Granite Countertops a Popular Kitchen Choice

Granite countertops have been at the height of popularity for years now and in great demand for a high-end look with relatively little maintenance. The are substantial, visually stunning and extremely long lasting. As with all other countertop materials, they are an investment and you’ll want to be sure granite is the right choice by doing your research and homework.

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This stunning granite countertop is by Natural Granite.

What is Granite?

Granite is a natural, igneous rock composed of quartz, feldspar, micas, and a mixture of additional trace minerals. Forbes explains they types and amounts of the different minerals are what give granite different colors, textures and patterns. It typically 10 to 50% quartz, which is semi-transparent white, and 65 to 90% feldspar, usually pinkish or white. Generally, natural stone like granite is desirable because it has more character than man-made countertop surfaces. Granite is sourced from around the world, including India, Brazil, Norway, Italy and China. The world’s largest deep-hole dimension granite quarry is near Barre, Vermont.

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This slab from Doug Rhodes Granite is an example of the stunning pattern and colors available.

Choosing your granite

Because every piece of granite is unique, you will want to visit your stone supplier and choose your own slab. Depending on the size of your countertop and how many separate areas you have, you may need more than one slab. It’s best not to rely on samples when it comes to making your granite choice. You can do some preliminary sampling to get an idea of what you might like and what will match your color scheme best, but make sure to choose the exact slab yourself. This is especially true if you are looking for a particular shade or patterning. Because no two slabs are alike, you might end up with something that looks completely different from the sample.

We recommend to visit every supply house in your area that sells the type of granite you want and try to negotiate a better price, noting that you can often save about 20 percent.

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Aracruz Granite showed this multi-hued granite slab.
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A more traditional choice is this countertop from Granite Selection.

8 Advantages of Granite Countertops

Visually Appealing

The shine and substance of granite is incomparable. Even though the granite may only be in your kitchen, it gives the entire house a sleek feeling, according to the Green Garage Blog. It just plain looks great. And, although it has been in vogue for a number of years, it’s not a really trendy surface that will go out of style.

Large variety of colors

Granite is available in a large variety of colors with a large range of patterns and striations. The different mineral contents and source locations impart great variations in appearance.

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Granite countertops don’t have to feature large expanses of stone.

Edge treatment options

Stylish edges are an option with granite countertops, from simple bullnose or beveled edges to more creative Ogee or Waterfall versions.

Substance and Durability

Granite is durable, but not unbreakable, and will definitely last for decades. Unless you bang very heavy objects on the countertop or treat it very roughly, it will likely last longer than you will. Under normal kitchen conditions, granite will not chip, dent or crack and will stand up to most knives and cooking tools, as well as all of your cooking projects. Totally Granite says you can cut, chop, slice, and dice on a granite countertop without a cutting board. Of course, beware,

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Lighter colors of granite, like this countertop from Granite Selection, can look like marble.

Non-Porous Surface

Sealed granite is not porous so it is impervious to bacteria and germs, making it a very sanitary surface because it won’t serve as a breeding ground for bacteria and germs. It also resists stains and liquids.

It can take the heat

Go ahead and plop down that hot pot. Granite countertops can take the heat and will not scorch.  The stone is formed through pressure and heat, so it is naturally able to hand hot items.

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Arch City Granite has a great example of a traditional granite-topped island.

Easy to Maintain

Granite countertops don’t need a lot of maintenance, especially with regard to cleaning. Periodic sealing is required, particularly for light colored granite.

Valuable Addition

Among all the home improvements you can make, granite countertops are one addition that typically improves home resale value. Any kitchen upgrade will likely boost value, but granite is a definite plus on the bottom line at sale time.

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Often, dark granite countertops have a colored undertone, like this one that is actually a dark green.

A Few Downsides of Granite

Cost

Granite can be expensive and is among the costlier of countertop materials, particularly because of installation. And, its great weight means you’ll need very sturdy cabinet boxes to support the countertop, which can be a concern if you are remodeling. In some kitchens, a large amount of granite might require extra floor supports as well.

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It’s darn hard

What is mainly an advantage for some might also be a slight disadvantage. While a glass or cup can survive a collision with some countertop surfaces, that’s generally not the case with granite. Drop a glass or plate on granite and you can be sure that it will break.

