Granite is one of the most durable and attractive materials used for countertops, and if you are in the market for new counter tops it is important to know all about granite countertops. Though granite countertops are more common than they once were, it is still considered a “high end” option, and even the least expensive granite is still an investment.
Granite is a natural material that is formed when volcanic magma blends with the minerals in its path. Combinations of mica, quartz, feldspar, other minerals and the location of the magma flow are all responsible for the different colors and patterns found in granite. Granite is literally a prehistoric work of art. It took millions of years of pressure to create the beautiful slabs currently being cut and polished for countertops today.
Besides its unique beauty and durability, granite is a popular choice for bathroom and kitchen countertops because it can be cut into any shape or size; creating a solid, seamless covering for almost any countertop. There is a granite color to compliment any décor, from neutral tans and grays to dramatic blacks, blues and reds – each with its own pattern of veins and crystalline highlights.
When shopping for granite countertops, the array of choices can be dizzying. Names are sometimes derived from a common color, such as “Amber Fantasy” and “Amber King,” etc., and other times they are named for the quarry or region the stone was dug from, making it difficult to compare or remember your favorites. It may be helpful to decide in advance what general color scheme you are looking for, and to take a notebook and pencil, or even a camera, with you while you tour the granite yard or in-store samples.
After choosing which granite you want for your countertop, you’ll need to decide on which finish you prefer. Polished granite has a hard glossy shine while “flamed” granite has a more natural look that highlights the stone's colors and textures.
Not all granite is of the same quality. Generally, the thicker the slab the stronger it is. Thinner slabs are more susceptible to chipping and cracking and may not be appropriate for high-use areas. Composite granite countertops are an economical option that won't sacrifice durability. They are made from epoxy and granite dust or chips and some styles look like natural granite.
Even with the best quality granite countertop, accidents can happen. A dropped pot can sometimes cause a small crack in your countertop if it happens to hit a weak or stressed spot in the stone. Keep a granite repair kit on hand for minor nicks, but call in a professional if the damage is serious.
As a natural stone, granite is porous and vulnerable to stains if not sealed. Most granite countertops are sealed prior to installation but may require resealing every three or four years, depending on your use. You can test your granite’s stain resistance by sprinkling some water in a frequently used area of the counter. Check the spot after 15 minutes. If the water remains beaded on the surface of the counter, the seal is still strong. If the granite has absorbed the water, it may be time to reseal.
Granite sealants are available at most hardware stores and home centers. The directions differ according to manufacturer, but the process can be accomplished by most confident homeowners. However, you may consider hiring a professional for this job since it is required so infrequently. A granite professional can also buff out small scratches before resealing.
Protect your granite countertop by dusting it regularly to remove grit that can scratch and wipe up spills as soon as they happen. Clean the stone with a soft cloth and non-abrasive cleanser. Always use coasters under drinks and trivets under hot pots and pans, and don’t chop directly on the countertop; it’s bad for the granite and for your knives.
Though you can purchase commercial cleansers for granite, you can also make effective cleansers from inexpensive ingredients you may already have at home. For instance, fill a spray bottle with a mixture of 1/3 white vinegar and 2/3 water. Spray the counter with a light mist of the vinegar solution and wipe it with a soft, lint-free cloth. The gentle acidic properties of vinegar naturally breakdown grease and leave a streak-free shine on the granite. Substitute vodka for the vinegar to make a cleaner that also disinfects.
For deep cleaning, make a paste of baking soda and hydrogen peroxide and apply a thin layer of the mixture over stubborn stains such as those from spilled coffee or wine. Lay a piece of plastic wrap over the paste and let it stand for several hours. Wipe off the poultice with a moist cloth and clean with vinegar solution. Deep stains may require more than one application. Use a paste made from baking soda and mineral spirits for greasy stains.
If you select a granite countertop that fits your personal and home decor style, and care for it properly, you will thoroughly enjoy the addition to your kitchen for years to come.