Granite used to be considered such a luxury item that only the rich and famous could afford it, but with different modern technologies and mining techniques, granite is now very affordable. Countless homes in the Denver area now enjoy Granite countertops. So how does this beautiful stone get from the ground to your house? We’re here to take you through this rock’s journey.
Step 1: The Earth
Granite is an igneous rock (molten rocks and minerals that were pushed closer to the Earth’s crust and then cooled over time) that is mostly composed of feldspar and quartz. The color and pattern variations occur when other rocks and minerals are introduced into the magma’s mix, and the size of the grains is determined by how slowly the magma cooled (larger crystals = longer cooling time). Granite is one of the most prevalent igneous rocks on Earth.
Step 2: Discovery
Geologists usually find quarry sites by locating granite that has already been exposed on the Earth’s surface through weathering, erosion, or other geological processes. In case you can’t remember, weathering is the process of breaking larger rocks into smaller ones via water, plants, animals, and atmosphere. Erosion is when those smaller rocks are moved away from the original site by water, wind, or ice. Some other geological processes that may uncover granite deposits include earthquakes and shifting tectonic plates.
Once the geologists locate the granite, they take core samples to determine the quality. Low-quality granite is quarried for rock base and other landscaping material, and high-quality granite is quarried for things like countertops and art pieces.
Step 3: Removal
Once geologists label granite as being high quality, the real fun begins during the extraction process. Nowadays, quarries use specially placed explosives or diamond cutting cables to separate large chunks of granite from the surrounding rock. These chunks are so hefty that they end up weighing in around 20 tons! Huge cranes and trucks help to move these massive blocks to the places that ship granite all over the world. Most of the granite that is quarried for countertops comes from Brazil and India, though you can find quarries in the U.S., China, Turkey, Egypt, and Spain.
Step 4: Shipping
Though we can’t know for certain, archeologists believe that Egyptians used fancy barges to ship their large blocks of granite from where they quarried them originally. Scientists then think that the Ancient Egyptians wet the sand down in front of huge wooden sleds in order to reduce friction enough that they could move these gigantic blocks over land.
Thankfully, we now have large ships that can transport multiple blocks of granite at once to anywhere in the world. We also have exceptionally large trucks that can carry the enormous weight of a large chunk of granite.
Step 5: Cutting
Once the large block of granite has arrived at the manufacturing plant, it is cut into smaller, more manageable slabs that resemble what you might actually find in a showroom. These slabs are generally 2 cm or 3 cm, and they use diamond wires and blades to make the nice, even cuts. It can take a few hours to cut through a single foot of material, so this process can be rather time-consuming.
Step 6: Polishing
After the slabs are cut, they still don’t look anything like what you’d install in your kitchen because they haven’t been polished yet. To polish the granite, each slab is sent down a conveyor belt that has different grits of diamond polishing pads. It’s the same process you’d take when polishing wood: you’d start with coarse-grain sandpaper and then gradually transition to finer and finer grain sandpaper until you reach a high polish. The process is the same with granite, except that the polishing pads are made from diamond pieces and not sand.
Step 7: Shipping
Granite manufacturers try to keep slabs from the same block together and in the order in which they were cut when they ship them out. This keeps similar patterns and colors together in case multiple slabs are needed for the same project. Think of it like they are assigning the granite a lot number, similar to how chemicals, dyed yarn, and certain foods also have a lot number so that people can keep track of the product.
The manufacturer will use those same large boats and trucks as before, but the polished granite is now packed, wrapped, and loaded in such a way that it doesn’t get cracked or chipped during transport.
Step 8: Selection
Granite showrooms will now get to browse through the polished slabs and choose what they want to sell in their showrooms.
Step 9: Customer Process
We are finally at the last step: the customer! The customers will go to a showroom and choose a slab of granite that they feel best fits their design aesthetic. The countertop fabricator will then make a trip to the customer’s location and take detailed measurements as well as help the customer decide on edge profiles and backsplashes.
The shop will then take the fabricator’s measurements and cut the slabs of granite into the right size and shape to fit the space. The fabricator may use a CNC or other water cutting tool to get the right pieces. The shop will then seal the granite, do a final polish, and install the granite on site.
So there you have it! From the quarry to your kitchen, your countertop’s journey is not to be taken for granted.