New granite countertops are always high on the list of kitchen remodeling ideas. And why not? It's a proven durable surface with many unique benefits. But aren't other countertop materials better than granite?
Keep reading to learn absolutely everything about granite counter tops, our take on granite vs. other surfaces, and then decide for yourself.
Certainly, you have many options these days.
With good reason you might consider and be very satisfied with other materials like quartz countertops, solid surface, or concrete for your kitchen design.
Just don't let marketing hype or internet myths and mis-information fool you...
Considering the overall performance characteristics, versatility, extensive style and color choices, ease of cleaning, maintenance and repair... other countertop materials have a tough time truly surpassing granite... as we'll explain here.
Over the centuries granite has excelled as a top material for quite a variety of installations such as indoor and outdoor kitchen countertops, bathroom countertops, floor tile, patios, fireplaces, tub decks, shower surrounds and walls... inside and outside.
No other countertop or tile material performs so reliably with style and ease across so many different applications.
With such an impressive resume, it's no wonder that granite countertops remain among homeowner's most desired features whether remodeling or buying.... and that the value or pros and cons of all other countertop materials are continually compared to granite.
Granite countertops remain a very popular choice for kitchen countertops and other installations due to the extensive design possibilities and the superior performance when compared to other types of countertops.
In fact, granite is consistently rated the top performing kitchen countertop material by leading consumer magazines when compared with quartz countertops (an excellent countertop material), butcher block, ceramic tile, stainless steel and other manufactured surfaces.
One of the hardest and strongest materials in nature, granite originated from the earth's core as liquid magma.
Extreme heat and pressure forged the quartz, mica, feldspar and other minerals into a very dense structure millions of years ago resulting in myriad combinations of fascinating colors and patterns as well as the many outstanding qualities that make granite a consistently top choice for new kitchen design and remodeling projects...
All considered, granite countertops offer the most benefits with the fewest drawbacks of all countertop materials. Let's investigate the details.
One of the major worries about granite that homeowners have is about sealing and staining. This is definitely an important consideration and should be clearly understood.
Most granite is porous to a certain degree and thus susceptible to staining. This is particularly true for lighter-colored stones like Santa Cecilia granite and white granite.
Staining can be easily controlled by application of a sealer on these surfaces. And really, applying a sealer is no more difficult than painting a wall. A simple process.
At the extreme a few granite colors (like Kashmir White) are so porous, prone to staining, and difficult to seal that they just shouldn't be installed.
However, the idea that all granite stains easily is a gross generalization and distortion of the truth. Protecting and sealing granite is hardly a concern and certainly not the problem or hassle that some in the industry would have you believe.
Many granites do NOT need sealing. Darker colors like Uba Tuba granite, Blue Pearl granite, Absolute Black, Black Galaxy or Baltic Brown granite (and many others) are so dense they simply will not stain and thus do not need sealing... ever.
These super-dense varieties of granite are without question the very best countertop surfaces available. However, since it is a natural product variation in density can occur and it is always recommended to test the absorbency even of those varieties known to be especially dense. In some cases a sealer could be applied.
A simple water test is all that's required to check absorbency and determine if and when sealing granite countertops is necessary (or not). And applying a granite sealer is a quick and simple project.
Cleaning granite is a cinch. Just follow our Do's & Don'ts guide and you won't have any problems.
Granite does not etch so there's no worry about acidic foods or drinks creating dull spots or discolorations.
For quick clean-ups of spills and crumbs, hot water and a sponge works fine. For thorough cleaning & polishing use a specific quality granite cleaner followed by a topical stone polish.
From a design perspective granite is a dream. Many popular colors like Santa Cecilia granite, Baltic Brown, or UbaTuba granite work with a wide range of design themes, however, the broad spectrum of colors (2500+) and interesting array of patterns offer endless possibilities... far more than available with any other countertop material.
And the choices are continually expanding as more countries and regions around the globe begin to explore their unique geology to bring new granites to market.
