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.    

Sagging Window and a Quartz Countertop

*A Different Quartz Countertop
*A Different Quartz Countertop

We recently installed Onixaa quartz in a beautiful kitchen. The customer’s excellent taste was evident in their product selection and the end product fit like a glove and looked specular . . . with one exception. The backsplash across the long kitchen counter was under a long window which had sagged at the middle over the years.

Now quartz slabs are straight and hard so installing the backsplash under the sagging window created small gaps on the far ends. We see this all the time and use a common technique to make gaps disappear. In fact, we have not had a customer dissatisfied with this technique in our 17 years of installing countertops. The customer saw the gaps before our installers had worked their magic, and requested another backsplash with a bow to match the contour of the sagging window trim.

Not exactly industry standard practice but that is what our customer wanted.

We could have argued and perhaps convinced the customer that our standard fix would be invisible. We could have argued that milling quartz into a bowed shape could look somewhat odd.

So what did we do?

We removed the straight piece, digitally re-measured the bowed window trim, cut and milled another piece of quartz with the bow, and installed it. Why? Because our customers get what they want without hassle. We got to do something we had never done before . . . and our customer was happy.

We do whatever it takes to please each and every customer!

Granite vs. Quartz – Aesthetics

To follow up on the previous post about the differences between Granite  and Quartz, let me say that the aesthetic differences are probably the most profound differences between the two products.

GRANITE

With Granite there are literally hundreds of color selection and an increasing number of textures (finish on the surface of the slab) available.

The spectrum of colors runs from tight-grained consistency to EXOTIC variation and contrast.  And because Granite is natural, every color is constantly changing (sometimes only slightly and sometimes wildly), providing an ever evolving and expanding selection to choose from.

This variation in the stone provides an expanding number of finishes too.  Polished slabs, honed slabs, and textured (also called antiqued or leathered) slabs are currently popular.

A polished finish provides maximum durability.  The polish is highly reflective and it accentuates the colors inherent in the stone.   Almost all slabs available in Portland 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 available from suppliers are limited, with the most common being “Honed Absolute Black”.   But most fabricators can “hone” a polished slab upon request for a fee.  We charge $500/slab to hone.  Often, honed finishes are requested for more contemporary designs.

Textured finishes are relatively new.  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.

QUARTZ

Quartz too has a large selection of colors, but more because of the competing companies who manufacture it.  The 5 most prominent Quartz brands: Ceasarstone, Hanstone, LG Viatera, Silestone, & Zodiaq each offer 25-35 colors that vary from the ultra contemporary (Neon Lime to Bright Orange) to selections that resemble actual granites.

Quartz as a whole is consistent, meaning there will be very little variation in the color or “pattern” within a slab.

As to the available textures, Quartz is like granite in that the Polished finish is the most popular.  Each quartz manufacturer will carry a limited selection of honed colors, and to my knowledge Ceasarstone is the only manufacturer to carry a textured slab.  It is called Basalt-Textured.

In terms of the overall appearance, both products will have a stunning effect on any project as long as the counters both contrast and compliment the cabinetry.

My wife and I have had both granite and quartz slab in our homes and I’d be happy to share our experience with either if it would be of value.  Just ask away!

Aaron J Crowley – PDXGraniteGuy

Granite vs. Quartz – How they are “made”

Granite-QuarryIn completing this 3-post explanation of the differences between granite and quartz slab, I must mention that my wife and I have had both products in our kitchens over the years and I can recommend them both enthusiastically.

Now to how Granite and Quartz slabs are “made” –

Granite is quarried, literally cut out of the earth, into giant blocks about the size and proportion of a small dump truck turned on its side.  The blocks are then cut into slabs, much like a loaf of bread.  From there the slabs are run through giant machines that actually shave each slab down to the desired thickness and polish the surface.

Next the slabs are inspected, crated, and shipped to “Importers” like Elemar and Oregon Tile and Marble who then sell the slabs to customers and their fabricator.  An interesting fact: almost all the granite slabs you will see are imported from around the world.
Quartz slabs are made up of two materials – mined quartz crystals and colored resin.   At the factory a combination of 90% quartz crystals and 10% liquefied resin (binding agent) are mixed in a large vat then poured into a slab sized form.  From there, a gigantic machine compresses the slab, forcing the resin into every microscopic void, making it essentially “non-porous”.  Shortly following this compacting, the slabs are “cured” in a giant oven then staged to cool.

At this point, the unfinished slabs are put through machines, similar to those used for granite, to be polished.  Finally, the slabs are crated and shipped to the distributor.

In summary, I would like to describe the differences between the two products by comparing them to different professions and the personalities that gravitate towards them.   Entrepreneurs, sales people, and designers are like granite – unique, on the move, and prone to wild fluctuations.  Engineers, accountants, and attorneys are like quartz – consistent, steady, and technical to scientific specificity.

While this is a sweeping generalization, a subjective evaluation of what these professionals prefer, does tend to support it.

If you’d like more info or to disagree with this last point, I’d love the discussion or the debate.  Just send me your comments!

Aaron J Crowley – PDXGraniteGuy

Granite vs. Quartz – Functionality

image09My sales staff here at Crowley’s Granite Concepts gets this question all the time –

“What’s the difference between granite and quartz?”

We’ve found it best to answer the question within the context of the following 3 categories.

1. Functionality 2. Aesthetics 3. How the products are created

I’ll discuss the functionality in this post and aesthetics and How the products are created at a later date.

Functionality: the following factors relate to the differences in functionality

Scratches – In a kitchen application both products are extraordinarily durable, but as to the differences, I would describe Granite as scratch “PROOF” and Quartz as scratch “RESISTANT”.

