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Why Queen City Kitchens? Q&A
Which Is Better - Granite or Quartz?
Do I need to seal my Countertops?
Can I Keep My Tile Backsplash?
How Much Overhang Can I Have?
Which Decisions Will I Have To Make At Measurement?
Can I Use Marble In My Kitchen?
Who Removes My Countertops & Plumbing?
How Many Seams Will I Have?
How Is Stone Priced?

Which Is Better - Granite or Quartz?
A: The internet is filled with answers to this question with strong opinions on both sides. We are happy to provide some rare unbiased advice on this question.  First, a few important notes.

  1. A large percentage of the information available online is either by manufacturers who are financially motivated to promote their own products or by homeowners who have made a selection and feel passionate about the answers they arrived at for themselves, but are not necessarily the correct answer for you and your home.
  2. Natural stones have a massive range of characteristics which can make them a better solution in some areas and inappropriate in others depending on how they are used.
  3. Very few people in Italy who walk on 400 year old marble steps every day outside would understand that we think of the material as ‘fragile’.  Materials such as these simply wear and age developing a patina that varies over time and is a living finish instead of a static alternative like the polished granites and engineered slabs of today.
  4. All of the materials in the market today make exceptional countertop surfaces, and we should think of this conversation as a luxury, when possible, and try not to be overwhelmed by the number of options. Even just ten years ago there were far fewer alternatives and many projects were limited in scope due to the extreme cost and/or lead time involved with less common materials.

So which one is better? The most frequent analogy we use to help frame an answer is to compare a desk from Ikea to an old wood dresser from your grandparents. After a few years, even if the Ikea desk is in perfect shape, you tend to get tired of it because it is man-made. Whereas the natural wood dresser sits in the corner for decades without ever making you think of replacing it. This is the power of natural materials. We often seem somehow programmed to be more relaxed and comfortable around natural looking materials. This does not mean, however, that modern ‘minimalist’ furniture cannot look stunning used in the right application. So the first thing you have to come to terms with is the look and feel of the surface. Ignore finding exactly the right color and take home a sample of both. See which one seems to blend in with your style of living and use that one. We know this seems simple, but it is very effective.

For the last eighteen months, however, we have seen an explosion in Quartz stones from the leading manufacturers, Cambria, Silestone and Caesarstone that increasingly mimicking the most popular granite choices and looking better and better with each technological advance. If you decide that you want that natural look and can achieve it with an engineered stone product that fits your comfort level better, that can be a great win. We can show you over 150 colors that we think are market leaders right now for this very reason.

For many consumers, the selection can also come down to budget. The bottom line is that entry level granite is a better value than entry level quartz. If you can find a level one granite that you enjoy, it is likely to be 30% cheaper than the entry level quartz. And the quartz products that look like natural stone will be more. This is a powerful argument and is a simple supply and demand result due to the massive supply of granite and limited supply of quality engineered materials with expensive middlemen and distribution networks. The actual fabrication and installation costs are relatively similar. Buyers need to be very careful when selecting Quartz to make sure where and who is manufacturing it. Recently the market has seen an influx of inferior material especially from China which can be offered as perfectly acceptable to the unsuspecting customer.

So let’s assume that you have now narrowed down your selections to one Quartz product such as Cambria, Silestone, Caesarstone and one granite color. Which one to choose? In all likelihood, you will have these countertops for as long as you own your home, so choose the one that speaks to you and will make you the most happy to bake cookies on with the children on snow days. Choose the one that will give you the look you want when you set out appetizers for dinner parties. They are both going to hold up fine.  top

Do I need to seal my Countertops?
A: One of the most frequent questions we receive is about sealing, both whether it is necessary and if so, with what frequency it should be completed.

The simple answer is as follows:
"If the stone is developing water spots during normal use, your tops need to be sealed. Sealing your stone is a simple process of spraying it on and wiping it off. It will need to be re-done when water spots start to re-develop."

