We utilize this blog to share information on granite countertops and more. Make sure to check back each month for our “Challenge of the Month” post, highlighting unique situations that our team takes care of.
After an extensive series of tests were recently conducted on all of the major types of granite used for countertops, it was determined that granite is not a significant source of radon gas and the small amount of the gas found was far below the level even requiring reporting by the EPA.
According to a report published by Environmental Health & Engineering, Inc., “doses of ionizing radiation emitted from granite countertops are well below levels that would pose a health concern and contributions from granite countertops to radon levels in homes are lower than background levels of radon exposure typically found outdoors and indoors.”
The report also states that in a common home, “the surface area potentially emitting radon may be 40 times higher for gypsum (sheet rock) than for granite countertops, and 10 times higher for concrete.”
In summary, granite is not a significant source of radiation or radon gas. And, when compared with other manufactured products commonly found in homes (i.e., sheet rock and concrete) that are sources of radon, it is even less significant.
Will Glue Fills Make My Stone More Likely to Break?
Just the opposite actually. Natural stone has a wide variety of hardness and fragility. Some natural stone has more natural fissuring and veining than others. Glues and resins are used to fill fissures and cracks, thus enhancing the structural integrity of the slabs. This process takes place in the country of origin, long before the slabs hit U.S. shores and make their way to slab suppliers. How are glues and resins used?
Epoxy Resin (glue)
Slabs containing fissures and cracks are honed and dried before a layer of epoxy resin is applied. Epoxy resins have been used on granite slabs for decades and are extremely reliable. Here’s how it works.
The resin runs into the cracks, pits, and micro-fissures. The epoxy penetrates into the stone during a long curing period. It will repair most minor structural defects, making the slab stronger and more durable. The epoxy also darkens and enhances the color which allows for a more attractive polish. The epoxy also allows for thermal expansion, allowing the stone to better tolerate wide temperature variations which makes it more suitable for indoor and outdoor applications in all climates.
Some materials require more than epoxy. A fiberglass mesh in applied to the back of especially fragile stone to strengthen and support it during transport and fabrication.
Don’t like the sound of glues and fiberglass mesh?
If you are still concerned about cracks and possible breakage or just don’t want glue in your stone, choose a granite without veins or fissures. These materials are naturally the strongest and least likely to crack or break. Granites like Absolute Black, Blue Pearl, and Black Galaxy are good choices.
In reality, most people don’t know there is glue in a wide variety of natural stone slabs. In fact, their addition allows a huge array of beautiful stone to be used for counters which otherwise wouldn’t be. Don’t let it throw you if you find a slab you really want in your kitchen or bath. Glues are seldom visible and your fabricator should be able to work around most or all that might be. That is another reason for you to participate in the layout process, but that’s another story for another blog.
You know the color and type stone you want in your home, and now want the best price and value. How do you go about it?
1. Ask you fabricator for suggestions.
Your fabricator should help by directing you to the most reputable local slab suppliers with a proven history of backing up their products. Fabricators want you to have the highest quality material possible because they don’t want to be called back to fix problems or answer questions about why the material you purchased isn’t working out the way you expected.
2. Deal only with reputable slab suppliers. They have a lot of money tied up in inventory and want it to move quickly. In other words, they have an honest desire to sell product that pleases buyers, enhances their reputation, and holds up over time.
Slab suppliers roam the earth looking for high quality natural stone to import and sell. They stay on top of current trends so their inventory competes and sells well. Their products often come from multiple continents and varies in characteristics and price. Because natural stone comes from the earth, slabs cut from within the same formation can vary considerably so no supplier has exactly the same selection even if it came from the same mountain and has the same name. The size of the slabs will also determine cost so make sure you are comparing apples to apples, and that your project will fit on the least number of slabs.
Most slab suppliers also offer manufactured quartz products which can vary in quality and appeal. Most sell the product line of specific manufacturers so you need to see what’s available within your market before making a purchase decision. Most fabricators have samples in their showroom to help you zero in on the line that strikes your fancy. As with most things in life, higher quality generally costs more. Run away if someone tells you all quartz products are the same because they are most certainly not. Again, your fabricator can provide some insight and recommendation as to what to avoid and what to consider.