Colors include many choices in golden browns, pale pinks, deep plums, romantic reds, exotic blues, greens, blacks, white granite and many subtle shades in-between.
Surface patterns typically display the characteristic course-grained, flecked, or pebbled appearance.
The word "granite" originates from the Latin word granum meaning "grain".
These grains can vary in size, shape and density across the pattern depending on the particular mix of quartz, feldspar, mica and other crystals and minerals that make up the stone.
The pattern can be highly structured offering a uniform appearance over the entire countertop or may flow and change continually, without specific repetition or consistency. This is called "movement".
The Bianco Catalina white granite and the Black Galaxy granite samples below are prime examples of the typical uniform, structured pattern seen on many granite colors.
On the other end of the spectrum are patterns that display a lot of movement such as the Indian Juparana granite and Azul Aran gray granite seen just below.
Movement is often desired for the organic and dramatic look it adds to your kitchen or bathroom design.
Note also how the style of movement can vary from a river-like flow (Indian Juparana), to the more turbulent stormy-sea (Azul Aran), to the more spacious look of the Colonial White granite below.
Some patterns will display features of both structure and movement. One such example is the popular Santa Cecilia granite that has a consistent pattern presenting a fairly uniform look but with a subtle flow.
And some granite patterns don't adhere to the normal "rules" and are simply dramatic. Most such patterns are considered "exotic" granite counter top colors and are far more expensive.
granite countertops and other stones developed their color and pattern
over millions of years of natural formation creating a surface that is truly unique.
So, it's never a problem finding granite colors or patterns that fit with your design. The trick is deciding which of the gorgeous granites you love the most!
Search 100's of the most popular granite colors (and all other countertop materials) using our "Granite Color Selector" tool.
As if the endless combination of granite colors and patterns weren't enough to choose from, you also have the texture or "finish" of your granite counter tops to consider.
A mirror-like polished finish is the most common and popular choice. Polishing granite enhances color saturation for rich and vibrant colors, reveals all the subtle and intriguing details in the pattern, and creates a visual depth.
A polished finish is also very smooth and pleasing to the touch, easy to clean, and looks fantastic.
Note that polishing granite to achieve that glossy shine is done on huge industrial machines using intense friction and abrasion to smooth the surface until it becomes shiny. It is not the result of applying a product or "polish". This is often misunderstood.
The granite polishing process also closes down the pores of the granite, thereby, decreasing absorbency and increasing stain-resistance. A sealer may still be needed (particularly on lighter colors or white granite countertops), but overall stain-resistance is superior to all other surface finishes.
A polished finish will last years and the shine can be enhanced by a topical granite polish, but such products do not create the shine or repair a dull finish. If a polished granite ever does become dull, it will need professional re-polishing using special abrasive tools and compounds.
A honed finish is silky smooth, but not shiny. Consider it a "matte" or "satin" finish. Colors and pattern details are a touch muted and flat compared to a polished finish for a quieter, softer vibe.
If a more saturated color is desired, applying a color-enhancing sealer will darken the color and add a bit of sheen for a "wet look" finish.
A honed finish is perfect for certain kitchen design styles (Rustic, Farmhouse, Old World, Cottage) but really can work well with any theme given the right decorative touch.
It is warmer than a polished finish but also more prone to staining and dark colors (especially honed black granite) tends to show fingerprints. Otherwise, it is also easy to clean and maintain.
Leathered, antiqued, brushed, hammered, and vintage granite finishes are all similarly "rough" surfaces with pronounced texture created using various techniques. Such finishes can be beautiful on any color but add visual interest to more solid granite colors with sparse patterns such as many black granite countertops.
A leathered finish (see above) is the most popular of the rough finishes. It has similar benefits of a polished finish (colors are still well-saturated, more stain-resistant than honed) but also hides scratches, fingerprints, and water-spots that are often visible on a polished surface.
The degree or depth of texture will vary depending on the composition of your particular granite color and pattern. Some leathered granites will have a very light or soft texture while others will look much more rough, weathered, and worn.
