If you want great looking granite countertops for your kitchen, installation is key. You know this right? Poorly matched patterns across a seam, poorly fitting seams that leave a gap and seams that are easily seen by casual observation all detract from the beauty of your countertops. And of course we must not forget; wide seams are unsanitary, collecting mold and bacteria and weaker seams can pop apart if the cabinets or the house begin to settle. That must be a lot to handle.
So, what do we do? Or perhaps a more fitting question is “how do we do it right?”.
We’ve taken the time to ask our experts of the best practices that they can teach DIY homeowners in Clearwater when it comes to granite kitchen countertops installation.
Here’s what they got to say…
“When installing granite kitchen countertops for our customers we take special care to ensure all seams are tight, strong and almost invisible. The keys to achieving this level of craftsmanship are the care and planning that are part of every granite kitchen countertops installation we do. With years of experience, we have mastered the art of creating virtually invisible seams.”
The 7 Secrets of Invisible Seams When Installing Granite Countertops, Here they are…
1. Choosing the Right Stone
Making seams that are invisible to the untrained eye starts right at the beginning, with selecting the stone. The color and unique patterns in natural granite as well as the size of your countertops will influence how easily segments can be matched across the seam.
For color selection of our granite stone, click this link here.
Darker colors of granite make seems more difficult to spot. If you are concerned that seams may be visible then it is worth considering darker colored granite. Absolute black is one of the most popular colors available, in part because of its elegant high-quality look and also because seams are very difficult to see, even in strong light.
A consistent pattern is easier to match across a seam. While a large island with an exotic granite countertop makes a beautiful focal point for your kitchen, if a seam is required it is more difficult to achieve a perfect match. A wavy swirling pattern, called movement, with many embedded seams of contrasting impurities will show a seam between two segments much more easily.
Seams are often inevitable because of the limited size that granite can be quarried. Blocks of granite are cut into slabs by large multi-blade saws called gang saws, so called for having a “gang” of saw blades. The maximum size that most gang saws can accommodate is 9-10 feet long and 4-5 feet high. Slabs are cut on their side with a maximum face dimension of 5 feet by 10 feet. If you want to avoid seams you may want to plan a smaller island or move appliances or cabinets to break up your countertops into shorter sections.
2. Measuring Your Kitchen
Carefully measuring your kitchen is critically important for a professional installation. Creating perfectly fitting segments with a smooth level surface and invisible seams require that we ensure backing walls are straight, corner angles are accurate and cabinets are square and level.
Even if the wall backing your granite countertop is a little wavy you may not be facing a major problem. As long as it is within an acceptable tolerance an uneven wall can be covered with tiles. If you wanted to have a solid granite backsplash this is the time that you can consider your options. Either go ahead with tile on a slightly wavy wall or complete the necessary renovations to have a level wall that can accommodate a solid granite backsplash.
Kitchen cabinets can be uneven because of an uneven floor or out-of-square because of poor construction or installation. We measure and check to see that any existing cabinets are straight and level before collecting detailed measurements for laying out the cuts on the granite slab.
We may recommend that existing cabinets be reinforced to handle the added weight of a granite countertop. If we are also installing your cabinets we ensure that the tops are square and level and cabinets are structurally strong enough to bear the weight of the granite.
Avoiding On-site Fabrication
Having accurate measurements allows us to complete all or most of the fabrication at our facility before delivering it for installation. At our facility, we have specialized tools for shaping, polishing and sealing your stone. We prepare carefully to avoid surprises at the installation site that could require on-site cutting, drilling or grinding of the stone.
3. Placing the Seams
When planning each segment, seams are placed to be both structurally sound and esthetically pleasing. We consider potential weak points, the areas that will be used most often and the appearance of the completed countertop.
To avoid creating weak points in your kitchen countertops, it is important that seams are not placed over dishwashers or other areas where there is no structural support at the seam. Seams should also not be less than 6 inches from the edge of the cutout for the sink. It is possible to center the seam in the middle of the sink cutout which minimizes waste but depending on the color and pattern of the granite may not be suitable.
High Usage Areas
It is wise to avoid areas of high usage when placing seams. Sliding objects and sharp kitchen tools can sometimes work their way into or catch on even the most undetectable seam. Repairing a chip is also more difficult along a seam. We will place seams to avoid areas where food preparation or serving meals would normally be done.
Even when using a dark color it is not recommended to place seams where they are highly visible. Seams directly under pendant lights or lights mounted under cabinets may catch the bright light and refract it slightly differently on one side of the seam compared to the other.
Minimizing the length of the seam also helps to keep it inconspicuous. It may be possible to place seams at the back of the cutout for a slide in range. These seams are difficult to see and also reduce the amount of waste.
If you plan to have a countertop that is longer than the size of one slab, it is best to avoid one long piece of granite followed by a very short one. Two symmetrical pieces with well-matched pattern and color will look much more pleasing.
4. Laying Out the Slab
When laying out the segments to be cut on the granite slab we look at both where the pattern needs to be matched across a seam and how to maximize the stone by minimizing waste from cutting.
Quarried granite is shipped in bundles of 8-10 slabs that are cut from the same block. Each slab is labeled and numbered sequentially so if your countertops require more than one slab we use the adjacent slab to make matching easier. Particularly with exotic granite, we use a technique called book matching where the two pieces to be seamed are cut from the same part of two adjacent slabs. The two pieces are then set to mirror each other across the seam.
Minimizing waste is good for the environment and good for your budget. If the pattern of the slab has a strong direction it may be necessary to waste more stone to achieve a good match across a seam. If the pattern is consistent then we will lay the segments out to maximize the stone.
5. Leveling the Cabinets
Before placing the slab we check and double check that the cabinet tops are flat and level. We fix any small variations or gaps with small shims between the countertop and the cabinets. This not only insures that the seam is even on both sides but also that the countertop is properly supported.
6. Using the Right Adhesive
Polyester resin is used in the final step to secure the segments of granite countertop together. Even though the seam is flat and tight, making it difficult to see, we use colorants to match the resin to the granite so even the smallest seam blends in.
7. Setting the Seam
Granite seam setters are specialized tools used to insure a tight almost invisible seam. They work with manually operated or electric suction cups that grip the granite on each side of the seam and a turnbuckle that draws the two segments together for a tight fit.
What seam setters are not, is a solution for poor planning or shoddy installation. If you live in Clearwater, having someone who knows the secrets of making invisible seams is as simple as calling us.
Secret #8 (A Bonus!)
When it comes to beautiful granite countertops, experts (A.K.A granite countertops installers) don’t always take the time or even understand the importance of many of the steps we take to ensure our seams are done perfectly. When we install your granite kitchen countertops the only thing you will see is their timeless beauty. Knowing we understand and always take the time to make sure your countertops are professionally installed is the only secret you need to know.