3 Reasons Why Your Countertops Are Discolored And How To Fix It

 

3 Culprits of Countertop Discoloration

The appearance of discoloration, dullness, and staining is the last thing a buyer of expensive granite, quartz, or marble countertops wants to see.

Emotions can run as high as the price tag when these surface problems appear and often its assumed that the sealer was incorrectly applied or that the material is defective or substandard.

Fortunately for the owner of the new counters, often what appears to be catastrophe of discoloration, dullness or staining is almost always water relate and generally on the surface of the stone and can be avoided with proper care and almost always resolved.

The three most common culprits are as follows:

  1. Soap Buildup. Soapy residue often remains on just-cleaned surfaces like pots, pans, and yes, even counter tops and it requires surprising amounts water and rinsing to completely remove it before it dries.

How do you know if it’s a soap buildup?  If the area is dull, streaky, oily and/or hazy and can be scratched off with a fingernail or vigorous rubbing with a clean cloth its probably dried soap on the surface.
While there are many off-the-self cleaners that don’t leave this lathery residue, soapy washcloths are just too easy, convenient, and available to suggest avoiding them.

So when you do use good old soap and water, use a sparing amount of mild soap without oils or acids and rigorously rinse with plenty of clean water before the soap has time to dry!

  1. Hard Water. If your water source is a well, you’re probably familiar with hard water. Hard water contains iron, magnesium, and calcium and if left on your stone counter to evaporate, it will leave deposits on the surface that are much like the spots on dishes, glasses, and shower stalls. Like soap scum, hard water deposits are unsightly and tough to remove.  So tough in fact, many people mistakenly believe their counters have been permanently damaged.

Removing hard water stains and deposits can be a challenge with granite or other natural stone countertops so you use products specially designed for hard water and guaranteed to not damage natural stone.  Ammonia is sometimes suggested for hard water cleaning issues, but this is a bad idea because ammonia will definitely damage marble and if used regularly, can damage granite and other natural stone countertops.

The best option is to avoid letting hard water dry completely on the countertop.  Using a clean cloth to wipe up the water and the minerals that would otherwise remain is the best remedy for hard water and stone counters!

  1. Acidic Water or Cleaners. The best sealer in the world cannot prevent acids from damaging, or etching the surface of a stone countertop. Granite does not readily etch but constant exposure over time to acidic city water or citric cleaning products slowly eat away at the polished surface of the counter leaving a dull appearance.

The best way to test your water is with a common pH test kit.  If your water tests positive, avoid cleaning your counters with tap water and use a natural stone cleaner instead.
Returning a hazy counter, etched by acidic water or cleaners, to its original shine and polish is both art and science and can be done by a local stone restoration company.

The reality is that soap scum, hard water deposits and acid caused etching occur on just about any surface…but they are only really visible on stone counters because the highly-polished surface can’t hide imperfections.

So, take heart if you think you detect some surface discoloration, dullness, or staining on your natural stone countertop. It is very likely not a stone or sealer failure but rather a problem with soap, cleaning product, or hard water. You can fix it with the knowledge you now have . . . and some elbow grease.

2 Stone Counter Materials to Watch Out For

2 Stone Counter Materials to Watch Out For

 Natural stone counters are beautiful and are increasingly fabricated from a wide variety of natural materials.  While slabs of stone are generally referred to as “granite” it is important to know that many of them are not.

It is important because many of these “non-granite” slabs while stunningly beautiful in appearance are problematic to fabricate efficiently and often disappointing in performance.

This article is not intended to persuade you from choosing these materials, which we will describe in detail, but to fully inform you of the costs and performance trade-offs of purchasing them.

Most problematic stones can be grouped into two categories: Schist and Quartzites. They are prone to splitting, splinting, shattering, and cracking during the production and install process, and occasionally even after they’ve been properly installed.

  1. Schist stones.

Schist is a coarse-grained metamorphic rock that consists of layers of different materials that can be split into thin irregular plates. These thin irregular layers create all kinds of problems from chips on the edges (that require glue), linear fractures on the edges, raised surfaces along seams (think tectonic plates), and breakage.

“3cm Golden Eclipse” schist stone

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2. Quartzites.

