Countertop Buying Guide

We believe knowing what to expect is an important part in building a good business relationship. At United Granite we are committed to customer education and the philosophy of “no surprises.”

This Guide is intended to help you understand the myriad of issues when buying natural and engineered stone surfacing. It is not exhaustive but you may find it exhausting reading because there are so many questions, choices and options.

Granite characteristics include strength and durability. It’s a unique and elegant natural stone. It’s also one of the oldest, hardest, and strongest stones available.

The looks obtained from using granite are versatile. From an unassuming elegance to a bold “look at me” statement. That means it is at home in a country farm house as well as in a modern high rise. It’s all about the color and texture you choose.

The term granite is derived from the Latin word granum meaning grain. It is full of small and large grains of crystals. This stone starts out as a molten mass of magma and then forms into the rock granite as this magma cools deep within the earth. Granites are classified differently in scientific and industry terms.

Granite is a highly durable siliceous stone. The main minerals in true granites are silicates, feldspar, and quartz. The most important mineral is quartz. It’s not granite without quartz.

Compared to marble, it is more resistant to the acids found in lemons, vinegars, and cleaning products and usually will not etch.

Granite characteristics make this stone virtually scratch proof. It will not scratch even when directly cut on. Things such as keys, coins, utensils, and appliances won’t scratch it either. In fact, granite will actually dull your knives. Little slivers of the knife can become embedded in your stone. This is very noticeable with the darker stones so make a note if you are using your stone as a cutting board.

The characteristics of granite also make this stone heat resistant. It can withstand heat up to 1200 degrees Fahrenheit. It also has a lower water absorption rate when compared to marbles and Limestone. The crystals in darker stones are smaller or finer making it harder for any liquids to penetrate.

It is most commonly used for countertops, flooring, window sills, shower surrounds, islands, fireplaces, bar tops, benches and monuments because of its outstanding durability.

There are hundreds of colors and patterns to choose from. From simple whites to multi-color patterns, you can find all the colors of nature (and some you will swear couldn´t possibly be natural) in granite. There is truly a color for everyone.

The texture or pattern of the stone is what will most likely influence which granite you choose. Some granite is speckled or have little flecks of color here and there while others have veining running throughout similar to marble.

Figure out what your preferred color is and then look at textures or patterns in this color range. The pattern will change the whole look and feel of your room.

Marble

Marble is an elegant natural stone rich with beauty. It offers a unique look and feel that has been used in palaces, temples, and sculptures for centuries and now is used for countertops, fireplace surrounds, flooring, sinks and vanities. It possesses a truly timeless beauty that will always be a classic.

Marble is formed from limestone. The heat and pressure in the Earth’s crust changes the texture and the composition of limestone to form large grains of calcite. This is called re-crystallization. Many natural stones, including limestone and travertine, are referred to as marble because the surface of the stone can be polished to a high gloss finish. True marble is produced through the changes in the structure of the stone due to metamorphic events.

This is a calcareous stone consisting mainly of the mineral calcite. Marble is highly reactive to the acids found in vinegar, orange juice, and lemons. These acids will etch the stone and leave dull marks or rings.

Compared to granite, marble is a softer stone. It should not be cut on because it will scratch easily. But, it’s not as soft as soapstone.

This natural stone is best used where it won’t to be subjected to frequent use and abuse.

There are many choices in marbles rich color tones. The purest form of marble is white. There are creamy neutrals and warm subtle earth tones, from golden hues to jet blacks. The color and veining of each and every stone is unique. You can find a variety of looks in Marble. From dramatic veining with contrasting colors run throughout the marble to a more harmonious tone on tone veining. Some marbles are so delicate that they even transmit light when back lit.

The surface of marble can be finished in a variety of ways. The choice of finish can achieve a casual or formal look.

A polished surface finish will be reflective and shiny. This type of finish will help protect the surface of your stone by sealing open pores and making the stone less porous.

It can also be honed which is a matte like finish. It is not shiny or reflective like a polished finish is.

An antiqued or tumbled finish will weather or age the stone. Marble is a beautiful and durable natural stone. Think of your lifestyle and where you want to use it before deciding on marble. If you absolutely love the look of marble and are comfortable with the maintenance, choose marble. You will be glad you did.

Limestone

Limestone conveys calmness and serenity. It combines subtleness and sophistication to offer a soft and elegant natural stone that is rich in natural history.

Limestone is layered and formed from the skeletons and shells of sea creatures that lived in warm seas millions of years ago. It will often contain seashells and fossils embedded in the surface. It is a unique natural stone and at times, contains visible mysteries of our past within. If limestone re-crystallizes or “changes its structure”, it turns into Marble.

Limestone is a calcareous stone which is highly reactive to acidic substances such as vinegar, wine, lemons, etc. The stone will react negatively to these acids by etching or dulling and showing rings.

