Granite, Marble, Soapstone Countertops - Buyers Guide
Other Stuff to Know and Consider
We have seen an incredible number of bad cabinet installations, where installers have not paid enough attention to making the cabinets level. The age of the house and issues with level of the floor are not reasons for an out-of-level cabinet installation. So....
VERY IMPORTANT - If you are having new cabinets installed make sure that the cabinet installers know you are using granite countertops and specify that your cabinets need to be within 1/8" of level, and make sure they use a large (six foot or longer) level to check the installation. Make sure they pay extra attention to spans across gaps (dishwashers, ranges, farmhouse sinks etc). If the cabinets are not level there will be a large amount of shimming required to get the granite level. This will create large unsightly gaps between the cabinets and granite that will have to be trimmed out by a carpenter. And, more importantly, it just won't look right.......
Most dishwashers are screwed to the bottom of old wood/laminate or tile-on-wood countertops. It's difficult (to say the least) to put screws into granite, so some other attachment method is needed. There are three popular solutions:
1) is to attach a piece of wood to the bottom of the granite and to the cabinets on either side of the dishwasher and drive the same (maybe shorter) screws into it. With this solution you will be able to see the piece of wood so it will need to be painted/stained to match the rest of your cabinets.
2) small metal discs can be glued to the underside of the granite and the dishwasher can be attached to these with short screws. This works quite well but not as well as option 3.
3) a more elegant solution is to use a "side-mount kit" which allows the dishwasher to be attached to the cabinets on either side of the opening. Check with your dishwasher manufacturer to see if these are available. On newer models this is standard. In either case the dishwasher may have to be raised or lowered on its adjustable legs, to fit the opening. Also check with a plumber or your local city building codes to see if you need to add/retain your air-gap. This is the mysterious, and not very attractive, piece of plumbing mounted on your countertop/sink next to your faucet. While some manufacturers of newer dishwashers do not necessarily require this item, some city building codes still do.
Finally check your floor. New tile and/or wood flooring is sometimes laid in such a manner that it is impossible to get the old dishwasher out (or the new one in) without removing the countertops. Once the granite is installed this is a bad situation. The only cure for this is to shim up the entire countertop. This will add some costs to the project and require painting/staining after the counters are in.
A lot of homes have bar top areas which rest upon 4" stud walls. Old bar countertops are usually supported on plywood which is screwed into the wall. With granite, you don't really want the plywood left in place because you will be able to see the rough edge of the plywood. Granite also weighs many times more than wood, Corian and even tile (up to 20 pounds per square foot), so it's important that it is supported properly. Two favorite solutions to this challenge are:
1) using substantial, structural brackets or corbels of metal or wood. These work well but you can see them easily and they will hit your knees if you are sitting at the bar on a stool; or
2) At Heritage Stonecraft we can fabricate steel bar "straps". These are made from 1/4 inch thick solid steel plate, 3 inches wide and approximately 14 inches long (depending on the bar top width). A shallow, 1/4 inch deep slot is routed into the top of the wall and the strap is attached to the wall with 3 inch screws. The granite is then adhered with 100% silicone to the wall and the straps and left for a couple days to really cure. This method results in an almost invisible support and protects your knees. We also paint them gray to blend in with the underside of the stone. The entire underside of the granite and the support straps can also be painted to hide them even more.
Most bathroom vanity cabinets are only 21 inches deep (front to back) compared to kitchen cabinets which are 24 inches deep. This means that there is only limited room for vanity sinks and you need to make sure the sink you choose will fit into a standard 21 inch cabinet (For example, a Kohler K2211 sink will not fit in a 21" cabinet and leave room for faucet holes). Also some faucets will be very cramped considering the thickness of a granite backsplash, particularly the drain stopper/lever.
It's a very good idea to have these selections done as early as possible and discussed with your fabricator to prevent delays and surprises as your countertops are built. Also there is rapidly growing trend towards "vessel" sinks or bowls which sit elevated above the countertop. These also need to be selected early and all the faucets and fittings chosen before fabrication begins. The central drain hole needed for a vessel sink will depend on the sink and the drain pipe-work.
Your fabricator may have to charge extra if additional field cutting and finishing is needed because you delayed your choices. There will most certainly be extra costs if your fabricator has to return to the job because you didn't provide sufficient information and the drain hole is the wrong size for the pipe fittings.
Almost all cooktops have very specific and non-standard cutout dimensions. A 30" Jenn-Air cutout may be completely different from a 30" GE. Again (at the risk of sounding monotonous) make this choice early . There will be additional costs if the fabricator has to return to the job-site to change the size of the opening. Plus cutting the opening inside the home will create an enormous amount of dust that no amount of plastic sheet can completely control. So - buy the cooktop early and give all the installation instructions and specifications to the fabricator when they come to template your countertops. Remember, it is difficult (no - impossible) to un-cut a hole........
The sink you choose is the one you will have to live with for quite a while, because all sink cutout dimensions are very unique. Some customers might think about saving some money and going with a drop-in sink, thinking that they will be able to upgrade to an undermount later. Virtually all drop-in sinks have a larger cutout than an undermount - so it is impossible to make the hole smaller later! You can sometimes go from an undermount to a drop-in but not the other way around. But who really wants a drop-in sink when an undermount shows off the granite so beautifully.
There are some new fancy faucets on the market which require more room to operate. If you have a backsplash immediately behind your sink you need to check that your faucet will operate properly without banging your knuckles or hitting the backsplash.