Reputable suppliers and fabricators both have a vested interest in your ultimate satisfaction. Stick to the established professionals with good reviews to assure competitive prices and the value you deserve.
Construction projects can be stressful, and exacerbated by contractors who can’t keep a schedule. We get it.
Crowley’s is not a typical slab shop but rather a manufacturing-oriented company with a structured 6-day turn-around from template to installation. We not only value your time, but have built our whole manufacturing process and business model around a strict schedule. We also require your project be kept on schedule so our crew isn’t held up when they arrive at your home. We’ll even help you do that . . . at least to the extent we can and you allow it. We can’t afford to have our schedule derailed, either!
Our being late is very rare, usually due to some unforeseen circumstance such as weather, freeway accidents, or power outages. Even those events seldom cause a problem.
You will receive a phone call confirming your date and time of our arrival as we approach each date during your project. We try to give you about a 30 to 60-minute window. If we are running late for any reason, we’ll call with an updated time of arrival.
In fact, we value your time and business so much we’ve built our whole company around a schedule that holds little room for timing flaws or miscues.
The trite answer is whatever is in design magazines or on HGTV, but that isn’t necessarily correct. What’s considered stylish in Europe, US east coast cities, or southern California isn’t necessarily a favorite in Portland, Oregon. It depends on personal preference, house style, interior building materials, and color schemes.
We work in the greater Portland, Oregon area so we’ll limit our focus to what stone suppliers in our area carry or have readily available in the summer of 2017. They keep a close eye on design and material trends.
Granite and other natural stones are timeless and always in style. Color preferences evolve and are generally reflected in showroom selections. It’s difficult to go wrong with natural stone, and its diverse characteristics provide an amazing array of unique “looks” to choose from.
Quartz, a manufacturer product, is popular and increasingly available in “stone-like” offerings that rival the sophistication of natural stone. There are some benefits to quartz products, especially for busy families with children still at home. In particular, the Carrara marble look is very popular, and quartz can give you nearly the same look without the maintenance or fragility associated with actual marble.
The newest products in the Portland market are the ultra-compacts like Dekton, Lapitec, and Neolith. These are manmade “metamorphic rock” produced in a variety of thicknesses from almost tile-like to traditional slab dimensions. All are sintered stone that visually resemble glass or porcelain but with much more strength. They are very popular in Europe and gaining attention in the US, particularly in more modern designs.
So, what’s really popular right now? There is something for everyone’s taste, needs, and unique applications. Visit the local slab supply houses and see for yourself. Give us a call for a list of suppliers if you’re not familiar with the market. We’ll be happy to help get you started toward the counters of your dreams.
A question we often hear from customers considering the purchase of granite, other natural stone, or quartz countertops is, “Are they stain proof?”
The simple answer is . . . not really. Quartz and properly sealed natural stone countertops are highly stain resistant, but not stain proof. Regular maintenance and a modicum of common sense is required to help resist staining, but stains can and will occur if you are careless.
“But the sealer manufacturers claim their products make natural stone strain proof, right?” High quality sealers can help a lot but our experience indicates that the very best sealers only make natural stone much more stain resistant than the same stone without sealer.
Why would natural stone and quartz stain?
Natural stone is porous rock, some more so than others. The pores close when highly polished but, depending on the particular stone’s natural characteristics, there can still be some open pores after polishing. Pores draw in water and other liquids that can stain if not sealed with a stone sealer.
Quartz is a relatively non-porous manmade material comprised of natural quartz fragments of varying sizes held together by resin quantities ranging from “far too much” to 7%. There are no open pores after quartz is polished, so it is more stain-resistant than natural stone and will not draw in water. Sealing is not required. However, surface stains still can occur.
What can stain natural stone and quartz?
Liquids that do not evaporate (oils), red wines, concentrated dark juices like grape and berry, tomato juice, coffee, citrus products, cleaning products containing citrus products, vinegar, toothpaste, and anything with chemicals (409, Windex, etc.) can all cause staining if left on your counters for a period of time. Quartz manufacturer’s websites usually list the specific type cleaning solutions they recommend . . . and those that will void their warranty.
How can I prevent staining in my counter tops?
