Q: How is stone priced?

One of the best things about our industry is that there is no connection between quality and price.  Often, even the least expensive option can be a very high quality slab that makes a perfect material for your countertop.  Pricing is instead based on a few simple considerations.

Supply and demand – Brazil is an example of a mature economy where they have the perfect combination of excellent materials to be quarried, a high level of technological expertise in extraction to minimize waste and loss, and an excellent distribution and transportation network to move materials from the quarry to finishing factories to ports for shipment to the US and other countries.  For these reasons and many others, there is a massive supply of high quality low cost Brazilian materials in the DC market.
Labor and insurance – Norway and France are good examples of countries with a good supply of materials and technology, but prohibitively high labor and insurance costs that inflate their final product costs to consumers here and elsewhere.  The high quality finishes and precise finishing can sometimes balance these increased costs and make the finished slabs very attractive and worth the premium they command.
Market manipulation – As recently as last year Saudi Arabia was toying with the idea that pricing on their product had fallen through acceptable levels and that by limiting supply, they could put it back within the target range they had decided was appropriate for the three primary colors they export.  As a result, we have seen less supply, lower quality and higher costs on some of these items as wholesalers clear out stocks.
The unicorn factor – Every year we see one or two colors quarried and sold that the […]

December 8th, 2013||

Q: Which is better, granite or quartz?

The internet is filled with answers to this question with strong opinions on both sides.  As a manufacturer of both materials, we are happy to provide some rare unbiased advice on this question.  First, a few important notes.

One, a large percentage of the information available online is either by manufacturers who are financially motivated to promote their own products or by homeowners who have made a selection and feel passionate about the answers they arrived at for themselves, but are not necessarily the correct answer for you and your home.
Two, natural stones have a massive range of characteristics which can make them a better solution in some areas and inappropriate in others depending on how they are used.
Three, very few people in Italy who walk on 400 year old marble steps every day outside would understand that we think of the material as ‘fragile’.  Materials such as these simply wear and age developing a patina that varies over time and is a living finish instead of a static alternative like the polished granites and engineered slabs of today.
Four, all of the materials in the market today make exceptional countertop surfaces and we should think of this conversation as a luxury when possible and try not to be overwhelmed by the number of options. Even just ten years ago we had far fewer alternatives and many projects were limited in scope due to the extreme cost and/or lead time involved with less common materials.

So which one is better?  The most frequent analogy I use to help frame an answer is to compare a desk from Ikea to an old wood dresser from your grandparents.  After a few years, even if the Ikea desk is in […]

December 6th, 2013||

Q: What areas do you serve?

We have a showroom and a manufacturing facility for our stone products, including granite countertops in  Richmond VA (Short Pump, Glen Allen, Ashland). From here, we serve the 64 corridor from Charlottesville to Hampton Roads and the 95 corridor from Richmond to Baltimore.

December 5th, 2013||

Q: Do I need to seal my countertops?

One of the most frequent questions we receive is about sealing, both whether it is necessary and if so, with what frequency it should be completed.

The simple answer is as follows:

‘If the stone is developing water spots during normal use, your tops need to be sealed. Sealing your stone is a simple process of spraying it on and wiping it off. It will need to be re-done when water spots start to re-develop.’

The more complicated answer depends on the exact type of countertop you have selected and what your subjective performance goals are for your particular usage. The vast majority of our installations are granite, and this type of formation, an igneous rock, literally translates to ‘born of fire’. This is an extremely violent process that millions of years later results in an enormous variety of densities and variations in absorbency. Each block removed from a mountain side will vary in sealing needs and tendencies, even though they have a similar finish applied.
All countertops should be considered absorbent, even our engineered quartz varieties like Zodiaq and Caeserstone. The goal is to provide a countertop that is dense enough to repel moisture inherently and then add a layer of protection and sealant that makes it even more durable for constant use. Some are better at this than others, but the majority of what is sold as polished, resined slabs in this country are up to the task and will perform admirably.

The addition of a new generation sealant, like the flurochemical sealers we sell at our shop, will actually bond with the surface of the stone and provide a long term layer of protection against both water and oil stains. These sealers are slightly more expensive, […]

December 5th, 2013||

Q: How do I choose a sink?