Flamed finishes are created using an intense flame or blow torch that causes minerals in the granite to explode resulting in a dramatic, highly-textured surface that is about as rough as you can get.
The added texture of rough finishes can require a bit more effort when cleaning in some case, but are still practical for kitchen countertops (except a flamed finish).
Really, a flamed finish is primarily used for outdoor floors where traction is desired. Other great uses of rough finishes are for fireplaces, floors, fountains, and walls or other decorative pieces.
Granite slabs are cut from monolithic blocks of granite and come in thicknesses of 2cm (3/4 inch) or 3cm (1 1/4 inch). The countertop shape is then cut out of the granite slabs just prior to installation. Most kitchen countertops will require 2 or more slabs.
The 2cm is most commonly used and generally less expensive, but the 3cm is becoming more popular for a thicker edge profile. Also, the thicker slab gives you more options when choosing your edge style.
A thick countertop edge profile can be achieved with a 2cm slab as well, but this requires laminating the edge resulting in a seam running the length of the edge. In some cases, the seam can be well-hidden, but this depends on the specific edge profile and the color and pattern of the granite counter top. Also, a laminated edge may interfere with your kitchen cabinets and drawers.
Granite slab size (length x width) will vary depending on the size of blocks quarried but use the following measurements and tips on how slabs are used when shopping for granite countertops.
Granite Slab Size, Purchase & Fabrication Considerations
Also see our How To Buy Granite section below for more detailed advice.
Granite Tiles are excellent for bath or kitchen flooring or anywhere else around the house inside or out.
And a granite tile countertop will save you a bunch of money... up to 60%... while still providing the distinct look and desirable qualities of a granite slab countertop.
The downside is all the grout lines. Granite tile installation can be a DIY job for a competent handyman and when skillfully installed with thin grout lines and large tile, a granite tile countertop can look pretty good. Almost like a slab countertop (at least from a distance).
However, grout can chip, crack, fall out and get dirty. Cleaning and maintenance will always require more attention and a granite tile countertop won't last nearly as long as a granite slab countertop. But again... you save a ton of money. So, tradeoffs.
Modular granite countertops are a hybrid type of countertop combining the lower cost and easier installation of a tile countertop with the sophisticated look of a slab countertop.
Think of this type of granite countertop as extra-large tiles or mini-slabs.
Modular granite tiles are prefabricated pieces cut in common shapes for specific sections of your countertop (center piece, sink cutout, corners, end) and can include the edge in one tile that fits perfectly over a standard kitchen cabinet (24-inch depth).
This makes for a systematized installation procedure with fewer seams than a tile countertop.
DIY installation is possible with modular granite. I wouldn’t say it is “easy” to install, but a competent handyman or tile installer can do it.
The true cost savings comes from DIY installation. Meaning... you (the homeowner) installing the modular granite vs. paying a tile installer. Otherwise, the total cost of modular granite countertops can be similar to slab granite.
Color choices are very limited compared to granite tile or slabs, but 10 - 15 popular granite colors are available like gray, beige, black, blue, green and white granite.
A handful of manufacturers offer prefabricated or modular granite countertops. The tile sizes, types of pieces, cost, available colors, and installation systems vary so investigate each thoroughly before choosing.
In my opinion, Lazy Granite offers the best system and lowest shipping cost which can be a significant percentage of overall cost.
Pros of Modular Granite
Cons of Modular Granite
One other option is a granite countertop overlay offered by Granite Transformations. This is a franchise that installs ¼ inch slab granite countertops right over the top of your existing countertops.
The advantages here are lower cost and faster installation. The ¼ slabs are far cheaper than standard ¾ or 1 ¼ inch slabs and no removal of old countertops is needed so the entire installation can be done in a day.
Worth considering, particularly for a fast remodel when selling a home or for a rental property upgrade.
Color choices are limited and the biggest drawback is the edge profile which is just a square edge and can look like an old-timey laminate countertop.
You’ll need to get a specific quote to determine if an overlay provides sufficient savings over a traditional granite slab.