Limestone varies greatly in hardness, density, and porosity from stone to stone. Some Limestone is very soft and should not be cut on. Things such as coins, keys, and knives will scratch the stone’s surface. Other Limestone arevery dense and hard and can be finished to a polished or a glossy shiny surface. Softer stones cannot be polished to this high gloss finish.

Some Limestone is very porous (soaks up liquids) and needs to be sealed. The porosity will vary depending on the type of limestone. Examine the back of the stone. If the surface appears open or sponge like, this is a sign that the stone has a high rate of absorption. It is porous and will show stains easier. Once a stain is absorbed, it will be much harder to remove.

Limestone is used for kitchen islands, range hood covers, vanities, and for limited countertop use. Fireplaces, statues, columns, steps, pool decks, paving… It comes in slabs (large pieces/blocks of stone) or in tiles. Limestone is versatile.

Usually Limestone is lighter in color. The colors are soft and earthy. Light creams, ivories, and smoky gray/blues, pastel shades from yellow to pink are available.

Think about the surface finish you want for your stone. It will impact your look and feel.

When honed or polished, the look becomes more refined. Honed is the most popular finish for Limestone, but keep in mind the harder types of limestone are capable of a high gloss polished finish. A flamed surface finish has a rustic feel. Tumbled limestone has an aged and antique feel. It feels lived in and comfortable.

Even though limestone may require occasional sealing and more frequent dusting to prevent scratching, it is a beautiful and durable natural stone. It will last your lifetime. Use great care when choosing limestone. Think of your lifestyle. Think of how you want the stone to look 5 years. With the choice of Limestone you will, over time, develop a natural worn patina creating an old world charm.

Travertine

Travertine stone is soft and delicate in appearance, which offers a feeling of tranquil serenity but with the power to invoke a casual formalness with its simple beauty.

Travertine stone is a form of limestone. It often forms near hot bubbly mineral rich springs. Gas bubbles become trapped and create a pitted surface on the stone. These pitted surfaces can be filled with an epoxy or dust resin. Filling the small holes and pits gives the travertine a more finished look.

This is a calcareous stone. It is highly reactive to the acids found in lemons, vinegar, alcohol, etc. These acids will etch the stone by leaving marks and rings. Similar to limestone, travertine also varies in hardness, density, and porosity. Some travertine stones are harder than others.

The stone surface can also be left in its natural state with the small holes and pits unfilled. This is a warmer aged look which will acquire a beautiful patina over time. Leaving the stone unfilled will affect the durability. It will attract dirt much easier than a filled travertine.

Travertine colors are in warm earthy tones. From the softest ivories to the palest creams. Rich shades of golden honey and silvery greens to deep mocha browns. Travertine never appears as one solid color. The color tones vary and veins or bands of contrasting color run throughout the stone. No two stones or tiles are alike.

Travertine can be used for countertops but it’s not recommended. It is easy to scratch and etch. It works well for backsplashes, sinks, floors, fireplace surrounds, tub surrounds, vanities, end tables and smaller spaces. This stone seems to open up small areas and makes them feel more spacious and airy.

The surface finishes for travertine stone vary. Only the harder types of travertine are capable of the polished/high gloss finish. This stone will never achieve the same glossy finish that granite will. A honed finish is the most popular type of finish. It’s not a shiny and reflective finish. More of a matte or a sheen finish. Tumbled travertine makes the stone appear scuffed, weathered or aged. Talk to your fabricator/installer about the different types of finishes they may provide.

Creating a unique look with travertine stone is simple. Mix and match with other natural stones for a more dramatic look and feel. Or, use it alone for sheer simplicity. This natural stone will give you years of beauty to enjoy. Using travertine stone is only limited by your imagination and a little common sense.

Soapstone

Soapstone is a soft and warm stone that has been used for centuries in our homes. It’s smooth, slippery, and silky. This stone is a traditional and old fashioned natural stone with a charmingly rustic look, yet rich looking, which makes it versatile enough to fit a modern home.

The colors of soapstone are both rich and beautiful conniving harmonious calm. The hues range from ash gray to smoky blue-grays or even a rich charcoal black. Some stones have flecks of green and blue and contrasting veins twisting throughout the stone.

There are actually two types of soapstone. Both types of Soapstone are a siliceous natural stone which consists mainly of talc and chlorite. The artistic soapstone which is used for carvings and sculptures contains higher talc content.

Whereas the other type of soapstone, also known as steatite, is used for architectural purposes. It is used for countertops, island tops, sills, flooring, and shower stalls, sinks, vanities and fireplace hearths just to name a few. Architectural soapstone contains a lesser amount of talc. The more talc the stone contains, the softer the stone is.

