Granite Counter Top Guide

A new granite counter top is always high on the list of kitchen remodeling ideas. And why not? It's a proven durable surface with many unique benefits. Though with so many to choose from now you might be wondering... aren't other materials better than granite countertops?

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...

When considering the overall performance characteristics, versatility, extensive style and color choices, ease of cleaning, maintenance and repair... other counter top materials have yet to truly surpass a granite counter top 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 counter tops, bathroom countertops, floor tile, patios, fireplaces, tub decks, shower surrounds and walls... inside and out.

granite countertop colors - cashmere gold

No other countertop or tile material performs so reliability 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 a granite counter top.

Why A Granite Counter Top Is So Popular

Granite countertops are so popular for kitchen counter tops and other installations due to extensive design possibilities and the superior performance when comparing counter tops materials.

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.

Granite is also more hygienic (tied with quartz) than all other 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.

Over time, additional heat and pressure resulted in the myriad, fascinating combinations of color and pattern as well as the many outstanding qualities we know and love about granite. Every granite counter top slab is naturally unique.

Granite's innate ability to withstand constant abuse will impress you. A granite counter top is nearly impossible to scratch (you can cut your veggies, etc. on it if you don't mind dulling your knives), hot pots won't hurt it, bacteria and stains are not a problem under normal use and proper cleaning.

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 at the extreme a few granite colors (like Kashmir White) are so porous, prone to staining and difficult to seal they just shouldn't be installed.

However, the idea that all granite stains easy is a gross generalization and distortion of the truth. Protecting and cleaning granite countertops is hardly a concern and certainly not the problem or hassle that some in the industry would have you believe.

Many varieties of granite (especially 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.

We highly recommend using SenGuard Permanent Sealer or one of these impregnating sealers when testing shows it would be beneficial.

Granite Countertop Colors & Patterns

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.

white granite countertop color sample Bianco Catalina show dense speckled patternBianco Catalina Granite
Black Galaxy granite

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.

granite countertop color Indian Juparana displays a flowing pattern movementIndian Juparana granite
granite countertop color Azul Aran is a dense pattern with turbulent movementAzul Aran granite

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. 

Colonial white granite countertop color displays an spacious pattern with movementColonial White granite

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. 

Santa Cecilia granite color sample displays both a structured pattern with subtle movement.Santa Cecilia granite

And some granite patterns don't adhere to the normal "rules" and are simply dramatic. Most such patterns are considered "exotic" granite colors and are far more expensive. 

exotic granite color Copenhagen displays a dramatic patternExotic Copenhagen granite

Remember, granite counter tops 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 a granite color or pattern that fits with your design. The trick is deciding which of the gorgeous granites you love the most!

You'll find more information about all of the above at our page on Granite Colors & Design.

Granite Countertop Finishes

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. 

Polished Granite Finish

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.

A polished granite countertop is glossy, smooth, and reflective like a mirrorPolished Granite Finish

Note that polishing granite is done on huge industrial machines using intense friction and abrasion to smooth the surface until 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. 

Honed Granite Finish

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.

this honed granite countertop has a silky smooth satin matte finishHoned Granite Finish

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. 

Textured Granite Finishes

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.

this leathered black granite countertop finish displays a visible textureLeathered Granite Finish

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 Countertop Slab & Tile Sizes

rows of granite countertop slabs for sale stacked at the stone warehouse

Granite Slabs

Granite countertop slabs are cut from monolithic blocks of granite and come in thicknesses of 2cm (3/4 inch) or 3cm (1 1/4 inch).

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 countertop. 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

  • Granite slab sizes range from 105" x 55" up to 130" x 80".
  • The average slab size is around 114" x 66" (9 ft. 6" x 5 ft. 6"). 
  • Large slabs are more rare and typically more expensive.
  • The entire slab is not used. About 20% - 30% of the slab will be cut away.
  • Multiple slabs are usually required for the average kitchen countertop.
  • The number of seams is determined by your countertop configuration, slab sizes, and number required. 
  • Kitchen islands usually require only one slab, but good to consider the above when planning the size of your kitchen island. 

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. 

Granite Tile Countertops

Granite Tiles are excellent for bath or kitchen flooring or anywhere else around the house inside or out. Also, 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 full-slab countertop save a little extra grout maintenance.

Cost of Granite Countertops

Depending on the granite color you choose the cost of granite countertops will run from $60 to $85 sq. ft on average, but could be up to $125 for some rare, expensive slabs. And you can still get a quality installation for as low as $45 sq. ft. sometimes, but you should expect a bit more especially if you want a fancy edge or have many cut-outs.

How about those ads for $25 sq ft? If you are smart and want your countertops to look good, you'll just ignore those cut-rate advertisements. 

In order to charge so little, these backyard fabricator/installers must use cheap, low-grade and thin slabs, 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. Believe me... we've consulted with far too many people in this unfortunate situation.... you'll regret it! 

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 counter tops, 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.

Answers To Granite Counter Top Questions

Learn even more! Click on the links below to read detailed answers to common (and unusual) marble cleaning questions.

Are Kashmir White Granite Countertops Good? 
QUESTION: I'm thinking of putting in Kashmir White granite countertops. But I have heard that it is more difficult to care for than other granites. …

Granite Countertop Seam and Crack Issues 
QUESTION: We recently had Black Galaxy granite counter tops installed. After installation, we noticed a 4-foot-long line through the counter. It goes …

Granite has blotchy appearance 
QUESTION: I hope somebody can give me some advice! We just had a new granite kitchen countertop installed. It is absolutely gorgeous with lots …

Honed Absolute Black Granite
Countetops For Kitchen
QUESTION: I have been told that the honed absolute black granite countertops stain very, very, very easily by some and that this is not true by others. …

Matching Different Granite Slab Colors 
QUESTION: I recently got 3 slabs of tropical brown prefabbed granite for kitchen countertops. We didn't notice that one granite countertop slab …

Granite vs Man-Made Stone 
QUESTION: We are remodeling our kitchen countertops and are getting answers all over the world... this one chips, $35 more per square foot for that one, …

Kosmus Granite Countertop 
QUESTION: We are about to install Kosmus granite counter tops. It seems to have a lot of mica in it and my installer has told me that it is a very …

Unlevel Countertops 
QUESTION: My installer put in our granite counter tops and they are not level. He blames the cabinets for not being level and said they are set in …

Why Isn't My Granite Super High Gloss Shiny Not rated yet
QUESTION: We had a granite counter top installed two years ago. I have noticed a few pits in it and it does not appear like it has a thick coating of …

Best Country Origin For Granite Not rated yet
QUESTION: I am going to install granite countertops in my new home, I have seen stones from India, Canada and Brazil. Is any stone origin better …

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