A granite slab in our showroom.
All countertop granites are naturally-occurring "quartz-rich" igneous rocks. This means they formed from a molten state under the earth's surface over 400 million years ago.
When the correct granite is found, it is quarried into slabs and sold to countertop display and installation companies (like ours). We then help you pick out what you need, then we template and precision cut and polish the slab for installation in your home or business.
The mineral quartz accounts for up to 50% of the total composition of a countertop granite. Other minerals include feldspar, mica, hornblende, amphibole, trace minerals, and trace elements.
Interestingly, the distribution of the non-quartz minerals, together with how fast the granite cooled, is what's responsible for the many thousands of beautiful colors and textures (veining) found in natural granite. Granite's mineral distribution is also responsible for its scratch-resistance, thermal shock resistance, hardness, for being fireproof, and its overall durability. Moreover, since most granite countertops are millions of years old, it's likely they'll last longer than you AND your home!
Granite countertops are graded based on their overall coloration and textural veining. Grade 1 and 2 (also called level 1 and 2) are commonly used as kitchen and bathroom countertops. Grade 1 has the most consistent coloration and textural veining. Grade 2 (and above) have more unique colorations and textural veining characteristics. Cost also goes up as the grade level increases - except when specials are run.
As for quartz countertops, they're actually "man-made" or "engineered" materials (e.g., not naturally occurring). They are actually made. By weight they contain about 93% crushed aggregated quartz and 7% polyesters/resins/pigments. By volume, this ratio is about 66% to 34%.
Pigments play a pivotal role in engineered quartz. Without it, they would only be available in a whitish color. Since a "one color" countertop is not very marketable, pigments enable this durable material to approximate the colors and textures found in grade 1 and 2 granites. Nonetheless, quartz countertops generally cost between 20-40% more than an equivalent grade 1-2 granite.
On the Moh's scale of hardness, granite has a hardness of 6 (10 being diamond and 5 being steel). Because it is harder than steel, it's just as scratch resistant as engineered quartz. However, because granite was formed under conditions of high heat and pressure, it is not susceptible to thermal damage (e.g., when hot pans and utensils are placed onto its surface). It is also completely fireproof.
Once you've selected a suitable granite material, you will be quoted a "cost per square foot." When you get this information, you'll need to find out if the quoted price includes any or all installation costs. If not, then you're likely being quoted the cost of the material. This is okay, as long as you plan to do all of the installation and just have the countertop professional cut your slab for you.
If you plan on having everything done for you, then make sure to get a detailed installed price. If you don't, then you'll likely end up spending a lot more than you anticipated. Grade 1 granites should cost between $30-$40 per square foot installed. Grade 2 granites cost between $50-$60 per square foot installed.
Sealants are recommended for use on granite countertops. Besides preserving their surface beauty, they also make them non porous and enhance durability. In any case, the harder the sealant you use, the longer it will last (typically 10-15 years). Older sealants required re-application every 1-3 years, but this is no longer the case. Granite sealant application is usually included during installation. No matter, adding a sealant is easy to do - just wipe it on and let it dry.
Countertop edges vary from simple “straight edges” to "rounded radius edges" to more elaborate “waterfall edges” (see a "rounded radius edge" below). On durable countertops of any kind, it's wise to avoid sharp 90-degree outside corner cuts whenever possible. Rounded or "radius" edges are most often used around corners and from top-to-bottom. By avoiding sharp edges on any durable countertop, cracking is far less likely to occur.
Finally, since a number of edges are usually included with installation, make sure to know what kind and how many edges are available/included in the installed price per square foot!
While quartz and granite countertops are both appealing to the eye, the most important questions to ask regarding both materials include; Do they provide the "look" that will match my overall color scheme, how does the installed price compare, and is the quality and durability adequate for my application?
When it comes to actual material quality and durability, there is no comparison between granite and marble. Marble has a much lower melting temperature and is not nearly as hard as granite or engineered quartz. Thus, it scratches and chips far more easily. Marble is also more chemically sensitive than quartz or granite. surface coatings and regular use of special cleaners is required to keep them from being damaged. Most notable of all, marble countertops cost up to three times as much as granite and quartz per square foot.
Click on the following link if you want more information comparing granite and quartz countertops.
Below is an excellent video on granite - from quarrying to templating and finally to home installation.
Granite countertops typically add between two to three times their installed cost to your home's value, and they'll maintain this value for over 20 years.
In contrast, laminate and wood countertops wear out in less than 20 years. As a result, these materials will decrease the value of your home over that same time period.
If you're budget-conscious and want to add value to your home, granite countertops are a great option.