A kitchen sink is not just a kitchen sink any more. While you will spend a lot of time enjoying the look of your new countertops, a large percentage of your actual time in the kitchen will be spent working around the sink and faucet. These selections are crucial to the functionality and eventual enjoyment of your new project and should be well thought out with as much information as possible. There are different materials to choose from, different configurations and a myriad of actual sizes. Finding the right one is not so much a science, but a matter of talking through how you use the space and what your sink normally looks like. Dishes drying? Large trays? Dinner from the last three nights? Peeled vegetables? Spotless and pristine? There is an answer for everyone and every situation. Last year at Granite Source alone we installed 456 different types of sinks. And each year brings more and more new styles and trends to consider. Don’t worry. We all manage to choose the right cereal in the store somehow. Or do we?

Materials

Silgranit – Defined as hard composite, these sinks are actually manufactured from a mix of materials of which up to 80% is granite and rest an acrylic resin. The sink itself has a textured feel that can complement stone beautifully if chosen wisely. Although most of these sinks come with an extended warranty, they are expensive and bulky, which dissuades many buyers. It also takes a keen eye to ensure a good match between the sink finish and countertop material. These are by far our least popular sinks. That does not mean, however, that they might not be perfect for your home. More information […]

December 5th, 2013||

Q: Can I keep my existing tile backsplash?

In many cases with countertop replacements, we are asked if the existing tile backsplash can be reused.  The simple answer is yes, but with a few qualifications.

Granite or engineered stones are primarily 1.25″ thick.  Laminate countertops, the kind we replace most, are 1.5″ thick.  Upon replacement, this will then leave a 1/4″ reveal between the bottom of the tile backsplash and the top of the new countertop.  Here are the best ways to handle the gap in order of preference.

If you have any of the grout leftover from the original tile installation, or if it is a simple color to match like white or almond, simply clean away the dirty caulked area and re-grout the gap at the bottom.  This will make the gap look intentional and professional and in most cases match the size of the grout lines elsewhere.
Purchase a tube of colored caulk to match your grout color and caulk the gap between the two materials.  It will be 1/4″ thick instead of 1/8″ as normal, but this difference is barely noticeable unless you are looking for it.
Purchase and install some form of trim to match the tile or countertops at a local tile store such as Mosaic Tile. (www.mosaictileco.com)
Ask Granite Source to measure, fabricate and install a 4″ granite backsplash and just install it over the tile.  Once it is caulked in, it will look very normal.
Hire a handyman to be on the job at the time of our installation to install 1/4″ plywood on top of the cabinets before we install our stone.  Please note that this option will leave a 1/4″ strip of unfinished material around the edges.
Shim up the countertops from below during installation.  This is the lest […]

December 5th, 2013||

Q: How much overhang can my countertop have?

There are many places where extra overhang can add to the form and function of your countertop.  Bar seating areas, peninsulas, pass through shelves and raised surfaces.  We are frequently asked how much overhang a particular material is able to sustain safely.

The answer lies in a combination of physics and liability.

First a couple of notes:

Your countertop cannot be glued down.  Glue dries over time and will eventually separate.  Probably at a very inopportune moment of stress on the material which will result in catastrophic failure causing damage to the environment or personal injury.
Mechanical fasteners are not useful in this application because they will become worn over time with constant friction and bumping, resulting in a similar failure.
The only way to properly support overhang is to support it.

Physics: Gravity will pull anything down that extends farther then the portion that is supported.  In other words, if you have a 12″ bar cabinet and put a 12″ overhang on it, the top will fall off.  Once you get south of this 50/50 rule, it is a matter of comfort.  I recommend to people that they take a coffee table book and play with percentages by seeing how much downward pressure is required on the overhang portion to lift up the supported area.  If is too easy with a coffee table book, it is dangerous with granite.  For those that like to organize life into tidy formulas, we generally look at anything with an overhang of more then 50% of the supported area as questionable.  So if you have 12″ supported on that bar cabinet, the most you would want to consider having as unsupported overhang would be 6″.  Not an absolute rule, but hopefully a useful […]

December 5th, 2013||

Q: What kind of options are available for surfaces today?

In today’s market, there are four basic material choices for kitchen countertops.  Laminate, Solid Surface, Hard Surfaces and Recycled.  Each one has merits depending upon the particular application.

Laminate, also commonly referred to as Formica, is plywood with a thin compressed wood and plastic veneer.  Most of us have lived in a home with these countertops, and for the price, they perform very well.  Average materials installed will be under one thousand dollars and can be expected to last up to fifteen years if well maintained.  Common complaints are that the seams separate and start to peel up and that the edge lamination comes unglued over time.  All in all, however, these products offer tremendous value.  In a resale situation, however, laminate tops will be considered a liability to homebuyers who are comparison shopping similar units.

