So I hope you enjoyed my post, 8 Tips on Choosing Kitchen Countertops, Part 1. If you didn’t read it, I suggest you go back and start there before continuing on with my tips #5-8. Onward…
Tip #5: Think about what kind of look you want
Some of this is going to happen as you start looking at countertop materials…I think it is okay to do some initial looking without too much in mind. You probably already know your cabinet color at this point and you may have a general idea about countertop color, but you really need to go look ~ you might even change your mind about what it is you want.
Most granite warehouses will let you look for as long as you like. Most will even give you a sheet to keep track of the stones you like (but come prepared with a pen and paper in case they don’t)…it is also a good idea to have your phone with you to take photos to go along with what you are writing down…you will never remember what “Snowstorm,” “Andromeda”, “Alaska White” and “Costa Esmeralda” are, at least not at first. Wander the aisles and try to be open to the choices…get an idea of what kinds of stones command what price points…you will begin to see that in general the more “interesting” or less uniform a stone is, the higher the price (to a point). Maybe you like generic and that is okay…spend more of you budget on your cabinets or your backsplash then. Let me insert my two cents here on “granite is so overdone.” I have heard this many times from different people. If you go look at granite you will realize how uninformed this is. “Granite” is not one thing…granite comes in so many colors and pattern variations…to say granite is overdone, IMO shows how naive someone is. There are so many reasons granite makes a wonderful countertop…be open and don’t let someone tell you not to choose granite (in an upcoming post I will discuss granite and other options).
Tip #6: Consider the layout of your kitchen.
This may generate some head-scratching…what does the layout of my kitchen have to do with the countertop material I choose? A lot. This, IMO, is the most valuable tip I can give, mostly because it is so often overlooked. When I first went in search of granite I went to Boston Granite Exchange in Haverhill (if you live in the greater Boston area I highly recommend visiting…they have another showroom in West Bridgewater, but go to Haverhill, it’s much bigger). I wandered the aisle with my clipboard and paper to write down the slabs I liked…it was fun and exciting and overwhelming. I probably wrote down a dozen different stones I liked. Later, when I started understanding that stone with an obvious direction wouldn’t work for my kitchen I went back to BGE and realized almost all of the stones I had picked…had an obvious direction. My kitchen is a U-Shape…I have two corners to my countertops. Not in and of itself an issue, but I have one large peninsula that is 9′ long by 3′ wide that turns the corner into another 9′ run. There was not only an obvious change in direction, but the two runs from the corner were both so long that they could not be cut without having a seam. This would necessitate the “direction” of the granite running perpendicular to each other at the seam. This is kind of hard to explain, so I am giving you a visual here…and I am not saying this is necessarily bad…if your countertop looks like this and you love it, then that’s great. But some people aren’t going to like this and if you are one of them, better to understand this now, rather than after the countertops have been installed (when it is too late).
If you have changes in direction in your countertops, talk to your fabricator about it…a small corner can be cut from the slab in one piece…I have a corner that is 2′ on either side of a 90 degree turn, …this was cut as one piece from the stone. But longer runs from a corner are going to potentially run into issues if the stone has an obvious direction…if you don’t like that look, then you need to find a stone that isn’t directional. A lot of fabricators will not bring this up, so make sure you do if it is important to you.
Tip #7: If You Find Something You Love, Tag It and Call Your Fabricator
Most warehouses will allow you to “tag” something for a period of a few days. They basically put your name on it and hold it for you. Some stones have a lot of variation between slabs…if you love a particular slab, tag it (if you need more than one slab, make sure they have two slabs from the same lot…think of slabs as like slices of bread…slabs from the same “loaf” will look similar and will work well together). Once you have tagged a slab(s) get the lot number from the warehouse. Call your fabricator and ask them to call the warehouse for pricing…this will also show the warehouse you are serious…they may be willing to give you an extra day or two to make a decision if your fabricator has called and “reserved” it.
Tip #8: Go to the Fabricator to See Your Template Laid Out on the Stone
Once you have finally made a decision on a slab(s), your fabricator will transport the stone to their warehouse for fabrication. Fabrication is the process by which the stone is cut to your kitchen’s dimensions, the desired edge is applied and any necessary cutouts (e.g. for a kitchen sink) are added. Your fabricator will start the process by sending someone out to your kitchen to make the template…this cannot be done until the cabinets are all installed, level and in the right place. The template outlines the dimensions of your countertops, including any overhang. These templates are then brought back to the warehouse to use in actually cutting your stone. Your fabricator should make an appointment with you to come see the templates laid out on your actual slabs. If you are at all picky, you will want to do this ~ the only time this might not be necessary is if the stone is very uniform. My stone, the super white quartzite, had a fair amount of variation within the slab, with some areas more visually interesting than others. When I went to the fabricator they brought my actual slabs out, set them up so I could see them, and then taped the templates to the stone. Note that the templates are open, so when they are placed on the stone you can see what would appear as your countertops. In my slabs there was one section that had some really cool dark gray stuff going on that I particularly liked. We decided to make that part of the peninsula, as I deemed the peninsula the “highlight” of my kitchen, the place where people would sit and gather.
My fabricator also talked to me about the seam at my templating appointment…ah, the seam…a bad seam can ruin your countertops…seriously. While super white quartzite does not have an obvious direction, it was important to still discuss which two pieces would connect at the seam. We played around with a piece on the slabs that made it seem like it “went” with the peninsula piece…you really shouldn’t notice the seam ~ in the picture above the seam is very, very obvious. I would not be happy with this countertop. You shouldn’t look at the seam and see a huge change in the stone. Understand there is a trade-off between stone uniformity and how invisible the seam can be…the less uniform the stone, the more difficult it is to make the seam disappear (the stone above is called “snowstorm”…I actually really like it and considered using it myself but it has huge variations in pattern and can be difficult to “match”). Here is my kitchen countertop seam (those white circles of glare are from my under cabinet lights).
So there are my tips…do they help? Do you have anything to add? What was your own countertop selection process like? Would you do it again?
Coming up I will talk about 8 different countertop choices and the pros and cons of each…stay tuned.