21 November 2010

Autumn re-runs: Reader questions --Thorny dilemmas on stony subjects

I love it when people write to me with questions. Really. Back in the old days, it happened so infrequently that I made a blog post out of nearly every one. I don't have the room for that any more but I do reserve the right to make a post out of any question I can answer that makes me look clever of funny. Preferably both. My personal responses are always a lot kinder than what ends up in the blog, I promise. Also, I will always disguise the identity of a someone who asks me something. Here are some from last year. This post ran originally on 4 October 2009.

Help! We're getting our new granite on Monday hopefully and I'm sure they will tell us how to clean??....but was wondering how you clean your granite. I sure don't want to damage it.

Thanks in advance.
Hey, thanks for your question and congrats on your new addition. Granite is exceptionally easy to live with, despite the nonsense you may see and hear about it. You don't need any special cleaners for it, really. The easiest way to keep it looking good is to clean it with soap and water, rinse it and then dry it. You don't need to scrub it, treat it, buy special cleaners or give it any kind of kid glove treatment. Your fabricator will sell you on an annual resealing package and that's fine if it will give you peace of mind. However, in ten years of dealing with granite counters, I have never once seen anyone stain it or wear down the seal that's already on it when it's installed. The only way you can damage that counter is if you do it on purpose with a hammer. I'm sure there are anecdotes out there about so-and-so's neighbor's cousin's sister-in-law reading something on the internet about some nightmare stained granite incident, but I've never come across one first hand.

Help! My hairdresser told me yesterday about veneer granite transforming her daughter's kitchen... do you know anything about it? cost? installation?

Those granite and composite veneer overlay counters are generally supplied by an outfit called Granite Transformations. Granite Transformations is an international franchise that employs some of the most heavy-handed and shrill sales tactics I've ever come across. That alone makes me wonder about them. Even if the finished product didn't look cheesy (and this finished product looks cheesy), I question anybody whose marketing message consists of slamming their competitors rather than extolling their own benefits. Their latest tactic seems to be touting their "green" credentials. I may be alone in this, but to me that's another red flag. In a world where polyethylene grocery bags and Mylar juice boxes are somehow green, I'd say that's a meaningless descriptor. Proceed with caution. My advice? Go to a reputable counter fabricator that sells a number of materials and see what they can do with your budget.

Help! I can't pick up a home or kitchen magazine without seeing white marble counters. Yet for our complete kitchen renovation, I've gotten total NO! gasps when I share we want marble on the island. Folks tell me Marble is for those who don't cook.

We want a sophisticated library look -the cabinets are mahogany with Jacobean stain, cabinets to the ceiling with white crown molding and we'd love white marble counters.

Do you have experience with white marble counters? The kitchen is 30x15 so the investment is great and I don't want to buy something that cannot withstand children, entertaining and years.
Have you never read my blog before? White marble counters (honed please) are my all-time favorite material, to hell with its detractors. Click on the word countertops in my glossary to the right and you'll be treated to 45 articles I've written on counters. About half of them are devoted to singing songs of praise to white marble. your kitchen sounds beautiful, send me a photo when it's done.

Marble is not high maintenance, but marble is also impossible to to keep looking pristine. If you have an obsessive personality, marble is not your material. Find a white quartzite instead. It will keep a glossy shine and repel damage almost as well as granite will. But if you like the idea of your life leaving a mark on things, then marble is for you. Trust me, white marble will scratch and stain and get more and more beautiful with each passing year. It's marble's nature and there's nothing you can do to counteract it completely.

Just about every horizontal surface in Southern Europe, indoors and out, is made from white marble. Most of it is hundreds of years old. It looks spectacular and is but one of the many ways that the people of Southern Europe get tied to their surroundings. Think about it. If five generations of your family lived in the same home and the matriarch of each generation chopped vegetables in the same spot on the same marble counter, each of those women left a physical mark on that counter. Every time you walked into that kitchen and looked at that counter, you would have an instant reminder of the women who proceeded you to that spot. Wow. Far from detracting from the beauty of the surface, that kind of history and character is the ultimate enhancement. Having white marble in your own home is an opportunity to capture some of that history and character for yourself and for your family.

You keep hearing an emphatic NO! because you haven't spoken with me. I say go for it!

