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

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

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 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 today.

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