Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Kitchen Countertops

Tooling of Granite and Other Stone Materials for a Countertop

Granite has enjoyed a long history of use as flooring, shelving, countertops and even buildings and monuments. From the earliest stone tools to works of art, granite has been crafted into all shapes and sizes. Perhaps the most prevalent use of granite today is for countertops used in kitchens, bathrooms and other surface treatments. Because of the fact that granite is one of the hardest and most durable materials on earth, it lends itself well for use in high traffic areas. It is also due to this same hardness and durability that makes it a difficult material with which to work.

It is common for improvements in technology to yield lower costs of products and manufacturing, but this generalized rule does not apply to the area of stone fabrication. As the demand for granite has increased more and more equipment is necessary to maintain and increase production levels. Specialized diamond-tipped saws, water jets and other tools and heavy equipment are needed to be able to cut and transport the dense and massive material.

Despite the advent of computer controlled machining, crafting a countertop is still a laborious and time consuming process. Computers and computer aided design programs have revolutionized the level of precision that fabricators may achieve and reduce the amount of errors and wasted material. Much of this precision is visible in the edge profiles that are possible. There are over 15 edge profiles which are usually available from a simple round over to a delicate waterfall profile. Some granite countertop edge profiles are given different names by individual suppliers much like certain retail chains will assign their own model numbers to a particular line of appliances.

The first step in exploring the use of granite as a countertop or even as a fireplace surround is to visit a granite showroom. Many showrooms will actually have the granite fabrication facilities on the same site. There will be a wide variety of colors and patterns available, but it is important to note that because granite is a product of nature no one piece in the showroom will be able to be exactly duplicated. The samples available for viewing are simply a good representation of what particular type of granite can be found at a specific quarry. When it becomes time to select a countertop, many fabricators will walk the customer through the warehouse so that the client will be able to select the exact individual slab for the kitchen remodel project, providing a truly customized one-of-a-kind product which will last for many decades.

Visit Universal Stone Inc. to view the colors of granite offered or to request a free quote.

Article independently authored by Dan Elliott. The content herein may or may not reflect the views and opinions of Universal Stone Inc. Click for search engine optimization and search engine marketing or visit WebDrafter.com's Blog.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Granite and Marble - The Advantages Of Using Natural Stone For Countertops and Flooring

It is often true of artwork that special care needs to be taken in order to preserve the natural beauty of the piece. While this is true regarding most things of value, countertops fabricated from natural stone such as granite, marble and others share a natural durability which is unmatched by any human made invention. Not even stainless steel can claim to be as durable and easily maintained as granite. There are a few exceptions to the rule, however.

Granite is essentially the hardest material on earth that can be commonly found throughout kitchens, bathrooms and as a variety of building components in residential and commercial applications. When granite is used as a countertop, shelf, or fireplace surround very little care is necessary to maintain the inherent beauty and finish. Granite is, for all intents and purposes impervious to the every day rigors of life.

Although some fabricators will recommend sealing a granite countertop, this is largely for the peace of mind of the consumer and not for any special protection needed for the granite material. Other types of natural stone countertops should be sealed due to the specific stone's porosity. The best rule of thumb is to follow the recommendations of the stone fabricator. The only usual needed care to maintain granite or marble countertops is to wipe the stone down with warm water and possibly a non-abrasive liquid soap. The one exception, which is true of any material, is when granite or marble is used for flooring.

With regards to flooring materials, continuous wear and tear which floors are subjected to every day will not damage the stone itself, but can dull the finish. Sand, dirt and almost all abrasives will cause any surface, including carpet and wood, to become worn unless regularly cleaned. The nature of granite just allows the flooring to be more durable than other floor types.

As proof of this, many high traffic government buildings and large commercial businesses, such as hotels erected in the early half of the 1900s, used granite for countertops, flooring and more. Today these materials are still just as beautiful as was when installed. For this increased durability and natural one-of-a-kind beauty, granite flooring is often more expensive than the average carpet or even genuine hardwood flooring. The investment is also usually higher due to the specialized skill and machinery necessary to craft natural stone with attention to detail.

