Resources

Countertop Buying Guide

We believe that knowing what to expect is an important part of building a good business relationship. At Fairfax Marble and Granite Countertops in VA we are committed to customer education and the philosophy of “no surprises.”Fairfax Marble pledges to help with any issues you might have even after installation of your granite countertops. We serve all around northern VA from Leesburg VA to Gainesville, from Alexandria to Mclean. We are always here to help whether you are looking to get new kitchen countertops, or bathroom vanity tops.

This Guide is intended to help you understand the myriad of issues when buying natural and engineered stone surfacing. It is not exhaustive but you may find it exhausting reading because there are so many questions, choices, and options. It is also helpful to visit the FAQ section on our website. Quartz Countertops have their own characteristics. We tried to provide information for each different quartz brand separately; Silestone, Caesarstone, Cambria, Zodiaq

Choosing Material: Natural Stones

Natural Stones

Granite

Granite is a natural stone that has many great characteristics; Durability, Strength, Uniqueness, and Elegance. It is also Strong, Hard and one of the oldest stones ever used. You can use granite stone in many different and versatile ways; a simple look for a small house or a high class look for an elite home. It all depends on its use and technique.

Granite is a Latin word that means “grained” because it is filled with many small and large grains of crystals. In Industry and Scientific terms granite is classified in different ways.

Marble

Marble is another natural stone gifted with beauty and perfection; and because of these trait marble has been used in many old temples, palaces, and for statues. And now, in today’s modern world it is used for countertops, fireplaces, Shower surrounds, sinks, floorings, and vanities. This just proves marble is timeless beauty and usage.

Marble is a calcareous stone consisting of the mineral Calcite; it is also very reactive to the acids found in vinegar, lemons, and orange juice. Marble is a lot softer than granite, but not as soft as soapstone. Marble can be used in a variety of ways as well, depending on the finished look that’s desired.

Quartzite

Quartzite is a metamorphic rock that is created when sandstone and quartz undergoes extreme heat and pressure caused by tectonic plate movement in the earth’s crust; that is why quartzite is such a durable stone, like granite.

Natural quartzite has the look of marble but acts like granite in durability. Although in some cases quartzite can have the tendency to etch the same way as marble does.

The colors of natural quartzite are generally white or gray with hints of brown and black. Occasionally you can find a colored natural quartzite if the rock from which the natural quartzite was cut has some impurities that impacted the color. For instance, iron oxide creates pink or red hues and other minerals add hints of blue, yellow, or green.
The veining in the stone varies from slab to slab. No two slabs are exactly the same. It gives your kitchen or bathroom a customized and elegant look that’s always high-end.

Limestone

Limestone is different from the other two natural stones discussed; where granite and marble show beauty and elegance, limestone depicts calmness and serenity. Limestone can be used in an efficient way to depict its natural beauty and calmness

Just like marble, limestone also reacts strongly with the acids found in vinegar, wine, and lemons. Limestone varies differently based on porosity, hardness, and density. Limestone is used for kitchen islands, vanities, and countertops. Limestone is generally consists of lighter colors; light creams, smoky gray, smoky blue, yellow to pink pastel shades are also available.

Travertine

Travertine is a soft and delicate stone as far as appearance goes. Travertine is a form of limestone and hence is a calcareous stone. And because of this nature, it is also very reactive to acids found in lemon, alcohol, and vinegar.

Travertine can be used for countertops but it is not recommended because it could become easily scratched due to the softness of the stone. Instead it can be used for backsplashes, sinks, floors, fireplace surrounds, tables and smaller places; small places because this stone has an ability of making small places look more spacious and airy.

Soapstone

Soapstone, as the name suggests, is soft and warm in nature and has been used in homes for centuries. If you ever decide on using soapstone as a countertop do not ever cut it because that can leave a mark or scratch on the stone. Soapstone will last many lifetimes if you handle it with delicacy and care.

Choosing Material: Engineered Stones

Engineered Stones (Quartz)

Quartz

Compared to other natural stones, man-made stones or engineered stones are becoming increasingly popular in households. These stones are also known as Green Products. Quartz is the most common stone that is found in the form of mineral in the earth’s s surface. It is present in every different geographical environment, and in different types of colors and other variants.

Quartz is an easy answer for those people who love the look of natural stones like granite but are still concerned about other drawbacks. Because quartz is an engineered stone it is almost uniform in the department of colors, textures, and patterns.

Manufacturing Process

The manufacturing process uses the raw form of Quartz crystals ranging from the size of coarse grains to rock salt. After grounding and selecting the Quartz, its crystals are then combined with bonding agents and color. At the end, the matter is heated to form an impenetrable surface. This manufacturing process is done under a controlled environment and because of this, it ensures the maintenance of quality that might not be possible and available for natural countertops.

Qualities

Because they are man-made and engineered, these stones are the most durable.Man-made stones can be fabricated in large sheets, and require no maintenance because they are non-porous. Their impervious surface provides them with the resistance against bacteria and stains.

Usage

Engineered stone products can easily be used for vanities, backsplashes, wet bars, tub/shower surrounds, and many other surfaces around your home.

