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What You Need To Know About Granite and Granite Countertops

What Is Granite?

Granite is a light-colored igneous rock that comprises mainly of quartz and feldspar with lesser amounts of mica, amphiboles and other minerals. This mineral composition typically gives this natural stone a white, red, pink or gray color with dark mineral grains clearly visible throughout the rock. Granite is an intrusive rock, which means that it forms from the slow crystallization of liquid magma deep under the Earth’s crust.

Granite is the most common and best known igneous rock. In fact, much of the Earth’s continental crust is composed of granite and it is the main component of the cores of continents. That means it is found in abundance both below and above the Earth’s surface. So granite may occur virtually anywhere in the nation, but most of the granite dimension natural stone produced in the U.S. comes from high-quality deposits found in five states: South Dakota, Idaho, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Georgia.

Best Uses of Granite

Granite is not only one of the most aesthetically pleasing stones, but also one of the hardest. It is tough enough to resist most forms of abrasion, strong enough to withstand significant weight, inert enough to withstand the worst weather and it accepts a brilliant polish. These positive attributes has seen it gain adoption in a wide range of applications.

Some of its best uses include:

- Art and architecture: Throughout history, humans have used granite to construct different types of structures, from temples and palaces to statues and tombs of royalty. This is not surprising given the fact that granite is probably the best dimension stone, a natural rock material that is quarried to be cut into blocks or slabs of specific length, width and thickness.

- Monuments and sculptures: Granite has been used for thousands of years – and continues to be used – in the construction of masterpieces. With the durability and unique crystals, depth, and variations of the stone, granite becomes a popular material for sculptures, monuments and statues.

- Worktops: Granite is one of the most, if not the most, popular worktop material in the nation. This is attributable to its toughness, durability, beauty and long-lasting nature – all the virtues that one would wish for in kitchen worktops, counters and other countertop work surfaces, both indoors and outdoors.

- Modern buildings: Rough-cut and polished granite is widely used as a primary material in many construction projects – both interior and exterior projects. The granite blocks, slabs and tiles are used in everything from stair treads and floors to wall cladding and paneling.

- Tiling and paving: Granite pavers are some of the best paving material, often providing a colorful and interesting way of paving a driveway, patio, and other outdoor surfaces. The beauty of this natural stone, combined with expert craftsmanship and design usually produces a unique and lasting result.

- Engineering: Granite also has many engineering applications. For example, the impervious and inflexible nature of the polished granite surface plates is traditionally utilized by engineers to establish a plane of reference. Engineers also typically fit optical instruments into granite tables in order to provide the rigidity and high dimensional stability required to reduce vibration.

- Grave markers: Granite is widely used for making gravestones and memorials. It is a very hard stone, but can be curved by hand with adequate skill.

How to Select Granite Countertops

The cost of granite countertop fixtures will vary depending on different factors, such as square footage, thickness, edge treatment, color and origin. So you need to consider these factors when selecting countertops.

The common granite countertop thickness is 2 or 3 cm (3/4 or the 1 inch), and you need to decide which is the most appropriate thickness for your kitchen. The 3 cm thick granite countertops tend to be more expensive, but do not require plywood for support – which is required when working with the 2 cm granite countertops.

When choosing the right thickness, be sure to confirm that your cabinets can withstand the weight. Granite countertops are typically heavy, about 25-30 lbs. (11-14 kg) per square foot.

If you’re working on a really tight budget and are looking for a small piece of granite, consider purchasing one of the leftover scraps or small, unwanted pieces of granite from a granite shop. Many granite shops offer such pieces at a highly discounted price.

Another factor to consider is color and finish. These countertops come in a wide variety of colors. So it’s always easy to find a color that compliments your kitchen decor.

It is also important to look at the finish when buying a granite countertop. Most people usually find that the polished finish works best in the kitchen. This finish has a mirror like appearance, which makes the counter look extremely beautiful - not forgetting that it is very easy to clean. But you could also choose the honed finish which is a little rougher in appearance, but gives a feeling of warmth. There are many colors and finishes of granite countertop out there, if you don’t find the right color, or finish, right away check with other suppliers.

In addition, you need to consider the edges and seams. You need to find the edge that is safe and makes your granite countertop look attractive. There are many types of edges available, including: double round over or full bull nose, beveled, waterfall, ogee, rounded, square, flat and custom edges. Round 1/4 inch beveled edges are standard. Flat edges usually have sharp edges, and you’ll need to have them dulled if you decide to go with this edge profile.

Seams are inevitable when installing granite countertops, but some granite installation experts can help you install a seamless countertop or place seams in a spot where they are less visible.

Fabrication and Installation of Granite Countertops

To get the longest life out of your countertop, proper granite fabrication and installation is a must. Here are a few tips to help ensure that your granite installation looks great and stands the test of time.

  1. Kitchen Countertop Layout: Take a clean sheet of printer paper and draw a sketch of your envisaged countertop, detailing all aspects of your granite countertop including locations or holes for the cooktop, sink, faucet, faucet button, etc. This layout will help you keep track of your measurements and give the granite fabrication professionals a visual representation of your countertop and kitchen. It doesn’t have to be to scale, but try to keep the right proportions.

  2. Template Layout: The next step involves creating a template layout to facilitate the smooth installation of your granite countertop. Take your layout to the granite fabrication shop and let the professionals have a look at it. The professional fabricators will visit your home and take the exact measurements of your countertop, including those of sink, faucet and cooktop holes. While at it, fabricators will determine where the faucet will be located, how much overhang is required, what type of radius you need on the corners, the best ways to join the seams, and so on. Once they complete taking the measurements and have a good understanding of your needs and requirements, granite fabrication experts will use wood or cardboard to make a replica of your new countertop. This template will be laid on the granite slabs to facilitate smooth cutting using a special saw that offers total control of each cut.

  3. Cutouts and Sinks: Sink, faucet and cooktop holes may be cut using special machine saws or by hand. If you’re installing an undermount sink, the sides of the hole will be polished to allow for a smooth and contemporary design(since the sink won’t cover the sides). Granite fabrication specialists will also rod your countertops where cooktops and sinks will be cut in order to give granite the extra strength needed for installation and future use.

  4. Final Setup and Granite Installation: The finished top pieces will be placed together to ensure that they resemble the layout of your granite countertop. The fabrication (joining the pieces together) process usually takes one day for a typical average kitchen. The finished granite countertops will then be transported to your house, placed together on the kitchen cabinets, and fixed down on the cabinets (glue-down installation). Often, some final cutting and polishing may need to be carried out on site.
Granite countertop fixtures are extremely durable, but the material itself does not come with a warranty because it’s a natural stone. However, an installer can warranty the installation.

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