For additional information on granite kitchen countertops and more call 952-746-4690 or visit www.universalstone-inc.com today!

Article independently authored by Daniel Elliott. The content herein may or may not reflect the views and opinions of Universal Stone, Inc. Click for search engine optimization and search engine marketing or visit WebDrafter.com's Blog.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

In the Know About Granite

When it comes to your home's d├ęcor, there are many options for your kitchen and bathroom countertops. These choices include basic laminates, ceramic tiles in an array of colors and patterns, concrete slab countertops which can be customized to suit and granite. To help you decide if granite countertops are right for you, consider these perks and quirks of granite:

  • It comes in over 3,000 colors each one with its own unique pattern and movement, and can be given custom edges and finishes.
  • Countertops, when properly sealed and maintained, are virtually scratch, stain and chip resistant.
  • They are great for making cookies, candies, bread dough and other foods that are best prepared on a cool surface.
  • It is heat resistant. If you forget to grab a heat pad for that pan of lasagna, it won't matter if you set it on your counter.
  • The only surface that is harder than granite is a diamond.
  • Granite countertops add a minimum of 10% to the resale value to your home.
  • Granite is not excessively porous (unlike marble) making it chemical and acid resistant.

Disadvantages of granite are:

  • It is expensive due to the labor for its removal from the quarry, the work involved in cutting it and the work necessary for installation.
  • It does not have a uniform pattern or color and will also contain natural cracks or pits. These "imperfections" are actually what lends to its beauty and "movement".
  • It will dull your knives if you use it as a cutting board.
  • Granite countertops should be installed by a qualified professional-it is not a do it yourself project.
  • They need to have the sealant re-applied a least once a year to prevent staining or fading.
  • Seams are visible, regardless of how good the installer is.

When it comes time for you to have your countertops installed, you want to have the best job possible. Here are a few tips for selecting a granite installer:

  • Beware of rates that are considerably lower than others-a great price does not necessarily equal excellent quality. Oftentimes these companies may give a low price quote, but then add in extra items on the expenses not included in the original bid.
  • Take your time-during busy seasons, the best companies can be backed up, don't hire someone simply because their calendar is open---ask why they don't have a lot of work at a time when premier companies have a waiting list.
  • Be sure to get more than 1 referral for the installation company you are considering; also, asking the company for a customer list is only going to give you the name of satisfied customers. Rather ask those you know who have had granite countertops installed, for their recommendations.
  • Contact the Better Business Bureau for a list of companies that have received great reviews. Find out if the company honors their contracts with the homeowners as well any suppliers.

For additional information on granite countertops visit Universal Stone Inc. Article independently authored by Janet M. Slagell. The content herein may or may not reflect the views and opinions of Universal Stone Inc. Click for search engine optimization and search engine marketing or visit WebDrafter.com's Blog.

Monday, October 18, 2010

7 Things to Look for When Purchasing Granite

If you have decided to upgrade your home's floors/ work surfaces with granite, then chances are you have already learned about the color choices, movement and durability. But how can you tell if you are getting good quality granite? After all, you are making a major investment into your home and you want to ensure you are getting exactly what you expect. As you begin your selection process, be sure to ask these questions and pay attention to the details.

