Shopping for counter tops was also a labor of love and quite surprising. The bargain shopper in me wanted to find a good deal, but the reality set in as I realized that the price for stone is the price for stone. Bummer!
The same type of granite or marble was roughly the same price everywhere nearby even when factoring in the cost to fabricate and install it. You may have saved a few bucks here on this type of granite, but you’ll spend those few bucks more on marble there. Pricing also depended on the options available. For example, one company may have black absolute as a tier 1 granite (the least expensive) because they can stock it, but another company might have it as a tier 2. The process started with seeing what each fabricator has in stock at their own stone yard or what they keep in stock as a standard, you can check out their remnant pile and then if those options don’t work you can go to a wholesale warehouse like Triton Stone to search through hundreds of slabs of stone to find your perfect one. Sounds like my kind of fun!! All while keeping in mind that most of these businesses keep limited hours beyond the workday, so we were often scrambling to get up Saturday morning to make it before closing time. Ugh and Saturday morning is when I just wanna lounge around in my PJ’s!!! Who’s with me?!?
Because we were doing an entire kitchen, the remnant pieces didn’t work for us since they are all going to be small pieces of what’s left from cutting a kitchen or bathroom or whatever for someone else from a whole slab, so you are limited to the colors available at the time you are looking and to what they can cut a run for you out of. We wanted at least our perimeter pieces to match, so it just didn’t work out for us, sadly. This might be a good option if you are doing a small bathroom or fireplace hearth or if you have a small kitchen.
We also never made it to Triton Stone because we found what we were looking for in stock at one of the fabricators. However, the scary part of going to a wholesaler is that they don’t list the prices of slabs. You mark down which ones you like and they send the price to your fabricator of choice for them to quote for you. So the one you fall in love with could be $40 per square foot or it could be $400 per square foot. Knowing me and my taste, I’d end up picking the most expensive slab of stone possible and then being disappointed when it was not in our budget. Talk about a buzz kill.
You may recall from our inspiration post that we were looking for a white or white, black, grey kitchen with clean, simple colors. I am in love with marble, but know all of the concerns that come along with it, so we were afraid to put it in the entire kitchen. The instant we even mentioned the word marble in association with a kitchen, you could see the fear and panic in the eyes of the salesperson! Well, except Denise at Kitchen Sales, surprisingly she didn’t balk at the idea, but did have one great idea. She suggested using honed instead of polished marble. I thought honed was more susceptible to stains (and it is – but DuPont has a lifetime guaranteed sealer now that prevents any staining), but scratches and etch marks that are inevitable will be far less visible on a honed piece of marble than a polished piece since the acid is eating away at the top layer – think of it as taking a sander to it – so if it’s already honed then it won’t be as obvious. I had seen a lot of honed granite and marble on Houzz and pinterest, but never thought about why it might be beneficial. I just thought it was a trend – but actually the honed look is also more traditional and classic.
We were hoping to find a white granite with smaller, simpler (less busy) veining to do in the whole kitchen in place of the marble or possibly a simple black stone we liked with just a marble island. I had also read that quartzite, a natural stone similar to granite, might be a good substitute for marble due to it’s colors and simple veining. However, it is much harder to find, at least here in East Tennessee, and potentially quite a bit more expensive. Another alternative that was mentioned to us for marble was quartz, a manufactured stone, which is made by several different brands like Ceasarstone and Cambria. The Cambria Torquay was actually used by 7th House on the Left in their kitchen remodel, which I absolutely love and had even asked them about their KraftMaid cabinets at one point in my research. But we just couldn’t fall in love with the manufactured stone like we did the natural stones, so couldn’t justify spending even more money on something we didn’t love because for us the Quartz was about $1,000 more overall. Quartz is a great product though because it doesn’t scratch, etch, stain and it is heat resistant like granite, but you never have to seal it. Also, Cambria offers great financing at a low interest rate that could cover the cost of your entire project – you just have to use Cambria quartz somewhere – even in the bathroom.
As I said, price is the price is the price is the price, so what it really comes down to is the experience you get with the service and how well they do the install and cut seams. We’d seen work from most of the above listed companies and felt good about the install with all of them. Seams looked clean and unnoticeable. So we visited them or communicated with each of them to see if price truly was the same and to weigh the customer service experience at each. We also needed to confirm if they stocked the stones we were interested in at all and at what price point (level) they sold them or if we could rule one out based on that factor.
White’s Marble is in Sweetwater, so we called them first rather than driving out there. Their quote broke everything down for you, which was nice in a way, but also made me feel like I was being nickeled and dimed to death, BUT they had the best price per square foot for white carrara marble. However, their Tier 1 category of granite did not include anything we were interested in putting in our kitchen, so we were able to rule them out based on the potential cost of granite.