Solid Surface, also commonly referred to as Corian, is plastics and particulates that have been melted together to form a very durable countertop that can look ‘seamless’ once the product is installed and the pieces melted together.  There is a huge selection of colors and finishes, and installation is relatively painless and mess free.  The biggest problem with these countertops today is that they are the same price as hard surface options, and simply do not hold up as well or increase the home value.  Not necessarily a liability on the re-sale market if neutral in color and in good condition, you will still not see it listed in the property description as a benefit.

Hard Surfaces make up the vast majority of new installations in the Metro DC market today, and are primarily split between granite and engineered stone.  Granite is removed from the ground and polished with no additives or […]

December 5th, 2013||

Q: How will you attach my dishwasher?

Dishwashers will tip forward when opened if not attached to the opening securely.  This attachment is important as it stops the machine from being jostled or vibrating unnecessarily during normal operation.  The attachment point should be rigid but also allow for the machine to be easily removed in case of maintenance or replacement.

Prior to the explosion of granite and engineered stone countertops, all dishwashers were attached by screwing top mounted brackets up and into the laminate or Corian countertop.  This was simple, and worked well for almost all machines.  With granite or engineered stone, however, you are unable to screw up into the stone.  Although technically possible, it is a very bad idea for the following reasons.

It will vibrate the stone and cause seams to separate, sinks and faucets to loosen and eventually fail completely.
The holes in the stone will weaken the countertop at an area that is already without support.
It makes it difficult for the average homeowner to switch dishwashers down the line and replace the fittings.

This is why most modern dishwashers come with side clips or attachment points so that the machine can be screwed to the cabinetry thus allowing the vibrations to be absorbed by the wood and not the stone.

If your dishwasher does not have these clips or holes, please let your account manager know and we will provide a dishwasher bracket that is mounted to the cabinetry at the top of the opening.  This will achieve the same goal without modification of the dishwasher itself.

December 5th, 2013||

Q: Which decisions will I need to make at measurement?

While the number of things to select can seem overwhelming, they are all important and you should not feel rushed into selecting something you have not had time to research.  Here is a basic list of things we will ask you about so that you can consider as many of them as possible up front.  Keep in mind that we do this for a living, and will be able to help guide you on all of these when the time comes with as much or as little information as you need.

Sink
Faucet
Overhang
Edges
Material
Color
Backsplash
Removal
Plumbing
Sealer
Dishwasher Bracket

Our measurers are also very good at discussing these things with you during your appointment if you need additional information.

After you approve your contract and submit your down payment, installation normally occurs within 7-10 business days.

December 5th, 2013||

Q: Will you warranty my countertop against stains?

We are proud to partner with a company based out of Atlanta to offer an optional 15 year warranty on most granite colors.  We can even add this to your existing installation.  Please contact our office at 703 961 9557 if you would like to add this to your order.  Pricing is based on the square footage and a slight surcharge may apply to install it in the field.

http://www.granitelife.com/

Here is some text from their website:

Granite Life was formed to give customers a safe; water based option for protecting their counter tops and receive a 15 year warranty. While competing products in the market place claim superior protecting ability they are extremely hazardous to the environment and homeowner; some are even classified as pesticides with the Federal Government.

Granite Life was developed with the environment in mind; a non-polluting process with no noxious chemicals and no petrochemical solvents to be released to air or water. Granite Life is constructed with unique water based technology that penetrates the granite surface. It works at a molecular level below the surface of the granite causing the stone’s molecules to repel food & beverage stains. Granite Life Protectant creates a natural, safe barrier that protects your countertop from Food & Beverage Staining.

Granite Life partners with its Provider network and has created a unique business structure. The Providers have been certified, trained, and have worked with the product for multiple years; they can attest to its superior anti-staining properties.

Here is a copy of our general warranty that does not cover staining.

GRANITE SOURCE INC WARRANTY

1. GRANITE SOURCE, INC. (GSI) warrants to the customer for a period of twelve (12) months from the date
of final delivery of goods and services that the product […]

December 5th, 2013||

Q: Does my stone need to have metal added underneath for support?

