Author Topic: Advice on picking granite countertop vendor  (Read 4569 times)

planner10

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Advice on picking granite countertop vendor
« on: March 07, 2015, 08:24:24 PM »
Looking for guidance from the forum on what to look for in a countertop vendor or in the granite.

Seems like home depot and lowes might be the best deals.  Is that what you've found?

I'd be looking at the lowest tier, but do want it to look nice (under mounted sink and well fitted).  I read some horror stories about mis-installed stuff and poor quality stuff.  Want to go cheap but don't want to be sorry.  Would love guidance on what is worth spending on and what isn't, and what to ask for or look out for.

For example, there seem to be different sealing techniques or coatings so that you don't need to re-seal.  Different stuff so you don't have to worry about what you can clean with. 

I've spent some time researching but am having trouble telling the difference between marketing and facts.

Thanks for your help!

MsPeacock

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Re: Advice on picking granite countertop vendor
« Reply #1 on: March 07, 2015, 08:59:55 PM »
I used a local company that was recommended to me by friends. Do you have a neighborhood listserve where you might ask for recommendations? Or access to Angie's List, or similar? My observation was that Home Depot and Lowes contract out much of their install work and so it can be a bit of a mixed bag (and a real problem if install is messed up), and they have a very limited selection of kinds of granite. The store I went to had hundreds of different types of stone. I was able to pick a slab that was shown online, and then go physically to the importer and inspect the slab and make sure that I liked the color in person, etc. Pricewise it was slightly less expensive than Home Depot. They came and measured, a sink was included (under mount) that was exactly what I wanted, and the install is perfect.

I have heard that some places that offer cheap granite are actually selling very thin slabs, or just vaneers of the stone.

I did not seal my granite - can't tell if it would make any difference of not.

savman

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Re: Advice on picking granite countertop vendor
« Reply #2 on: March 07, 2015, 09:29:25 PM »
Home Depot/Lowes will not be the best price (they rarely are) as they are simply resellers.

What you want is an actual fabricator. A fabricator is a person who purchases raw slabs of granite from an importer and cut/polishes them into a finished product and then installs them in your home.  The best way to find one is ask some GC's, real estate investors, or local cabinet installers/builders. Failing that the next best thing is to simply search for granite companies in your area. You will be looking for a business that has an address in an industrial area; not a retail store front.  Fabrication takes a lot of space, is pretty noisy, and has environmental restrictions like water reclamation etc.; hence the need for industrial space.

Often times these types of companies spam Craigslist with promotions. So search for granite on CL as well. 

The next best thing to dealing directly with a fabricator is to deal with a one-man-band type installer who has a relationship with a fabricator. Due to his lack of overhead, he is usually competitive with the best price a larger fabricator can offer you. The trade-off being these guys are usually hit or miss on reliability and quality of install.  Which again brings us back to referrals from people in the business.

Generally fabricators will have raw slabs of granite staged in a sort of makeshift showroom area adjacent to the actual fabricating area. They will have  a line of 5 or 10 colors or so of their Tier 1 stuff. (or whatever name they have for the cheap stuff) Most of the granite you see irl is the Tier 1. Some of it isn't my taste, but there are several colors that are just fine; it's all I ever use. 

To give you an idea of price: In the Atlanta area I can get Tier 1 granite installed for about 27 dollars/ft2 plus a sink cut out fee for undermount sinks.  (I think last time I paid 100 plus the cost of the sink as a cutout fee)  Minimum charge was around 1200ish. 

edit: eta; this is for 3 cm granite with a square profile (I think they call it eased edge) edge. 2 cm prefinished granite can be even cheaper but it is regionally dependent; It simply isn't popular in my area so I have sort of a hard time sourcing inventory. You can try searching for pre-finished granite and see if a supply house near you stocks it and then you would need to contract out the install; or do it yourself.
« Last Edit: March 07, 2015, 09:34:00 PM by savman »

Spork

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Re: Advice on picking granite countertop vendor
« Reply #3 on: March 07, 2015, 09:48:13 PM »
You didn't mention how much granite you were buying...   If, perchance, you are buying a small amount (bathroom, wet bar, etc.)... absolutely go to a store that specializes in granite.  Normally you can buy *ANY* remnant for a the same price per sqft.  The highest end stuff will be the same cost as the lowest end stuff.

planner10

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Re: Advice on picking granite countertop vendor
« Reply #4 on: March 07, 2015, 10:54:33 PM »
Thanks guys!  One contractor that was highly rated on angie's list just came out.  He gave us a quote of $3800 which includes the sink and a 4" granite backsplash.  He said our counters plus island was 61 sq ft even though this is much more granite than we actually have.  He didn't subtract out the places our stove or sink is, and he also measured the L shaped part of our counter as a square (which added about 11 sq ft of granite to the measurement even though there will not be any granite there).  Is this common practice? 