Since it is a siliceous stone, it is unaffected by acids contained in items such as wine, lemons, vinegar, etc. It is also a nonporous stone and will not absorb liquids and stains like other natural stones will. It is also heat resistant. Setting a hot pot on your soapstone countertop won’t scorch it or burn it. These are just few of the reasons it’s the countertop of choice in science labs. Special cleaners aren’t required with this dense stone. Soapstone weighs an average of 20 lbs. per square foot!

However, it is a soft stone, softer than other natural stones. In fact it’s so soft it can be scratched with a fingernail, so if you choose a soapstone counter top, do not cut on it.

Over time, the edges will soften and you’ll start to see small nicks, scratches, and indentations. If you like the aged antique look, the patina of this natural stone might be perfect for you. It will age gradually and gracefully.

If you don’t care for the small nicks and scratches, a little mineral oil or a light sanding will smooth out the stone.

Mineral oil is used to enhance and deepen the color. The stone color becomes more dramatic. Mineral oil also helps darken the stone evenly and bring out its natural beauty. The use of mineral oil isn’t mandatory. Soapstone will eventually take on its own patina with time and use. It will darken with age. Usually it takes about a year to realize the full depth of color of your soapstone.

Soapstone will last many lifetimes if treated with care. It will develop its own unique patina based on you and your lifestyle, making it a very personal choice for your project.

Engineered or man-made stone products is a “Green Product” that is increasingly popular and comparable to granite in just about every way.

For those who love the look of granite but are concerned about its drawbacks, quartz may be the answer. And while granite is subject to unpredictable variations in color or pattern between slabs, engineered stone is uniform in color, pattern, and texture. It provides nearly all of the benefits of natural stone.

Quartz (Silica/Silicon Dioxide, SiO2) is the most common mineral on the earth’s surface. It is present in nearly every geological environment and is a component of almost every rock type and exists in an impressive range of varieties and colors.

Quartz ranks 7.0 on Moh’s Hardness Scale, which is used to measure the scratch-resistance of a material. Only the diamond (at 10), topaz and sapphire (at 9) are harder than quartz. (Granite is ranked 6 on the scale).

Because quartz grows in clusters and does not form huge stone blocks like granite (which contains 40% – 60% quartz), limestone or other types of rock, it is not suitable in its natural state to make into countertops or other large slabs.

The manufacturing process uses raw quartz crystals ranging in size from coarse grains to the size of rock salt. Once the quartz is ground and selected, the crystals are combined with bonding agents (resin) and color, then heated and vibro-compacted to form an impenetrable surface.

The resulting slabs are a matrix of 93% quartz and 7% resin binders and pigments … free of fissures and cracks, and impervious to water, moisture, or bacteria.

Industry-wide, all quartz countertops are made with 93 percent quartz or they cannot claim the hardness, durability, or impermeability of a true quartz surface.

The manufacturing process is a controlled process and quality-control measures exist for quartz that are not possible for natural granite countertops. The process used during production ensures that any sample slab will be identical in color and texture to the delivered product.

Because they’re man-made, these materials can be fabricated in large sheets ( 55“W x 120″L), which makes it easier to fabricate large islands in one piece. In addition, curves, circles and other shapes are possible.

Engineered stone is the most durable surface material, combining the hardness and durability of quartz with the exceptional low maintenance qualities of man-made materials

Engineered stone products require no maintenance because they are non-porous. Their impervious surface provides stain and bacterial resistance.

In addition to Kitchen/Laundry/Bath Countertops, engineered stone products can be used for vanities, Backsplashes, Wet Bars, Tub/Shower Surrounds and other surfaces throughout the home. They are ideal for commercial settings, especially daycare centers, hospitals and foodservice providers.

Color and Appearance

To the untrained eye, quartz surfaces appear to be natural stone. What makes it different?

Natural rock is variable by nature … colors and patterns may shift and change on a large slab. Surface pits are a mark of granite. Engineered stone on the other hand, displays a “consistent variability” or mottling in color and texture throughout a quartz countertop.

The actual appearance of the quartz surface varies depending on the size and mix of the granules. Smaller, finer crystals give a more uniform appearance, while larger ones provide a more mottled look.

Quartz surfacing is available in colors may not be found in nature, as the crushed stone is generally mixed with pigment. Take advantage, and choose a color that dazzles while still looking like stone.

In addition to granite, some manufacturers produce engineered stone that looks like marble, travertine, concrete, and other natural stone.

Because engineered stone is a natural stone product, seams are required for any application that is longer /or wider than the slab size (generally 55″x120″).

These seams are visible, but are often less noticeable than a typical granite seam – where the seams may show changes in pattern and shade.

As with solid surfaces, integrated sinks are available in quartz countertops.

A variety of manufacturers offer products in a diverse range of colors and finishes, including:

Caesarstone (Caesarstone.com)

Cambria (cambriausa.com)

Silestone (Silestone.com)

Zodiaq (Zodiaq.com)

Once you have decided what material to use, now the fun really begins, choosing your color!

