Hello, readers! Welcome back to the Stonehouse Countertops blog! We’re pleased you’ve chosen Stonehouse Countertops for everything you need to know about custom countertop materials. We provide comprehensive deep dives into various aspects of the design and installation process, as well as helpful tips for choosing the best material for your home. Our goal is to equip you with the information you need to commission the perfect countertops! Stonehouse Countertops carries an array of granite, marble, quartz, quartzite, soapstone, silestone, limestone, travertine, onyx, glass, sodalite, slate, and porcelain slabs in its inventory. In addition to countertops, we offer fireplace surrounds, patios, floors, and walls. Whatever your design goals, we’re happy to help you achieve your unique vision!
Our previous article, ‘All About Marble,’ is a deep dive into one of the most luxurious, sought-after stones in existence. We took a closer look at what gives marble its luster, how marble has been used throughout antiquity, why certain kinds of marble are expensive enough to break the bank, as well as how marble is currently being used to bring spectacular vibrancy to residential and commercial spaces alike. We know we might be a bit biased (as we love stone here at Stonehouse), and that’s why we quoted a few experts in design for their opinions. Though marble is often considered “high-maintenance,” we believe its benefits far outweigh its upkeep. (If you’re wondering how to keep marble looking pristine for decades, check out our article ‘Maintenance and Care for Stone Countertops: Marble and Quartz’ for a comprehensive guide!) Once you’re done reading this article, definitely give our last one a quick read as well!
Today, we’re continuing our appreciation tour, only this time our focus is on granite. Generally considered the “king of stone,” granite is the most popular of both natural and manmade stones. According to the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), about 64% of new homes are outfitted with granite countertops. Compared to other materials—such as engineered stone with 9%, solid-surface also with 9%, and laminate with 14%—granite holds the overwhelming majority. Today, we’ll discuss what makes granite the most popular kid on the block. Once again, we’ll take our cue from design and materials experts. We’ll also give you a brief history of granite. By the end of this article, you’ll be a granite specialist. Thus, without further ado, let’s get started!
From the Latin word granum, meaning “grain,” granite derives its name. This refers to the peddled, somewhat-grainy texture of most granite. These “grains” are in fact minerals, suspended in the crystalline structure of each granite slab. The different minerals present when granite was forming are what give the stone its various colorings. For example, an abundance of potassium feldspar during the formation process will result in a salmon-pink granite; while equal parts quartz, feldspar, and amphibole produce a classic black-and-white granite. Granite is actually a closer cousin to engineered quartz than any other stone material (save quartzite perhaps) since quartz is the primary component of most granite. In fact, for a stone to be considered granite, it must first be composed of at least 20% quartz.
Formed from silica-rich, cooling magma underneath the earth’s crust, granite can form in pockets the size of one’s fist or batholiths over forty miles in area. Unlike marble, granite is incredibly tough, measuring in between a six and an eight on the Mohs Hardness scale. For this reason, granite hasn’t been used traditionally for carving purposes. Instead, granite has been a favorite of builders. Utilized in the construction of the Great Pyramid of Giza and the Red Pyramid of Egypt, how ancient Egyptians were able to move massive hunks of the stone is still in question. Many monuments in ancient Rome were also erected from granite. Cleopatra’s Needles, present in both London and New York City, are ancient granite obelisks gifted to Great Britain and the United states during the nineteenth century. These monuments are a testament to granite’s lasting nature.
It wasn’t until the late 1800s granite came to be used as a countertop material. Even then, granite was a prized, highly-priced addition to any home. Since mining was such a dangerous, costly process, granite was not widely available in a variety of colors. Since then, advancements in technology have made mining granite a fairly straight-forward endeavor. Now, granite is affordable for a variety of households and available in a near-endless array of colors and textures. However, in its composition, granite remains the same. It is still an incredibly strong material, sure to endure several lifetimes of daily use.
No two slabs of granite are the same. Or, as designer Eric Dillman puts it: “Granite is a natural product that comes from the earth. It is pulled out of the ground and will come out very unique. There are very few that are uniform in color and movement. A lot of people like it because it’s unique and a majority of the time no one will have that same looking slab as you.” Although there’s nothing wrong with having matching countertops with someone else, there is an inherent value in purchasing a one-of-a-kind item such as granite. Granite is available in over three-thousand different colors. Its available textures are nearly equal to that outrageous figure. Barbara Turns, owner of a design firm in Las Vegas, says, “Because no two slabs of granite are exactly the same, the variety is enormous.” From striations resembling tiger stripes to turtle-like hexagonal patterns to undulating waves—granite is a source of amazement for many interior designers. According to Architectural Digest, the stone “offers versatility, toughness, and a sleek look. Though it showcases the beauty of natural stone, it is also strain-resistant and requires minimal maintenance.”
Indeed, granite is minimally porous and minimally permeable. Though the stone requires annual sealing to protect against staining and etching, the stone requires only basic maintenance to keep looking its best. With mild soap and a soft cloth, granite countertops can be easily cleaned. As long as spills aren’t left for extended periods (i.e. overnight), there’s very little risk of a stain developing.
In addition to its variety of natural compositions, granite countertops can be further customized through consumer choices, such as finishes. A polished finish will give granite countertops a smooth, glossy appearance, while a honed finish will appear less reflective and mask miniscule imperfections in a slab. Then there’s the leather finish, which is created by running a diamond-tipped brush across the slabs surface, imparts a leather skin-like appearance, and combines the benefits of both the polished and honed finishes.
The price of granite is mainly determined by availability. Rare colors of granite are likely to cost a pretty penny, while common types of granite can be incredibly affordable. Size also plays a part in how expensive granite is. Cutting and transporting large slabs requires more labor and is thus more costly. However, for many, the cost is worth not having visible seams. Finally, granite price is also determined by grade. Types of granite are given a grade according to their strength and these grades represent the quality of the stone. Obviously, higher grades of granite will be sold for higher prices and vice versa. Level one is the lowest grade of granite and this type is often used for building purposes or for prefabricated countertops. Since level one granite is cut thinly (i.e. ⅜ in.), it usually requires a plywood backing for support. Any granite above level three is considered fine quality granite. The levels reach as high as seven, though not all companies will carry the highest grades. The average thickness of the higher grades is ¾ of an inch.
What a lesson! We’re happy to be able to share our knowledge about granite with you and hope you’re seriously considering the possibility of investing in granite countertops now. This stone is a wonderful investment and nearly guaranteed to provide return on investment. As well, granite’s longevity is unmatched! At Stonehouse Countertops, we are willing and able to work with you to your specifications. We offer a wide range of different materials and always have someone on hand to answer your questions! Don’t hesitate to reach out for a consultation or for help forming a plan. We want to ensure your vision becomes a reality! Tune back in for further articles in our ‘All About’ series. Until next time—thanks for reading!