Rodding Countertops

For those of you fortunate enough to have avoided this issue on your jobsites, rodding is a process where a small slit is routed out of the stone countertop underneath the weakest portions, and a rectangular strip of metal is inserted and sealed in place with a polyester resin.  The concept is that the metal strip adds rigidity to the stone and prevents the most stress prone areas such as sink and cooktop cutouts from failing.

So when is rodding necessary? And is your countertop not fabricated to the highest standards if it is not rodded?  The answer is complicated and must take into account that in the process of rodding, we are removing some of the thickness and strength of the original material.  The final decision will be based on a combination of our experience with your particular material and the particular layout of your project.

Our experience with the tens of thousands of rods we have installed is the following.  Rodding saves us money in the long term and is not considered an expense but rather a normal part of quality fabrication.  Rodding does decrease the likelihood of sudden and catastrophic failures during the transport of and installation of stone countertops.  Rodding will not stop a stone from cracking if enough pressure is applied such as a cleaning crew standing on the cooktop bridge areas.  It will, however, stop it from separating and allow us to effect a more efficient repair if required.  Rodding is not useful in the more dense materials with less movement.  Overall rodding is here to stay and we encourage your feedback and personal experiences to help us continue to improve the process.

December 5th, 2013||

Q: Is Soapstone a good choice for my home?

One countertop material often overlooked when designing or remodeling a kitchen or bathroom is soapstone. While soapstone is not for everyone or for every design, this natural stone possesses several advantages that make it a viable competitor of more traditional countertop materials, such as granite, laminates and solid surface. Soapstone is chemically inert, resistant to heat and durable. These qualities, combined with its beauty and ease of care, have made it the countertop material of choice for many gourmet chefs and some of the top kitchen designers in the world.

What Is Soapstone?
Soapstone, also known as steatite, is a quarried stone composed primarily of talc, silicate, chlorite and magnesium. Most soapstone deposits were formed from 300 to 400 million years ago, and they can be found throughout the world. The name soapstone is derived from the fact that the talc in the stone makes it soft to the touch, similar to that of a dry bar of soap. The talc content in architectural soapstone ranges from
50 to 75 percent, making it soft and smooth. However, the other minerals in the composition lend the stone its strength and durability.

Soapstone is a metamorphic rock that was formed by millions of years of fluctuating heat and pressure combined with the infusion of mineral-rich water and other liquids. It has been quarried and used for thousands of years throughout the world. Major distribution centers in the ancient world were known to have existed in what are now India and Iran. Today, the most productive soapstone quarries are located in the United States, Brazil, Finland and India.
Several natural properties of  Soapstone make it suitable for use as a countertop surface. Besides being relatively easy to quarry and  Fabricate, it is resistant to heat and chemical reactions. In fact, soapstone is often used for casting metals,such as lead, pewter and silver. It has also been used traditionally for cooking pots and tobacco pipes. Soapstone […]

December 5th, 2013||

Q: Is marble appropriate for a kitchen countertop?

Many of our clients like the patterns and warmth of marble, travertine, limestone and other similar materials, but are uncertain as to whether it would make a reliable surfacing option for their heavily used kitchen countertops.  The simple answer is yes, but it comes with a few caveats.

The enormous popularity of granite and engineered stone countertops today is primarily the result of two related developments.  First, the surface treatment that seals the stone and creates a flat and evenly polished surface was improved to the point of it becoming a maintenance free installation in almost all cases.  Secondly, the technology to quarry, produce and fabricate the slabs improved in parallel to the surface finishing and allowed the landed material pricing to drop dramatically as massive international stone companies began competing for market share.

Marbles have enjoyed the same economies in quarrying and fabrication, but the finishing remains unchanged from the previous century.  For the homeowner this means that depending on the material choice, they should expect the products to be porous, sensitive to citrus etching and very likely to show scratches, impact marks and other normal wear and use aging characteristics.

So does this mean that you should not use them?  Possibly.  If you are looking for a material that will require no maintenance and be trouble free in an environment of multiple users with varying degrees of inherent caution and sensitivity, this will most likely not be a great fit.  If, however, you are comfortable with a basic amount of upkeep and are normally careful with other surfaces in your home, there would be no reason to not consider these materials.  Most homes contain wood dining room tables and coffee tables that have similar use […]

December 5th, 2013||

Q: How do I remove a stain?

Stain Removal
Spills and Stains
Blot the spill with a paper towel immediately. Don’t wipe the area, it will spread the spill. Flush the area with plain water and mild soap and rinse several times. Dry the area thoroughly with a soft cloth. Repeat as necessary. If the stain remains, refer to the section in this brochure on stain removal.

