Homeowners have used granite as decoration and as a building material for a very long time. However, it was not always inexpensive and accessible. So how did it become such a popular choice for our countertops?
Granite is a timeless stone that is incredibly durable. Because granite forms in the Earth’s crust where it experiences extreme heat and pressure, it can withstand the harsh working conditions in our kitchens. Every granite slab is one of a kind, making each a natural work of art. As if those reasons are not enough, read the four reasons granite is here to stay.
How Granite is Formed
Granite is a naturally occurring stone that forms from a combination of feldspar and quartz that melt together deep in the Earth. Over time, this melted rock, known as magma, cools and fuses
to create an extremely durable hardened material. You can find traces of amphiboles, mica, and other materials in granite, which contributes to the color and pattern variations you can choose.
The grains in granite are more visible in the lighter colored stone. These crystals form as the magma slowly cools and crystallizes. There is no manufactured or mass produced granite. Each slab is mined from the ground and shipped to granite wholesalers, so every piece will always be unique.
Natural stones used to be harvested from quarries using a simple hammer and chisel, making it a backbreaking and time-consuming task. Workers used to cut holes in the rock and place wooden wedges in them. As the wood expanded, the stones split open and could be more easily retrieved. With the help of modern technology and machinery, we can harvest granite a lot more easily.
A Timeless Building Material
Despite its labor-intensive harvesting process, there is evidence that ancient Egyptians used granite as finishing decorations for the pyramids. Obelisks, burial chambers, and stately columns were some of their favorite spots to use granite.
The Romans favored granite for their roads and buildings. The stone became more widely used as they refined techniques to retrieve it. The royal and wealthy used granite to display their class and wealth. They opted for granite for its aesthetics and one-of-a-kind patterns. It was used as a decorative building material for structures and monuments as it inspired elegance. Baths, churches, and pools all incorporated beautiful granite.
How Granite Made Its Way Into Our Homes
We started to use granite in homes and countertops in the late 1800s. However, as recently as the 1980s, granite was still too expensive for most households. Since then, there have been a number of factors that have made granite a household staple in America.
1. Worldwide Interest in Granite
Before the 21st century, Italy was the primary granite processor in the world. After that, China, India, and Brazil started quarrying and processing the natural stone much cheaper than Italy or the US could. The supply and demand cycle took off because granite became more available and reasonably priced.
2. Shipping Became More Accessible
Container shipping took off in the early 2000s, which made granite more accessible and less expensive. Before, you had to get your granite from local suppliers. Shipping meant granite prices were no longer tied to the local market. International competition helped bring prices down, as homeowners had access to granite from other parts of the world.
3. Technological Advances
Previously, granite had to be cut and shaped by hand with industrial grinders. Now, we can program computers to control saws and make many more significant cuts for sinks to fit in. Granite is now easier to work with, making it much more affordable.
4. The Housing Boom
The housing bubble trends brought about a shift in public opinions about how quality countertops should look. Granite became a standard for kitchen countertops, cementing its status as a kitchen staple.
Why Granite Will Not Be Going Anywhere
While trends come and go, granite is a trend that does not seem to be budging. The natural stone is an affordable, aesthetically pleasing countertop that comes in every color and pattern combination imaginable that will last at least your lifetime. It is low maintenance and competes with marble for looks without the required upkeep and price tag. Marble may be making a comeback with a rise in minimalist color palettes, but it can’t compete with granite for those who want a functional kitchen.
Granite used to be a status symbol for the uber-wealthy and noble-born. With the globalization of our market, advances in machinery and technology, and housing trends, granite can give the impression of luxury for a fraction of what it used to cost. As our society moves for more sustainable options, granite will continue to be a great option. It lasts multiple lifetimes with proper care, making it one of the longest-lasting building materials for your home. It is now an affordable luxury and smart decision for America’s middle class.