The best thing you can do to prevent stains is to clean up your spills immediately! Do not allow any of the aforementioned products sit on your counters for any length of time. That wine or fruit juice glass you left on your counter overnight my leave you an unpleasant surprise the next morning! Also, properly sealing natural stone counters will help prevent stains. Of course, white and lighter colored stone will stain more easily than darker stone so they must be treated with even more care.
In summary, quartz and properly sealed natural stone are generally highly stain resistant. Both are easy to live with if kept clean and free of stain-producing fluids. However, the only absolutes in this life remain death and taxes.
Why do I have to talk to so many people at Crowley’s?
As you work with Crowley’s to complete your countertop project, you will most likely have contact with one or two people from three of our four departments. Each phase of your job has a group of specialized staff member dedicated to your satisfaction. We’re a small company where everyone has specific skills and responsibilities. It may sound confusing but it’s really not. So, without further ado let’s explore how we all work together.
The first point of contact is the sales department. Their goal is to educate, listen, and support you with all the initial details, including material selection, and plumbing options. Next, they will schedule your demolition, installation, and appliance hook-up as needed. Lastly, a team member will review all paperwork, financing options, and billing associated with your written contract.
The next step is pre-production. A member of this department will bring a digital templating system to your home and get right to work on creating your custom counters. Additionally, and within 24 hours you will be invited to our shop for the layout process, giving you the opportunity to see your stone laid out and be involved in the final decisions being made as to the placement of your counters and seams on the slabs before we cut stone.
Now it’s time to fabricate your countertops, which is primarily behind the scenes. A team of five will use a diamond blade saw, CNC machine, and hand polishers to transform a slice of rock into your countertop masterpiece.
Lastly, you’ll meet one of our installation crews. They will take all the time necessary to be sure all your counters are installed correctly and you are completely pleased with the final product.
So, don’t worry if you are unsure as to whom to direct your questions to! Just tell whoever answers the phone what you need and we will happily get you to the right person.
The Aesthetic Differences between Granite and Quartz
If you’ve read our article on how granite and quartz are “made”, (if not click here) you know that the processes are very different…granite is entirely natural while quartz is engineered.
Those differences determine the tremendous variation of aesthetic appearance.
Granite is available in literally hundreds of color selections and an increasing number of textures (surface finish) to choose from.
The spectrum of colors runs from tight-grained consistency to the EXOTIC showing wild variation and contrast. Because Granite is natural and found all over the Earth, colors are constantly changing (sometimes only slightly and sometimes wildly) while providing an ever evolving and expanding selection to choose from.
These variations provide an expanding number of finishes too. Polished slabs, honed slabs, and textured are currently popular.
A polished finish provides maximum durability. The polish is highly reflective and accentuates the colors inherent in the stone. Almost all slabs available in Portland, Oregon market are polished.
A honed finish is similar to a “matte” finish. The color and variation in the stone is muted (but still visible depending on the particular granite) and the reflection will be minimal. Honed slabs are available from suppliers in limited quantities, but any slab of granite can be honed for a fee. Often, honed finishes are requested for more contemporary designs.
Textured finishes are relatively new and usually referred to as Leathered, Antiqued, or Satin. The finish is achieved by using diamond coated bristles instead of polishing wheels. The extent of texture depends on the consistency of the granite and the combination of hard and soft spots in the slab. This is also available to an added fee.
Quartz is manufactured in an ever-expanding selection of colors because competing manufacturers are trying to gain market share and respond to demand. The top Quartz brands are Ceasarstone, LG Viatera, Silestone, & Quantra, but there are many others. Each offer 25-35 colors that vary from the ultra-contemporary (Neon Lime and Bright Orange) to selections that resemble actual granites and marbles.
Quartz, as a whole, is consistent with very little variation in the color or “pattern” that is common in exotic granites. But some quartz manufacturers are introducing veining that mimics Carerra Marble quite well.
Quartz, like granite, is generally produced with a polished finish. Some quartz manufacturers carry a limited selection of honed colors, and to our knowledge Ceasarstone is the only manufacturer to carry a textured slab as of this writing.
In terms of the overall appearance, both products can have a stunning effect on any project as long as the counters both contrast and compliment the cabinetry.
What is the difference between granite and quartz?