Stain Removal
Identifying the type of stain on the stone surface is the key to removing it. If you don’t know what caused the stain, play detective. Where is the stain located? Is it near a plant, a food service area, an area where cosmetics are used? What color is it? What is the shape or pattern? What goes on in the area around the stain? Surface stains can often be removed by cleaning with an appropriate cleaning product or household chemical. Deep-seated or stubborn stains may require using a poultice or calling in a professional. The following sections describe the types of stains that you may have to deal with and appropriate household chemicals to use and how to prepare and apply a poultice to remove the stain.
Types of Stains and First Step Cleaning Actions
OIL-BASED
(grease, tar, cooking oil, milk, cosmetics)
An oil-based stain will darken the stone and normally must be chemically dissolved so the source of the stain can be flushed or rinsed away. Clean gently with a soft, liquid cleanser with bleach OR household detergent OR ammonia OR mineral spirits OR acetone.

ORGANIC
(coffee, tea, fruit, tobacco, paper, food, urine, leaves, bark, bird droppings) May cause a pinkish-brown stain and may disappear after the source of the stain has been removed. Outdoors, with the sources removed, normal sun and rain action will generally bleach out the stains. Indoors, […]

November 25th, 2013||

Q: How do I care for my natural stone countertops?

Get to Know Your Stone
The first step in proper stone care and maintenance is to understand your stone’s geological classification and composition. this information will help you to identify what cleaning products to use and how best to care for your natural stone.

Natural stone is categorized into three basic geological classifications by their respective formation processes: Sedimentary, Metamorphic and igneous. Additionally, stones in each category can be either Calcareous or Siliceous.

Calcareous stone is composed mainly of calcium carbonate, a chemical compound commonly found in natural stone, shells and pearls. Calcium Carbonate is sensitive to acidic solutions so mild, non-acidic cleaners are recommended.

Siliceous stone, as the term implies, is one composed primarily of silicates, such as quartz, feldspar, mica, etc. as such, a siliceous stone is generally resistant to most acids found in kitchen settings, although acidic cleaners are still not recommended, as these stones may contain trace levels of minerals that are acid sensitive.

The following chart will be a helpful guide:
 

Easy Care Tips

 

 

To get the longest life and preserve the beauty of your natural stone, follow these simple tips:

Coasters: Use coasters under all glasses, particularly those containing alcohol or citrus juices.

Trivets: While many stones can withstand heat, the use of trivets or mats is recommended.

Dust Mopping: Dust mop interior floors frequently using a clean non-treated dry dust mop. Sand, dirt and grit are abrasive and can damage natural stone.

Mats/rugs: Mats or area rugs inside and outside an entrance will help to minimize the sand, dirt and grit that may scratch the stone floor. Be sure that the underside of the mat or rug is a slip resistant surface.

Vacuum cleaners: If used, be sure the metal or plastic attachments or the wheels are not worn […]

November 25th, 2013||

Q: May I use my existing sink and faucet?

A: Absolutely. It is common with natural stone countertops to use an under-mount bowl to maximize the beauty of your countertop and provide a seamless look. Single hole faucets are also used to minimize clutter and maximize utility. Granite Source stocks a large selection of these options and we may also use any other sink or faucet of your choice that you may provide. If, however, you wish to re-use your existing plumbing, please simply inform the estimator upon measurement. Please note there is no additional connection charge when you use our plumber if you wish to switch out your disposal at the same time.

November 27th, 2012||

Q: Who removes my existing countertops and plumbing?

A: Whether you live in Short Pump, Glen Allen, Ashland or around the Richmond VA area, Granite Source is pleased to offer a demolition service which includes removal and disposal of the existing countertops for a nominal fee. We also have a plumber on staff should you wish to have us disconnect and reconnect your plumbing fixtures. In addition, sink-plumbing-faucet packages are on special every month to facilitate the job evolution and minimize your time commitment. Please call our office at any time to receive information on current specials.

November 27th, 2012||

Q: How many seams will I have?

A: Granite Source does not limit seam placement in any way. You may have as few or as many as you wish. In general, seams will always be visible, but should be no larger than one-eighth of an inch. The special epoxy used will eventually wear down to blend in with the stone and become harder than even the surrounding stone, providing a long lasting secure joint.

November 27th, 2012||