STONE 101

 

At RE Marble & Granite we are passionate about stone. We may even take for granted some of the things we have learned over the years about stone, and forget to pass the pertinent ones on to you when we speak to you, so here is a basic primer about stone, the selection process and other FAQ's.

 

 

 

"What is the difference between Granite, Marble, Quartz, Soapstone and other materials?"

 

There are basically three types of natural stone used for countertops:

Granite – This is by far the most common, because of its abundance in the natural world and its scratch-resistance. Granite or ‘granitic’ (granite-like) stones are mostly Quartz, Feldspar, and Mica, making them quite hard (around a 7 on a 1-10 scale). They are igneous rocks, which are formed when hot molten lava cools into various crystalline forms. Granite is the most popular stone countertop material by far because it withstands heat better than other products, is stain resistant when sealed,  is very hard (resists scratches) , and comes in literally hundreds of spectacular colors.

Care and Maintenance: We seal EVERY top we install at our fabrication shop using a premanent sealer called "Stainproof". It requires no maintenance.For daily cleaning use soap and water, or spray-cleaners that DO NOT contain ammonia, citrus, vinegar, bleach or any acidic ingredients, as these will compromise your seal over time. We recommend and sell StoneTech Professional’s Revitalizer or Granquartz 3 in 1 spray.

For stone products that you own now, without a permanent sealer, you should re-seal every 1-5 years as needed. To determine this, sprinkle a few drops of water on your countertop. Wait a few minutes then wipe them up– if the stone is darker where the water was, reseal it! Otherwise, enjoy it.

 Marble, Travertine, and LimestoneThese three stones arise from different circumstances in nature, but all are composed of mostly Calcium Carbonate (think of very dense Tums). Limestone formed in ancient sea beds as the shells from microscopic organisms accumulated and were compressed. If that limestone were subjected to heat and even more pressure underground, it would eventually re-crystallize into Marble, which is why limestone may include fossils but marble never does. Travertine forms as dissolved minerals at and around hot springs are deposited over time similar to the formations at ‘Old Faithful’. All of these stones are softer than granite (a 3 on 1-10 scale), and are susceptible to ‘etching’ from even weak acids (Who spilled this Margarita?) so we recommend a ‘honed’ finish (more about Finishes later) where acids may be present.

Care and maintenance: Care of these stones is similar to granite. These stones can be scratched by cutlery or unfinished ceramic (mug-bottoms) and polished finishes can be etched (surface layer of molecules dissolved) by lemon juice, cola, or coffee, so more care is required. Diligence is needed when using acidic products – wipe them up before they can do any damage.

Soapstone – Soapstone was once the standard for New England kitchens, and its virtues are becoming re-appreciated by the public. It is predominantly Talc, like the powder, and is quite soft (1.5 on 1-10 scale). However, it is non-reactive and non-porous (remember those tables in chem. lab in high school?), so it will survive almost anything. It is virtually impossible to stain soapstone because of its density.

Care and Maintenance: Soapstone never needs to be sealed because it is inherently non-porous. It is easy to scratch, but a few swipes with 80 grit sandpaper will bring it back to its original state. Most people choose to apply mineral oil to the surface to neutralize the tonal differences and hide minor scratches, while bringing out the depth of the stone. Un-oiled stone looks more rustic, and work areas will quickly develop a patina. Oiling the entire top will eliminate this. Two other options are available that may last longer than mineral oil: We can apply Tiger Ager, or a new Dry Wax product which will give you a dark look without frequent re-oiling.

Quartz - These 'man-made' or 'engineered' materials are made of natural quartz chips encased in a resin base. They typically are very consistent in their colors because they are made in factories, of specific mixtures of material. They do not require resealing. Quartz is scratch resistant and heat resistant but manufactureres will always require the use of trivets for hot pans. You can buy quartz under the following names:  Caesarstone, Silestone, Zodiaq, Viatera, Chroma and others.

Care and Maintenance: Quartz products are typically cleaned with simple soap and water or mild household cleaners.

