About Granite Countertops
Granite countertops represent a pretty good sized chunk of the interior design market. Designers, builders and fabricators recognize that granite countertops are a feature that not a few home buyers require of a property they intend on purchasing. This page is dedicated to discussing information as it relates to granite countertops. We will briefly consider some basic information about granite and how that basic information relates to and affects its use as a material for countertop surfaces.
What Is Granite?
Often times the term "granite" is used in general sense when people are talking about countertops. In fact, people sometimes use the word granite to refer to a material that is hard and is visually similar to stone although the actual material might be something totally different. However, granite is a very specific material.
Granite is a kind of rock that is formed naturally. There are different usages of the term "granite"; as brought out by geology.com. As that page mentions, when used in a commercial context, the term granite can be composed of a number of materials. Notice the following quote:
The word "granite" is used by people who sell and purchase cut stone for structural and decorative use. These "granites" are used to make countertops, floor tiles, curbing, building veneer, monuments, and many other products.
In the commercial stone industry, a "granite" is a rock with visible grains that are harder than marble. Under this definition, gabbro, basalt, pegmatite, schist, gneiss, syenite, monzonite, anorthosite, granodiorite, diabase, diorite, and many other rocks will be called "granite."
Even though the geological definition of granite differs from the commercial terminology, granite countertops (the commercial variety) have consistent characteristics. These characteristics are consistent enough that "granite's" properties can be described in very specific ways.
Properties of Granite
Granite surfaces have some pretty specific characteristics. These features make the material suitable for use as countertop material. Whether the countertop is used in the kitchen, bathroom, or the boardroom, granite can hold up to the wear and tear because of its distinct properties. So what are the characteristics of granite countertops?
Kitchen & Bathroom countertops of granite are hard. In fact, granite registers between a 5 and 7 on the Mohs scale of mineral hardness. The visual appearance of granite can vary widely. If you want to get an idea of how different various granite materials can look, we created a stone gallery on our Lustro Italiano stone care website. You can see the variety in that gallery. When you consider the variety of granite.
Granite can have a range of finishes. It can be polished, antiqued, and even flamed. Each finish will result in an appearance that is unique. And even the same stone might look extremely different when it is given different surface treatments. Some treatments might make the natural colors of the surface seem darker or more vivid. Other treatments might lighten the color and make the surface appear less shiny.
Properties of Polished Granite
Polished granite surfaces are glossy in appearance and smooth to the touch. Polished granite offers specific benefits. One benefit of polished granite is its increased stain resistance. When granite is polished the pores are "closed" and this makes it more difficult for liquids to penetrate the material and leave stains. Of course, surface stains can happen. But the less porous a surface, the more stain resistant it is. So a shiny, soft feeling, and stain resistant granite surface is one that is polished.
Antiqued (Leathered) Granite Properties
You could say that antiqued granite is the opposite of polished granite. At the very least, you could say that antiqued granite is very different from polished. Antiqued granite has less shine. Additionally, it is not smooth. Rather, it has texture that you can both see and feel when the surface is touched. And as one would conclude, when the surface come into contact with liquids it can stain. However, the visual appeal of antiqued granite is very interesting and it is the choice for some. Furthermore, there are products that can be used to help protect granite surfaces. We will mention those later in the discussion.
Because of the traits that are inherent in granite and the ones that can be produced through treatments, granite has grown to become a popular material for countertops. The characteristics of granite that we spoke of earlier are ones that contribute to granite's success as a countertop material. Kitchen countertops and bathroom countertops are both practical uses for granite.
In addition to granite countertops in the kitchen and bathroom, granite is also a great material for high-end boardroom surface and break room countertops. Aside form the visual appeal of granite for countertops, it performs well as a surface in high traffic areas because of its durability.
Granite Countertop Durability
You may have already inferred from information we have considered up to this point that granite is a durable material. If so, you are correct. Granite comes right out of the ground so it can withstand many things that might damage other kitchen or bathroom countertop surface materials. Let's look at some specific threats to kitchen and bath countertops and how granite holds up.
The first potential hazard to a countertop in the kitchen or bathroom is heat. In a kitchen, hot pans are the obvious danger. In the bathroom it would be curling irons or straightening irons. In either environment, the material that the countertop is made from benefits from being heat resistant. Some materials will melt or turn a dark color if they come into contact with a very hot item. Yet granite is heat resistant and can withstand high temperatures.
Another possible hindrance to a kitchen or bathroom countertop is potentially damaging liquid. In the bathroom it could be a beauty care product and in the kitchen it might be a food or beverage. Some materials are susceptible to specific liquids. In fact, there are some materials that can get discolored from regular old tap water. Granite countertops - particularly polished countertops - on the other hand, are resistant to water stains. Additionally, polishing and sealing enhance the resistance so that the stain resistance of granite is even better than it initially is.
Fabricating Countertops With Granite
The durability of a material used for countertops is often times directly related to how it needs to be fabricated. The hardness that contributes to the durability, for example will mean that particular tools are necessary for fabrication. And so it is with granite kitchen countertops and granite bathroom countertops. Granite fabrication means having and using stone fabrication tools that are particularly designed to cut hard materials. Therefore, stone professionals want to have the proper diamond tools for working with granite countertops. Some of these fabrication tools and supplies include:
Granite Fabrication Tools
Stone Fabrication Supplies
In addition to having the proper tools for fabricating granite countertops, it is also important that the professional have equipment designed for cutting and shaping granite surfaces large enough to be used for kitchens and bathrooms. This might mean having a large shop with CNC machines and tooling along with air and water filtration equipment. And although a large shop with huge machines is not required, it can make the tasks much easier.
Small shops can be successful too. However the shop setup, layout, and work flow may need to be different. No matter how you slice it though, the equipment and tooling that is chosen will play a role in the success of a granite countertop fabrication shop.
Care & Maintenance of Granite Counters
We have already mentioned that granite in the kitchen and bathrooms can benefit from specific treatments to their surfaces. And we mentioned that some finishes are more resistant to staining than others. However, we have not specifically addressed how granite kitchen and bath countertops need to be cared for as an owner of these notable surfaces. Let's take a few moments to do that now.
Owning and caring for a granite countertop is not really all that involved. In fact, with some simple practices, a granite surface can be prepared for whatever normal household use gets thrown at it. One popular routine that works well is the following 3 phase granite care routine:
- Periodically treat the surface with a penetrating sealer designed to get into the pores of the stone and create a barrier to help slow the absorption of liquids. The frequecy of this treatment will depend on your particular granite. However, it will range from every 6 months to every couple of years.
- Use a pH neutral cleaner for your daily cleaner. Using the correct cleaner in the daily cleaning phase will ensure that you do not breakdown the penetrating sealer that was applied. Improper cleaners will remove the sealer and expose your granite surface to the stain causing substances you are trying to avoid.
- Periodically, as an option, use a fortified natural stone polish to replenish the shine. using a stone polish that is fortified with sealers can actually reduce and potentially even eliminate the need for the application of the penetrating sealers mentioned in phase one of the routine. This of course happens only if the stone polish is used frequently enough to maintain the barrier and the barrier is not dissolved by using harmful cleaners.
Are Granite Counters Right for You?
Answering the question, "Are granite countertops right for me?" will require additional consideration that extends beyond the factors we have discussed here. For example, The color palette that the project calls for and the design style will likely play a role. Yet, if these aspects are favorable and conducive to using granite, it certainly could be the right option.
In the end if you (or your customer) have selected granite as the material for a kitchen or bathroom countertop surface, it can be the perfect choice if you make it your aim to properly treat the material after the install and care for it properly during its long, long lifetime.