Quartzite is an extremely compact, hard granular rock consisting essentially of quartz.  Extremely hard stone, in other words.  Some of the more stunning and therefore popular slabs are quartzite.  Because quartzites are so hard, even diamond tooling can have problems cutting it. The result is chips and breakage which must be repaired, often in such a fashion that the repairs are more noticeable than consumers find acceptable.

“3cm Nacarado” quartzite

 

 

 

 

 

 

Should you buy schists and quartzites? Well, that’s up to you. The creative work and repairs necessary to finish these stones sometimes leaves customers unhappy. There is usually extra gluing of chips and re-polishing, bonding cracked pieces, or in some extreme cases, additional slabs must be purchased to complete the project professionally.

So, while these materials are visually stunning, there are additional risks and costs that should be considered.

Be informed and be sure to ask your supplier if the stone you choose is a schist or a quartzite!

 

 

9 Steps To Granite And Quartz Counters

9 STEPS TO GRANITE AND QUARTZ COUNTERS

 

Most customers have never been through the process of purchasing granite or quartz counter and find the process a little overwhelming.  This article will explain the process from start to finish as well as how it will affect the use of your kitchen while your new counters are being installed.

We’ve all heard horror stories about how confusing construction projects can be when a contractor doesn’t communicate before and during a project and leaves the kitchen unusable for weeks on end with no firm deadline for completion.

It is critical to understand the process so you know what to expect at every stage of the counter top process, from sales and material selection to the installation of your beautiful new counters, so there are no unpleasant surprises.

In a nutshell this is the Crowleys Granite Counter Top Process:

  1. We come to your home for a free consultation and in depth discussion of your project. We will measure your cabinets for the quote and explain how to shop for granite or quartz material and provide you with a list of our preferred suppliers.
  2. We then email you a detailed quote for your counter top project, as well as information for pricing the removal and disposal of your existing counters and the reconnection of your appliances.
  3. Once you approve the estimate we invite you to our office to finalize the countertop details. We’ll confirm edges, surface options, sinks and faucets, sealers, and backsplash in our showroom to ensure that you end up with the look you’ve dreamed about. At this point, we’ll discuss our many options for payment and financing. You will leave this meeting with firm template and installation dates, as well as information for maintaining and caring for your new counters.
  4. We will then call you 2-3 days prior the scheduled template to confirm.
  5. Our measure up technician arrives as scheduled to digitally template (or pattern) your cabinets for a precise fit at install.
  6. You are then invited back to our office, usually the afternoon of template, to view the layout of the counters on your slab(s) before the stone is cut. You have the opportunity to inspect, touch, and feel your slabs and tell what unique features you want included on your counters.  You can tell us what characteristics you’d like us to avoid.  That way there are no surprises the day of install!
  7. Five days later, a crew will arrive to disconnect your appliances and remove and dispose of your existing counters and prepare the cabinets for install.
  8. The very next day, as scheduled, our installers will bring your new counters and expertly install them.
  9. The day following the install, an appliance/plumbing technician will reconnect your sinks, faucets, and stove so you have a working kitchen again!

 

Our quick turnaround and open communication is aimed at minimizing disruption to your lifestyle. You can keep your finger on the pulse of the project without worrying about the details.

5 Keys to Selecting Stone Countertop Material


5 KEYS TO SELECTING STONE COUNTERTOP MATERIAL

Choosing the right stone or quartz material for your kitchen counters and bathroom vanities is a very important and personal decision. With so many options to choose from, what’s the best way to begin?

1. Ask questions.

The difference between product options can be significant. Ask friends and family how they like their product. Ask questions on on-line forums.  Read blogs and search pictures on Pinterest, Instagram, and Houzz.  By researching your options before you begin the selection process you will be better prepared when you talk to a stone fabricator or slab supplier. There are no stupid questions when you’re spending good money.

2. Bring flooring, cabinet, and paint samples to the slab supplier.

Its nearly impossible to choose the right counter material without having samples of our floor, cabinets, backsplash, and/or paint samples to hold up against the stone for comparison. Don’t go shopping without them and don’t let anyone tell you it’s not important. You’re going to live with it for a long time so make sure you are happy with the combinations.

3. Consider backsplash plans.

A pleasant transition from counter to backsplash is important to the overall beauty of your room. Some people want the same stone as their counter while others prefer tile or a painted wall. Some want a combination. There are tens of thousands of backsplash pictures online, spend some time browsing before you go to look at samples.