 

IceStone - This 'green' product is made from 100% recycled glass and concrete and comes in over 2 dozen colors. It performs very much like natural stone and is sealed like granite or marble.

 

"Can we use Marble in our Kitchen?"

Today's designers and architects often suggest marble and other soft stones for kitchen applications due to the aesthetics of the application. This is a viable option provided you are aware of the intricaies of such an installation. Marbles and other softer stones are particularly porous and can stain easily. At RE we are uniquely qualified to manage this issue because we use the "Stainproof" sealing product. We will protect the stone from discoloration. However, softer stones will be "etched" from exposure to acidic elements like citrus, vinegars, coffee, etc. If you use these products with a polished finish, you will experience etching that will be visible. In addition, due to the heavy duty use of kitchen counters, polished surfaces will show scratches. It is important to note that Europeans and others have used marble in kitchens for centuries. The patina that the stone develops from use in part of the beauty of the stone. The visibility of scratches and etching is dramatically reduced, but not eliminated, when a honed surface is provided. We encourage the use of honed surfaces when marbles are used in kitchen applications.

 

"Why do you recommend that we view and touch our specific slab?”

 

Every natural stone slab is unique. Here are some variations you might encounter encounter and should be aware of:

Veining - ALL types of stone can have veining; one slab may have none while the next looks like a metropolitan roadmap. This simply indicates the presence of a different mineral than the background composition.

Inclusions – This is a fancy way of saying a portion of the slab which looks different from the rest. They can be small, medium or large. Barely noticeable or quite obvious – and beauty is in the eye of the beholder!

Fissures – These look like hair-line cracks in the stone, but are just surface features, and will not widen or grow over time. They do NOT affect the structural integrity of the stone. Usually if you can’t feel it, it’s a fissure. If you can, it’s cracked. Fissures are not something to be repaired; cracks can often be repaired if necessary.

Pits – The word ‘Granite’ derives from the root for ‘grain’, and because of its granular nature, it may include tiny pits on the surface. Here is the explanation from the industry reference manual, the Marble Institute of America's Design Manual: " Granites are made up of several different minerals, each having a different hardness. ..... Biotites, the black minerals throughout the slab, are by contrast very soft and flake easily. All true granites have biotite in their composition. Because biotites are soft and flaky, the first few layers are removed during the polishing process, causing pits. Some granites have more biotites throughout their composition than others. The higher the biotite content of the stone, the more pits it will have.  ....... Pitting does not make the granite less durable or of inferior quality. Pits exist in all granites and should be expected when dealing with a natural, polished stone containing several types of minerals with different hardnesses."

Pits appear as tiny divots or chips in the polished where grains were released during the polishing process. Pits are so small they often are not visible in certain light or from different viewing angles. They are very common in some stones. Pits do not in any way affect the integrity of the stone. Therefore, it is very important to ‘feel’ your slab when choosing stone so you will not be surprised uipon close inspection after installation.

Fill – When slabs are cut from the large chunks of stone at the quarry, there are often voids in the surface. The softer stones, travertines and limestones, sometimes have so many voids they look like a dense sponge. The quarries will fill these voids and then polish the surface smooth. Sometimes these voids are evident on the cut edges of the slabs. Colored fill is often a prominent feature in the stone. You may find slabs where the fill is not particularly well color matched.

All of these characteristics of natural stone, although they add to its charm and uniqueness, illustrate why we suggest everyone view their slabs prior to fabrication. You can even place your template on your slab to maximize or avoid specific areas.

 

 

“What is a Template?”

 

A template is a life-sized replica of your new counter top which we create in your home using thin strips of wood to outline shapes. In order for us to template for your new countertop, the existing one must be removed in nearly every instance. This is something you are responsible for. You should also be aware that you will be without a functional kitchen from template until installation With RE, that’s about a week. With other companies you may wait 2-3 weeks or more!

At the time of the template we need anything that will touch the stone on site – Sink(s), Faucet(s), Appliances. Without these items we may not be able to proceed.