  1. If purchasing granite for countertops, look for slabs that are a minimum of 3 meters or more in length as this one of the key indicators of a quality piece of granite. These will cost more, but they are truly the best.
  2. Will the granite be cut with water or kerosene? While either is acceptable, the higher quality choice is granite that will be cut using water as this is better for the granite and does not take away from the stability and strength of the stone. If granite has been cut using kerosene, then dormant ferrous and ferric mineral particles are triggered and will eventually cause discoloration and pitting in the polished surface. Kerosene cut granite also begins showing dull places within 6-18 months giving the granite a dull appearance. Lastly, kerosene cut granite should not be used in homes with radiant heating as kerosene will evaporate from the stone bringing unpleasant odors and health hazards.
  3. Can the vendor use granite slabs from the same block for a single job? This will add to the overall look of the completed project. If more than 1 slab will be used, then the material should be a nearly perfect match in shade and color (an exact match is rare due to the natural coloring and movement of granite).
  4. The finished product should have a mirror like appearance (ask to see finished pieces in the showroom so you know what to expect from the installer/fabricator) as well as a consistent high shine.
  5. Your granite countertops, once installed, should have seams that are as smooth and as nearly invisible as possible. Again, you will want to see showroom samples for this. Check to see that the edges are slightly beveled and well polished at the top edge of any joints or seams. Edges that are merely sawed off will have a lighter appearance than those that have beveled and polished.
  6. Look at the showroom samples and note the edges. Good quality granite countertops will have smooth edges without the wavy rippled look that occurs when a fabricator uses hand-held equipment versus an automated edging tool.
  7. Do the colors and grains "match"? Though an exact match is unlikely, when the surface finish is applied, there should be a consistency to the granite, even if there are seams and multiple pieces of granite used for the project. In addition, the granite slabs should fit precisely so that the countertops flow smoothly which adds to the overall elegance and appearance of the stone.

For additional information on the topic of granite countertops visit Universal Stone Inc.

Article independently authored by Janet M. Slagell. The content herein may or may not reflect the views and opinions of Universal Stone Inc. Click for search engine optimization and search engine marketing or visit WebDrafter.com's Blog.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Granite and Other Stone...

Where Some Natural Stones Should Not Be Used and the Best Care For Them

Granite is one of the most popular materials to use in a kitchen remodel, but there are several more natural stone options for use as kitchen countertops or other surfaces throughout the home. In fact natural stone such as marble or soapstone are perfect for bathroom vanities, fireplace surrounds, surrounds for drop in tubs and so on. There are certain aspects of each type of stone which will lend itself better to particular uses in the bathroom than in the kitchen.

Granite is one of the hardest materials in existence. It is largely impervious to extreme temperatures and staining from liquids. Despite this durability some fabricators still recommend applying a protective sealant. Because of the durability of granite, the material may be used in any area of the house from granite floor tile and window sills to a countertop of an outdoor kitchen.

Marble and soapstone are much more porous than granite, but still durable. As a result additional care is necessary to maintain the new appearance of the stone. It is very common for marble to yellow with age if left unprotected. A penetrating sealer is almost always recommended for these softer and more porous stones. Soapstone is a little different. As soapstone ages, oxidation takes place giving an old world feel to the stone.

Marble can be successfully used throughout the home in the form of mantle pieces, shelving and even window sills or thresholds. In this manner it can create a more organic flow through the residence. There are exceptions to using more porous materials in the kitchen area.

Because porous stone absorb liquids it is not recommended for using natural stone of this type in an area where spills do occur. Liquids should not be allowed to stay on any stone surface for any length of time and must be cleaned up. Even condensation from a glass can leave a permanent stain on a softer stone such as marble or soapstone. Damage from a hot pan is also another possibility.

There are cleaners available for marble and the like, but after applying the solution the home owner may find that the finish has been dulled. If this does occur, re-polishing the marble may restore the original finish. As always the home owner should follow the cleaning and care instructions for the particular type of stone work which has been installed. Should a piece ever become damaged, finding a suitable color tone and veining pattern will not be very likely due to variations of natural stone even from the same quarry.

For additional information on the topic of granite and other natural stone countertops visit Universal Stone, Inc.

Article independently authored by Daniel P. Elliott. The content herein may or may not reflect the views and opinions of Universal Stone, Inc. Click for search engine optimization and search engine marketing or visit WebDrafter.com's Blog.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

How to Keep Your Granite Countertops Looking Like New

There's nothing quite like the look and feel of granite. After all, with a myriad of color choices, seemingly unlimited veining patterns plus its durability, granite has become one of the most popular countertop choices around. But just because it is beautiful and durable, doesn't mean that it can be neglected or abused. Like any investment, granite needs to be maintained properly order to look as beautiful in 20 years (or more) as it did the day it was installed. Keeping your granite floors and countertops looking like new is not difficult, but it is necessary to follow some basic steps when it comes to the cleaning and care of your investment.