One value of natural stone is its ability to express personality. With colors ranging from Absolute Black to wild colors of the Rare Exotics the individual beauty of each stone will add to the elegance of any room. This is just one of the many reasons it is so desired by Designers. It is well known that natural stone is the ultimate choice in luxury for kitchen countertops and bathroom vanity tops and it being more affordable then ever it has also gained popularity for use in showers, tub surrounds, flooring, fireplaces and many other applications.

Engineered stone is a “green” man made material and is produced from a formula so a small sample is usually an accurate representation of the whole slab. There have been some exciting advancements in the colors and patterns offered by manufactures. There are new patterns that mimic the movement and variation found in natural stone. Also, if you like consistent patterns, solid colors or honed finishes than an engineered material may be perfect for your project. The versatility of this product has made it an up and coming choice for progressive Designers. The possibilities are almost limitless.

With all of the possibilities it can be a challenging task to select the perfect color and hue for your project. These natural works of art offer every color of the rainbow in limitless combinations. Even the same color of stone can vary from lot to lot.

The first step in overcoming this challenge is to visit one of our locations and meet with a member of our knowledgeable staff. We are a fabricator that imports full slabs and offers over one hundred and fifty choices of natural stone, not just a few small samples. Ideally you would like the natural stone color to compliment your kitchen cabinets and flooring, therefore it would be advisable to bring a cabinet and flooring sample with you to allow you to envision the whole look. When you find just the right stone for your project, make sure to reserve that piece as the next lot may not have the exact same features that the current selection does.

The staff will also offer to provide a “layout” of your stone countertops. This will give you an idea of what features and patterns will be visible in particular areas of your kitchen. For example: you wouldn´t want a feature that you like in the stone covered by an appliance garage or lost by a sink or cooktop cutout.

Natural Stone Countertops Edge Profiles

Donít overlook the edge profile that gives your natural stone countertop or bathroom vanity the finishing touch. We offer a choice of ten edge profiles that will suit any taste and style. When choosing the edge profile for your countertop, consider the overall style of your kitchen or bathroom.

Simple straight edge, bullnose, or demi bullnose will fit well in a contemporary kitchen with clean lines and smooth surfaces.

Bevel edge will add a lot of dimension to the overall look of the counter and will make it perfectly finished. It will look great in an Art Deco interior.

If the style of your kitchen is more formal, consider the beautiful ogee or double ogee.

Choose bullnose, demi bullnose, or triple pencil edge for the comfort and weathered elegance of rustic style.

Edge Options

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Apart from serving their basic functions, faucets also add an ornamental value to your kitchen. Before deciding on the type of faucets you want for your kitchen, it is better to get complete information on them and then determine as to which style suits you the most.

There are a number of facts that you should take into consideration before buying faucets for your kitchen.

The main aspects that come into play while deciding the type of kitchen faucet you want to buy are your preference and budget.

The next thing that you need to consider is the sink or the counter for the faucet and the hole provided. Kitchens usually have 8-inch center or single hole, made for single-handle faucets. For widespread, single-lever and center set faucets.

If you want an instant hot-water spout, a soap dispenser, a sprayer, etc and you have a top mount sink you will need a model with the correct number of holes to accommodate all these. If you have an undermount sink you will need to have all the information for these accessories so that the countertop can be drilled with the correct number of holes.

Another factor that you should keep in mind is the ‘reach’. For example, a high arc faucet looks good, but has limited reach across the sink basin.

You will also have to make sure that the faucet matches the overall decor of your kitchen. While faucets in a vintage look suit traditional cabinetry, contemporary faucets work best with sleek cabinetry.

Kitchen faucets are available in a variety of materials, such as stainless steel, chrome, nickel, brass and copper. Stainless steel and chrome give a sleek and contemporary look, while rubbed bronze and brass can be given an antiqued finish.

Before you purchase a new kitchen faucet, take a look at your present kitchen and consider how you use it. As you cook, clean, and live in your kitchen, consider why and how often you use the sink?

What do you like about your current faucet? And what faucet features are missing?

With those thoughts in mind choose the perfect kitchen faucet for your home.

Pullout spray

Spout with sidespray

Spout without sidespray

Spout Type

Faucet spouts come in three basic types, with the key difference being whether or not they include a spray feature. Handheld sprays, which come in a variety of styles, let you move the water flow to where you need it. If you have a spray on your current kitchen sink, is it something you use frequently? If you don’t have one, would it make cooking and cleaning easier?

Pullout or pull-down spray faucet

Pullout sprays offer the functionality of a side spray with the streamlined look of one-piece faucet. Pull-down spray faucets let you adjust the water flow, choosing between an aerated stream and a spray. Some offer a second, more powerful spray setting for intense cleaning. Inspired by professional kitchens, these faucet types provide mobility and ease of cleaning, as well as versatility.

