the slab on the cabinets and 1/3 or less as the overhang – 2’ on cabinet, 1’ overhang).  However, I prefer at least a 14” overhang for island seating, so I don’t bang my knees on the cabinets.  If you decide to go with a smaller overhang, test this by creating a mockup with cardboard, or find someone who has an overhang similar to what you are considering, and try it out.  You will need support for the overhang.  Unfortunately corbels are annoying and can get in the way.  Talk to your fabricator about alternatives, if you don’t want corbels in the center section.

Granite is a “cold” surface.  Maybe great for dough, but not comfortable for your arms.  Most people live with it, but some creative people install a radiant floor heating mat under their countertops, so they are warm.

After you’ve selected the slab ask the fabricator to let you preview the template layout on the slab before they cut it.  This will show you what each of the pieces will look like and allow you to make any changes in what part of the slab is on a particular counter.

After each piece is installed and before the fabricator leaves, clean the surface of the counter and run your hand over it feeling for flaws such as pits or rough spots.  Mark the location of each flaw with a piece of tape and have the installer fix them.  Sometimes they will have a special person who will come later to do this.

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