The Process -- Granite and Marble Countertops

September 14, 2015

Helpful tips for picking out granite countertops. 

Our granite fabricators will be here to measure for the new counters and I'm SO stinking excited! If all goes well they will be installed next week. I think it will be one thing that makes a HUGE difference in our kitchen. 

We've lived her for more than 11 years now and have always had laminate counters. They do fool a lot of people at first glance though: 
laminate that looks like granite
I actually quite like the laminate -- it's held up incredibly well. The only things I don't like about it are the splash on the back (I prefer one that stops at the wall) and that I can't undermount the sink. Laminate has come a long way though -- now you can get it with both of those options. 

But we wanted to upgrade to stone this time. Actually, I was considering butcher for the counters and stone for the island for a long time, but I ended up flipping the two. I have loved our wood island counter over the years, but don't want to worry about having it throughout the kitchen and near the sink. (I did so much research -- some swear by them and don't have any problems, some love the look but wouldn't do it again. I don't want to worry about the counters that much.)

So stone it was! Thing was, I had no idea what the process was. I thought you went to a stone yard, picked out the one you want, they come measure and then install. Well -- that is how it's done sometimes. But the process can be different than that so I wanted to share it here. A friend who is a designer let me know the deal and I was so thankful for her help. (When I was in decorating years back we focused purely on decor -- not design, so I never did this part!)

Step one:  Find your stone

Look up granite showrooms in your area to begin your search. I asked friends on Facebook for ideas as well -- that's usually the first place I start with anything like this. You are free to go to the showrooms and browse the products. Most will have granite, soapstone, marble and quartz for you to check out: 
how to pick out granite countertops

I'll get into the differences in those in a later post. ;)

Two things to consider -- most showrooms don't allow kids under 12 years or so. And watch your step! Some are laid out very well and it's easy to get around to see the slabs. Others are much tighter and if your'e not careful you can easily trip on the wood units that hold all the stone. Keep your eyes down to watch where you're walking -- this can be hard when you're oohing and ahhing over the slabs. ;)

Here's what I didn't realize -- some showrooms are just that, showrooms. Some are both a showroom and a fabricator -- the fabricator is the one who does the work of quoting, measuring and installing. Find that out ahead of time because you don't want to be a dork like me and ask how much a specific granite costs when they are just a showroom. They won't be able to tell you -- only the fabricator can give you quotes. 

Does that make sense? I hope so. I thought anyone would be able to tell me pricing but that's not the case. Only the fabricator can do that. 

The showroom will have their own pricing code on the slabs -- it helps a little bit. These codes will vary from place to place though. So when you are looking around a warehouse that uses A-Z for their codes and you find a slab you love that's a Q, you know it will be expensive. 

The largest place I visited had codes that went from A (least expensive) to about H (most expensive). The one I fell in love with had a D code (more about that soon) so I knew it was at the middle range of pricing. 

In general granite pricing is based on the design of the stone -- so those that have a more uniform look like this: 
tips for picking out granite
Are generally less expensive. They don't have a lot of variation -- which is nice if you want your counters to not have any random designs. 

The higher you go in price, the more flow and less uniform they are: 
tips for granite selection

quartzite that looks like marble
This last one was a favorite of mine (it was quartzite called Taj Mahal) -- very marble looking. Gorgeous! But I didn't even price it out because it was a level H. Ouch. But gorgeous!

It just depends on your taste. I loved the flow of the one above, but the darker one above was not a favorite -- I wanted a little more consistency.

When you visit the showrooms they will have sample cabinet fronts in various colors for you to take with you while you look at slabs. Take one that matches your cabinets! Hold it up in front of the ones you like to see how the stone will look with your kitchen.

Step two:  Find your fabricator

So like I said, sometimes the fabricators will have a stone yard you can check out. Most do have some stone -- but they don't always have the selection the warehouses have. But the fabricator is who will give you a quote and do the work from that point on. Shop around! We ended up going with Marble Uniques in Tipton, IN (thanks to some helpful readers on IG) because their pricing blew away the others. They had the stone I wanted on-site so I'm thinking that made a difference.