The more complicated answer depends on the exact type of countertop you have selected and what your subjective performance goals are for your particular usage. The vast majority of our installations are granite, and this type of formation, an igneous rock, literally translates to ‘born of fire’. This is an extremely violent process that millions of years later results in an enormous variety of densities and variations in absorbency. Each block removed from a mountain side will vary in sealing needs and tendencies, even though they have a similar finish applied.

All countertops should be considered absorbent, even our engineered quartz varieties like Silestone, Cambria and Caesarstone. The goal is to provide a countertop that is dense enough to repel moisture inherently and then add a layer of protection and sealant that makes it even more durable for constant use. Some are better at this than others, but the majority of what is sold as polished, resined slabs in this country are up to the task and will perform admirably.

The addition of a new generation sealant, like the Dry Treat flurochemical sealers which we sell at our shop, will actually bond with the surface of the stone and with a 15 Year Warranty provide a long term layer of protection against both water and oil stains. These sealers are slightly more expensive, but should decrease the sealing frequency and end up costing less over time.

We would be remiss in any discussion of sealers to not discuss the fact that the majority of users never seal their countertops and do not experience staining. For those of you that have visited Italy, you are familiar with solid marble exterior stairways. These have been exposed to the elements for hundreds of years and have no stains or blemishes. The idea here is that anything that does stain the countertop will eventually disappears and is just a part of having a beautiful piece of nature in your home. As very few stones are susceptible to stains in the first place due to their natural density, this is a good answer for a lot of homeowners.

At the end of the day, this is a personal choice. If you would like to seal your countertops, it is inexpensive and simple to do.  top

Can I Keep My Tile Backsplash?
A: In many cases with countertop replacements, we are asked if the existing tile backsplash can be reused. The simple answer is yes, but with a few qualifications.

Granite or engineered stones are primarily 1.25″ thick. Laminate countertops, the kind we replace most, are 1.5″ thick. Upon replacement, this will then leave a 1/4″ reveal between the bottom of the tile backsplash and the top of the new countertop. Here are the best ways to handle the gap in order of preference.

  1. If you have any of the grout leftover from the original tile installation, or if it is a simple color to match like white or almond, simply clean away the dirty caulked area and re-grout the gap at the bottom. This will make the gap look intentional and professional and in most cases match the size of the grout lines elsewhere.
  2. Purchase a tube of colored caulk to match your grout color and caulk the gap between the two materials. It will be 1/4″ thick instead of 1/8″ as normal, but this difference is barely noticeable unless you are looking for it.
  3. Purchase and install some form of trim to match the tile or countertops at a local tile store such as Mosaic Tile. (www.mosaictileco.com)
  4. Ask us to measure, fabricate and install a 4″ granite backsplash and just install it over the tile. Once it is caulked in, it will look very normal.
  5. Hire a handyman to be on the job at the time of our installation to install 1/4″ plywood on top of the cabinets before we install our stone. Please note that this option will leave a 1/4″ strip of unfinished material around the edges.
  6. Shim up the countertops from below during installation. This is the least preferred option because in the long term the shims will inevitably shift exposing the stone to seam separation and breakage.

If you do decide to remove your entire tile, this will need to be done prior to final measurement as this often involves complete replacement of the drywall which will change our dimensions.  top

How Much Overhang Can I Have?
A: There are many places where extra overhang can add to the form and function of your countertop. Bar seating areas, peninsulas, pass through shelves and raised surfaces. We are frequently asked how much overhang a particular material is able to sustain safely.

The answer lies in a combination of physics and liability.

First a couple of notes:

  1. Your countertop cannot be glued down. Glue dries over time and will eventually separate. Probably at a very inopportune moment of stress on the material which will result in catastrophic failure causing damage to the environment or personal injury.
  2. Mechanical fasteners are not useful in this application because they will become worn over time with constant friction and bumping, resulting in a similar failure.
  3. The only way to properly support overhang is to support it. We can provide brackets, if required,that we had engineered to our specifications and are guaranteed not to fail.