If you expect to use the spray frequently, or if you alternate quickly between regular water flow and spraying, consider a pullout spray spout. Pullout sprays can be controlled with one hand, leaving the other free to hold pots or vegetables, for example. In addition, many pullout sprays are ergonomically designed to fit comfortably into your hand.

Faucet with side spray

A side spray is a handheld sprayer attached to a hose, mounted to the right or left of the faucet spout (you can choose the side based on your needs). Pull the side spray out from its base and squeeze its handle, and it overrides the faucet spout water flow.

Faucet without side spray

If the aesthetics of a sprayer don’t suit your kitchen (for example, if you are creating a period look), or you don’t anticipate needing one, you can often get the faucet spout you like without the side spray. You still have a wide variety of faucet types to choose among.

Kitchen faucet spouts come in a variety of styles and heights. Although your choices might be limited by the installation requirements of your sink, in most cases you can decide how much height and length you want on your faucet. No Preference

High-arch

Standard

Spout Height

High arch

A high-arch spout provides plenty of room between the bottom of the sink and the spout for washing large pots or oversized dishes. High-arch faucets generally start at 6 inches, but are more commonly from 8 to 10 inches high.

Standard

A standard faucet spout is generally from 3 to 5 inches high.

Spout reach

Another key factor to consider is the size of your sink and how many basins you have.

The faucet should direct water to the center of the sink. A small faucet can get lost on a large sink, and a too-large faucet will overpower (or overflow) a small sink.

If you have a double sink, choose a swivel faucet spout that can reach both basins.

Consider as well the reach of the spray – is it long enough to reach the far corners of your sink basin, or all of your sink basins?

ADA-compliance

Most single-control faucets, and two-handle faucets with blade or lever-type handles, comply with Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements. If you are seeking to make your kitchen accessible to people with disabilities, look for faucets that specify they are the ADA-compliant

If your sink is starting to show its age, you might be pondering a replacement. An even more compelling reason for replacing your sink could be because it doesn’t work the way you do. If you find yourself compensating for its deficiencies because of the way you cook and clean, a replacement can save you time, effort, and annoyance. If you have a double bowl sink, you might find it frustrating that your big frying pan doesn’t fit or you can’t wash things like the vegetable bins in the refrigerator. Maybe the faucet itself doesn’t allow for deep pans. The soap dispenser may accumulate crud and periodically require cleaning with a toothbrush. Taken together these little irritations can make housework more labor intensive and time consuming than it needs to be.

If you have an idea of what kind of sink you would like, it might pay to do a little more research and make the change. For a modest investment you can have a more functional kitchen. You may want a big, single bowl sink with a gooseneck faucet with a built-in sprayer that’s easy to clean and no extras like a hot water or soap dispenser to clean around. Maybe you want the hot water dispenser. Whatever you imagine, there’s a solution.Never before have there been so many amazing choices competing to replace your humble kitchen sink.

That said, if you are like most homeowners, you’re looking for the same thing: simplicity, ease of maintenance, efficiency, aesthetics, and good value.

All about new sinks

Many people look for exactly the same things in a sink; most people want a simple, elegant design and easy maintenance. The most requested features include a pull-down one-handle faucet with a sprayer.

Where do you start? There are thousands of different types of kitchen sinks to choose from. Deciding which sink is best for you depends on:

how you use it

what your kitchen priorities are

where it will be located

how it will be installed

Stainless steel

For many homeowners, this is the first choice. It’s very popular, probably because stainless steel appliances have a very high tech, industrial look and they look really nice in a modern kitchen with clean lines. Unless stainless is custom fabricated, it’s generally reasonably priced. The key to a good stainless sink is the gauge of the steel. The lower the gauge, the thicker and more durable it is likely to be. Look for 18 -gauge Type 304 stainless. It has extra chromium and is less susceptible to corrosion. Under mount and self-rimming versions are available in a myriad of sizes and shapes with and without drain boards, prep sinks, and a plethora o’ accessories.

Stainless is considered by many to be easy to clean, and if you drop a glass, it’s possible it won’t break. However, some people think stainless is cold and too easily dented. Another objection some people have to stainless is that it’s noisy. To prevent that, manufacturers have addressed this issue with sound absorption technologies. For the cost and the life expectancy though (between 15 to 30 years) stainless steel is a very good buy.

Nickel, Copper and Brass

In addition to steel, it’s possible to get sinks made in various metals. Nickel, copper, and brass are all available for the kitchen as well as specialty sinks. Used for generations, metal sinks can be very beautiful, but correspondingly expensive. Nickel is harder and stronger than copper and a hammered nickel finish is gorgeous. Copper is particularly popular at the moment. Over time, it ages and gets a dark patina like an old penny. It requires no maintenance to speak of. A copper sink should be pure copper and copper should be welded, not soldered. A soldered sink will turn black at the joints as it ages.

