Granite countertops are gorgeous. To paraphrase legendary car guy Lee Iacocca, if you can find a prettier countertop, buy it! Their classic elegance exudes distinction in the kitchen and bathroom, and matched with outstanding durability, the granite countertops you select might be the last countertops your home will ever need.
Countertops made from granite require some TLC, and they’re not cheap. But, if you’re committed to their care and maintenance, granite counter tops will deliver the look and performance you want for decades to come.
In this granite countertops guide, you’ll find the information you need to decide whether or not your next countertops will be produced from this handsome, durable material. The information can be used to compare this material to marble and other materials you might be considering.
What are Granite Countertops?
Granite is a natural stone, quarried from large igneous stone deposits found around the world. It begins as molten magma that flows into other rock structures and cools slowly. The stone is naturally quite rough and textured, but when it is ground and polished during the countertop manufacturing process, it takes on a smooth surface with rich luster.
Granite is comprised of a many different minerals that give each countertop slab a unique and attractive appearance. For example, granite high in feldspar will have rich red or pink highlights. Mica produces brown or black veining while quartz gives pink, white or black hues to the stone.
The variations throughout the stone are considered desirable since they give the slab character and differentiate it from others. For this reason, it is important to select slabs quarried from the same stone to ensure that the color and amount of veining are similar.
When you go shopping for granite countertops, you’ll find a range of colors and “looks” to choose from, and matching the right shade and stone appearance to your design scheme is part of the fun.
Granite Countertops Pros and Cons
There are many alluring reasons to choose granite counter tops, but a few cautions should be considered before you select them for your home. Let’s take a look at the strengths and weaknesses of granite countertops.
Granite Countertop Advantages:
- Among the most beautiful countertop materials
- Accentuate the good looks of quality kitchen cabinets
- Natural stone for those who want an ecofriendly counter top
- Excellent strength and durability with proper care
- Resistant to scratches and damage from heat such as pans or hot hair tools
- Good stain resistance and easy to clean when sealed correctly
Granite Countertop Disadvantages:
- Improper sealing or failure to reseal granite when needed can lead to staining of this porous stone
- Poorly sealed granite may also harbor bacteria
- There are about 20 different colors varieties of granite while other materials are available in 100+ colors and patterns
- Corners may chip or break if a heavy object falls on them
- There are several types of countertops such as laminate or wood that are more affordable (if not as pretty or durable)
To summarize the strengths and weaknesses of granite countertops, the primary advantages this material provides are distinctive beauty and outstanding durability when properly maintained. The biggest potential drawback is staining that occurs when the homeowner either buys cheap granite countertops that haven’t been properly sealed or fails to reseal them when needed.
The good news is that most granite slabs are now sealed at the factory with a finish that will last at least five years and often longer. Plus, resealing granite countertops is quite easy and the sealer is affordable.
Granite Countertop Prices
Granite countertop costs are higher than some types, but in line with other top materials such as quartz, recycled glass and stainless steel. There are many factors that affect pricing for a granite countertop:
- The material grade: Your options usually include these grades, and the price increases with each upgrade—discount/builder/premium/designer
- The skill of the installer: Your options include DIY, handyman, vendor, licensed contractor and a contractor supplied by a designer, and prices go up at each step
- The complexity of the job: The greater the complexity of the design, the more seams and the harder the edge style is to produce, the higher the cost will be
- The cost of living in your area
The granite countertop estimates you receive will be based on a blend of the variables listed above, and you can see that there are many potential combinations. Here is the range of granite countertop costs you can expect to find:
- Material: $15-$35/square foot for discount or clearance material to $125/square foot for premium granite slabs with a custom edge
- Labor: $0 for DIY installation; $6.50 to $10/square foot for pro installation
- Supplies: $100 to $150/every 50 square feet of countertop for products such as fasteners, braces, grout and sealer
This means that your total granite countertop costs will range from approximately:
$35/square foot to $140/square foot
Granite Countertops Cleaning, Care and Repair
Well-maintained granite countertops will look fantastic indefinitely. The keys are regular cleaning with products formulated for granite and a schedule of resealing the stone that keeps it resistant to staining.
There are many excellent granite care products available for daily and regular cleaning. They are formulated to get countertops clean without harming the sealer and are available in spray and wipe options.
