Posted by: pdxgraniteguy | May 20, 2009

Granite vs. Quartz – How they are “made”

In completing this 3-post explanation of the differences between granite and quartz slab, I must mention that my wife and I have had both products in our kitchens over the years and I can recommend them both enthusiastically.

Now to how Granite and Quartz slabs are “made” -

Granite is quarried, literally cut out of the earth, into giant blocks about the size and proportion of a small dump truck turned on its side.  The blocks are then cut into slabs, much like a loaf of bread.  From there the slabs are run through giant machines that actually shave each slab down to the desired thickness and polish the surface. 

Next the slabs are inspected, crated, and shipped to “Importers” like Elemar and Oregon Tile and Marble who then sell the slabs to customers and their fabricator.  An interesting fact: almost all the granite slabs you will see are imported from around the world.

Quartz slabs are made up of two materials – mined quartz crystals and colored resin.   At the factory a combination of 90% quartz crystals and 10% liquefied resin (binding agent) are mixed in a large vat then poured into a slab sized form.  From there, a gigantic machine compresses the slab, forcing the resin into every microscopic void, making it essentially “non-porous”.  Shortly following this compacting, the slabs are “cured” in a giant oven then staged to cool.

At this point, the unfinished slabs are put through machines, similar to those used for granite, to be polished.  Finally, the slabs are crated and shipped to the distributor.

In summary, I would like to describe the differences between the two products by comparing them to different professions and the personalities that gravitate towards them.   Entrepreneurs, sales people, and designers are like granite – unique, on the move, and prone to wild fluctuations.  Engineers, accountants, and attorneys are like quartz – consistent, steady, and technical to scientific specificity.

While this is a sweeping generalization, a subjective evaluation of what these professionals prefer, does tend to support it.

If you’d like more info or to disagree with this last point, I’d love the discussion or the debate.  Just send me your comments!

Aaron J Crowley – PDXGraniteGuy

Posted by: pdxgraniteguy | May 14, 2009

Granite vs. Quartz – Asthetics

To follow up on the previous post about the differences between Granite  and Quartz, let me say that the asthetic differneces are probably the most profound differnces between the two products.

GRANITE

With Granite there are literally hundreds of color selection and an increasing number of textures (finish on the surface of the slab) available.  

 The spectrum of colors runs from tight-grained consistency to EXOTIC variation and contrast.  And because Granite is natural, every color is constangly changing (sometimes only slightly and sometimes wildly), providing an ever evolving and expanding selection to choose from.

This variation in the stone provides an expanding number of finishes too.  Polished slabs, honed slabs, and textured (also called antiqued or leathered) slabs are currently popular.

A polished finish provides maximum durability.  The polish is highly reflective and it accentuates the colors inherent in the stone.   Almost all slabs available in Portland are polished.

A honed finish is similar to a “matte” finish.  The color and variation in the stone is muted (but still visible depending on the particular granite) and the reflection will be minimal.  Honed slabs available from suppliers are limited, with the most common being “Honed Absolute Black”.   But most fabricators can “hone” a polished slab upon request for a fee.  We charge $500/slab to hone.  Often, honed finishes are requested for more conteporary designs.

Textured finishes are relatively new.  The finish is achieved by using diamond coated bristles instead of polishing wheels.  The extent of texture depends on the consistancy of the granite and the combination of hard and soft spots in the slab.

QUARTZ

Quartz too has a large selection of colors, but more because of the competing companies who manufacture it.  The 5 most prominant Quartz brands: Ceasarstone, Hanstone, LG Viatera, Silestone, & Zodiaq each offer 25-35 colors that vary from the ultra contemporary (Neon Lime to Bright Orange) to selections that resemble actual granites.

Quarz as a whole is consistant, meaning there will be very little variation in the color or “pattern” within a slab.

As to the available textures, Quartz is like granite in that teh Polished finish is the most popular.  Each quartz manufacturer will carry a limited selection of honed colors, and to my knowledge Ceasarstone is the only manufacturer to carry a textured slab.  It is called Basalt-Textured.

In terms of the overall appearance, both products will have a stunning affect on any project as long as the counters both contrast and compliment the cabinetry. 

My wife and I have had both granite and quartz slab in our homes and I’d be happy to share our experience with either if it would be of value.  Just ask away!

Aaron J Crowley – PDXGraniteGuy

Posted by: pdxgraniteguy | May 14, 2009

Granite vs. Quartz – Functionality

My sales staff here at Crowley’s Granite Concepts gets this question all the time -

“What’s the difference between granite and quartz?”

We’ve found it best to answere the question within the context of the following 3 categories.

