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Granite countertops were up-and-coming a decade ago, but they continue to be one of the most popular choices for kitchens and bathrooms today. Homeowners considering granite countertops will have a wide variety of colors, patterns and designs from which to choose. You can even get cheap granite countertops without compromising on look & quality. Knowing the facts about granite before you buy will help you make the right choice -- one that will last for years to come. Here are some of the factors involved in choosing granite countertops:
Granite countertops are naturally unique, and they add value to any home. Granite offers other benefits as well, including:
Various color and pattern options
Heat, scratch, dent and chemical resistance
Granite was expensive when it first came onto the market, but it has become more affordable in recent years. Nowadays, you can even add bevel, radius and square edging to granite countertops for a reasonable price. Some downsides to granite are that it is cold, scratchable and prone to damage from hot grease and repeated cutting over time. Additionally, it is easy to see its seams. If you're comparing granite with other natural stone options, consider the following:
Silestone, Corian and quartz countertops offer fewer color and pattern options
Quartz and Silestone countertops are more expensive to install
Corian is easily scratched, dented and damaged by pans
Other natural stone countertops can be installed without seams
Granite is rated the best natural stone countertop material because it is less expensive and easier to repair than other natural stone countertop materials. Quartz is a close second, but its higher cost makes it a less attractive option for homeowners. Corian can be as affordable as granite countertops, but when you factor in the cost of design, average prices can skyrocket. In the end, it comes down to what you want in a countertop and how much you're willing to spend. Consult with a countertop contractor if you'd like to learn more about how granite compares to other natural stone materials.
Granite Slabs: $5 - $20 per square foot Granite Tile: $5 - $15 per square foot
Granite countertops come in two types of material: slab and tile. The type best suited for your project will depend on the square footage you need to cover, the number of seams you're willing to show and the amount of money you're willing to invest. Granite slab countertops cover a large amount of counter space and show fewer seams. The largest slab available is seven feet long, so you'll need more than one slab if your counter is longer than seven feet. Granite slab is very heavy; therefore, installation is not a DIY project. Granite tiles will make your house more appealing for resale without costing thousands of dollars. With tiles, you will not have to remove the old countertop, but you'll have a lot of seams requiring grout in between. A third option is modular granite. Also known as "mini-slabs," modular granite produces fewer seams because the slabs are larger than tiles but smaller than traditional slabs. Installation is potentially a DIY job; however, it will take at least two people. This is because, like slab granite, modular granite is heavy.
Where to Buy Granite
When considering where to buy your granite tiles or slabs, it's important to note that home improvement stores offer a limited supply. Local fabricators and contractors have access to a wider variety of options and may charge less for granite in bulk than a retail outlet. Here are three reasons to go with a fabricator instead of a local home improvement store:
Counter Choices: Home improvement stores have a maximum of about 30 styles of granite. These are considered commodity choices because they're uniform. Local fabricators, on the other hand, have access to hundreds of unique options.
How to Install Granite Countertops: Local stores don't personally install your countertop; they outsource it to a third party. This leads to a lot of confusion and hassle if something goes wrong. If you go with a local fabricator who has a contractor on-hand, you'll have no problem handling any issues that come up.
Layout of the Space: Local suppliers often take the time to personally lay out and pattern your countertop to your specifications. A big-box store usually just goes with a pattern.
Whether you should install slab or tile granite countertops depends on your project, your budget and what you're looking to accomplish. You can purchase slab granite countertops for $50 to $60 per square foot, while you can get granite tile for $10 to $40 per square foot. Slab granite is better for kitchens with a modern, contemporary look or small kitchens with a simple layout. Granite tiles are best for complicated counter layouts and difficult spaces. Tiles can also be a good DIY project to save money on your remodel; however, tile is not for everyone. Some drawbacks to granite tile include:
Cheap-looking in upscale kitchens
Grout must be sealed apart from the tile
Grout has to match tile exactly
Grout has to be resealed on a regular basis
Must have a hidden countertop under the tiles
Must be scrubbed to remove food from the grout
Installing countertops like granite tile involves laying them in a particular way, adding the grout in between and allowing the grout to dry for several hours. Granite slab, on the other hand, requires professional installation because of the weight of the slab. It usually takes about a day to install a granite slab countertop. Slab granite also requires re-sealing on occasion, but it does not require maintenance on a regular basis like granite tile does. A granite slab is also easier to clean, which makes it better for kitchen function. Most homeowners choose to install a granite slab countertop, unless they're looking for a quick solution. Granite slab countertops last longer, are easier to install and come with less maintenance. While they're less expensive, granite tiles can cost more money in the long run.
Once you've chosen granite tiles or slab granite for your kitchen or bath, it's time to start the countertop installation. Some of the additional costs involved in this process include:
Labor: $300 - $500
Edging: $200 - $300
Materials (excluding granite): $400 - $600
Seams: $200 - $300
With the price of the granite material included, it could cost anywhere between $2,000 and $4,000 to have a granite countertop installed. This cost may also include a backsplash and cutouts for your sink or bar area. It depends on your installer, so be sure your ask when you getting a quote from your countertop professional. If you have a slab granite countertop installed, it will take anywhere from one to two days. If you have granite tiles installed professionally, it could take up to a day depending on dry time.
Granite Countertop Installation Materials
For slab granite:
Three-quarters-inch (1.905-centimeter) plywood
For granite tiles:
Carbide tipped scoring tool
Drill with screwdriver bits
Rubber padded grout float
General Steps for Professional Granite Countertop Installation
Remove and disconnect all appliances connected to the countertop.
Remove the screws connecting the old countertop.
Use a crowbar to lift the old countertop off the base cabinetry.
The countertop installer will take measurements of the area to cut the slab or figure out how many granite tiles will be needed.
The installer will cut out the granite, if it's slab, using a diamond-blade saw. Then he will polish and edge for installation. With granite tiles, he will create a "hidden countertop" to lay over the base cabinets.
The installation team will place the granite slab or the hidden countertop over the base cabinets. It will be leveled and then held in place.
If it's a granite tile installation, installers will use grout and tiles to install the tile countertop. It will be left to dry.
Sealants and fillers will be applied to complete the installation of the slab or tile countertop.
If you want to personalize your granite for the kitchen or bath, there are various options to choose from. These include:
Colors: white, black, blue, red and gold
Patterns: solid, marbled and speckled
Designs: honed or glossy finish
Marbled granite transitions color and texture so it looks similar to real marble. Speckled granite provides a great accent to cabinets and appliances. Honed countertops have a matte finish, so granite can look like other materials. You also have options like edging, tiling and backsplashes -- various ways to customize your countertops to meet your needs and design preferences. The more complicated your design, the more expensive it will be. Since granite is a tough material, a special design requires equipment and care that increases the price charged by the professional. Some colors and patterns are only available in imported stone, which can increase the cost of your countertop. You might have to compromise on what kind of countertop you want to save money in the end.