Many homeowners want marble and granite in their homes and offices, because natural stone products add beauty to kitchens, bathrooms, floors, and other surfaces throughout the house.
Marble and granite come in many different colors and their natural differentiation makes them useful across the house. While admiring their beauty, you may want to know a little bit more about them before you invest.
Let’s begin with a few words about marble and granite merchants. You may visit a marble and granite shop that both supplies the material and fabricates it – fabricating refers to cutting and polishing the stone to the customer’s specifications.
Or you may choose marble and granite at a warehouse or supply yard and have a fabricator or installer to cut the granite or marble for you and install it. If you plan to choose marble not supplied by the fabricator, it’s a good idea to talk to the fabricator first. Often, the fabrication shops have partnerships with marble and granite suppliers so that you can get a better deal by going through the fabricator.
The fabricator will often also make the arrangements to move the stone from the supplier to the fabricator. Ask your fabricator or installer how they source supplies, what services they offer – like moving the materials to their location, and be clear on who is responsible for what. Use the articles below to understand a bit more about marble and granite and the possibility of using them in your home or office.
Selecting Marble and Granite in Contra Costa County
You’ve made the decision to renovate your home or office in Contra Costa County, whether in Martinez, Pleasant Hill, Danville, San Ramon, or Blackhawk, and you need to choose what material you will use.
Your choice of material may depend in part on the characteristics of the stone itself. Granite is the most popular material for countertops. Some of the materials used may not be actual granites as defined geologically, but they share the same characteristics as true granite. They are the hardest stone available, which allows them to resist scratches or other abrasion marks. They are made up of minerals that are not too affected by most household chemicals, though some trace minerals in the granite may be susceptible to some acids.
Customers select marble for veining and strong colors. Serpentines and onyxes also share the same characteristics as marble, though some serpentines are as dense as some granites. In general, the marbles and associated stones are less strong than granite. Marble scratches easily, and can be marked by acids, including lemons, vinegar, and tomatoes. Household cleaners may also scratch marble.
If you choose marble, you will want to use cutting boards to protect the surface and non-abrasive cleaners. Some sealants will protect the marble from a degree of acidity, but will never completely eradicate the problem. For these reasons, you may be warned away from using marble as a kitchen countertop.
Between marble and granite, slate has characteristics of both. It is very resistant to chemicals, but it is softer than granite, and hence it can scratch easily. Slate in its natural state is not smooth. If you want smooth slate, also called a honed surface, be sure to request it. Like marble, slate requires that you take care to prevent damaging it.
Travertine and limestone are calcium-based stones, like marble. This means you can scratch them easily, especially when they have a polished, or shiny, surface. They are also vulnerable to acids and abrasive cleaners. All the calcium-based stones are porous to one degree or another. They absorb water, so a sealant can be applied to help them resist absorbing water.
All tiles made from stone will have the same requirements as the stone from which the tile is made. Also be aware that the grout, epoxy, resin, or plastic sealant used to join tiles or large stone panels will have its own care requirements.
When it comes to actually choosing your stone, take time to examine the specific piece or pieces you want. Since stone is a natural material, there may be pitting, veining, cracks, mineral deposits, or other characteristics that you do not want. Your supplier should point these out to you so that you are aware of them. You should also consider that the stone may look different when the stone is in a different position, for example, moved to the horizontal instead of the vertical. Brighter or dimmer light may also affect how predominant these features are.
Measuring Up for Marble and Granite for Your Contra Costa County Home
Achieving a quality installation in your home depends on good information and accurate measurements. You should know what appliances, including sinks, will be in place along with the marble and granite.
You need to know the kind of sink, as well. A top-mounted sink will place a load on the countertop, since the rim sits on the countertop. A bottom-mounted sink may be supported by a subtop or may be attached to the underside of the stone counter. When the sink is especially heavy, for example, a cast iron sink, subtops or additional supporting material may be required.
You also need to know any other appliances you want to set into the countertop, so that cutouts can be designed to accommodate them. You should know where everything will be placed, and you should have the layout of your kitchen.
Rough sketches of your space will help you begin conversations with your marble and granite fabricator. Before your actual design is complete, however, your space will be measured by a technician from the supplier or fabricator.