1. Functionality 2. Asthetics 3. How the products are created

I’ll discuss the functionality in this post and Asthetics and How the products are created at a later date.

Functionality: the following factors relate to the differences in functionality

Scratches – In a kitchen application both products are extrodinarily durable, but as to the differences, I would describe Granite as scratch “PROOF” and Quartz as scratch “RESISTANT”.

Heat – Like scratches, the differences between the products are measured in degrees. Granite can withstand the HOTTEST pot, dish, crock-pot, or griddle without concern. Quartz is different in that the sustained heat of an uninsulated crock-pot or griddle WILL cause it to warp, crack, or discolor. As to hot dishes off the stove or out of the oven though, Quartz seems to do just fine.

Maintenance – Granite requires slightly more maintenance because it should be sealed periodically (yearly) to resist stains. Quartz on the other hand doesn’t need to be sealed…ever. This fact seems to be the biggest factor when customers choose quartz over granite. Recently, with the advent of more advanced sealers, it is possible to purchase products that will seal granite for 15 years and provide written warranties from the manufacturer.

This is a big topic and on one I am more than willing to discuss further if you would like. Just send me a question in the comments box and I’ll get back to you shortly!

Aaron J Crowley – PDXGraniteGuy

Posted by: pdxgraniteguy | May 12, 2009

Shop & Compare – But Beware

These days, if you’re shopping for granite counter tops, you know it’s a great time to buy and you’re probably doing lots of research and comparing competitive quotes.

As you shop, keep this in mind: comparing granite counter top companies is more complicated than it is with most other products.

With a gas range for example the appliance is built by a manufacture to very stringent codes and specifications, then sold through a network of retailers. The retailers promote, display, and sell the appliance, and the manufacture backs it up.

This makes it easy to “shop” for the best price on the range and to compare apples to apples because regardless of the retailer, the product is the same. It is built by the same company on the same assembly line with the same warranty.

With granite slab counter tops, its different for 2 reasons.

First, each “retailer” is also the manufacturer (fabricator), which makes it difficult to compare the finished product and the overall experience you will have from one company to another.

Second, while the Marble Institute of America (http://www.marble-institute.com/) sets quality standards for the industry, there is little oversight and almost zero enforcement.

As a result, “quality” is defined by the fabricator, and you the consumer, have very little recourse if you’re not happy with the work, aside from the fabricator’s good will.

I suggest you follow these 2 simple rules when comparing quotes:

1. Check their online reviews – Angie’s List (http://www.angieslist.com/) is the most comprehensive service available.

2. Ask each fabricator the same questions and document their answers- This way you can make a more objective and less emotional decision. (Price is emotional)

Below is the list of 7 questions we suggest our customers ask other fabricators when they set out to get competitive quotes.

1. Do you use a digital measuring system to template the counters?

2. Will you measure over existing counter tops and guarantee accuracy?

3. What is your turn around time from template to install?

4. Will you schedule a carpenter to remove and dispose of my existing counters?

5. Will you coordinate the disconnection and reconnection of my appliances with a liscenced plumber?

6. Can I view the layout of the templates on my slabs before they are cut?

7. Will you use CNC technology to accurately manufacture my counters?

I am happy to explain the reason behind these question in greater detail if you would find it helpful. Just let me know.

Have a great week shopping!

Aaron J Crowley – PDXGraniteGuy

Posted by: pdxgraniteguy | May 6, 2009

Granite Counters & Stains

Potential clients ask us regularly if granite can stain.

The simple answer is yes…it can, but stains are actually quite rare.

When granite slab counters are sealed properly (and a good fabricator will seal the counters they install as a standard practice) the pores are effectively closed, keeping red wine, oils, and other liquids from penetrating the stone and altering its appearance.

Not that we’re keeping track with scientific accuracy, but we only receive one or two calls a year from customers who have stained their counters.   That’s pretty good considering we install around 350 kitchens a year.

Why did those one or two stain in the first place???  Its hard to say conclusively.  Maybe our installer missed a spot.  Maybe the stone was unusually porous and needed a second application.

But…the larger question in those instances is whether the stone was permanently damaged.  The answer is a resounding NO!

Stains are almost always just below the surface and easy to remove with standard poultices.

In reality, stains are a fear tactic used by competing products such as quartz (engineered stone like Cambria & Silestone) & solid surface (Corian) and should not be a factor in your decision to buy granite slab counters.

If you have questions about this topic or if you have a stain in your granite that you’d like to remove, let me know.  I’d like to help you out.

Aaron J Crowley – PDXGraniteGuy

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