Porcelain enamel over cast iron

This is one of the most durable, widely available options for kitchen sinks. The range in quality, style, and color is vast. The life expectancy for a high quality sink is about 25 to 30 years or more. The surface is ground glass melted and applied to the hot cast iron. This type of sink has been used for more than a hundred years. This sink type is available for under mount, self-rimming, and tile-in installations. Keep in mind that if you decide toundermount your cast iron sink there will need to be a cradle built in the cabinet to hold the weight of the sink. Cast iron doesn’t retain heat particularly well, so it’s often necessary to replenish the hot water when doing a lot of dishes. It’s a good idea to use a sink mat too, because it’s easy to lose your grip on a tumbler and end up with a handful of broken glass.

Engineered materials

Engineered sink materials include everything from solid surface materials like Swanstone to a quartz-, slate-, or granite-acrylic composites as well as cast acrylic.

Composite stone sinks such as Silgranite by Blanco are starting to gain popularity. They are made of various rockincluding quartz, granite, or slate and combined with acrylic. They are very hard, warm to the touch, and have a matte finish. They don’t scratch or stain easily and are not effected by heat. The range of sizes, shape and colors are growing with the demand for the product.

Acrylic sinks are also available. They may come with impressive warranties, but in the paper clip test, they scratch easily and quite badly.

Fireclay

Fireclay is an enhanced type of vitreous china that contains more quartz and feldspar. It is heavier and denser than regular clay, which makes it more durable than a standard china sink. It repels stains, requires no special cleaning, and is scratch resistant. Like porcelain over cast iron, its life expectancy is 25 to 30 years. Many farmhouse type sinks are made of this material and incorporate the old-fashioned backs with holes for wall mounted faucets and have drain boards built in. There are lots of choices, but these sinks are not low cost sink solutions, so be prepared to budget accordingly.

Mounting your new sink

1. Undermount

2. Drop-in

3. Apron-front

 

1. Undermount Sink

An undermount sink is installed under a countertop to create a seamless flow.

It is not the best choice for every kitchen because it only works with countertops made out of stone, quartz, concrete or another solid material. If installed with a laminate countertop, a very specific model of undermountsink need to be used to avoid bubbling of the laminate edge

It is very popular because of its seamless appearance. It is also easy to clean and take care of.

2. Drop-in Sink

Top-mount (drop-in, self-rimming) sinks are best for a tight budget. It sits directly on top of the counter. Top-mounts work with any countertop material and are the simplest to install. The grime build up around the lip of the sink can detract from the look of natural stone countertops.

3. Apron front (farmhouse) kitchen sink

An apron front, or farmhouse, kitchen sink usually has one large bowl with an exposed front panel. The unique design of the sink may need custom made cabinetry.

Be sure to choose a sink that will match your kitchen’s decor. With the variety of materials and finishes, you can find a kitchen sink to match any kitchen decor.

So how do you find a competent fabricator?

In recent years, demand for stone counters has increased dramatically which has attracted contractors and granite suppliers with limited experience and poor business skills all in search of profits. And the variation in product source, machinery/equipment and skilled labor in the industry accounts for the huge discrepancy in countertop pricing. That´s why you need to be even more careful choosing the right fabricator.

There are too many different types of companies selling countertops; fabricators, contractors, online companies, brokers, some retail businesses and even some people who literally operate out of a garage and build countertops in your driveway. But with a little bit of research you will find an all-in-one fabricator that does everything from supplying the material to fabricating and installing. Once you find a potential fabricator, make sure you visit and look at their operation, fabrication equipment and inventory. Then ask specific questions so that you can compare apples to apples and make a better decision.

What questions should you ask?

If a fabricator can answer all of the following questions to your satisfaction, you will end up with a beautiful kitchen or bathroom countertop, one that will last as long as your home. (You may find the printable summary of this qualification questions at the end of this section.)

1- What kind of Certifications does the fabricator have?

Fabrication and installation certification programs ensure the technical competence of fabrication and installation professionals. They go beyond training by providing a tangible measurement of fabricator´s / installer´s knowledge of a process and/or product. Certification programs establish standards for fabricator/installer training and play an important role in developing a qualified workforce. United Granite is Authorized and Certified by Silestone,Cambria, Zodiaq and Caesarstone.

2- What kind of fabrication equipment do they use?

Even the best human fabricator will have variations between finished results, whereas an automated machine will produce exactly the same result each and every time it is run. This is very important in stone fabrication, where a single wrong cut or a wavy edge profile can take away a lot from the beauty of your new countertops. At United Granite, we use the most advanced stone cutting and profiling machinery. Our state-of-the-art, laser guided and computerized equipment cuts and profiles the stones consistently with precision.

3- How well are they established, number of locations?