Your space must be in a certain state of readiness before the measuring can occur. Let’s take a kitchen, for example. The cabinet doors and hardware must be installed, as well as the end panels. Electrical outlets and plumbing outlets must at least be roughed in. The sink and cook top should be in place or should be available for measurement, if they will be installed after the countertop. If you want a full-height splash, the exhaust vent should be installed or available for measurement. If the refrigerator will be affected by the countertop, it should be installed or available for measurement.
The measurements will be used to help your installer create a shop drawing. The shop drawing shows where the stone will be placed, where the seams will be, and what the corner and edges will look like. The shop drawing represents the finished product, so this is the time to ask all your questions, especially about items like seam placement, placement of cutouts for sinks, etc., and any other detail that will affect the final outcome of the project. The shop drawing will show the final product, so be sure it represents what you want.
You should be asked to approve the shop drawing once it is final. Once the shop drawing is complete, some fabricators go on to make a template, or pattern, that will be used to cut the stone.
When it comes time to actually use the shop drawing or template for outlining where the stone will be cut, you should be present. Especially if your material is very highly variegated, you will want some say in which pieces are used where, and how the pieces are fit together. Most good shops request that you are present when it comes to matching the stone placement to the shop drawing or template. You should ask to be present if they do not.
Designing Marble and Granite Placement for Your Contra Costa County Home
Edge designs are one of the choices that will face you as you begin your design. Edges can be handled as simple squares, or as fancy curved pieces. Your edge selection will also be one of the biggest factors when it comes to the cost of your stone. Sometimes, pieces come from suppliers with edges already on them.
Make sure you know what kind of edge you want and speak with your fabricator about who will create the edge. Your fabricator will have a number of edge designs for you to choose from. Keep in mind that the thinner the edge, the more vulnerable it is to chipping, especially with the more fragile stones. Besides edges, you’ll also have to decide if you want a polished surface – one that is smooth and shiny – or a honed surface. A honed surface is smooth but not shiny.
When designing your layout, you’ll find there are some technical constraints you should take into account. Seam placement, also called joinery layout, is very important. Where the seams fall will make a great deal of difference in how the installed stone appears. Your fabricator should be able to show you samples or pictures of different seam placement, and help you place your seams for the best appearance for your space.
The distance between supports is another technical consideration when you are working with stone panels, as opposed to tiles. For example, if your stone is three-quarters of an inch thick, it can only run a maximum of two feet between supports, while with one and one-quarter inch thick stone, the supports can be three feet apart. If you want the countertop to overhang the supports, this is called cantilevering. The cantilever should not be greater than one-third the width of the countertop. For stone that is three-quarters of an inch thick, the cantilever should not be longer than six inches, and it should not be longer than 10 inches for stone that is one and one-quarter of an inch thick. For fragile stones and cantilevers that exceed these guidelines, you may have corbels installed to prop up the cantilever.
Subtops, or other substrates that support stone may be required, especially if you choose a fragile stone for your countertop or floor. The subtop helps support the weight of appliances, of the stone itself, or supports a fragile stone. All countertops made of stone tile must have a subtop of cementicious backer board or exterior-grade plywood. Subtops for stone panel countertops may be made of marine-grade plywood, exterior-grade plywood, furring strips, or medium-density particle board.
Putting In Marble and Granite in Your Contra Costa County Home
When you install marble and granite in your Contra Costa County home, whether in Walnut Creek, Concord, Pittsburg, Antioch, Richmond, or Briones, a few practical steps can help. You should not make your marble and granite installation compete with other people working in your home that day. You should make sure that the plumbing and electrical are at least roughed in. If you are working in a kitchen or bathroom on countertops, make sure the cabinets and hardware are installed. Make sure that workers can move through clear paths in your home – stone is heavy!
Good marble and granite installers will provide a dry run. The stone is put in place with no adhesives or joining materials. Once the stone is properly in place and approved, the actual installation can take place. There are some things you need to be aware of before the installation proceeds. For example, the stone industry has guidelines about levelness.
The countertop must be level, and the installation team may use a shim, or wood or plastic, to help make the countertop level. The installation team may also use filler material, such as epoxy or polyester resin, to “hard pack” the countertop so that it is level. The final installed countertop should be level. You should also check that the stone thickness itself does not vary by more than an eighth of an inch across the length of the countertop.
There are tolerances defined for stone panels and stone tiles for joint widths, filler heights, and lippage. Joints, or seams, are where two pieces come together. They should not be excessively wide and should be filled with an approved sealant. The seams are usually filled to the level of the top surface. Lippage refers to when two stones are placed next to each other and are uneven. There should be no lippage at the front and rear edges of a countertop. Lippage may not be avoidable in other places due to the natural variation of the stone.
