Granite countertops are one of the hottest kitchen countertop options because of their elegant beauty and practical utility. Now with better sealants available, there is less TLC required to keep granite kitchen counters free of stains and looking fabulous.
This granite countertop buying guide will help you decide if granite is in your future. Use the information here to:
- Research the features of granite countertops
- Evaluate the pros & cons of granite countertops
- See granite countertop costs per square foot
- Compare granite to more than a dozen other countertop materials covered in our countertop buying guides
Introduction to Granite Countertops
Granite is one of several natural stone materials used for countertops, and it has an interesting backstory. The material is formed from molten rock that has cooled and crystallized in the earth’s crust between layers of existing rock structures. As an igneous stone with large crystals, the surface of granite is naturally quite rough. However, when ground and polished, the result is a smooth-as-glass surface that sparkles with rich, lustrous depth.
The veining in granite is the result of minerals such as mica (brown in color), feldspar (rosy pink) and quartz (pink, black and white varieties) combined with the molten material.
The richer the veining is, the more attractive the granite is considered to be. Granite countertop slabs and tiles with heavy veining are sold for premium prices.
Granite Countertops Wear and Durability
Granite is quite dense and therefore very hard, rated 6-7 on the Mohs Hardness Scale. For comparison, diamond is a 10 while marble and limestone are both 3-4. The result is a countertop material that resists scratches and chips quite well and is resistant to heat.
Take a look at Mohs scale of mineral hardness for more information on this.
Be sure to compare these granite countertop pros and cons with those for other materials covered in our Countertop Guides.
Granite Countertop Pros – Granite:
- Enhances any kitchen with its elegant beauty
- Complements the good looks of quality cabinetry, backsplash and flooring
- Is among the most durable kitchen counter options
- Resists stains, won’t harbor bacteria and cleans up without hassle when sealed properly
- Is available in more than 20 colors, and each has its own unique veining patterns and shades
- Mining and fabrication techniques are easy on the environment
- Offers excellent heat resistance to hot pans, hair tools and grease spatters
- Comes in a range of material options from affordable tiles to premium slabs
- Is fabricated in 2cm and 3cm thicknesses
- Edges can be bevelled in many different styles
Granite Countertop Cons – Granite:
- Is susceptible to chips when heavy, pointed objects fall onto it
- Can be stained easily when not properly sealed
- Must be resealed at least every 8-15 years, more often with heavy use and cleaning
- Is available in fewer colors and styles than other materials including tile, solid surface, concrete and laminate
- Is more expensive than less durable countertop materials, and the more costly the granite countertops are, the lower their return on investment will be if you sell your home
Food Preparation on Granite Countertops
Granite slabs and tile provide an outstanding surface for food preparation when properly sealed. Your granite kitchen countertop slabs or tiles will likely be sealed at the factory. Better sealants have been formulated in recent years, so the seal on granite installed today lasts up to 15 years, though most countertop contractors suggest resealing them more often.
When the seal on granite fails, the porous granite stone can absorb bacteria and be easily stained. Seal failure is the result of:
- Being improperly applied
- Aggressive cleaning with harsh chemicals
- Breaks in the sealant caused by knife cuts or chips
- Too much time between sealing
While granite countertops are extremely hard, it still makes sense to use a cutting board during food preparation. First, granite will dull your knives. Secondly, a sharp knife might cut or scratch the seal on the granite, creating an opening for liquid to seep into the granite and stain it.
Talk with your countertop contractor about keeping a secure seal on the material.
Granite Countertops Styles
Granite is very versatile from a design perspective. Its beauty and practical benefits enhance contemporary, modern, classical, Old World, traditional, Tudor and Victorian kitchens around the world.
When it comes to granite countertop prices, we need to consider both slabs and granite tiles. Slabs fall in the moderate to expensive range while tiles are basic to moderate in cost.
- Cost of granite slabs: $32-$150 per square foot. The majority of granite slab is found in the $45-$100/sq. ft. range for the material. The most expensive granite slabs have features that set them apart such as being larger to minimize seams, containing extraordinary veining or having very high strength and composition grading.
- Cost of granite tiles: The price spectrum is $8-$50 per square foot, reflecting both the cheapest and most costly tile. Most granite tile is priced in the $14-$30/sq. ft. range.
Granite countertop installation costs: While granite slabs cost more per square foot than tiles for the material, they cost less to install. Expect estimates of $5 to $8 per square foot for the installation of a granite slab countertop. Granite tile countertops are labor-intensive, as each tile must be placed and grouted. Tile countertop installation prices are $10-$16 per square foot.
As you consider your total kitchen remodeling budget, refer to our Kitchen Remodeling Cost Guide. You’ll find prices for every major component of the project including countertops, cabinets, flooring, sinks, faucets and much more. Basic, moderate and expensive price spectrums are included.
Are Granite Countertops Right for You?
Granite kitchen countertops appeal to those who:
- Desire elegant beauty that enhances the value of their home
- Prefer natural stone to wood or to engineered materials such as quartz, ceramic tile or solid surface
- Are willing to maintain the countertop seal in good condition
- Love to cook, so need a heat-resistant countertop
- Will spend more to get a countertop that will last 25+ years
If you relate to these factors, then you’ll love what granite counters do for your home!
FAQ for Granite Countertops
Here’s a brief list of the most commonly asked questions about granite countertops and their answers.
Where is granite quarried?
Granite is found in the earth’s crust throughout the world, and it has been mined for thousands of years. Among the many locations where granite is quarried in North America are Quebec, Manitoba, Massachusetts, Vermont, Maine, North Carolina, Georgia, Minnesota, South Dakota and Texas. It is widely mined in Europe, Africa and Asia too and granite from those continents is imported to the US.
What granite colors are available?
Granite is available in these colors with many shades and variations in each:
What finish options are offered?
These are the most common finishes in their order of popularity:
- Polished: Smooth, bright and shiny
- Honed: Smooth with less shine/glare
- Brushed: Also known as antique, gives an aged look
- Flamed: Used to texture granite for industrial finishes
How are granite countertops cleaned?
See our Granite Countertop Maintenance and Care Guide for complete details. In general, a properly sealed countertop can be cleaned with a damp cloth or with a mild cleanser formulated specifically for granite.
How long do granite kitchen countertops last?
With proper care, granite lasts indefinitely. You can certainly expect granite to look great for decades when installed, sealed and cleaned as recommended.
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