A Guide to Granite Countertops

by Sam Ferris
?So you?ve decided to go granite. A lot of other homeowners have, too. Despite the fact that quartz is the countertop industry?s darling right now, granite is still in high demand. Its natural beauty is hard to beat, plus it?s more durable than laminate countertops.

?Whether you?ve just begun your research or haven?t started yet, there?s no doubt you have questions about granite, including what it costs, how cost is determined and more. Here?s an overview of what granite is, what it costs, how you can customize it, and how it?s different from quartz.?
Granite countertops in kitchen
Photo courtesy of MSI.
What is granite?
Granite is a natural stone and type of igneous rock. It contains other minerals such as quartz, feldspar, and amphiboles. The majority of granite is mined in Brazil, though other countries like China, Norway, and Canada also mine it.
Granite has a lot of natural movement and patterns, including swirls, spots, and speckles. That?s one reason why it?s so popular.?
Granite has two standard sizes of thickness, which is measured in centimeters: 2 CM and 3 CM.

The two big factors for deciding on the right size for you are cost and aesthetics.

As you might have guessed, thicker granite is more expensive. You can save several hundred dollars on the same style of granite by choosing 2 CM thickness instead of 3 CM.

It also boils down to how you want your countertops to look. You may prefer 3 CM granite because it looks fuller and more expansive. You may like 2 CM because it looks sleek and modern.
The important thing to realize is that the thickness of your granite doesn?t affect how durable it is. You can enjoy the perks of granite countertops no matter how thick it is.?
Granite countertops in bathroom
Photo courtesy of MSI.
If you?ve already started researching granite countertops, you probably know that granite is classified by levels.

This classification system includes three levels. These levels are closely related to pricing, which we?ll discuss more in the next section.

Ultimately, abundance determines the levels of granite. More abundant styles, for example, fall into Level 1, while more exotic and rare styles are included in Level 3.

Level 1 (also called entry level) includes the most abundant styles of granite, such as Santa Cecilia, New Venetian Gold, Uba Tuba, Tan Brown, and Baltic Brown. Level 1 colors feature some movement along with speckles and spots.

Level 2 includes less abundant but somewhat prevalent styles of granite, such as Andino White, Absolute Black, Colonial Gold, Imperial Coffee and River White. Level 2 colors will have a lot more movement and swirls.
Level 3 includes less abundant and even rare styles of granite, such as Yellow River, Solarius, Lapidus, and Fantasy Brown. These styles have stunning visual patterns of movement and swirls. They often have the high end look.?
Now for the bottom line. Pricing is determined by abundance and supply and demand. Because the level system is based on abundance, pricing will closely correspond with levels.

Level 1 granites normally cost around $40-45 per square foot, including fabrication and installation.

Level 2 granites normally cost around $50-55 per square foot, including fabrication and installation.

Level 3 granites normally cost around $60-65 per square foot, including fabrication and installation.

As a disclaimer, these prices are an estimation. It?s certainly possible to find granite for under $40 per square foot, especially styles from China. It?s very common for exotic styles to cost more than $65 per square foot ? even up to $100 per square foot.

In general, granites with whites and blues will carry the highest price tag. The demand is high and the supply is low. They?re less prevalent than granites with browns and golds.?
Edge profiles
There are different types of edge finishes you can choose for your granite. These range from a standard bevel to more decorative options such as a waterfall edge.
Here are common edge profiles at a glance:
  • Bevel: The top edge is slightly curved in this type of finish. It?s as close to a 90 degree cut as you can get
  • Pencil: This profile is somewhat similar to a bevel, except the top edge has a more pronounced, rounded curve than a beveled edge does
  • Half bullnose: The top edge is rounded, but the curve extends about halfway into the side of the granite
  • Full bullnose: The entire edge profile is rounded
  • Waterfall: The entire edge has three layers, creating a ?waterfall? effect
  • Ogee: The edge has two layers, with the bottom layer slightly more pronounced than the top layer?

Your design, budget, and lifestyle can influence the type of edge you select.
Upgraded edge profiles like waterfall and ogee carry an additional cost (normally per linear foot). An older homeowner may choose a full bullnose to eliminate sharp corners in their kitchen. You may also want to add detail and character to your countertops and go with a waterfall edge.
How is granite different from quartz?
Quartz countertops in kitchen
Photo courtesy of MSI.
This is one question that consumers ask often. It can be hard to tell the difference just by looking at the two.

The biggest difference (and it?s a pretty noteworthy difference) is that granite is a natural product and quartz is a man-made product.

Of course, quartzite is natural, and it?s obviously included in the manufacturing process. But quartzite is just one ingredient. Quartz countertops are also made of polymers, resin, and pigments. Some may even contain recycled glass.
Here?s a few more basic differences in a nutshell:
  • Is porous, which means you have to seal it
  • Is heat resistant
  • Is generally scratch resistant
  • Is pitted and has fissures
  • Has a lot of variation and movement on its surface
  • Isn?t porous, which means you don?t have to seal it
  • Is twice as durable as granite
  • Isn?t as heat resistant as granite (Dekton is an exception)
  • Isn?t pitted and doesn?t have fissures
  • Can contain movement or feature a monochromatic surface
Granite can also be installed outdoors, while quartz can?t (again, Dekton is an exception).

Click here for a more comprehensive overview of granite vs. quartz.?

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