In all cases, you should know the defined tolerances for seams. Pay special attention to seams where two different kinds of material come together. You should know the standards for how much stone thickness can vary, and for the levelness of the countertop. In some cases, the standards cannot be achieved. In these cases, you should give written permission to not follow the standards.
There are a few things to take into account when working with stone tiles. The edge of stone tiles on a countertop may be finished with stone, wood, or metal. The stone should extend down the front of the underlying cabinets to help limit stress on the join. Stone tiles vary in color, so you should have the tiles laid without adhesives and approve the layout before they are actually installed. If the stone tile is of a fragile material, the installer might adhere a fiberglass mesh to the back of the tile. If this fiberglass mesh is installed, an epoxy-based thin-set compound is usually used instead of a Portland-cement-based thin-set.
Also watch your stone tile installer to be sure they use the “back-buttering” technique. Stone tiles are set in a bed of setting material. In addition, some of the setting material must also be applied to the back of the stone tile, so that all of the tile is sure to adhere. Check to see that the installer uses two passes, going north-south, then east-west, so that the entire tile is covered.
When You Need to Reinforce Marble and Granite in Your Contra Costa County Home
Reinforcing refers to techniques used to prop up stone installations. Depending on the relative strength of the stone used, reinforcing may be a good idea. Reinforcing may be especially applicable where you have a large cutout, for example, for a sink.
One technique is to apply fiberglass mesh, which is usually done at the fabricator’s shop. Another techniques is to use liner blocks of some stone material to support seams or other places where needed. A rod may be used when there are narrow strips of stone.
A groove is carved in the underside of the stone. This groove, or kerf, then receives a metal rod or fiberglass rod that is surrounded with epoxy or polyester resin. The metal provides greater resistance against bowing than the stone. In a spline technique, a slot is cut into the adjoining sides of two pieces of stone.
A metal key, for example, a washer, is then placed in one piece of the stone, with the washer extending half-way out. The adjacent stone’s slot is then slipped over the protruding washer, so that the stones are held together by the washer in the slots. The washer or other key is surrounded by polyester or epoxy resin.
After the Marble and Granite Installation
Once the marble and granite installation in your home is complete, you may choose to seal the countertops or floors. Sealers may help marbles or other similar stones resist acids, but the sealant will not totally insulate the stones.
In effect, sealant on any surface is basically an added layer to help protect the surface- hopefully the sealant takes the brunt of abrasion and acids. Given its use, it makes sense to replace sealants on a regular basis. An impregnator is a covering that is designed to prevent liquid from seeping into the stone.
An impregnator is less likely to change the stone’s appearance because the impregnator goes beneath the surface. A water-based impregnator is called hydrophobic, while an oil-based impregnator is oleophobic. Replace impregnators as recommended by the manufacturer.
Repair Marble or Granite in Your Contra Costa County Home
If your marble or granite becomes damaged, there are a few things you can do. Cracks and fissures are both cases where the stone breaks – cracks are manmade, and fissures are natural. Chips occur when little pieces are broken off the edges.
You may choose to repair fissures, cracks, or chips with epoxy or polyester resin. Sometimes the resin is dyed to match the stone, but it often looks better if not dyed. Once the resin is cured, the stone may be buffed. Often, the entire stone has to be rebuffed. If the crack or chip cannot be repaired, the stone may need to be replaced.
Pitting is a naturally occurring phenomenon in stone. The pits do not affect the granite’s durability, and they do not qualify the stone for replacement. It’s usually recommended that you do not attempt to fix the pits.
A Word on Resin-Impregnated Stone
A stone treatment, resin-impregnation is becoming more popular. Resin is applied to a stone in an attempt to make the stone look better and address any pits, cracks, or fissures. You can usually tell if a stone has been treated with resin by looking at the edges of the stone for excess resin. Be careful with resin-impregnated stone.
The resin may darken the stone’s color. This means that the edge of such a countertop will be lighter in color than the rest of the countertop, because the resin is only on the top and bottom surfaces. Resin may mask fissures or other structural characteristics of the stone, making it hard to determine if the stone is structurally sound.
A resin may change colors when exposed to ultraviolet light, making it not usable for exterior application. And resins may interact with sealants to form a blotchy or cloudy appearance.
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