Granite countertops are beautiful. These natural stone surfaces come in a wide range of colors and patterns, are extremely durable, and add a luxury “feel” to your home, while also improving resale value. If you’re considering buying a home with granite countertops—or adding them to your home—what considerations should you keep in mind?
Granite used for countertops begins with mining the stone, deep in the ground, and cutting it into slabs, typically 9 to 10 feet long and 5 to 6 feet wide. Most of the granite used as building materials originates from Brazil, but some varieties of brown granite come from China.
Once mined, the slabs are saw-cut. Resin is applied to fill any pits, sealing the porous surface. Then the slab is cured in an oven. After curing, slabs are polished and buffed.
Your options are nearly limitless. Slabs come in light granite, dark granite, and many shades in between. Granite’s natural veining is part of the beauty of the material. However, any seams required for cutting and installing sections will be visible.
Going with a darker color will diminish the appearance of these installation seams, but natural granite will never “match up,” so the seams will always be an obvious part of the countertop.
If you are having granite installed, it’s best to personally pick the slab you want. Photos of “similar” slabs won’t give you the true character, coloring, or the veining of your particular piece. As a naturally formed stone, the look of granite can vary wildly. What you select from a catalog or an online image, may not coincide with what is delivered.
Use only neutral pH cleaners on your granite, and avoid acidic or alkaline cleaners. Usually, a dishcloth dampened with a simple combination of dish soap and water will be fine. Also avoid using products containing bleach and abrasive cleansers on any granite surface.
Organic materials left on a granite surface for extended periods of time can seep into the granite and stain it. Pay particular attention to subjecting the surface to alcohol, vinegar, citrus juices, and cooking oil, which, if permitted to seep into the surface, will discolor it.
Selecting darker colors may help, but will not eliminate the problem. The best solution is to clean up any spills or residue from food quickly (by blotting, rather than wiping) and to maintain a resealing schedule.
Granite countertops do need occasional resealing, usually annually, in order to maintain a non-porous surface. You can have them sealed professional, or do it yourself. Since staining is the primary issue that causes granite countertops to need replacing, it’s imperative to maintain a regular resealing schedule.
Pots, Pans, Knives, and Glassware
Don’t worry about hot (right off the stove) pans. They won’t leave a mark on granite countertops unless there is grease or some other organic material on the pan that may seep into the granite. Temperature is not a concern.
Knives won’t damage the surface either, which is harder than marble and won’t scratch as easily. Your knives won’t scratch the granite, but the granite will dull your knives.
One of the biggest “cons” of these super-tough surfaces is the ease with which you can break a special crystal bowl, china plate, or wine glass. Barely tap one of these delicate items on granite and kiss it goodbye.
Most granite countertops will last DECADES, not just a few years. Your countertops will probably outlast the house, and with proper care, will do so beautifully.
It is possible to damage granite countertops, but you really have to abuse them in unusual ways. If you hit the edge hard enough to chip it, you should save the piece(s) and see if it can be epoxied back in place by a professional.
Granite is one of the most expensive countertop materials on the market. Expect to pay $100-300 per square foot for granite. Even higher prices are common.
Installation is also expensive. Granite is unforgiving, compared to other counter options. A small mistake in installation might mean tossing that section and starting over.
The cabinets required to handle the weight of granite countertops can also more expensive than run-of-the-mill cabinets.
For some, radon may be a concern. Any natural material that is harvested from the ground may contain these radioactive minerals. If you are concerned about radon in your kitchen, however miniscule, you can test the slab you’ve selected, or have a professional test it for you. Because stone is a natural product, the level of radon in each slab will be different and can change as the material ages.