EMCO Williams carries specific slabs in stock and then their stock yard for other more non-standard slabs is in Sevierville. We never made it there because they never did send us a quote, but their standard granite did include some nice white possibilities like Bianco Romano. They don’t charge for a full slab either if you choose one of their standard granite stones, but only for what you use.
Smoky Mountain Tops also carries specific slabs in stock, but anything they don’t carry has to come from Triton. They did carry Black Absolute at a Tier 1 level, but any marble would need to come from Triton or another wholesale warehouse. The experience we had at Smoky Mountains was not very pleasant though. We took the time to go to their shop one day to speak with them, see what they carried in stock and hoped to get a quote. We went with measurements in hand too. However, the salesman seemed uninterested in taking the time to help us as if we were wasting his time – maybe he didn’t take us seriously because we look young? Who knows, but he lost a big sale with how he treated us. He didn’t offer to type up a quote for us then, but rather said to email him the measurements and he’d get back to us. So I did and when I got his quote, his square footage amounts were much higher than anyone else – he had actually accounted for square footage where the stove and sink would be and not counter tops. So I questioned him on it and he basically told me I was wrong in a way that was not customer friendly. He had also slammed his competition to us the day we went to their shop, which I thought was unprofessional and distasteful. To say we took our business elsewhere is pretty much an understatement.
Rocky Tops was our last stop and most enjoyable experience. We walked into their shop and the owner handed us a clipboard with a sheet of all of their slabs listed so we could note the ones we liked; he explained quickly how everything was set up and then set us free to just look through all of their stone in stock. We browsed through the stone yard (which is inside) until we’d seen everything and had marked what we liked for them to price. We gave them our measurements and then a few days later they emailed us a quote for everything as we had asked. We found we both liked black absolute polished, black pearl honed, bianco romano, bianco gita and of course, white carrara marble.
We had them price the two black granites for the perimeter only with carrara marble for the island and then also the two bianco granites for the entire kitchen. They were two simple, white granites that we both liked, but were still afraid they had too much brown and red in them.
Bianco Romano and Bianco Gita were higher tiered granites, so they ended up being more expensive and we weren’t quite sure about them to get the look we wanted anyway, so we quickly ruled them out. We narrowed it down to a black granite on the perimeter and definitely carrara marble on the island. We both loved it too much to rule it out and decided we could live with the “issues’ or imperfections of marble. We would seal it with the extra DuPont lifetime guaranteed sealer to prevent ANY stains and would take extra care with acidic ingredients.
We just had to decide which black granite we liked better and would look best with white carrara. We had also decided to go with honed carrara marble based on the recommendations. With that decision, a honed granite paired better with the honed marble – the same finish on each just looked the best. Since we didn’t like the look of the black absolute granite in the honed finish – it looked too even, too manufactured – that narrowed our decision down to black pearl honed.
So we had another decision made! Black pearl honed and white carrara marble honed for the counter tops!
Rocky Tops had 6 edge choices that were included in their pricing. Since we were keeping everything else so simple and clean looking, we decided that the best option was just the flat polish (also known as an eased edge) where they soften the edge and just polish it down.
This image was from thekitchn.com. She has a helpful post on the different edge profiles. I needed all the help I could get because I felt a little lost on deciding on edges and overhangs.
We also ended up going with a shallow depth overhang of 3/4″. Rocky Tops standard was 1.5″, but that felt too bulky with recessed cabinets in my opinion. In the end, I was really glad we slimmed it down a bit.
The entire process start to finish from getting quotes to putting a deposit down took about 8 weeks, but that’s partly because we shopped around at a few different fabricators. Probably would have only taken 2-3 weeks tops if we had just gone to one company to look at stone and put our deposit down rather than waiting on quotes back from several. However, I would not suggest waiting until the last minute to make decisions on counter tops since they are key design element, you’ll want to get the process started early enough to help you decide on paint or stain colors for the cabinets, finishes for hardware, etc. It also helps to pay the deposit early to get you in line quicker when it is time to template and cut the stone.
One final step just before fabrication started was to pick out our actual slab of marble. We did this as soon as he came to template, but probably could have done it sooner.
So here she is:
To get the exact size, shape and measurements, the stone company will come out to make a template. Once the cabinets are in place, they come out and lay skin strips or thin plywood where the counter tops will sit. They tack those together to create the template that is used to cut your counter top out of the stone slab. You can ask to have a template layout done prior to the fabrication so you get to decide what section of the slab is used – this is helpful if you choose a stone that is varied in veining. For us, we just told them which side of our marble slab to cut from – I said bottom up and to use the left side because we wanted that gorgeous grey vein to be a statement in our island. For the black pearl honed, we didn’t need to do that since it is a very consistent stone.
We’ll discuss more about counter tops when we get to the install though – there was a pretty major hiccup with the black pearl granite. Seems you can’t have a kitchen remodel that is totally smooth sailing and things were going way to smoothly for comfort.