Preventative Maintenance

When you first get your granite floors or countertops installed, the installation crew will finish the job by applying a sealant. This sealant is to protect the granite as well as to prevent any liquid form getting into the stone and cause damage. Once the sealant is applied, there are several things you can do to keep your granite looking great.

  • Do not sit or stand on your granite countertop. Its durability means that it is not flexible like other countertop choices can be.
  • Do not stack dishes, heavy pots and pans, or ceramic bowls up on the countertop. While they won't hurt the granite just sitting there, should they fall over they can cause chipping.
  • Teach children that granite is not a play area. Don't allow them to bang toys on the countertops as there is the potential that the edge could be chipped.
  • Always use a cutting board. While this will not chip the surface of the granite, it will damage your cutlery. In addition, the more wear and tear your granite gets the more maintenance it will require.
  • If your granite does become damaged, fix any small chips immediately by using granite dust and an epoxy mixture to fill in the chip. For larger chips, try reattaching the lost piece using epoxy rather than just filling it in.
  • If you should get a scratch in your granite, call in a professional.

Basic Cleaning for Granite

Daily cleaning is the best way to keep your granite beautiful for years to come, but it doesn't have to be a large time consuming job. Rather, basic granite care means wiping down the surface each day with a warm, damp cloth. However, in the event that something has stained the granite there are a few methods you can use to get the stain out.

  • To get an oil-based stain out, use a paste of flour and hydrogen peroxide. Spread over the stain then cover with plastic wrap for at least 8 hours before using a flexible spatula to scrape away the paste. Repeat if necessary.
  • To remove ink stains, use acetone/nail polish remover.
  • Don't allow spills to sit unattended, wipe up immediately.
  • Keep your granite looking beautiful by making sure that it is resealed at least once every two years.

For additional information on the topic of granite countertops visit http://www.universalstone-inc.com.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

The History of Granite Countertops

For centuries palaces, homes, and elegant buildings were the prime locations for granite installation. Of course, in recent years granite has been making its way into homes everywhere. But what is it about this beautiful stone that makes people desire to make it part of their home or office? Is it the beauty of granite? Its durability? Or perhaps it is the re-sale value it adds to any building? The answer to all of these questions is a resounding and emphatic, "Yes". So what exactly is the impressive stone?

Basic Characteristics of Granite

In this day of synthetics, granite is one of the products that man cannot re-invent. Granite has a surface depth that appears three dimensional with a luminescence unlike any other surface material. It offers a wide variety of surface finishes, edge options, colors and patterns that cannot be found in any product that man can produce. This is because granite is created as a result of volcanic activity plus years of compression and heat found below the earth's surface. It is composed of feldspar, quartz and mica, but may also contain bits of muscovite, biotite, hornblende, pegmatite and pyroxene; it is these secondary components that bring granite's variety of colors. Other natural stones like limestone, marble, and travertine are created from calcite which is a fairly soft stone made out of animal skeletons and shells.

Because granite is crystalline in structure it has tiny pits between the various crystals which are not visible until it is polished. Also, granite will contain natural fissures that look like cracks, but they are not something to be concerned about in regards to structural integrity. In fact, it is these pits and natural fissures that add the appearance of movement to granite floors and countertops. So, if you are looking for uniformity of pattern and color granite is not the best choice for your home, rather you may want to check out some of the synthetic choices.

Because of granite's unique composition and creation, it is extremely durable, not excessively prone to chips or scratching, and can withstand extreme heat which is why it is especially popular in both residential and professional kitchens. Granite, once sealed, is resistant to stains, molds, and bacteria. It is easy to clean requiring only a damp cloth with simple soap and water.