Granite and quartz counters have far more similarities than differences, but the differences are really important to understand. If you are trying to choose and are a little confused, read on to gain a professional’s insight into your decision
It is best to answer the question, “What is the difference between granite and quartz?” within the context of the following 3 categories.
1.Functionality 2. Aesthetics 3. How They Are Made
This article will deal with the differences in how they function as a kitchen countertop surface. (Click on the links below to read about Aesthetics and How They Are Made)
Functionality: the following factors relate to the differences in functionality
Scratch Resistance– In a kitchen application both products are extraordinarily durable, but as to how likely they are to scratch in a kitchen setting, Granite can be considered scratch “PROOF” and Quartz as highly scratch “RESISTANT”.
Heat Resistance – Like scratch resistance, the difference in heat resistance between the two products can be measured in degrees. Granite can withstand the HOTTEST temperatures kitchen appliances can produce without concern. The hottest pan, dish, or crock-pot cannot damage granite. Quartz is different in that the sustained heat of an un-insulated crock-pot or griddle can cause it to warp, crack, or discolor (and void factory warranties). As to hot dishes off the stove or out of the oven though, Quartz generally does just fine.
Maintenance – Granite requires slightly more maintenance because it should be sealed periodically to resist stains. Quartz on the other hand doesn’t need to be sealed…ever. This fact seems to be the biggest factor when customers choose quartz over granite. Recently, with the advent of more advanced sealers, it is possible to purchase products that will seal granite for 25 years and provide written warranties from the manufacturer.
For more information on how granite and quartz are different, read the following articles.
Many homeowners begin remodel projects assuming they will be stressed out and frustrated before the project is complete. Some worry they will be taken advantage of. Sadly, these concerns are sometimes well founded because so many contractors struggle to do what they say they will do. And yes, some even take advantage of their clients.
Thankfully, these high stress experiences and the contractors that cause them can be avoided!
The good news is that there are quality contractors in every trade. The homeowners who understand the difference between referrals, references, and reviews, and invests the time to use them effectively can find and hire a great contractor!
References – References generally take two forms:
1. a brief but glowing statement by a previous customer on the company’s web site or literature that rarely gives the full name or contact info.
2. the name and contact info for a few previous customers who have agreed to take calls from prospective customers who are considering the contractor for a project.
The problem with company-supplied references is obvious: the company will naturally choose past clients that will speak well of them and exclude the rest.
On a scale of 1-10, references get a 2 for reputation research value.
Referrals – Personal referrals can be great because of the relational aspect. When someone you trust is willing to put their reputation on the line to recommend a contractor they have hired, you gain from their experience and can hire with greater confidence that you will have a good experience.
But what if their project was unusually problem free, super simple, or was the only project the contractor had going at the time? What if your friend simply got lucky on their project?
By using personal referrals alone, you might be out of luck if you run into problems, have a complicated project, or hire the contractor when he’s taken on too much work.
On a scale of 1-10, personal referrals get a 5.5 for reputation research value.
Reviews – Online reviews are powerful, but care is still required to read and interpret them properly. Follow these 3 steps when reading online reviews:
Start with Angie’s List, then read Google, Yelp, and Houzz. Angie’s list is by far the most comprehensive and reliable source for online reviews because the contractor has little influence over what is posted.
Read them all; the good, bad, and the ugly. Pay particular attention to the reviews that describe challenges and how the contractor dealt with them. And most importantly, read the responses by the contractor to comments made by past customers. Are they professional and composed, or are they snarky and abrupt?
Determine if the reviewer actually hired the contractor. Unfortunately, there are some online review snobs who write nasty things about contractors they’ve never hired! Some people take great offense if their first call wasn’t answered immediately or because the bid was higher than expected, and thus believe a poor review is justified even though they didn’t hire the contractor.
On a scale of 1-10, online reviews are a solid 9 for reputation research value.
In this day and age, it is easier than ever to find a contractor you can trust if you are willing to do the research. Just remember the difference between references, referrals, and reviews so you will be able to determine if the contractor has a track record of doing what they said they would do! The fake or deliberately unfair reviews are pretty easy to spot and sort out. You want the professional contractor who treats people well and has good reviews from people for whom he actually worked.