Introduction to Natural Stone Counters
Natural stone is a desirable surface in your home for many reasons, and is often thought of as a upscale look that many people figure is quite frankly out of their price range. However, thanks to advancements in the industry, natural stone (including granites, slates, marble and onyx) are more affordable than ever before!
If you\\\'re reading this then you have probably considering having natural stone installed in your home. Perhaps you\\\'ve even done some research and discovered that the options for stone are just about limitless, and sometimes confusing. This guide will help you to better understand your choices- not only in terms of what stones are available, but also in what may be the best fit for your situation, design choices and how to choose a quality fabricator that can work within your budget and timeline. I will also point out some of the common pitfalls of stone and will call attention to where price and quality can be compromised by dealers offering inferior stones.
Natural stone has been formed into not only countertops, but structures as well, for thousands of years. The work was traditionally performed by skilled artisans who perfected their technique over the course of a lifetime. In recent years however, the industry has steered away from its artisan roots with labor often being performed by a low paid hourly worker who often works in a cold, dusty environment. These conditions do not bode well for quality. Another pitfall of the traditional method is that design options are often limited to simple 90 degree corners and straight edging profiles. The stone slabs are also constantly handled, jostled and moved- increasing the chance of a slab becoming broken of damaged.
Fortunately, with the advent of Computer Numerically Controlled (CNC) technology the natural stone industry is once again stepping back into its artisan roots, this time with the aid of modern day resources. Fabricators that use CNC technology tend to think of natural stone as a medium to be shaped and sculpted in a manner befitting the space in which it will be installed. The design possibilities are nearly limitless. CNC mills also result in a lower cost resulting from increased production capacities and lower waste- the result is significant cost savings that can be passed to the end user with an increase in quality and selection!
Despite the obvious benefits for the consumer in the new CNC technology many fabricators have been reluctant to invest in the technology due to the large initial startup cost for the machines. One sure fire way to tell if the fabricator your considering for your project isn\\\'t using CNC machinery is they start telling you that you can\\\'t have the design you want in your home. Either the time frame is too short or your designs aren\\\'t practical. Don\\\'t you believe it as this simply isn\\\'t true. This type of answer probably means that the fabricator only cares about his bottom line, not your design choices.
Now that we\\\'ve covered the two schools of manufacturing, hand fabrication and CNC fabrication, let us take a look at the types of stone and thicknesses that may be available for use in your home. Granite is the most popular and is usually the first to come to peoples minds. However, in addition to granite, there are also slates, marbles, onyx, manmade engineered stone and now even recycled stone like products. Lets look at each type in depth.
Natural stone also come to the market in different grades. The grade that you want is called \\"Designer Grade\\" or \\"First Run\\" stone. The terminology may change from fabricator to fabricator but the basic gist is that Designer Grade stone is the choice of all quarried stone and is the standard of reputable manufacturers. This run of stone will have fewer surface imperfections and may even be resin sealed which helps protect the stone against staining, as well as provides a deep, rich gloss. Some fabricators will try to take short cuts and offer second run and even third run quality stones in order to be more price competitive. Be sure your comparing apples to apples and ask for the price on first run stones!
You will also find that you have a choice in the thickness of stone that you receive in your home, 2 centimeter (3/4 inch) and 3 centimeter (1 ¼ inch). Fabricators that use the 2 centimeter variation for countertop use are becoming increasingly rare, for a few reasons. 2 centimeter stone in a countertop application will frequently require that a plywood sub top be placed over your cabinet boxes for support. In order to hide the sub top after the stone is installed, fabricators will then glue another narrow piece of 2 centimeter stone onto the edge which hides the plywood and gives the illusion of thickness, but also leaves an unsightly line between the two pieces. You can avoid this look altogether and use the thicker 3 centimeter stone which requires no sub top- often for the same price!
Hopefully I have provided some insight for you into how you can not only choose the best fabricator for your project, but also choose a type of stone that will sit gracefully in your home for years to come. Remember, the possibilities are nearly limitless- don\\\'t let somebody tell you what you want- GET what you want!
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