Finding the Perfect Countertop
During a remodeling project, there are a lot of questions to be answered. Colors and designs must be selected and materials decided upon. This can be a very daunting task, and people do not consider the issues until they are smack dab in the middle of them. Going through this “adventure,” I thought I should share my experience and possibly help someone else be a bit more confident in their choices.
The first decision seems simple enough, just choose the material you want for your countertop. But what if you are unsure? How do you know what is best for your home? My family purchased our home a little over a year ago. The house had been a rental since the 1970s and needed some major updating. The kitchen was old and the countertops had an awful laminate butcher block countertop with sharp corners, scars, and warps. When considering a new countertop I wrote off the idea of using granite. After all, there was all that maintenance. They had to be treated and what if they cracked? I also wrote off the idea of laminate, it looked cheap and brought down the interest in a home if it went up for sale.
Calling the Experts
I decided to call a well-reviewed countertop company who was having a sale. They would bring samples to the house and give me a quote. I had decided on quartz thinking it was the very best material for the job and I had been hearing so much about it, it was very popular. When the installer came, he carried only four samples. They were sand colored with tan speckles, white with sparkles, white and black with sparkles, and black. I was disappointed but in my ignorance thought maybe that was all there was to choose from in a quartz stone. So, I chose one and received a quote for the countertop and an under counter sink. The price seemed fair however I really did not want to jump at the first quote I received and how did I know it was a good deal?
The next day I called another highly-recommended countertop company. The man came out with a whole book of samples. I was impressed and excited, but I was also told that quartz could stain if anything was not wiped off right away. How could I trust that spills would be immediately wiped up if I wasn’t around? A guest or family member could also unknowingly spill. This bothered me a lot! But when I received the quote, I was also very disappointed at the price.
One more chance
The next day I decided I needed another quote or two. Note: do not count on anyone calling you back if you request a call from their website. I contacted 3 companies that way and no one ever called me back. I finally got a hold of another professional named Mike and asked him to come out to give me a quote. He came to my home without any samples. I was confused. He began measuring and then gave me the quote written on his business card. When he gave handed it to me I noticed a question mark after the quartz price. I wondered aloud why that was and then he gave me the name of a couple of suppliers to go to. At first, I was upset and inwardly writing this company off as a no go. Then I reconsidered. This was actually something good. I could go pick out my own piece of material, not get stuck with what was handed to me on a 4” x 4” sample.
Lies and manipulation
I looked up the website of the supplier and headed out the next day. When I arrived, I realized the name on the building was not the same one given to me, but I went in. I asked the man about the company and he said they moved, but he had worked for them and he would show me around his stone room. I obliged and began to walk the warehouse full of large slabs of granite, quartz, marble, quartzite, and a few other stones.
As the man showed me different pieces he also told me that quartz would not stain, but quartzite would because it was a natural stone. I stopped in my tracks. Natural stone? Quartz is not a natural stone I asked. He told me the stone was natural, but they ground it up, added resin and other things to make it. That is why there was such a variety of colors to choose from. I was stunned, I had no idea. He continued to show me pieces of stone and I told him I did not want to see any marble. I took pictures of several of the slabs I was interested in to show my husband. I asked the man to give me pricing and he said that was up to my installer. Do not allow this to happen if you are looking for a slab. It is your right to pay the actual price for the stone you are buying. I convinced him it was fine to give me the prices, so he went to the office and wrote them down. He also noted the kinds of stone I had photographed. I went home feeling educated and secure in my choices.
Later that day I messaged my contractor Mike to tell him the store had moved and I looked at what was in the new store. He asked me to please go to the first place he had mentioned as he had worked with them before, so I took a friend and we headed over. My second lesson was to listen to a good contractor as he or she knows who is better to deal with and has good pricing.
The men at this store were very pleasant to work with and when I mentioned I had visited the other store and met the man that used to work for them, they laughed out loud and said he had never worked for them. They told me he opened the store to try to get sales from their reputation. That was the first lie I heard from the first store. As we looked through their warehouse, I pulled out my phone and asked about a piece I had seen the day before. The salesman told me, "That’s not granite that’s marble." This was the second lie. Marble is a horrible stone in kitchens so I was a bit angry that he would have sold me one after telling him I did not want to have marble.
Quartz vs. Quartzite
I decided to ask the man about quartz vs quartzite to see if what the other man told me was true. He told me that quartz would stain but not easily and quartzite was a very hard stone that would not stain but would etch when it came into contact with acids. The third lie was confirmed.By this time, I was not sure what was true and what was not.
The salesman went on to tell me that with quartz you must be careful not to use crockpots, toaster ovens, or set any hot objects on them. They are made of a plastic resin and can melt. This is very important information to know as I am a crockpot user and use a cooker sometimes! When we finished the tour of stone, the salesman gave me the prices right away without question. Again I was impressed when comparing them to the first place. They were cheaper and frankly I would not have gone to the other man anyway after all the deception and overpricing. So now I was against quartzite due to etching and quartz due to melting and possibility of staining. All my original countertop smarts went out the window.
Another thing the salesman told me was that for an extra charge of about $150, they had a coating they could apply to the granite that would last for years without treatment. I also learned that there is a maintenance spray available at any hardware or big box store that you can spray on the countertops and simply wipe off with a clean rag once a month that seals them. That sounded pretty easy.
What I Learned
- Quartz countertops are a manmade material using natural stone and a plastic resin. Although they come in many variations of color they are not natural stone.
- Quartz countertops will melt so you cannot use crocks or other hot items on them.
- If there is a fire, quartz countertops will be completely melted or warped while stone could survive and be reused.
- Quartzite is a hard stone but can get etched from acidic foods and often chips. My contractor also told me it was so hard to work with he charged extra.
- Quartz has a very uniform look about it, although makers are trying to randomize it, it will never look as good as natural stone.
- Marble is horrible for countertops and is prone to easy staining and discoloring over time.
- Granite must be sealed or it will absorb odors and bacteria, but sealing granite is not an elaborate affair. A simple spray on and wipe off with a clean rag once a month or so is all that is needed.
Granite Comes in Slabs
- Always go to the store to look for your own slab(s). Choose exactly the slab you want and do not let anyone choose for you. Always get more than one quote and ask lots of questions. An informed buyer is a happier buyer.
- Make sure to get your own pricing from the stone store or quarry. There is no reason to pay extra for it.
- Square edges on your stone countertop are more prone to chips. Rounded edges are best. Make sure to ask about this before your countertop is fabricated.
- Countertop materials like schist and slate can chip relatively easy.
The New Countertop
After the granite install, your house will smell from the sealants used. Open up the house during the install if possible to spare yourself a headache. My husband noticed that the seam between the granite slabs could be felt as you ran your fingers across it and could also be clearly seen from the front. This can cause issues over time as things slide across the counter, causing chips or wear to the granite. We followed up with the installer and asked for the issue to be corrected.