Physics: Gravity will pull anything down that extends farther then the portion that is supported. In other words, if you have a 12″ bar cabinet and put a 12″ overhang on it, the top will fall off. Once you get south of this 50/50 rule, it is a matter of comfort. We recommend to people that they take a coffee table book and play with percentages by seeing how much downward pressure is required on the overhang portion to lift up the supported area. If is too easy with a coffee table book, it is dangerous with granite. For those that like to organize life into tidy formulas, we generally look at anything with an overhang of more then 50% of the supported area as questionable. So if you have 12″ supported on that bar cabinet, the most you would want to consider having as unsupported overhang would be 6″. Not an absolute rule, but hopefully a useful guide.

Liability: Our friend Mr. Murphy tells us to beware of complacency, and in this case where the potential is a piece of heavy stone falling from 42″ or more, this advice takes on special meaning. The reality is that stone can fracture and fail. It is EXTREMELY unlikely, but it is possible. So in this situation, we always prefer more support over less. Almost any building supply company or big box store will have some great options with corbels to stain or paint. If you are a homeowner reading this, you are free to push the boundaries as far as you dare. If you are a contractor or builder, we recommend building in support and crossing it off the worry list.

Please note that steel rods added to the stone will not protect against this risk of failure. They will hold the stone together for a time after it fractures, but the fracture itself will then become the issue for the homeowner and daily use. And eventually, the glue around the steel rod will come loose as well completing the failure.  top

Which Decisions Will I Have To Make At Measurement?
A: While the number of things to select can seem overwhelming, they are all important and you should not feel rushed into selecting something you have not had time to research. Here is a basic list of things we will ask you about so that you can consider as many of them as possible up front. Keep in mind that we do this for a living, and will be able to help guide you on all of these when the time comes with as much or as little information as you need.

  1. Sink
  2. Faucet
  3. Overhang
  4. Edges
  5. Material
  6. Color
  7. Backsplash
  8. Removal
  9. Plumbing
  10. Sealer

Our template engineer is also very good at discussing these things with you during your appointment if you need additional information. After you approve your contract and submit your down payment, installation normally occurs within 7-10 business days.  top

Can I Use Marble In My Kitchen?
A: Many of our clients like the patterns and warmth of marble, travertine, limestone and other similar materials, but are uncertain as to whether it would make a reliable surfacing option for their heavily used kitchen countertops. The simple answer is yes, but it comes with a few caveats.

The enormous popularity of granite and engineered stone countertops today is primarily the result of two related developments. First, the surface treatment that seals the stone and creates a flat and evenly polished surface was improved to the point of it becoming a maintenance free installation in almost all cases. Secondly, the technology to quarry, produce and fabricate the slabs improved in parallel to the surface finishing and allowed the landed material pricing to drop dramatically as massive international stone companies began competing for market share.

Marbles have enjoyed the same economies in quarrying and fabrication, but the finishing remains unchanged from the previous century. For the homeowner this means that depending on the material choice, they should expect the products to be porous, sensitive to citrus etching and very likely to show scratches, impact marks and other normal wear and use aging characteristics.

So does this mean that you should not use them? Possibly. If you are looking for a material that will require no maintenance and be trouble free in an environment of multiple users with varying degrees of inherent caution and sensitivity, this will most likely not be a great fit. If, however, you are comfortable with a basic amount of upkeep and are normally careful with other surfaces in your home, there would be no reason to not consider these materials. Most homes contain wood dining room tables and coffee tables that have similar use restrictions but still enjoy long lives. Very few people would be willing to change out those wood tables for plastic or metal versions simply to decrease the possibility of a scratch, stain or other imperfection. These are normal for a natural material and with stone and wood, continued cleaning and use will eventually create a natural ‘patina’ that will have a warmth and personality hard to find in other polished and safer alternatives.