Heat – Like scratches, the differences between the products are measured in degrees. Granite can withstand the HOTTEST pot, dish, crock-pot, or griddle without concern. Quartz is different in that the sustained heat of an uninsulated crock-pot or griddle WILL cause it to warp, crack, or discolor. As to hot dishes off the stove or out of the oven though, Quartz seems to do just fine.

Maintenance – Granite requires slightly more maintenance because it should be sealed periodically (yearly) 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 15 years and provide written warranties from the manufacturer.

This is a big topic and on one I am more than willing to discuss further if you would like. Just send me a question in the comments box and I’ll get back to you shortly!

Aaron J Crowley – PDXGraniteGuy

Shop & Compare – But Beware

Crowleys-ShowroomThese days, if you’re shopping for granite counter tops, you know it’s a great time to buy and you’re probably doing lots of research and comparing competitive quotes.

As you shop, keep this in mind: comparing granite counter top companies is more complicated than it is with most other products.

With a gas range for example the appliance is built by a manufacturer to very stringent codes and specifications, then sold through a network of retailers. The retailers promote, display, and sell the appliance, and the manufacturer backs it up.

This makes it easy to “shop” for the best price on the range and to compare apples to apples because regardless of the retailer, the product is the same. It is built by the same company on the same assembly line with the same warranty.

With granite slab counter tops, its different for 2 reasons.

First, each “retailer” is also the manufacturer (fabricator), which makes it difficult to compare the finished product and the overall experience you will have from one company to another.

Second, while the Marble Institute of America (http://www.marble-institute.com/) sets quality standards for the industry, there is little oversight and almost zero enforcement.

As a result, “quality” is defined by the fabricator, and you the consumer, have very little recourse if you’re not happy with the work, aside from the fabricator’s good will.

I suggest you follow these 2 simple rules when comparing quotes:

1. Check their online reviews – Angie’s List (http://www.angieslist.com/) is the most comprehensive service available.

2. Ask each fabricator the same questions and document their answers- This way you can make a more objective and less emotional decision. (Price is emotional)

Below is the list of 7 questions we suggest our customers ask other fabricators when they set out to get competitive quotes.

1. Do you use a digital measuring system to template the counters?

2. Will you measure over existing counter tops and guarantee accuracy?

3. What is your turn around time from template to install?

4. Will you schedule a carpenter to remove and dispose of my existing counters?

5. Will you coordinate the disconnection and reconnection of my appliances with a licensed plumber?

6. Can I view the layout of the templates on my slabs before they are cut?

7. Will you use CNC technology to accurately manufacture my counters?

I am happy to explain the reason behind these question in greater detail if you would find it helpful. Just let me know.

Have a great week shopping!

Aaron J Crowley – PDXGraniteGuy

Granite Counter & Stains Followup

Heather had some questions on our previous post:

Thanks for the useful information on your blog. Can you please help me to decide whether or not I should choose to have my slabs leathered (it’s golden crystal)??? I love the matte look since I have kids and think it will show less fingerprints, etc. But, some sites say it’s more porous and will stain. Other sites say it’s better and less porous. Other sites say I should go with quartz. I am really confused! What I really need to know is—- in a home with several young children with a mom who likes to cook and adults who like to drink red wine, will leathered granite stand the test of time? Or, would you go with polished??? Thank you so much!

Here is Aaron’s response:

Hello Heather,

 

leathered-graniteWith leathered finishes, there are two “functional” concerns relating to the use and maintenance of the counters.

One, as you have questioned, is its porosity and the potential for staining. My understanding has always been that honing slightly “opens” the pores at the surface (where polishing closes them or makes them smaller) making it more slightly prone to staining. But, as long as the stone (Golden Crystal) is properly sealed staining will not, or at least should not, be a problem.

Two, what might be a bigger concern considering that you have small kids, is the ease with which you can wipe up apple juice spills, strawberry jelly, and dried cheese (of the macaroni variety). The texture creates…textures that require more elbow grease and attention to clean.

Now to answer your final questions directly – leathered granite will stand the test of time in terms of durability and stain resistance if sealed properly.

As to what I would put it in my home…that’s easy.

My wife stays home with our 3 kids, who by the way love apple juice, jelly, and macaroni and cheese. I know for a fact she’d fire me as her granite consultant if she had to clean leathered granite on daily basis…

Granite Counters & Stains

Granite CountertopPotential clients ask us regularly if granite can stain.

The simple answer is yes…it can, but stains are actually quite rare.

When granite slab counters are sealed properly (and a good fabricator will seal the counters they install as a standard practice) the pores are effectively closed, keeping red wine, oils, and other liquids from penetrating the stone and altering its appearance.

Not that we’re keeping track with scientific accuracy, but we only receive one or two calls a year from customers who have stained their counters.   That’s pretty good considering we install around 350 kitchens a year.

Why did those one or two stain in the first place???  Its hard to say conclusively.  Maybe our installer missed a spot.  Maybe the stone was unusually porous and needed a second application.

But…the larger question in those instances is whether the stone was permanently damaged.  The answer is a resounding NO!

Stains are almost always just below the surface and easy to remove with standard poultices.

In reality, stains are a fear tactic used by competing products such as quartz (engineered stone like Cambria & Silestone) & solid surface (Corian) and should not be a factor in your decision to buy granite slab counters.

If you have questions about this topic or if you have a stain in your granite that you’d like to remove, let me know.  I’d like to help you out.

Aaron J Crowley – PDXGraniteGuy