Here are a few basic tips for granite countertop cleaning and care:
- Wipe up spills quickly, especially oil and acidic foods such as tomato sauce, wine, coffee, fruit juice and soda
- Prevent wet glasses, pots, cans or other items from sitting on the countertops
- Use a damp sponge or cloth to clean minor spills and loosen dirt
- Avoid cleaning with dish soap because it will cause a residue to build up that may eventually diminish the granite’s luster
- If a stain develops, use a stain remover pouch formulated for use on granite
- Use coasters if you’re going to put glasses on the countertop
- As a precaution, use a hot pad or trivet under very hot pots or pans when placing them on the countertops
- Use a cutting board to prevent the sealer from being harmed by a sharp knife, which can make the countertops vulnerable to stains
- Avoid generic cleaners; Use only products formulated for use on granite countertops
- Keep cleaners with ammonia, vinegar, citrus or scrubbing additives off of granite
- Place a plate or tray beneath a liquid soap dispenser to prevent the possibility of staining
Talk with your dealer or installer about the factory seal on the material and how often to seal your granite kitchen or bathroom countertops. This is the most crucial part of the care and maintenance they require. If you enjoy home maintenance projects, there are easy-to-use, affordable products for polishing and sealing granite countertops with just a few hours of work.
Granite countertop chip repair is fairly easy too with DIY stone repair kits that include high-grade liquid chip filler that cures strong and nearly invisible. Coloring tint allows you to match the repair material to the granite.
Granite Countertops DIY Installation
Even most DIY enthusiasts leave granite countertop installation to the pros. There are a couple of reasons for this. First, the majority of the cost is in the material, and if it gets damaged during DIY installation, the homeowner must cover the cost of repair or replacement.
In most jobs, the labor cost is relatively small – 10 to 20 percent of the total, depending on the quality of the granite and the complexity of the countertop installation. In other words, it’s not a huge expense to pay for professional granite countertop installation.
Secondly, improper installation may cause stresses on the countertop which will lead to seam separation or cracking.
However, if you’ve got good experience with countertop installation and a helper with reliable hands and a strong back, DIY installation is possible.
Pre-fabricated granite countertops are a favorite with DIY enthusiasts for several reasons. First, the edges are pre-finished, and that eliminates the toughest job when doing it yourself. Their surfaces are finished and sealed too, and they’re available in several sizes. Basically, these pre-fab granite countertops (which are available in quartz & marble too), simply need to be cut and glued down.
Take the time to watch a few granite countertop installation videos before you decide which way to go in order to see what is involved and to learn tips from professional installers.
If it looks like a job you’d rather leave to the pros, we can put you in touch with the top granite countertop contractors in your area.
Are Granite Countertops Right for Your Home?
Here is a list of questions to that will help you think through whether or not granite is the right material for your home.
- Is the higher cost of granite countertops in your budget? While you can save money on cheaper grades of granite and inexperienced labor, most experts recommend using quality materials and a skilled installer with excellent experience. In both cases, you get what you pay for.
- How long do you plan to live in your current home? The longer you’re there, the better value granite becomes. With proper care, they’ll look and perform great while you’d be replacing cheaper countertops every 5 to 15 years. If you plan to sell your home in the next few years, you probably won’t recoup the cost of the granite counter tops in the sale price.
- Are you willing to be a bit “fussy” with the care and maintenance of the countertops? This means you’ll do things like wipe up stains immediately, refrain from leaving wet items on the countertops, use a cutting board and take extra care when removing heavy objects from the top shelves of upper cabinets to avoid dropping them onto the granite. If you say, “no problem” to these precautions, you’re a candidate for granite countertop ownership!
- Do you have younger children who are prone to spills and not cleaning them up? When pre-teens and teens use the kitchen, they might not have the same level of care and awareness that you do.
- Is it important to you to use materials in your home that are environmentally friendly? Granite is an excellent choice because it is a natural material that requires less energy and the use of no harmful products to manufacture.
- Do you value elegant beauty more than the small amount of time and care it takes to keep granite looking its best? If you enjoy maintaining quality products rather than using and replacing items that aren’t as durable, then granite countertops will be a long-lasting pleasure.