4. Ask your fabricator to help you.

Fabricators really can tell you what materials will work best for your project, if you have an idea of what you want. They also know how other customer choices have worked with their stone installations so they are in a great position to help you. If your fabricator won’t help, find one that will. It’s still your choice but always listen to people with experience that can help you make the best decision.

5. Ask to be present at layout prior to cutting.

With all the time you will invest in selecting your stone, you will surely want to be involved with determining where on the slab your counters are cut from.  There will likely be characteristics that you want highlighted.  There may be features you want to avoid. Additionally, you’ll want to see where the seams will be and approve the color match.  After all the time and money invested in a stone counter top that you are going to enjoy for years to come, it is fair and prudent to insist on being present at the layout!

How Much Do New Countertops Cost?

HOW MUCH DO NEW COUNTERTOPS COST?

 

Often the first question a potential countertop customer asks is: How much will my new countertops cost? While this can be a difficult question to answer, we will do our best to explain some general pricing guidelines applicable to the Portland area market as of April, 2017.

The purchase of stone countertops, whether granite, other natural stone, or quartz product, is much like the purchase of a vehicle, although certainly not as expensive. With so many options available, price ranges can vary drastically. Just as a typical mid-quality automobile can start around $30,000 with just a basic package, it can quickly cost over $60,000 once a shopper adds all the available upgrades and options.

Considering that the average American sells or trades in their vehicle within the first five years of purchase, why do so many people elect to get so many upgrades? The answer is because most people understand the importance of getting what they want the first time so as to not have any regrets down the road. Because most Americans spend over 30 minutes a day in their vehicles, they want to make sure their vehicle will provide them with comfort, quality, longevity, and ease of use.

These same principles apply to countertop shoppers.

Remember, you are going to see and use your counters every day for as long as you live in your home.  So, picking the right counters with the right options the first time is critical to ensuring maximum enjoyment with minimum maintenance.

The smartest shoppers elect to get the counters that will make them happiest in the long-run. The rest make the mistake of focusing on the initial price of the counters with the goal of finding the “cheapest” contractor, therefore sacrificing low-maintenance, quality, warranty, and aesthetics, which inevitably leads to regret.

Unfortunately, a counter top cannot be traded in if one is dissatisfied and disenchanted!

 

So, what can you expect to pay?

A typical 65 square foot kitchen countertop using mid-grade material with two smaller bathroom vanities will range between $5000 and $8000 including material, standard stainless steel sinks (installed), fabrication, and installation. Smaller or larger jobs are pretty much proportional.

The “typical” project we mention above assumes 2 “mid-range” slabs at a cost of $1500 each.

The material cost whether granite, other natural stone, or quartz generally ranges from $800 per slab to $2200 per slab depending on type and quality, and suppliers will show the relative cost of their slabs.  Again, you can assume that a mid-range slab at a supplier will cost around $1500 each.

 

What could drive up the price?

Exotic and more expensive materials, labor intensive custom edge details, enhanced surfaces like leathering or antiquing, 15-year sealers, window sills, and tile backsplash are the upgrades and options that can really make your counters unique. Unless you pull out all the stops, even adding some of these additional details will only raise your total cost by 10 to 20% on that typical 65 square foot kitchen example.

Selecting a natural stone known for its fragility and likelihood of cracking, splitting, and/or breaking during the fabrication process, will likely result in a warning about potential problems, and additional charges to cover the cost and added risk of working with such materials.

Common costs that are often times a surprise are the removal and disposal (demolition) of your existing counters, plumbing, and electrical services.  Those additional services are not performed by the fabricator and must be contracted by others. The removal and disposal of your existing counters with our recommended contractors will average $500-$1000 and the re-connecting of plumbing and electric after the installation of your new counters will average another $500.

 

Bottom Line?

All in all, a typical counter “project” with some cool upgrades and all the outside contracting included, will range from $7500 to $11000. 

 

Are less expense options available to you? Certainly.

But this is the counter you’ve always dreamed about and the one you will use for years to come.  You don’t want to spend those years regretting your purchase!

Undermount Sinks Failure in Granite and Quartz

Undermount Sinks Problems in Granite and Quartz

One of the many advantages of granite and quartz countertops in a kitchen is the unique option to “undermount” a stainless, composite, or cast-iron sink.

Not only do they look great, they are supremely functional because the stuff destined for the garbage disposal can be easily wiped into the bowl without the annoying flange that is common with a top mounted sink!


