Are they telling the truth? Can seams really be “invisible”?
Well, if your idea of invisible is that you cannot see them with a magnifying glass, or feel the transition between the two counters, then no, invisible seams are an unrealistic expectation
But...you can achieve “nearly” invisible seams if you understand the following 6 principles and work together with your fabricator to achieve them.
A quick overview
A seam is two pieces of stone glued together with epoxy. Factors such as color variation, available material, seam placement, and grade of stone all play a role in the quality of the seams. But it is the steps the fabricator follows that ultimately determines whether the seams are “nearly” invisible and you can play a part in this process by asking prospective fabricators if they follow them!
- Seam placement on the slabs: Your fabricator should work hard to match the flow and patterns across any seams to minimize both the number of seams and avoid color contrasts. We recommend you ask to be part of the layout approval process so you know where the seams will be and how well the color, flow, and patterns match before your stone is cut. We also recommend that you buy book-matched slabs if more than one slab is required to help assure consistent flow patterns in your counters.
- CNC milled: When a seam is first cut on a saw, the diamond blade creates chips in the surface of the counter along the cut. The chips are voids in the surface of the counter on both sides of the seam that must be filled with epoxy, making them more visible. CNC milling is required to carefully and precisely remove the chips leaving a clean edge to glue.
- Level cabinets: Your countertops will span and rest on multiple cabinets. If they are not level, neither will you highly polished counters! The result is an obvious change in reflection at the seams, drawing your eyes immediately to the seam. Starting with level cabinets will also minimize the amount of shimming the installers will have to do to create nearly invisible seams and A good installer can adjust for slightly out-of-level cabinets to achieve the “nearly” invisible seam you deserve.
- Specialized seam equipment: “Seam Setters” (the specialized equipment) work by attaching to both sides of the seam with and pulling the pieces together until they are tight. Additionally they enable the installers to flex the stone to get it flat. Why is this necessary? Sometimes slabs are slightly “bowed” and if not adjusted with a seam setter, a lip is left at the seam. In extreme cases these lips can be high enough that a plate or glass cannot be slid across them.
- Color matching epoxy. Your installers must excel at mixing custom epoxy colors to match your particular stone. It takes years of experience to learn and great care on the jobsite to mix the perfect custom color epoxy. It is truly an art form.
- Blended edge detail: Even when the best seam is completed there is often a height difference on the edge of the counter that must be finished onsite after the seam is glued. Minor (and dust free) grinding is required to match the shapes and then a short serious of diamond polishing pads are
It is possible to have “nearly” invisible seams in your kitchen, but only if the following steps are followed! Make sure you ask your fabricator if they intend to follow them and additionally, ask to see samples of their seam work.
Don’t be afraid to ask hard questions before you entrust them with your project!