It's a good idea to have measurements of your kitchen layout before you go in to a fabricator for a quote. And by the way -- some fabricators want you to come into their office to get a quote, some will let you email the info and will email you pricing. My place let me do the latter which was so helpful -- they aren't super close to us.

I drew up a quick layout:
working with a granite fabricator
This isn't mandatory -- but it will get you the most accurate quote.

Once I got pricing I took a trip to the fabricator and checked out the slab of my granite, then picked out the edge I wanted and worked out details like where the seams will go and the sink we are using. Fabricators will have sinks you can purchase from them -- which is extremely helpful when they cut your stone.

We are using our current granite sink and faucet, so I had to find a number on the bottom of it -- they were able to look it up and find the exact measurements to use. This was GREAT because otherwise my friend highly recommended taking our sink to them for the cutting -- there is too high of a chance of it not being perfect if they don't have your sink or exact measurements. Finding that number on the sink allows us to keep our sink intact for a week that it would have been gone. Whew.

Step three:  Measure for counters

This is happening today! Whoot! Again, it is the fabricator who will do this. Remove everything from your countertops before they arrive. From my understanding we will discuss faucet placement and details like that.

They take this info back to cut the stone -- the timing I got from most was that it takes 8-12 business days from the time of measure to installation.

Step four:  Install the stone!

So far ours is scheduled for next week. Fingers crossed. One thing to note -- you will be responsible for removing your own sink and countertops. We'll do that the day before so there's as little time as possible without a working sink and dishwasher.

After the stone is installed you have to wait at least 24 hours to hook everything back up -- I believe to use your range again too. This is because the silicon used on the seams needs time to cure. So we will be without most of the kitchen for at least three days, and that is if I can get Dad here to help me the day before and the day after to hook everything back up. He doesn't know this yet. Hey Dad. ;)

I have also heard that it's a good idea to remove things from your base cabinets if you will have any cuts made. Our only cuts will be at the faucet so I'll remove everything from under that cabinet before they come.

So there you go! The step-by-step process for picking out stone countertops! I really had no idea -- I thought you went into the stone yard, picked your stone and that was it. Again, some fabricators will have the stone you want, so that can knock out a step. But I found the process of walking through stone yards and looking at them quite fun -- each place had different options. All were beautiful!

Next week I'll share more about our pick and more stones that look like marble -- that was what I was looking for myself. Marble takes a little more care than I'm willing to give, and I'll explain that more about that next week too!

If you've been through this process feel free to share your thoughts as well!

P.S. For you locals, I visited Global Granite, Mont and Unique showrooms in Indianapolis. All extremely helpful with tons of selections. Marble Uniques in Tipton is who we are going with and so far I'm thrilled with their service.
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  1. Does the edge-style also affect the pricing as well?

    1. Yes! Most were free but the more detailed the higher the price.

  2. Great info!! We are just starting the process of counter top shopping (like we've only been to one place) so I'm so glad you posted this today!!

  3. Also! Take your lower cabinet doors/drawer fronts off during measuring if possible. We did not and wound up with a nasty sharpie mark across a brand new cabinet door from a careless measuring person. The company covered the replacement cost but I tell friends now, just leave doors off.

    1. Good to know! That's another reason why I'm waiting to paint our cabinets till the very end.

  4. I cant wait to see the end result!
    XO Ellen from Ask Away

  5. We are in the process of picking counter tops. We are between quartz and granite. What was the price range between the different options you looked at, do you know? We only got one quote so far in quartz and it was astronomical! like $135 a square foot. That seemed high, but didn't know if I was just naive. :) Thanks for this step by step as I feel quite ignorant going forward!

    1. Our quartz was $64/sq foot. It was on sale and we got an extra 10% off on the price of it. I think both can be pretty pricey, some quartz are more expensive than granite and some granite pieces are more expensive than quartz. We picked quartz because we never have to seal it like granite. And because, natural sparkles. We got the whitest one with sparkles in it, I think it's called snow-something. It ended up being pretty costly to do our whole kitchen ($4000+) but we love it and haven't had any issues with stains.