While most granite choices need to be sealed in order to look their best and protect the granite, if you are considering black granite there are a few things to keep in mind. Unlike other colors of granite, black granite is extremely dense and uniform in appearance and are typically the least susceptible to water absorption. In addition, there have been reports of overseas factories chemically treating Indian Absolute Black Granite in order to achieve deeper, darker black granite. In these cases, the granite is more sensitive to food stains, chemicals, UV rays and cleaning products.

For more information on granite or granite countertops visit http://www.universalstone-inc.com.

Article independently authored by Janet Slagell. The content herein may or may not reflect the views an opinions of Universal Stone, Inc.


Friday, August 20, 2010

Granite and Marble - Certain Stone Materials Not Recommended For Kitchens, But the Rest of the Home

There are a wide variety of natural stone which are used in homes. Not all stones, such as marble, will be as durable and stain resistant as granite would be and therefore is not best suited for high traffic areas like the kitchen. Soapstone, onyx and limestone are also available for home remodels. However, due to the composition and softer nature of these stones in relation to granite, are better suited to bathroom vanities, fireplace surrounds and lower traffic areas. With these differences from one natural stone to another each require specific treatments for proper maintenance and in order to maintain the natural beauty for generations to come.

One commonality among all natural stone is that, despite some being heat resistant and stain resistant, the finish may not be indestructible. While heat and liquids may not be able to penetrate into a specific type of stone, the finish can be dulled with certain liquids. If liquids containing higher levels of acidity, such as lemon juice or vinegar, are left to sit without wiping them up, the finish of any stone may dull or develop haziness. For this reason, spills should be cleaned up immediately.

Heat is the second potential problem with many natural stone countertops. Placing a hot sauce pan or griddle directly on the stone surface may cause the finish to become other than desirable. Trivets and pot holders are useful for setting pots or pans on in order to preserve the beauty of the home owner's investment.

Beginning with granite, some fabricators will recommend sealing the granite every 3 to 5 years or so. Some fabricators will state that it is not necessary. Both statements can be correct. Even within the granite family can there be different densities from another type of granite. The individual fabricator will be able to inform the customer which treatment is best for the specific type of granite.

Every other type of natural stone will need to be treated and sealed in some form or another. Different stone materials can require different sealers. Again, deferring to the fabricator's recommendations for treating the countertop is the wisest course of action. Failure to do so can result in a poor performance and even damage the countertop.

Some stone countertops, such as soapstone and marble, are a perfect material to use to obtain that "old world" look. The natural veining appears to soften the look of the stone. Soapstone will naturally turn from a lighter color to a darker one due to oxidation when cut. Although these two stones are softer than granite and usually not used in high traffic areas, if the overall goal is to produce an "old world" feel, then it can be acceptable. The home owner should just be aware that soapstone and marble are more likely to chip or cut than granite. For this reason, these two stones are common for use in bathrooms or as fireplace surrounds and mantel pieces.

Other stones which can be utilized in bathrooms and even offices are onyx, limestone and travertine. Stone such as these are not as heavily used as granite or marble due to the softness of the stone. Although able to produce vivid depths of color and richness, these stones are best suited for low traffic areas and accent throughout the home.

For more information on granite and marble countertops or kitchen and bathroom remodels with stone, please visit http://www.universalstone-inc.com

Article independently authored by Daniel Elliott. The content herein may or may not reflect the views and opinions of Universal Stone, Inc.



Friday, August 13, 2010

Granite - Not Just For Kitchen Remodels and Countertops Anymore

Granite is most commonly used as a kitchen or bathroom countertop. Granite countertops are usually a very large focal point of any home, but while granite serves superbly in this manner, there are several other areas of the home which a home owner may use granite or another natural stone such as soapstone, marble, or onyx. The flexibility of natural stone is often overlooked.

Many home remodels often focus on just one specific area of the home: the kitchen, bathroom, living/dining room, etc. As with most of these upgrades, the rest of the house becomes an afterthought. Many homes may have a spectacular kitchen, but if the rest of the home does not tie in with the splendor, style or aesthetics of the kitchen, it can be a turn off. With a home that may be up for sale, this could be the difference between actually selling the home and having the home lose money for the owner.