 

 

 

 

 

But beware, improper installation techniques and sub-standard sealants can turn your dream counters into a nightmare of repair costs and inconvenience.

Here are the top 3 problems with undermount sinks (and how to avoid them):

1. Sink Delamination and Failure: When a granite and quartz installer fails to use a mechanical sink attachment like clips, rails, or brackets to secure the sink to the countertop, silicone adhesive is generally the method.

Unfortunately, the weight, moisture, and vibration of the garbage disposal will literally pull the sink away causing it to separate and fail.

 

The result is moisture problems in your sink cabinet, stressful haggling with the installer to fix it, and even costly repair bills to make it right!

2. Permanent Installation and Sink Damage: To limit the number of sink failures due to the limitations of silicone, sinks are sometimes installed with a permanent epoxy or a plywood substrate.

The problem with this technique is that if the sink is defective or damaged, there is no way to remove and replace it without destroying the granite or quartz counter top or cabinetry!

3. Moldy or Cracked Caulk: Just like topmount sinks, undermount sinks on granite and quartz need to be sealed to prevent moisture from creating mold and mildew problems in the cabinet.  Improper sealants like silicone or painters caulk (yes painters caulk) and hasty application of the correct sealants are the most common culprits.

These problems are only problems for consumers who aren’t aware of them.

So don’t let them scare you away from the beauty and benefit that an undermount sink provides!

Just make sure you understand them well enough to ask the granite and quartz installer how they plan to deal with them on your project!

The 3 Finishes You Should Consider When Selecting Your Material.

One of the first questions you should ask yourself is: “What Kind of Finish Do I Want?”

Choosing the type of finish for your new countertops is something you should consider.  Since you will be looking at and feeling your counters for a very long time, it’s well worth a few minutes to learn about options.  There are many finishes to choose from, but there are three that are more widely used more than others.

1. Polished (Traditional):

Grinding, polishing, and buffing produces a high gloss, mirror-like finish.  This is the traditional, most common and popular look for granite, marble and quartz countertops.  The benefits to this are the shiny appearance and that the pores are closed in the polishing process, which makes it more stain-resistant.

 

 

 

2. Honed (or Matte finish)

        Grinding, and polishing that produces a smooth, but no glossy finish.  The difference between polished and honed surfaces is much like the difference between a glossy vs matte photo.  Honed or matte finishes have a softened appearance. They are best for low maintenance, high-traffic areas.  You should be aware that this finish is not as stain-resistant as polished surfaces as the pores are still open.  And on some stones, specifically darker materials, fingerprints and smudges will appear regularly.  Sometimes a product called Enhance ‘n Seal is used on the honed surface, to bring out the rich color of the material while still keeping the honed/matte look.

 

3Antiqued or Leathered (Contemporary):

Brushing with different sized diamond bristles to create a subdued textured surface.  This finish can be felt, and as a benefit, easily hides fingertip smears and smudges.  This is a contemporary look popular with designers.  Antiquing adds depth to the countertop, giving it a different, unique look.

 

 

3 Reason Why You Should Finance Your New Slab Countertops

Kitchen Counter Financing?  Why not! Your high credit score should count for something!

To our knowledge, we’re the first Portland area custom stone fabrication shop to offer financing. Until now, people were forced into the big box stores hiring the lowest bidder with cheap material if they wanted financing. We’re changing that and have tailored a program specifically for our more urbane customers.

We’ve teamed with a leading Pacific Northwest Bank which focuses on affordable home improvement loans. Now, the term “home improvement loan” is rather passé so they renamed it “Fixture Financing” but it still means you can have the kitchen of your dreams financed in a quick, neat package.

 

1. KEEP YOUR MONEY 

Why would you choose to finance? Liquidating investments or spending savings for kitchen counters or bathroom vanities isn’t always convenient or popular. Cash is often better spent for vacations or fun toys so we’ve found a way that allows you to keep your cash or spend it on more fun things while still being able to have the counters of your dreams right now.

2. FINANCING OPTIONS TAILORED TO YOUR NEEDS

We offer a variety of programs, including a 12-month deferred interest loan which means no interest or payments as long as it’s paid off within 12 months. And no, there is no interest recapture on this loan as long as it’s paid off or converted to a traditional term loan within a year. Other options include more traditional installment loans with terms ranging from three to twelve years to qualified buyers.