Doing business with a solid company is very important due to the fact that you will need pre and post installation support and service on resolving issues under warranty. United Granite is a well-established natural & engineered stone importer, fabricator and installer. With 22 years of experience, United Granite operates 6 locations inVirginia, Maryland Washington DC and New Jersey states.

4- Material variety? How many colors do they offer?

Keeping inventory at the proper level is very important to a business. The amount of inventory also shows the strength of the company. Low or no inventory leaves a company too vulnerable to shocks. If the fabricator is using another company’s inventory or buys the slabs when an order is placed the necessary purchases may not be available “in time” to meet the customer´s demand. In the event of a fabrication accident or a mistake your project may be delayed or may not be finished at all, and that is why here at United Granite we stock over 150 colors and about 2000 slabs at all times, making it very easy to meet the customer´s demand in a timely manner.

5- What type of license do they have? What is their license number?

All states require some form of licensing with regard to building contractors. These laws have been passed to protect property owners from incompetent or dishonest contractors. The licensing process tests for basic competency and most licensing programs have some way of screening out dishonest contractors. A valid license is the first indication that your contractor might be qualified to do the job. United Granite carries Class A license #2705 1357 12A

6- Are they bonded?

Dealing with a contractor who’s bonded provides important protections for you. Be aware that there are two kinds of bonds involved in construction. The phrase fully insured and bonded generally means the contractor’s insurance coverage protects against accidents. The other kind is a performance bond, an insurance company’s assurance that the contractor can finish the job as stated in the contract. If the contractor defaults, the insurance company will pay another contractor to complete the work. United Granite can provide a bond up to $1,000,000.

7- How do they template? Do they offer digital templating?

No matter what, if a job is not measured right it will not be fabricated right and if it is not fabricated right it cannot not be installed right. Since the walls are never square, an accurate kitchen measurement cannot be done by a $5 tape measure or some piece of cardboard. At United Granite we use Proliner digital templating technology to reduce measuring errors, transportation errors and communication errors. We capture the measurements directly at the job site digitally and carry it through your whole fabrication process without fear of misread or transposed numbers. The accurate data is captured with our unique digital technology and the digital measurements provide verification of what is at the job site and what was measured.

We know that our clients expect the very best for their homes and projects! That is why we place our emphasis on accuracy that ensures a secure measurement. With the accuracy and error reduction of digital templating process, you will be enjoying a better fitting tops that doesn´t need to be reworked and can be installed with minimal on-site modifications.

8- Will they provide a copy of your countertop’s layout for your records?

This is an important piece of paper work to hang on to. This will show you all of your countertop measurements ensuring that you have been properly charged. It will also help if you choose to go with a tile for a back splash or do any additions to your project at a later time. United Granite will proudly offer you a copy of your digital template upon signing your contract.

9- Do they offer a written Limited Lifetime Warranty?

When making any kind of purchase, it is nice to know that you will have a Limited Lifetime warranty to cover any kind of defects or problems that may later occur. One of our main goals here at United Granite is service after the sale and that is why United Granite offers a Limited Lifetime Warranty to all of its customers. Making it headache free if something should later occur.

10- Will you be able to pick out your actual slab?

This is something that we highly recommend especially if you are going to use a natural stone. As you are probably already aware there are no two Granite slabs alike and that is why you should pick out the actual slab that you will be using for your project. You should never pick by a small sample.

11- Do they offer the option of doing a lay-out?

Doing a layout means that you would be able to come in and work with one of our highly skilled technicians to layout your slab. This option will let you see how it will all come together as far as the seams, the flow of the vein and where each piece of stone will lay in your kitchen. This will also let you have the opportunity of taking out areas of the stone that doesn´t meet your expectations. This is a very important option to offer especially if you are going with a natural stone. At United Granite we encourage our customers to participate in their project

12- Do they offer a Reference list of past customers; are they respected by other trades?

It is very important to hear feed backs from other customers on how their experience was with their project. United Granite offers an updated reference list of residential and commercial jobs that we have completed. We work with numerous different companies that would tell you that we are a well respected company and that they are very happy with coming in behind us to finish their work.

Weather you are building a home or just replacing your countertops it should be as hassle free as possible and that is why here at United Granite we believe in educating the customer up front so they know what to expect before they make their purchase.

13- Are they competitive?

Don’t just rely on the old headline “per square foot price”. This often leaves out basic and essential costs to actually fabricate and install your countertop. There are some basics like edging, cut-outs for sinks, cook-tops, faucet holes and electrical outlets that will all affect your over all price. Each fabricator has different charges for these items, so it is best to look at the bottom line price versus just the square foot price.

Here at United Granite we import our slabs directly from quarries which results in reduction of costs and consequently enables us to be more competitive in prices for the benefit of our costumers. While we meet or beat any competitors written offer, we do not try to compete purely on price with the “driveway” fabricators. We offer the best overall Value for the customer by providing quality materials, outstanding customer service and expertise at a great price.

