As an experienced project manager for a quality natural stone countertop fabricator, I know what you need to look for when making this important purchase. Granite countertops have significantly dropped in price. You will find these high end countertops in homes ranging from mansions to the average split entry in the suburbs. After reading this article you should have a better understanding of granite countertops.
Natural stone has become much more affordable due to the competition in the market. Advanced technology and automation in fabrication have also contributed to lower costs. They are very durable and have a timeless look.
Granite is a wonderful choice for countertop material, but buyer beware. No two fabricators are the same. Big box retailers have jumped into the game some years ago and have taken a bite out of the market place.
You might be wondering if it is OK to go with the lowest bid. The old cliche “you get what you pay for” holds especially true for natural stone countertops. Granite is all the same, isn’t it? It is true that each fabricator should have the same access to granite slabs from their suppliers. However, this craft requires highly skilled workers and experience.
I have worked in many homes where my company had to rip out the existing stone tops, due to poor workmanship by other fabricators, and install new countertops.
There is a fabricator in my area that undercuts prices. They were able to land some of our potential customers due to their low bids. However, we also did the same to them because we could show the client superior quality. Lets face it, some consumers are only concerned with the lowest price. This particular company in my area has an F rating with the Better Business Bureau.
A house is the biggest asset for most people. New countertops are a vital part of any remodel and an important piece when building a new home. My advice is to not worry about saving a few hundred bucks unless you feel you can trust the lower priced fabricator.
A number of things can go wrong during fabrication and the install if you choose the wrong company. Just Google “bad granite countertop installs” and you will get the picture.
Here are some important things to remember when selecting a fabricator:
1) Does the retailer do their own fabricating or is it subcontracted out to another company, which you will have no communication with?
2) Look at their display pieces carefully. Give special attention to the seams (where two pieces come together). Do they blend well with the colors of the stone? Are they 3/32″ or less in width? Is the seam mostly flat (very small lippage can be acceptable due to warping in the stone)? Is the edgework consistent and straight? Watch for wavy edgework and uneven corners. Of course, the display pieces might be their best work so keep that in mind.
3) Check how long the company has been in business. Everybody has to start somewhere, but a lot of “chop shops” sprung up in the housing boom in the early 2000s and that will probably happen again with this new potential housing bubble.
4) See if they offer a warranty on the install (not the material itself).
5) Make sure the fabricator attaches their undermount sinks with both clips and silicone. I have seen some companies just use silicone and the sink has a chance of falling at some point. Clips come with the sink and are held in with fasteners to support the sink (holes are drilled on the underside of the granite so the clips can be attached).
My final piece of advice is to not expect perfection. Granite (and other stones) will not be free of flaws, that is what makes it a unique product. Also, cabinets can be out of square and not level. Walls are never perfectly straight, which makes installs difficult. In other words, expect greatness but not perfection. Natural stone is extremely difficult to work with and very heavy (about 20 lbs. a sq. ft.).
Hopefully these tips give you some insight on how to purchase granite countertops. Countertops are an essential part of your home. Natural stone such as granite and marble are a sound investment in your kitchen or bathroom, with beauty that will last for many years.