Modular or prefabricated granite is a great “idea” and an overlay may be perfect in certain situations. However, in practice the savings may not be significant enough to really make these types of granite counter tops a good value.
Again, you’ll need to get specific quotes for each type to determine which is your best option when purchasing granite countertops.
Personally, I’d save a little more and opt for granite slab countertops if installing new granite counters in a home you intend to live in for many years. You’ll have 1000’s of color choices and the resale value is superior.
If you’re on a tight budget, standard granite tile will give the most bang for the buck or even a laminate countertop.
When buying traditional granite tile or a modular granite tile system color choices are limited to standard popular choices with a large supply and more or less consistent names. Also, the tiles are inspected, boxed, and sold according to color and pattern consistency.
So, if you are buying New Venetian Gold granite tiles you can bet that each box of tile from the same brand will have the same name and all the tiles will be uniform without any weird variations in color or pattern.
Expect the same when ordering a prefabricated modular tile system. Your primary concern is really only that none of the tiles are broken.
However, buying granite slabs requires a bit more effort and focus on the details.
Tips on Buying Granite Countertop Slabs
When shopping for granite or any stone it's nearly pointless to look for a specific color by name.
Yes, you may have found that perfect color / pattern searching granite photos online, but naming is not exact and with over 2500 granite counter top colors a lot of variation exists within any one variety or color.
You may find a "Gray Pearl" slab in your local warehouse that looks very different from the one in the warehouse down the street, or from the photo you saw online.
Or you may find another stone named say "Alaska White" or "Bianco Antico" or "Gris Conquistador" that looks very similar.
Certainly, it will get you started to have a short list of granite color names to begin your search, but in the end, you really just need to go to a stone warehouse and pick out a granite slab that you like regardless of the name.
Always purchase granite slabs from the same "bundle". Slabs are shipped from the quarry to the stone warehouse in specific bundles containing slabs all cut sequentially from the same parent block.
For example: You need 3 slabs for your project. Say the granite color you like has 7 slabs in the bundle. These should all be numbered in the order they were cut from the block. So, ideally you choose slabs number 1, 2 and 3.... or numbers 3, 4 and 5.
Since all the slabs in the bundle will have the same color and pattern structure you can often get away with choosing the 3 slabs you like most regardless of order. However, choosing slabs from different bundles is risky. Almost always you'll notice the difference in color tone between slabs once installed.
It's a good idea to perform the lemon juice test on the exact slab(s) you intend to purchase. Also, inspect the entire slab for excessive pits, fissures (weak points), and color or pattern anomalies you don't like.
This is true when buying any type of natural stone. The lemon juice test will identify any stone that is sensitive to acids. Such stones (like marble) can be frustrating as a kitchen countertop since it is impossible to keep acidic foods and drinks from etching the surface finish leaving a bunch of dull spots.
Granite does not readily etch and the vast majority of "granite" slabs will pass this test no problem. However, this is a natural product and variations do exist and etching can be a problem with black granite slabs that have been doctored.
So, the point here is to not rely on labels, names or the information from sales people. Let the stone tell you directly. The test is easy to perform and, in some cases, will keep you from making an expensive mistake.
Granite countertops prices will run from $35 to $65 per square foot installed on average depending on the granite color you choose.
But costs could run $80 to $125+ for exotic colors, extra-large slabs, complex fabrication, or unusual installation requirements.
Usually, the major factor influencing the total cost of granite countertop installation is the cost of the granite slabs. Standard fabrication and installation costs for a given kitchen countertop are somewhat constant and won't change much regardless of the specific granite color chosen.
However, the cost of the particular granite you choose can vary a lot (from $10 sq. ft. up to $200 sq. ft. at the extreme ends) and will have the most dramatic impact on the total cost per square foot.
For example, let's say your installation is "standard" and fabrication / installation will cost $2000. You could choose slabs that cost say $1000 or ones costing $5000 or more. So, total cost could range from $3000 to $7000+ purely due to the price of granite chosen.
