The Pricing Often Reflects Quality
The most important thing to remember when shopping for a stone countertop is this – If the pricing seems too good to be true, it is. Stone counters are expensive. If you come across a cheap iteration, you’re going to come away with a thin, low-quality, prefabricated surface that is not what you signed up for. Generally speaking, when counters are cheap, they are often outsourced to a fabricator who is only interested in keeping costs low and [not in] producing a durable, long-lasting product.
Another top tip is to carefully inspect the surface for hairline cracks, dips, or pits that may be present. These can look quite aesthetically pleasing but also increases the likelihood of more damage, especially if the countertop is less than an inch-thick.
On this note, it’s better to pay the extra money for a thicker countertop. An inch thick surface will be more expensive initially, but the quality is unmatched. Three-quarter-inch thick counters often need laminated edges and supports. They are far more fragile.
Hire a Professional to be Your Guide
Stone shopping for a homeowner can be exciting yet overwhelming. We always recommend having professional help, whether it’s a designer or a fabricator at the slab yard, to guide you. There are so many beautiful options, from granite to quartzite to marble to exotic stones.
However, you have to be aware of the space it’s going in, the practicality, the maintenance, and the timelessness of the stone. We all know marble is gorgeous and luxurious, but the reality of the constant maintenance trying to prevent etching may not be worth it.
A purple amethyst stone maybe a beautiful statement piece, for example, but will you love it in five years? If you are thinking of selling your home in the future, will someone else like it? Different stones have varying price points as well, and the more exotic or rare, the more expensive. Working with a designer or fabricator can guide you on how much the material is, how many slabs you would need for the space, as well as fabrication cost.
Questions to Consider Before Shopping for Stone Countertops
1. What’s your design style? Traditional, contemporary, simple or bold?
2. What type of cabinets do you have? Ornate or simple? Wood, painted, laminate?
3. How much do you want to spend? Mid-level slab material starts at approximately $10 – $15 per square foot. More unique or rare material can be as much as $30 – $50 per square foot.
4. Depending on location, there are different textures to choose from, like high gloss, matte, and leather finish.
5. Location – Kitchen, master bath, children’s bath, powder bath, wet bar, entertainment center, buffet? This matters because the amount of use is a factor.
6. How long are you planning on being in your home? For resale, you should be more conservative and not go with anything too trendy or bold.
7. Are you looking for something unique and artistic with more movement? If so, granite or marble is the best choice, but it requires a little more maintenance. If you are looking for something more consistent, quartz is a great option, and there is no maintenance.
With the above in mind, inspiration images, and photos of your existing spaces, I recommend [visiting] local slab yards and enlisting the experience of a representative. You will find some yards may only sell natural stone. Others may sell both man-made (quartz), granite, and marble. If you are doing a major remodel or building, I recommend working with an interior designer for assistance pulling all your finishes together.
Helpful Tips for Buying Stone Countertops
• Try to educate [yourself] ahead of your visit to the stone yard about the differences between each type of stone and the pros and cons of each. This allows for a more guided shopping trip.
• Be prepared with sizes and quantities before you go. A slab may be beautiful, but if it is too small, you may end up with seams in all the wrong places.
• Bring as many other samples with you as possible. Having samples of backsplash tile, metal finishes, and even fabric swatches will help ensure you get the color just right.
• Try to keep an open mind. You may think you know what you want, often you will come across an unexpected choice, and it will be perfect.
• Preparation is your best weapon against impulsivity. Know what you are looking for; marble or granite or maybe even quartz. Know your budget and the quantity that you need. It is easy to be starstruck by something beautiful. Make sure it ticks all your boxes.
• Be aware of your priorities, whether it’s a kitchen or a bathroom, or some other space. Sometimes, you are shopping for a hero piece that will be the statement in the room, other times for something more subdued, but have a plan ahead of time. It will help.
• If you find a slab that captures your heart that seems a bit out of your comfort zone, try googling it on your phone to find images where it has been used before so that you get a better sense of what an installation would be like.
Remember the Setting
When buying stone countertops, the first thing that you have to think about is the design of your room. The design should blend with the room and not go against it. Many homeowners have impulse bought countertops that caught their eyes but ended up spending a lot more [money when] they did not go well with the design of the house.
So, to prevent you from the same mistake, take a printed photo of your kitchen or dining room. Look at it and envision the countertop sitting in that room. If it goes well, then buy it. If not, do a deep breath, count to five, and look away.
Think About Stain Potential
Rather than picking a material for your countertop based purely on aesthetics, it’s well worth thinking about what the countertop will be used for when choosing a material. In particular, if you are going to be preparing or eating food on your countertop, you should be aware of how susceptible different materials are to staining from common foods and liquids.
For example, both marble and limestone can stain from water alone. This [property] makes them poor choices for countertops where you may have a sink installed or will prepare food. They are not suitable for bathroom countertops for the same reason.