Almost all marbles are quarried in 1 1/4″ slabs and the fabricating process is identical to Granite or Quartz. Pricing is similar, so this will be more of availability and aesthetic questions than a cost based process. Slabs do tend to be smaller, so additional seams may be required if you have a large kitchen.

Edge detail selection is crucial on marble as is matching up the veining at seams and other breaks. Take the time to get it right and work with a fabricator who understands the materials. The tooling and seams need to be done with marble specific products in order to achieve the best results.  top

Who Removes My Countertops & Plumbing?
A: Queen City Kitchens is pleased to offer a demolition service which includes removal and disposal of the existing countertops for a nominal fee. We also have a licensed plumber on staff should you wish to have us reconnect your plumbing fixtures. In addition, sink-plumbing-faucet packages are on special every month to facilitate the job evolution and minimize your time commitment. Please call our office at any time to receive information on any of our current specials or click here to view them.  top

How Many Seams Will I Have?
A: Queen City Kitchens does not limit seam placement in any way. You may have as few or as many as you wish. In general, seams will always be visible, but should be no larger than one-eighth of an inch. The special epoxy used will eventually wear down to blend in with the stone and become harder than even the surrounding stone, providing a long lasting secure joint. Look at the examples of our seams in our showroom and remember our goal is to try as hard as we can to make the seams “disappear”.  top

How Is Stone Priced?
A: One of the best things about our industry is that there is no connection between quality and price. Often, even the least expensive option can be a very high quality slab that makes a perfect material for your countertop. Pricing is instead based on a few simple considerations.

  • Supply and demand – Brazil is an example of a mature economy where they have the perfect combination of excellent materials to be quarried, a high level of technological expertise in extraction to minimize waste and loss, and an excellent distribution and transportation network to move materials from the quarry to finishing factories to ports for shipment to the US and other countries.
  • Labor and insurance – Norway and France are good examples of countries with a good supply of materials and technology, but prohibitively high labor and insurance costs that inflate their final product costs to consumers here and elsewhere. The high quality finishes and precise finishing can sometimes balance these increased costs and make the finished slabs very attractive and worth the premium they command.
  • Market manipulation – As recently as last year Saudi Arabia was toying with the idea that pricing on their product had fallen through acceptable levels and that by limiting supply, they could put it back within the target range they had decided was appropriate for the three primary colors they export. As a result, we have seen less supply, lower quality and higher costs on some of these items as wholesalers clear out stocks.
  • The unicorn factor – Every year we see one or two colors quarried and sold that the market had not known about and/or not thought possible. This is normally the result of technologically advanced quarrying methods being applied to previously failed natural resources such as onyx or quartzite. They immediately become quite popular and we see prices climb dramatically. White Fantasy or Super White is an example of this with suppliers currently charging a 200% premium over what we purchased it for 2 years ago.
  • Resource mismanagement – Kashmir White and Kashmir Gold among others are currently missing from the world supply chain due to mismanagement and criminal activity by their quarry owners in India. The stone is there to be quarried, but the ownership is in doubt and as of now, no one has stepped up to replace them and get the machines working again. As a result, the only stock of these materials that is left is sub par and overpriced.
  • Curb appeal – At the end of the day, if someone falls in love with a color, an extra thousand dollars or two is not then end of the world in a $600,000 home. Especially when you consider that these countertops are likely to be with you and your family for 50 years or more. For this reason, less honest wholesalers will simply raise the price on whatever is selling well at the time due to design trends or local popularity. We see some materials vary up to 50% year over year.

The bottom line is that you can depend on our expertise to get you pricing ranges of the stones you will be looking at In this way you can identify a stone in each level if you wish and make an informed decision about what is right for you and your project. Some of these materials we see and love every day are truly works of art and it is next to impossible to place a value on what they mean to the people that take them home.  top



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