By Clay Clemmer – Granite Division President
Who among you survived 1960’s Formica and would have ever thought you’d be buying rocks to put on your kitchen and bathroom countertops? And also spending large sums of money for these so called ‘rocks’ with the average cost today around $3500 for a standard kitchen installation?
Fad, freak of commerce, necessity or bright and shiny ‘bling’ for your kitchen or bathroom? After nearly 35 years in the industry I can say everyone has their own opinion on what it is or what it does for them, but the fact remains granite far surpasses other products due to it’s durability, beauty and elegance. Technological advances have made those elements more affordable over the last 30 years with stone cutting rigs called “computer numerically controlled saws” that now make it easier to cut and convert raw slabs into any shape for your remodel. These “rocks” now are the standard in countertops with demand expected to increase over the next three years and hit a historic 130 million square feet in annual installations. That’s according to a 2013 countertop study by the Cleveland-based industry market research firm called The Freedonia Group. The study proves not only are natural stone a good investment in 2014 and they are here to stay.
That same study reports that yearly sales of engineered stone, or quartz surfaces are expected to increase with 77 million square feet of countertops installed in the year 2017.Today’s natural stone countertops come with so many more choices than in 1987 when granite came only in two colors: today there are over a thousand.
Today so much more technical information available to the consumer concerning this natural countertop product compared to when I made my first marble table top in my mid-teens. I grew up in the family owned monument business and cut my teeth on granite and marble before I entered High School. Considerably different work than countertops, but the same working principles and characteristics apply to a rock whether it is destined to grace your kitchen or your grave. It lasts, far surpassing other products and I highly recommend you get exactly what you want because you can spend the rest of your life with it if you choose well.
Speaking of choosing: do so carefully. Not all granites are created equal. Some natural stone with very similar characteristics as granite are all clumped together for the benefit of keeping the sales process simple. So if it looks like granite, acts like granite (mostly) then it might as well be granite. It’s much easier and less confusing than defining the difference between let’s say: gabbro, diorite or gneiss.Any fabricator worth his salt will be able to guide you through the process, but my advice is to look for a company associated with the Marble Institute of America. They are the top source in setting industry standards for natural stone in installation practices and the link below allows you to search their directory for members.
You’ll also need to ask your fabricator or sales person for specifics on your material choices. Questions over pitting, veining, fissures and porosity are critical to learn before making a final purchase.
Beyond granite there are stones such as marble and onyx that are available as well and offer real warmth and a somewhat softer appearance than the typical granite. Each of these stone has their own benefits and drawback as well, mostly in the wear department. Ask your fabricator to explain these to you before you purchase so you are not caught unaware.
Despite the natural imperfections inherent to stone do not be afraid of it, the positives far outweigh any perceived flaws and usually a different stone or different slab can be found that will avoid these concerns totally or minimize them at least. Dollar for dollar the value of granite far outweighs the flaws and the constant beauty will not only bring joy for years AND retain its value as well for the next generation to benefit from.