Help! I’m sitting here crying because I’ve looked at so much granite that I want to give up. I’m trying to brighten my kitchen up so I put in Biscotti colored cabinets (already installed 3 weeks ago) to go with a new countertop and flooring (waiting for granite color before picking tile color). I have mainly white appliances. New range top is black and the top section of the dishwasher is black. Other than that it’s all white. My small appliances are black. (Toaster, coffee pot, can opener.) The wall color can be changed to whatever. My dining room table and chairs are light oak.

I’ve run the gamut from light to medium to dark granite and now I’m back to light. I’m ready to give up completely and put the old countertop back in which was wood block.

Hey, chin up. You're fortunate to have a life where you have choices. Having too many choices is a symptom of a life of plenty and certainly nothing to shed tears over. Too many choices can also be intimidating and overwhelming and it sounds like your stuck on overwhelmed. I have no idea what the color "Biscotti" is without knowing who the manufacturer was and I'm not even going to try to make a recommendation. What I do recommend strongly though is that you find the most reputable granite fabricator in your area and give them a call. Please note that this will not be in a big box store. Set an appointment and then take one of your cabinet doors over to the fabricator and look at granite slabs in their yard. You cannot pick a granite counter from small samples. Run away from anyone who tries to tell you otherwise.

I would never turn someone loose with all the options available, it's too much to process. Instead, I do pre-selections for my clients. I talk to them, find out where their interests are and then show them three options rather than 150. If they don't like any of the first set of three, then I show them a second set of three and sometimes a third set.

You need someone to do something similar to that for you in a granite yard. Talk to a salesperson before you go look at slabs. Tell him or her the primary colors you're interested in and then be honest about your budget. Let the salesperson guide you through their slab room. A reputable fabricator will have a good cross section of what's available, so pick something from what you see that day. Just breathe and know that based on your budget and the other colors you're using in your renovation, the right granite will end up picking you. So get out of the way and let it.


  1. Paul, great post!

    I especially like your comments about white marble. I'm with you all the way. We live in an antiseptic world so much so that people are afraid to live their life in their homes. I say live it and leave your marks behind. Stone is a material that can last centuries.

    Love your following comment..."Every time you walked into that kitchen and looked at that counter, you would have an instant reminder of the women who proceeded you to that spot. Wow. Far from detracting from the beauty of the surface, that kind of history and character is the ultimate enhancement."

    Now that's living!

    Ed Rappold

  2. Thanks for checking in Ed. Defending natural stone is one of my passions. There are times when something other than natural stone are called for, but nine times out of ten the manufacturers of those materials do such a thorough job of confusing the issue and spreading misinformation that I feel compelled to chime in any time I get the opportunity.

  3. Granite Transformations makes me want to tear off my own leg and beat myself with it. I can't believe their scare tactics! Also, I can't believe how expensive that crap...err I mean stuff is.

    All in all great post as always. I think people believe designers outside of the stone industry more than those in it. So it's great when someone like you tells the truth.

  4. Thanks Steph, that's high praise indeed. I think you're right too. Because of that, I always make it a point to correct wrongs when I see them.

  5. Great post. We will defend natural stone with you any day! http://www.cumar.com/

  6. Thanks! Stone industry people are embraced and celebrated around here. Welcome aboard.

  7. Even if white marble wasn't great for "cooking".. it's certainly wonderful for baking! I think that people get so caught up in the concept of something looking *worn* they they lose sight of the idea that things in your home SHOULD be useful. I couldn't live somewhere that was completely pristine, I'd be scared to mark anything up from actual use.

  8. We're two peas in a pod Nim. I want to leave a mark on the things I own.

  9. In response to the above post regarding Granite Transformations and concerns about the products they install, Granite Transformations offers many countertop options in its Trend Stone and Trend Glass product lines, both products from Trend Group USA. Trend Stone’s granite countertops are made with a combination of the finest granite, stone and quartz and have a variety of benefits that outweigh those of ordinary granite. Here is a look of the technical data that shows the difference between ordinary granite and Trend Stone. http://www.granitetransformations.com/products/granite-countertops/technical-data/

    Also, in regards to the Green Credentials, many of the Trend USA products that Granite Transformations carries are LEED and Greenguard Certified and our Trend Glass countertop product contains up to 72 percent post-consumer recycled material. For more information about Trend’s green information, visit http://www.trendingreen.com/en-us/.


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