Interest rates? Well, they range from 6% to 12% depending on the loan term and your credit.

3. LOW MONTHLY PAYMENTS

What does this mean for monthly payments? Qualified buyers may finance counter projects for as little as $100/month! It doesn’t get much easier than that.

So, what’s it going to be? Spend your cash or liquidate investments to buy kitchen counters, or keep your cash for fun things and finance your dream kitchen upgrade with low monthly payments?

Of course, we still happily accept cash from any customer who prefers it!

 

Top 3 Under Mount Sink Installation Techniques for Granite and Quartz

Top 3 Under Mount Sink Installation Techniques for Granite and Quartz

Have you ever wondered what holds an under mount sink in place when installed under a granite or quartz counter top?

If so, read on!The following article explains in detail the 3 most effective under mount sink install techniques used on Stainless Steel, Composite, and Cast Iron or Clay sinks.

  1. Sink Clips: Stainless Steel and Composite sink manufactures provide a system for attaching directly to the underside of the G/Q counter top.  The system includes 6-8 bolts, clips, and wing nuts.

The bolts are inserted into grooves that the fabricator drills or cuts into the back of the counter, spaced evenly around the flange of the sink.  The clip is then attached to the flange and tightened to secure the sink to the counter top.

  1. Sink Rails: For extremely heavy and uneven cast iron and clay sinks, a rail system is necessary so the cabinet supports the weight not the counter top.

Two rails are attached to the front and back of the sink cabinet on the left and right side of the sink with enough space for the sink to be adjusted to the final placement of the polished opening in the granite or quartz countertop.

Then the leveling feet are adjusted to raise the top of the sink into contact with the bottom of the counter to minimize the caulk gap.

  1. Cabinet Brackets: These are plastic devices that are generally used to repair a sagging sink that failed because the fabricator took shortcuts and didn’t use sink clips or rails.

4-6 hinged brackets push the flange of the sink against the bottom of the granite or quartz counter and are then screwed into the wall of the cabinet to hold it in place.

Gravity, moisture, and the vibration of a garbage disposal create a shocking amount of stress on an under mount sink installation, so make sure the fabricator you hire for your granite or quartz project uses clips, rails, or brackets instead of a shortcut!

Water Works

We recently installed a beautiful quartz tub surround and a couple of bathroom vanities for a prior kitchen customer.

The upstairs tub surround, being the largest and most complex portion of the job, was to be installed first. Our customer’s contractor already had the jetted-tub wooden support structure, decking, and plumbing installed. There were three capped stubs above the wooden deck upon which the quartz would rest. This would have worked wonderfully for a tile tub surround but not for any type of slab material because the caps on the stubs were slightly larger than the diameter of the holes in our quartz and we couldn’t lower the surround down over them. No shut-off valves were apparent. The plumber had erred in his installation and we couldn’t do our work. So there we sat with no plumber or contractor in sight, an anxious customer, and tight schedule.

Our supervisor made the unfortunate decision to remove a cap and that was when the trouble began. Water flowed and he couldn’t get the cap back on the stub. With help from our customer, he began trying to control water with towels and buckets while our other employees searched for the master water shutoff downstairs.

They successfully shut the water off to the whole house but not before we had managed to let enough water escape to run down through the downstairs ceiling and light fixtures . . . right into the kitchen in which we had installed countertops years before.

Stepping back from our embarrassment and our customer’s angst, it surely must have looked like an old slapstick comedy while it was happening. Not funny then, and while we’re not quite over it we are just beginning to think it might have been funny to watch on television happening to someone else.

So what did we do?

We called a top flight water damage restoration company who had a crew onsite within an hour. We had the plumber onsite in less time and he was already working on the problem when the restoration company began their work. We also bit the bullet and filed a claim with our insurance company without quibbling with the plumber or contractor over whose fault it was.  It didn’t matter because we take care of our own problems. We put our customer up in a hotel while their house was being dried and made sure all the damage was repaired to their satisfaction. The following week we went back and installed the tub surround and vanities.

Problems occasionally crop up in construction projects and our customers can count on our taking care of them without excuses or hesitation. We do it correctly or we fix it quickly. Once in a very great while, we do so with red faces but we always get it done because that is how we operate our business. No excuses; no quibbling; no equivocating. Nine straight Angie’s List Super Service awards while we’re earning our tenth.