The trick is to balance the use of granite in the kitchen with the rest of the house. Incorporating the same granite stone in built-in book shelves, mantles and hearths or even window sills can help to create an organic flow through the home. Another location where granite can make a beautiful statement is to use granite in a stairway. Should there be a large set of stairs, it will undoubtedly be a bold and expensive remodel, but there are more subtle and muted applications which granite can be applied.

When a home owner is upgrading to granite or other natural stone countertop it is important to decide at that same time whether or not to accent other parts of the home with the same type of stone. The reason for this is no two types of granite are the same. In order to achieve an excellent color match with similar veining throughout the stone, the granite slab or pieces must be selected from the same "lot". If the home owner decides at a later date to go back to the fabricator to obtain the same slab or stone from the same part of the quarry, a close match will be impossible to attain as there is too much variation in a natural product such as stone.

The interior decorator or remodeling contractor will probably have many more ideas for tying the rest of the home together. As the remodel nears completion however, the time will come to install new lighting which will allow the natural beauty of the new countertops and accents to "pop" and be appreciated by the home owner. Investing good money to upgrade the home and not installing sufficient lighting to view the details just does not make sense.

For additionial information on granite countertops, please visit
http://www.universalstone-inc.com today and get more information.


Article independently authored by Daniel Elliott. The content herein may or may not reflect the views and opinions of Universal Stone, Inc.

Friday, August 6, 2010

10 FAQs About Granite

Elegant. Beautiful. Long lasting. These are but a few of the words used to describe granite countertops and floors. After all, with the myriad of colors available and the seemingly ever changing movement of each piece, granite has become a favorite material for home and business owners everywhere. So, if you are considering granite for you next home improvement project, it is likely that you have some questions. The following 10 FAQs will help you in your decision.

  1. Why should I choose granite over other products such as silestone or corian? Granite is a natural stone that has been around for centuries, while the others are simply imitations. In addition, having granite will add 10% to the resale value to your home.
  2. Where is granite from? Granite can be found all over the world as well as the U.S. If possible, select granite from close to home as it will lower the cost.
  3. What type of maintenance is needed for granite? Granite needs to sealed, but this is only necessary for good quality granite every 3 to 5 years while lesser grades of granite should be sealed once every 1 to 3 years. Sealing only takes approximately 10 minutes for an average sized kitchen.
  4. What type of resistance to wear and tear does granite have? Granite is scratch, stain, mildew and mold resistant. In fact, granite is so scratch resistant that it can be used as a cutting board; however, this is not highly recommended as the granite will dull your knives more quickly.
  5. I have heard that acidic liquid can damage the granite, is this true? Only if the liquid is left for a long time. Should there be a spill, the quicker it is wiped up the better. For those spills that have been overlooked and have left a stain, make a paste of bleach and water and put it on the stain. Let set a few minutes and wash off with soap and water.
  6. What type of daily care does granite require? Simply wash with soap and water. A good rule of thumb is to never clean granite with something you wouldn't wash your hands with.
  7. Will granite chip or crack? Typically any flaws are caused during the transportation process. In most cases, a professional granite installer can correct or repair any damage.
  8. Will my granite look like the sample? The pieces seen in the show room are samples of what is available, so sometimes color or patterns vary. Ask the salesperson if there is a quarry or showroom where you can pick out the exact slab(s) if you are concerned about a variation in the color.
  9. What is the best thickness for granite? Professional granite installers recommend slabs that are at least 3/4 of inch thick.
  10. What is the best type of edging for granite countertops? While there are many edges available, the most recommended, especially in homes with young children, is the double bullnose.
For more information on granite countertops and more, please visit
http://www.universalstone-inc.com today.


Article indpendenty authored by Janet Slagell. The content herein may or may not reflect the views and opinions of Universal Stone, Inc.