Granite quality is not just a matter of opinion. Yes, granite counter tops are beautiful and elegant by nature. But the quality of your countertops is something you have control over. A handful of areas to focus on will ensure quality, but you would be surprised how many granite fabricators and installers just don't know the basics.
So how do you tell the difference between a so-so countertop granite job and a really good one? Here's how to spot quality countertops whether marble granite or limestone or soapstone . . .
Bottom polished edges . . An uncommon practice but a very desired one is to polish the bottom of the countertops. The polished surface is limited to a few inches at the edge. People tend to lean on granite counters and wrap their fingers around the edges. Polished undersides let the fingers feel a smooth polished surface. Definitely a sign of quality.
Is the top rodded . . . Rodding a countertop involves cutting a channel in the underside of the counter where holes are to be cut for sinks and cooktops.
Steel rods are then glued in the channels to protect the top from cracking during installation and during years of use. Rodding is easy but it takes time. A quality job will always be rodded.
Perfect polish. . . Perfectly polished edges will have no scratches, no "milky" finish, color matching the top, and just as shiny a surface as the top. Many production granite fabricators now use CNC routers to cut and polish granite countertops.
If you look closely at the edges of tops made with a CNC, you will see rows of horizontal lines running the length of the countertop. These are fine scratches that cannot be removed by the CNC. Perfect polish with a CNC is only possible if the final polishing steps are done by hand. There is always a quality trade-off when granite fabricators uses a CNC router.
Level Counters A good installer knows the difference between a level countertop and a flat one. Countertops granite must be leveled and shimmed before any further work is done.
Seams . . . Finishing granite seams takes skill. Seams should be smooth, flat, narrow (1/16 inch or less), and color matched to the top. The seam should be barely noticeable and made with glue.
Properly Set. . . Granite & marble are both heavy and need very little help to stay in place. A small bead of caulk or silicone on the outside of the cabinet is all that's needed to keep stone counters down. Gluing granite to cabinets with epoxy or liquid nails is overkill and makes removal of tops a disaster. Not the sign of quality work.
Sink Mounting . . . Properly mounting sinks to granite is a science. Sometimes undermount sinks can be held in place with direct attachment to cabinet sides. Many times, though, these sinks need to be glued to the granite counter from below. A bead of silicone keeps the sink watertight and also provides probably 90% of the holding strength.
Some means of mechanical attachment is also needed to hold the bowl in place. Globs of epoxy glue around the rim of the bowl is a sign of poor quality and a guarantee that you will be reattaching your bowl in the near future.
It's not hard to spot granite quality. Check out your contractor's fabrication and installation to see if he does quality work. Quality isn't cheap and there's a reason why some granite prices are so cheap. Also, check out what you should know about supporting granite before you decide on anything. It's true - Black granite is typically stronger than other stones. It has different support needs. The hardest tops are black granite countertops.
Installation Quality. . . A good installer can make a poor quality granite counter look good. A bad installer can make beautifully made counters look awful. To get a quality granite counter job, you need talented and skillful installers.