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Sealing is required

Like most stone, granite must be sealed every so often to avoid stains. How often you have to seal the counter depend on the type of sealer you use and the color of your granite. If you have a dark granite top, you might not need to seal as often because minor discoloration is not visible. RemPros also notes that alkaline- or acid-based cleaners should not be used for cleaning granite.

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Modern granite countertops are often thick and angular.

Professional Installation Preferred

Installation is tricky with no room for error. Granite slabs can be easily damaged during installation and cannot be repaired. A damaged slab must be replaced without costs. Also, the base cabinets must be sturdy enough to hold the weight of the granite slab, which is something to seriously consider if you are remodeling.

According to Rempros, granite countertops, in particular, require professional installation. Cutting the slab, making the sink cutouts, polishing edges and seaming is challenging. The Family Handyman says that it’s not worth it for a do-it-yourselfer to invest the time and dollars required for something they will likely do only once

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New Kitchen

Concerns About Radon

Radon is a radioactive gas that forms when radium decays into radon, and it is naturally found in granite. In fact, According to Radon, all natural products, especially stone, minerals, and sand, contain trace amounts of naturally occurring radioactive minerals that can produce measurable amounts of radiation and sometimes radon gas. The site goes on to say that this includes all concrete products, clay bricks, most non-plastic plates and dishes, coal and the fly ash produced in coal-fired power plants, natural gas (contains radon), phosphate fertilizers used in your garden.

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Corner granite countertop edges

 

By nature, granite has some inherent level of radon, and the question is how high that level might be. Because high levels of radon in the home can truly be a hazard to health, we quote directly: “After having performed tens of thousands of samples and never finding a granite counter top that produces hazardous amounts of radon gas, Air Chek, Inc has decided that it is a disservice to our customers to offer this product. We instead encourage you to look for a much more likely problem; radon in your home.” After much research and testing, it has been determined that granite building materials have a “ minimal and acceptable amount of radon.”

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Large white kitchen with two kitchen islands

Radon also cautions against suggestions that you place a radon-in-air test device on a granite surface under a bowl, bucket, or other container. This will, 99% of the time, “grossly over-report the radon levels.” Forbes magazine also warns consumers about “scare-mongering information” that can be found online.

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Caring for your granite countertop

Simple soapy water is the best for cleaning your granite countertop. From time to time, you may choose to do a deep cleaning if you have been cooking with large amounts of grease or oil. Use a heavy-duty stone cleaner that will degrease the counter and remove surface sealants. After mixing the cleaner according to directions, allow it to sit on the stone for the recommended amount of time, wash with a sponge or soft bristle brush, mop up the water and then dry the surface. Lastly, polish or buff the surface.

If you get a stain on your granite countertop, baking soda may be all you need. The Maid Brigade suggests that you make a paste of baking soda and water for oil-based stains or baking soda and hydrogen peroxide for water-based stains. Apply the paste on the stain and allow it to sit for several hours, covered. Then, wipe up the paste, and clean the area with a warm cloth and a dish soap.

According to TheKitchn, don’t use abrasive cleaners and sponges, Windex, acidic liquids like vinegar, lemon, lime, or anything with ammonia or bleach. Frequent use of these chemicals will dull and weaken the sealant over time.

How much does granite cost?

Granite has a wide price range of $45-$400 per square foot per square foot, installed. The great variation is due to variations in the rarity of the stone, its thickness, origin, and any special features. Buyers should ask plenty of questions as to whether price quotes include installation.

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Is DIY Really a Bad Idea?

According to the Family Handyman, an ambitious DIY enthusiast can indeed install a granite countertop.  If you have straight countertops with no inside corners, or are just installing an island, it’s actually quite an easy DIY project. But if cutting and seaming are involved, it will be more difficult. However, those who have basic woodworking skills could handle the job. You have to find a company that provides the granite and will do the most of the cutting, shaping and machining of the sink and faucet openings. Doityourselfgranite.com is a sample online source for slabs as well as fabrication work.

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This gray granite countertop has a matching backsplash.

Yes, it’s one of the costlier choices for a kitchen countertop, but granite is popular for a reason:  Its pros generally outweigh the downsides and it will indeed outlast you and your family. But most of all, it’s a stunningly attractive countertop for any style kitchen.