Similarly, acidic juices from lemons and tomatoes can cause stubborn stains on granite, so this is not the best surface for food preparation. Quartz and soapstone are better materials for surfaces that may be [exposed to these substances].
Ask a Local Expert for Advice
Spend time talking with your local granite fabricator to narrow down the right type of stone for yourself. For example, marble has a great look but isn’t good for kitchen countertops because it is very absorbent and will likely show stains/spills over time.
Also, if you are on a budget and only need a small amount of countertop installed, ask your fabricator if they have any remnants leftover from a previous installation that would work for your project.
Choosing Between Quartz and Granite
Homeowners purchasing stone countertops have multiple options. The most commonly available residential options are quartz and granite.
• Quartz is the superior option as it doesn’t require maintenance, is manmade, so the color and pattern are consistent, and is anti-microbial.
• Granite, on the other hand, requires maintenance, is porous, and not bacteria resistant. Because it’s 100% natural, it is not consistent in color and pattern variation.
Matching up granite seams in an L-shape or U-shape kitchen is particularly difficult. Manmade quartz, however, is easier to match up.
Quartz is consistent. Even if the shopper sees only a sample, what they see is exactly what they will get after purchase/installation. Engineered quartz is 93% natural quartz + 7% resins and other materials. Quartz countertops offer more resilience to stains, cracks, and chips.
A countertop is used and cleaned often, which wears down the sealant. Granite countertops are sealed with a toxin, which wears off over time. Granite also off-gasses radon, [making it] unhealthy for months after installation. Quartz is maintenance-free and the most durable in the market.
Add Value Without Breaking the Bank
You should find something that adds value to your house and doesn’t affect your bank balance. The big stores usually price their products quite [high,] but you should know that it doesn’t reflect their quality and durability. Plus, you won’t get quality service or installation.
You should also keep in mind the whole décor of your house. [Not every] color will not go with the décor of your house. You should decide beforehand what colors you want to buy so that you don’t get sidetracked.
Tips for Preventing an Impulsive Stone Countertop Selection
1. Be prepared with pictures of the walls and cabinets in your kitchen and bathrooms in lit and unlit conditions. Color swatches of your wall paint colors are also useful. These can usually be obtained from your local paint store.
2. Set aside 2-3 hours for the evaluation of the slabs. Thoroughly evaluating the slabs will require you to take the pictures, swatches, and floor and tile samples above and compare them to the cut and color of the slab you are evaluating. It is both a science and an art. Some will not fit, and you’ll need to make a decision, which can be difficult at times.
3. Engage with the expert at the store. Stone countertops, in most cases, look very different uncut versus cut and installed. You want to make sure you talk with the in-store expert to understand how different the piece you select could look.
4. Stay open-minded. In most cases, there are many slab cuts and styles that will work in your home. Pick 3 or 4 that you could see going with.
Beware of Stunning Soft Stones
One of the best tips a professional can give a buyer when buying countertops is to beware of beautiful soft stones. Stones like marble and soapstone are very porous. They look very beautiful, but they stain and damage very easily. A shopper would have to seal them just to barely make them passable for kitchen use. The prices of these stones are very attractive, but they should resist the urge and go for quartz, granite, or Corian.
A buyer should also make sure they check prices at a few outlets. Countertop stores price their counters partly based on availability. One shop might be low on a stone, and another might have just gotten a big shipment from overseas and might [have a lower] price.
Also, don’t get lured in by the brand name. Most stones are the same. If one store has a similar stone but not a splashy brand name, a buyer shouldn’t hesitate to buy it.
A buyer can stop themselves from impulse buying by looking at damaged marble and soapstone counters. A buyer should make sure someone keeps them accountable for following these principles so they don’t fall for something they may regret.
Home Guide: 3 Tips in Shopping Stone Countertops
1. Look for a low-maintenance and scratch resistance countertop.
If you are [enjoy] home-cooked meals and spend most of your time in the kitchen, I recommend choosing a more durable stone countertop.
2. Purchase a countertop based on your budget.
A stone countertop is pricey for homeowners. Granite [is a great option so] your budget [doesn’t get] out of hand. There are various colors to choose from.
3. Do some hollow checking.
Hollow checking is not for flooring only but also for countertops. That’s why I recommend everyone to do some checking first. Here’s how you do it. Knock on the countertop multiple times. It must not have a rumbling sound. It is supposed to feel solid and heavy.
Set Clear Priorities Before You Shop
Prioritize the purpose of buying it. Is it for aesthetics or for convenience when cooking? From there, one will know how to choose the right countertop for them. Other considerations will be the maintenance required to maintain the countertop – the durability, style, and cost.
All in all, my advice is to set your priorities beforehand. You must know what criteria should be taken into consideration first.
To prevent yourself from impulsive buying, fix your mindset and have a companion. If you have a firm decision that certain criteria will be prioritized, you can stop yourself from careless buying. Your companion will help you [think things through,] and you can get opinions from them whenever you become indecisive.
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