14- Do they offer Pre and Post installation support?

Knowing what to expect is an important part in building a good business relationship. At United Granite we are committed to customer education and the philosophy of “no surprises.” In order to implement your project smoothly we provide you with a free “Planning Guide” which helps you understand and be prepared for every phase of your project. After your project is completed our “Care and Maintenance Guide” will give you information on how to properly care for your natural and engineered stone and if at any time you should have any questions or concerns our staff will be happy to assist you. We proudly stand behind our word when we say service after the sale.

Please use our convenient comparison matrix to compare us to the other fabricators. We believe the results will help you make the right decision.

 

UNITED
GRANITE

OTHER
FABRICATOR


Certified Fabrication & Installation

Caesarstone, Silestone, Zodiaq, Cambria


State of the art computerized fabrication equipment

YES


Number of Locations

4


Color Choices

Over 150


Inventory

Over 2000


Number of Installation teams

7


License type

Class A


Insurance

$2,000,000


Bond ability

$500,000


Digital Templating (AutoCAD)

YES


Copy of AutoCAD drawings for your records

YES


Limited Lifetime Warranty

YES


Option of picking out the actual slab

YES


Free Planning Guide

YES

Other Stuff to Know and Consider

New Construction

If you are having new cabinets installed make sure that the cabinet installers know you are using natural stone countertops and specify that your cabinets need to be within 1/8″ of level, and make sure they use a large (six foot or longer) level to check the installation. Make sure they pay extra attention to spans across gaps (dishwashers, ranges, farmhouse sinks etc). If the cabinets are not level there will be a large amount of shimming required to get the natural stone level. This will create large unsightly gaps between the cabinets and natural stone that will have to be trimmed out by a carpenter. And, more importantly, it just won’t look right…….

Dishwashers

Most dishwashers are screwed to the bottom of old wood/laminate or tile-on-wood countertops. We do not recommend drilling holes into stone close to the edge to put screws, so some other attachment method is needed. There are two popular solutions: 1) is to attach a metal bar to the bottom of the natural stone and to the cabinets on either side of the dishwasher and drive the same (maybe shorter) screws into it. 2) a more elegant solution is to use a “side-mount kit” which allows the dishwasher to be attached to the cabinets on either side of the opening. Check with your dishwasher manufacturer to see if these are available. In either case the dishwasher may have to be raised or lowered on its adjustable legs, to fit the opening

Bar-Tops

A lot of homes have bar top areas which rest upon 4″ stud walls. Old bar countertops are usually supported on plywood which is screwed into the wall. With natural stone, you don’t really want the plywood left in place because you will be able to see the rough edge of the plywood. natural stone also weighs many times more than wood,Corian and even tile (up to 25 pounds per square foot), so it’s important that it is supported properly. Two favorite solutions to this challenge are: 1) using substantial, structural brackets or corbels of metal or wood. 2) At United Granite we can provide steel bar “straps”. These are solid steel plates, 3-4 inches wide and approximately 8-10 inches long (depending on the bar top width). The strap is attached to the wall with screws. The natural stone is then adhered with 100% silicone to the wall and the straps and left for a couple days to really cure. This method results in an almost invisible support and protects your knees.

Vanity Sinks

Most bathroom vanity cabinets are only 21 inches deep compared to kitchen cabinets which are 24 inches deep. This means that there is only limited room for vanity sinks and you need to make sure the sink you choose will fit into a standard 21 inch cabinet (For example, a Kohler K2211 sink will not fit in a 21″ cabinet and leave room for faucet holes). Also some faucets will be very cramped. It’s a very good idea to have these selections done as early as possible and discussed with your fabricator to prevent delays and surprises as your countertops are built. Also there is rapidly growing trend towards “vessel” sinks or bowls which sit elevated above the countertop. These also need to be selected early and all the faucets and fittings chosen before fabrication begins. The central drain hole needed for a vessel sink will depend on the sink and the drain pipe-work.

Cooktops

Almost all cooktops have very specific and non-standard cutout dimensions. A 30″ Jenn-Air cutout may be completely different from a 30″ GE. Again (at the risk of sounding monotonous) make this choice early .

Kitchen Sinks

The sink you choose is the one you will have to live with for quite a while, because all sink cutout dimensions are very unique. Some customers might think about saving some money and going with a drop-in sink, thinking that they will be able to upgrade to an undermount later. Virtually all drop-in sinks have a larger cutout than anundermount – so it is impossible to make the hole smaller later! You can sometimes go from an undermount to a drop-in but not the other way around.

Faucets

There are some new fancy faucets on the market which require more room to operate. If you have a backsplash immediately behind your sink you need to check that your faucet will operate properly without banging your knuckles or hitting the backsplash.