Either way it sounds super high.  I will keep looking.

Spork

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Re: Advice on picking granite countertop vendor
« Reply #5 on: March 08, 2015, 09:22:39 AM »
I know you always pay for the stove/sink cutout.  It's wasted rock.  Any time a cut is made that yields a bit of rock smaller than can be used: you bought it.

For the L he may be optimizing the cuts to have fewer or less visible seams.

savman

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Re: Advice on picking granite countertop vendor
« Reply #6 on: March 09, 2015, 12:07:47 AM »
Angies List is where consumers go to talk about their experiences. You will almost always be dealing with businesses that operate at the retail level if you rely on places like that to find referrals.  Retail level businesses have all sorts of things that add little if any value. Things like fancy showrooms, high paid salesman, big marketing budgets, etc. This is doubly true for most construction trades.

Go to people in the business. Drive around to active job sites near you and just pull up and ask the first person you see. Tell them you have a project you are doing and are trying to source contractors, specifically someone to install granite.  I sourced about half of the contractors I needed for what was essentially a new build in an area about an hour from where I live by doing exactly that.   

You will eventually get a couple of referrals. And when you find one or two that meet the criteria I outlined earlier itt you will be well on your way to finding the best possible price.

If walking up to strangers on construction sites makes you uncomfortable, go to the local real estate investors meeting.  There will be plenty of people there that know exactly the information you need. Even if it's a small meeting they know someone who knows. Hell, one of the main purposes of those places is networking.

As for you sink and stove, yes you will pay for the square footage as mentioned earlier itt.  Re: L shaped pieces; my guy ends up adding about 4 square feet for a corner.

Where I am from the price you were quoted is borderline exotic granite prices. I don't price it often, but I am pretty sure I can buy anything that isn't a special order for <60/ft2. And that includes brushing or leathering or whatever some of the texturing processes are called.

 

MsPeacock

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Re: Advice on picking granite countertop vendor
« Reply #7 on: March 09, 2015, 07:39:07 AM »
You are basically buying a slab - including the square feet you don't use (which become cheap remnants), plus the cost per linear foot for all cuts (edges, sink cutouts, etc). If you pick a fancier edge shape it will cost more than a plain slightly rounded edge square shape.

I personally *hate* 4" backsplash. Why not just run your tile down to meet the countertop? It gets rid of that ledge at the top of the backsplash that just collects gunk.

Sometimes you end up having to purchase 2 slabs because the shapes you need or lengths won't fit on one slab. I spent quite a bit of time w/ the granite guys looking for a slab that was large enough for my project (about 4" longer than most of their slabs) because I wanted to avoid buying two slabs.

MishMash

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Re: Advice on picking granite countertop vendor
« Reply #8 on: March 09, 2015, 08:56:03 AM »
Go to a granite yard in your area, HD and Lowes will never be the top place for a QUALITY stone.  Granite is measured in classes or levels depending on your shop, HD and them mostly specialize in class 1 (lowest grade) stones and charge class 2 to 3 prices for it.  Go to the yard and pick out YOUR stone(s).  With 61 sq ft you are probably looking at 2 slabs.  Once you have your stone picked find a good fabricator.  We got WILDLY different prices, the most expensive being almost 2500 more then the guy we went with.

Don't think the free sink is a good deal, it's a cheapo stainless steel contractor grade sink usually, we have one in our current house and it SUCKS to keep clean.  We bought a sil granite sink off of Amazon for 100 bucks and had them cut to that when we did the other house.   

We had a one slab counter (dealt with an extra seam to avoid buying the second slab), bought a class 4 stone, and with fabriation, installation, and a nicer edge (thrown into the deal) it came to 2200. 

planner10

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Re: Advice on picking granite countertop vendor
« Reply #9 on: March 10, 2015, 02:58:50 PM »
Thanks guys!  Found a BUNCH of fabricators in my area!  Going around to meet them over the next few weeks.  I'll let you know how it goes.

Also on the tile backsplash - is that easy for me to do myself?  Or would you go with the granite fabricator? 

ShoulderThingThatGoesUp

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Re: Advice on picking granite countertop vendor
« Reply #10 on: March 10, 2015, 03:10:52 PM »
Yes, a tile backsplash is totally doable. I used SimpleMat to avoid mastic, but that's a more expensive path. Way less expensive than paying somebody else to do it, though.

TheOldestYoungMan

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Re: Advice on picking granite countertop vendor
« Reply #11 on: March 10, 2015, 03:16:05 PM »
I found a tile backsplash was easier than say, laying floor tile, just because I wasn't on my knees.  You can also get really creative with it and use a hodgepodge of tiles/shapes (as an advantage to DIY).

If I ever redo a kitchen again, I don't think I'd do granite.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ogVYwPcsnqY

You can get really neat really personalized product doing the concrete type material.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n7BhSapjN-g

People are awesome.