Part 9 Of Our Real Life Remodeling Journey
The following story is part of a series of articles about my family's experience with our home's remodel. Links to the other stories are found at the bottom of the page.
Granite countertops weren't necessarily a shoe-in for us but they were at the top of the list. Choosing countertops usually involves a blend of inputs including the economics of the various choices, how they'll be used and personal preferences.
We're a "kitchen-active" family, a term I coined to describe the fact that we have three boys who aren't shy when it comes to using (or abusing) a countertop surface. We're also a family of cooks (or at least we try). In other words we're not the 'showpiece' countertop kind of people -- our countertops will get used.
Based on that premise we needed to choose something that was durable. That's when the preferences took over. My wife had always envisioned granite, while I was willing to try some other options like the recycled paper-based products (some look a lot like dark soapstone counters).
When Cindy saw real soapstone, she was swayed by their soft feel and good looks. However they would have cost a bit more than we were willing to spend so we gravitated back to the granite.
Although you can still spend a lot of money on some types of granite, with continued advancements in the technology used to extract and process the stone some colors have become very affordable. As it turns out, we ended up choosing granite countertops.
Granites used for countertops are priced in tiers based on their availability and rarity. We (fortunately) liked some of the colors and patterns available in the introductory price category. We'd be given a sample of "Tan Brown" by our contractor and at first blush, thought it might be a possibility.
The Winner...(Tropic Brown)...
The next step was to view the actual slab at the fabricator's shop. That's when Tan Brown went out the window. There's really no comparison when you're looking at a 10-foot slab of granite compared to its 6"x6" sample cousin.
It's not like the slab contained some surprise wild streak of objectionable color that wasn't on the sample, which sometimes happens. Rather, it was simply the overall color pattern that glared back at us when we came face to face with the whole slab.
...And The Loser...(Tan Brown)
At the risk of upsetting any of you who have or like Tan Brown granite countertops, our only hangup was that the predominant feature within the stone was a salmon-colored mineral. It really dominated the entire slab and it just wasn't going to fit in with our décor. Fortunately we found another color called "Tropic Brown (also known as "Tropical Brown") in the same price range.
Our new color choice led us to the granite distributor (different from the fabricator) to choose the slabs of stone that would become our countertops. We walked through a cavernous warehouse amongst rows and rows of granite slabs propped up against A-frame stands. They had several slabs in the color we selected so it was a matter of just choosing the ones we liked best.
The color pattern of Tropic Brown is very uniform but despite this fact we looked at several slabs to be sure. Regardless of the uniformity there were still natural variations that led us to accept or reject a particular slab.
Sometimes a uniform color is more easily "spoiled" by small irregularities that normally bring character to granites with more random patterns. In the case of Tropic Brown there were several slabs that had a large black 'splotch' that seemed out of place with the rest of the mineral pattern. Since we had a large kitchen island to cover we chose the best looking slab for that purpose.
If you have any large sections of countertop it pays to choose the particular slab from which your actual countertop will be cut. That way you'll be sure there won't be any surprises once your granite countertops are installed.
Choosing our granite countertops was probably a one-time event for us because we don't plan on changing our countertops any time soon, if ever for that matter. If you're planning on granite for your kitchen the following points we picked up from our experience might help out.