Now, fabrication costs (cutting the granite) can also be a significant percentage of overall price in certain situations. A "standard" installation includes cutouts for one sink, one cooktop, and a basic edge profile. But with additional cutouts for a second sink, complex shapes or corners, and an edge style upgrade costs for fabrication can shoot up as well.
You can still get a quality installation for as low as $35 sq. ft. but your options will be limited to colors in high supply, possibly only a thinner 2 cm slab (vs. 3cm), a basic edge, no complex shapes / corners, and nothing extra difficult regarding tranportation or installation (i.e. carry slabs up stairs).
So, in reality you should expect a bit more especially if you want an interesting and unique color or pattern, a fancy edge, have many cut-outs, unusual shapes like curves, or a bar top.
Use this countertop cost calculator to estimate granite countertops prices based on several variables that you can adjust (using the sliders) for your project.
Before getting a quote for installing granite countertops using an online calculator or from local granite fabricators you'll want to know the total area or "square footage" of your countertop.
Of course, in Canada, Europe, and many other countries you may use square meters. The idea here is to use the measurement commonly used by local fabricators.
Many people choose a granite fabricator (or any home contractor) the wrong way even though they know better. They look for the best deal (meaning cheapest price) and hope it works out.
In truth, this can work for certain types of home remodeling or maintenance projects that don't require exacting skills and any person with a little experience or training can produce reasonably satisfactory results (i.e. painting a room, installing new appliances, cleaning carpets, you get the idea).
But for jobs that do require real craftsmanship, knowledge, and experience (like installing granite countertops) you want the complete package. Price is only one factor.
If you can believe it.... No license is required for fabricating or installing granite countertops. So you really must weed out the wannabes.
Not only do you want top skills and good quality work, but also a reliable, considerate, responsible, and responsive contractor with good customer service. These traits have real value and are worth paying a premium for.
Of course, we'd all like to think that good customer service should be a given for any business and thus it comes down to the quality of work and price, but we all know that in the real world it just doesn't work that way.
Luckily, the internet provides many different review services and you can take simple common-sense steps to ensure you are hiring a reputable, quality granite fabricator.
It's a good idea to follow the same steps even if your interior designer, home remodeling contractor, or builder is using "his guy" which is almost always a separate company.
Just be smart when choosing a granite fabricator. You already know how. You will get stung focusing too much on the dollars. The best "deal" is the one that provides the most "value" which is not the same as the "lowest price".
If you want your granite countertops to look good, you'll just ignore those cut-rate advertisements.
Think about it... In order to charge so little, these backyard fabricators / installers must use cheap, low-grade, thin slabs that often have unsightly blemishes, unskilled workers, and also cut every corner possible. This means mistakes are highly likely.
What you save in money you'll lose in quality and you'll just have to live with it because they can't afford to spend any time on "customer service".
You'll get a song-and-dance that the problem or shoddy installation is "normal". Nobody wants a crummy-looking countertop no matter how cheap. People install natural stone because they want their kitchen or bathroom countertop to look fantastic.
And the bargain-basement per square foot price you are quoted won't likely be the actual price you pay since "incidentals" that would normally be automatically included in any quote will be tacked on at the end.
Believe me... we've consulted with far too many people in this unfortunate situation... you'll regret it!
Think about the years of enjoyment you hope to get from your new countertops and the resale value. It's an investment. You want to say "Wow" every day... not "Ugh".
Don't cut corners by hiring a corner-cutting contractor. Do your homework, follow your instincts, and then pay the price required to get what you want.
Versatile, resilient and naturally beautiful, granite is an excellent surface for any project you're planning. No other natural stone or engineered stone can match the numerous and unique characteristics of granite countertops.
Consider the elegance of a granite for: kitchen countertops, kitchen islands, outdoor kitchens, bathroom vanities and granite tile for tub decks, shower surrounds, interior and exterior flooring, wall cladding and a granite tile countertop or backsplash.
Learn even more! Click on the links below to read detailed answers to common (and unusual) marble cleaning questions.
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