You may determine the following items when we template your project:

Overhangs – 1 1/2” is standard in the front of cabinets, but stone can overhang up to 10”, provided there is at least 20” of counter-balanced stone to act as a cantilever. Longer overhangs or shorter supports require further support.

Corners – We produce corners with a 1/8” radius unless otherwise specified, but your imagination is the limit! We can do fancy curves, clipped corners or odd angles, just let us know.

Edges – We offer many different edges, from slightly eased to ‘roped’ to chiseled. This is a nice way to customize your design scheme.

Seams – We will work with your design to produce a top with as few seems as possible (or none!), while keeping in mind slab size and weight, and things like stairways and low ceilings that affect our installation crews. When we do have to seam material, we may use multiple colors of epoxy to distract the eye from seeing a straight line: this minimizes their appearance. We use a state of the art seaming maching that allows us to produce very tight seams and to even remove slight humps that may exist in the slabs. We are proud of the craftsmanship we employ to make beautiful seams.

Finish – While polished is still the most popular, there are many finishes available for your counter top. See below …..

 

 

 

“What is the difference between polished, honed, leathered and other finishes?”

 The differences are aesthetic as well as functional. Some more common finishes are:

Polished – This is the mirror-gloss you are most likely familiar with. In granite it is low maintenance, but it is not always appropriate for Marble, especially in the kitchen, and Soapstone will not take a full polish. This is attained using increasingly finer flexible diamond-grit pads. Please see "pits" above and watch for them when selecting your slab.

Honed – This is smooth to the touch, like polished, but lacks the shine. There are degrees of Honed, from dusty looking to just off-polished, and we recommend this finish for marble in kitchens. However, most granite and darker marble will show fingerprints and rings from glasses if honed, so we suggest against it in these materials. Soapstone is almost always honed. This is achieved using the aforementioned pads, but stopping on a coarser grit than polished.

Brushed, Antiqued, Leathered – All of these terms are interchangeable. They signify a ‘rumpley’ feel and moderate shine without gloss. The size and shape of the ‘rumples’ depend on the size of the crystals in the given stone. This finish gives a one of a kind look that is more understatedly elegant than polished and requires less maintenance than honed. This is achieved using pads with flexible fingers of plastic and diamond grit.

Flamed – This is a rough, sand-paper like finish more suited for exterior applications, but works great inside on vertical surfaces like fireplace surrounds. It is achieved using a liquid-oxygen torch to re-align the crystals that make up the stone.

 

 

“What does the Installation include?”

 

We will do the following things:

  1. Schedule An Installation about a week before your template.
  2. Conduct Ourselves Professionally and with courtesy, efficiency and clear communication on site.
  3. Install The Stone you chose a few weeks ago.
  4. Install Your Sink(s) if they are undermount.
  5. Glue Your Seam(s) and fill gaps at walls and cabinets.
  6. Make Minor Structural Adjustments to your cabinets if necessary.
  7. Clean Up After Ourselves, including trash removal and polishing the stone.

We will NOT do any of the following:

  1. Attach Your Faucet, soap dispenser, or any other accessories.
  2. Plumb Anything – sink, faucet, or otherwise. We are not insured or licensed for this.
  3. Touch Electrical Or Gas, disconnect or reconnect. Same reason!
  4. Attach Your Dishwasher, as designs vary greatly among manufacturers.

We need you to do the following:

  1. IMPORTANT!!! Make sure there is clear, unobstructed and safe path for us to carry the stone into your home. If there is construction, or ice and snow it MUST be cleared before we arrive. Keep in mind that each piece of stone can weigh up to several hundred pounds! Our installers are instructed to return to the shop if they cannot proceed safely and this results in unnecessary additional charges.
  2. Remove All Contents of your base cabinets and sink base, as we will need access to them.
  3. Allow A Few Hours for the install to take place.
  4. Expect To Fall In Love with your new countertop!

We would like to thank you for choosing RE Marble & Granite, and for considering us for your project. If you have any questions or concerns, please email or call!