  6. Love your blog! When we got granite here in NJ we went with a company that had a big selection in there yard and did all the fabrication on site. So it was very easy to get a quote, and the price was grewt. One thing you didn't mention is that pricing is usually per square foot PLUS linear foot of finished edge. So if you have a large island (like we do - hubby calls it a continent) with a raised part and counter height part, it will cost a lot more on account of all the finished edges. Also, it's important to pick out your actual slab, not just the name of the type of granite you are getting. There may be imperfections, color differences you were not counting on if you don't physically see th slab you are getting. Can't wait to see it installed. I love all the changes to your kitchen!

  7. Perfect timing. We have a kitchen that is about 15 years old. Not in bad condition at all! (I just added a farmhouse light above the sink and bin pulls/new knobs--looking good!) However, the sink is shot and it is under mount which means we will have to get new granite--darn! This info. will be so helpful. I am hoping some places will have people who can remove (for hire) your old sink and counter. Not something we can do!

  8. Hey! I love your blog and as it turns out my little family just might be moving to Indianapolis in a few months. Can you give me a few nice/popular suburbs/neighborhoods to look into? We don't know a soul in Indiana and want to find a good place to live!

  9. We just did the template process last week for our master bath. I thought it was so neat to watch. They built it out of cardboard. They install this week. Can't wait to see how yours turn out. We went with marble.

  10. I am going to be replacing my countertops, and I am stuck between soapstone and quartz. I don't much care for granite because it has to be reconditioned every 6 months and all the decorating sites are saying it's going out of style now. I hope the gray everything goes out soon--it just looks like a dirty house to me!

  11. We will soon be starting this process and I don't really know what I want! Everyone "oohs and ahhs" over granite that has all the movement, but I can't get into it. To me it looks like someone barfed all over the counters! Quartz? Butcher block? A more consistent looking granite? I dunno.........
    Thanks for the post, it helps to have this info before we head out! LOOOOOVE your home!

  12. Hi! Let me first say I have been following you for a few years now and I love your post! Your house is so pretty and like mine, is always a work in progress. As a former kitchen designer I just wanted to say that the cost of the stone mostly depends on how common it is and where it is mined. Someone may tell you that it has to do with the pattern but that is no really true. If you go to the stone yard and pick out a slab that happens to be the only slab in the world of that stone and it is mined in a very dangerous place, it will be very expensive. If you pick out a stone that is very common and can be found in a mine in West Virginia, it will be one of the least expensive stones. It is just like when you shop for a gemstone. The rarer it is, the more expensive.

    Anyway, I wish the best of luck with your new counter tops and I can't wait to see them installed!

  13. Are you getting 'honed' or 'unhoned' countertops? I know with marble that makes a BIG difference as one will show the stains if not caught quickly, I'm not sure about granite only that it is shiny vrs more matt as a finish. We are also looking at new countertops but I am leaning toward Quartz as my family is not always neat and I come home to coffee stains on my current laminate countertop almost every day.... okay, they hubby is a bit sloppy and is too busy or pre-occupied to notice!
    I can't wait to see yours installed and hear how you like them.

  14. I've had granite in our kitchen for four years and love it. I've found it to be very easy to maintain - no need to recondition it every 6 months. I just spray on a sealer once a year (from Bed Bath and Beyond) and wipe it off. Very easy. I've also not had problems with stains, etc. You mentioned you are going to reuse your existing sink. I'm sure you've considered an undermount sink and I would really recommend it - much easier to keep clean as there are no edges on the countertop. It's also a much cleaner, sleeker look (gives the apperance of one long countertop surface). Whatever you choose will be beautiful - I love your blog and your house! Can't wait to see your kitchen!!

  15. As much as I love real stone, laminate really HAS come a long way! A few years ago when we remodeled our kitchen (on a budget) we opted for laminate. We've had so many people admire our "granite" and not realize it's laminate until they touch it. It has a texture to it that gives the appearance of stone - it's great!

    You can check out our full remodel here

  16. I have granite counters in my house too but for my current master bath reno I'm going with quartz (Caesarstone Ice Snow). I tired of sealing all the granite and travertine in my house (my husband is a fan of natural stone).
    At first glance I thought your granite was quartz. I really like what you picked and I love your whole kitchen transformation.
    I still have my kitchen reno to do - next year - thanks for sharing all your sources and colours. It was very helpful!!
    BTW I found your site thru your bay window bench seat post. I'm going to put one in my kitchen eating nook area too.


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