Color and Appearance

The appearance of Quartz can vary based on the size and mix of the granules used when manufacturing. Quartz surface can be available in many colors that are do not exist in natural stones. So you should take advantage of this trait and select any unique color for your desired product. Another interesting fact of engineered stones is that some manufacturers can give them the form and appearance of other natural stones like marble, travertine, and concrete etc.

The seams in the case of engineered stones are visible but are less noticeable than a granite seam; where the seam can or may show changes in pattern and shade.

Integrated sinks, as with solid surfaces, are also available in Quartz countertops. There are different products offered by Quartz manufacturers depending on the variety of colors and finishes, such as;

Caesarstone (Caesarstone.com)

Cambria (cambriausa.com)

Silestone (Silestone.com)

Zodiaq (Zodiaq.com)

Choosing Color

For natural stone, Once you have decided what material to use the next step is to choose what color you want. One of the special traits of natural stones is its ability to express its personality based on the different of color patterns and schemes. Each color gives these stones a different appearance and look; you decide which goes the best for you. These colors may also range from absolute black to rare exotics. These color ranges are one of the reasons that many reasons that it is desired by designers. Natural stones are mostly used for making the countertops, floors, shower surrounds fireplaces and other applications look graceful, elegance and luxurious.

On the other hand, man-made or engineered stones are a “green” man made material that can give the representation of a whole slab because of its formula. Manufactures offer many different color schemes for man-made stones. Sometimes these color schemes are found in other natural stones and sometimes many manufacturers give these stones a different color that can’t be found in any other natural stone. The possibilities in the case of man-made stones are endless and so versatile that people are left amazed.

With all of these different and unlimited options, color choosing becomes a tricky part of your project. Every stone has its own appearance and color to offer; hence people often face problems selecting from this wide range.

The first step that you can take to overcome this problem is that you can come to our office to make the decision. We can provide our clients with full slabs and offer one hundred and fifty choices of colors and patterns. Our knowledgeable staff will help you to make a decision based on your likes and your kitchen scheme as well. If you are looking to complete the look of your kitchen then you must bring a sample of your flooring and cabinet material with you so that you and we can decide the best look that goes with everything. You must also reserve the piece of that stone you decide for yourself as other people might show interest in that specific material and stone as well. Even the same color of stone can vary from lot to lot.

Our staff will also provide you with the layout of your stone countertops. This will give you an idea of what your kitchen will look as a whole.

Choosing Edge

Natural Stone Countertops Edge Profiles We offer different Natural Stone Countertops with Different Edge Profiles. These edge profiles will enhance the look of your countertops or any other project that you have chosen for your house. Edge profiles are a very important part of your countertop’s finished look. You should not try to avoid or overlook this details. We offer a variety of different styles and schemes with edge profiles that will give your kitchen countertops, bathroom vanity top, bar top, or a tub surround a different and appealing look.

Edge Options

Choosing Faucet

Choosing a faucet is another factor to consider after choosing your stone. A faucet not only serves its basic function but it can also add ornamental value to your kitchen. Before you decide what faucet to go with you should first get all the information that you can get and look for potential options and then select the one that works and looks the best for you.

Factors taken under consideration for choosing faucets are as below:

  1. Your budget and your preference come first.
  2. The next factor includes the sink or the counter for the required faucet. The Holes provided for the installation of these faucets is important.
  3. If you want an instant hot-water spout, a soap dispenser, a sprayer, etc and you have a top mount sink then it is better to go for the faucet model that can provide you with the correct number of holes to accommodate all of the above.
  4. If you have an undermount sink then you will need to have all of the information about the holes and other accessories so that, again, these faucets can be drilled with the correct number of holes.
  5. Another factor to look for is the reach. For instance, a faucet with high arc looks good but it has a limited reach across the sink basin.

All in all you just have to make sure that your faucet matches the overall decor of your kitchen.

Kitchen faucets are available in different materials; steel, chrome, nickel, brass and copper. Another way to decide on a faucet is by determining how you will be using your faucet in the kitchen. You should also consider your thoughts on the current faucet that you have. You should look for missing faucet features that you would like in your new faucet.

Some of the faucet options include

  1. Pullout spray
  2. Spout with sidespray
  3.  Spout without sidespray
  4.  Spout time

Then there are different spout heights options that you can choose from

  1. High arch
  2. tandard
  3. Spout reach

All of these options will help you to make the right decision when it comes to selecting the best faucet option for your kitchen. Select based on the above discussed factors and you can have a faucet that will not only make your kitchen look good but will enhance your kitchen’s beauty and elegance as well.

Choosing Sink

If you want to change the sink around your house because of its old age then you have many new options to choose from. Another reason for changing your sink could be that it is not working properly. If this affects your performance in cooking and cleaning, then you should save your time, effort, and money and buy a new replacement.

If you a basic idea of what you want your sink to look like, then you can always do a little bit of research to make that change. You can have a more functional kitchen with a modest investment. You may want to have big, single bowl sink embedded with a gooseneck faucet and a built-in spray. This makes your cleaning easy as there are no hot water and soap dispensers. Whatever you desire there are always unlimited options that you can choose from.

There are certain things that people look for when choosing the options of the sink; simplicity, maintenance, efficiency, performance, aesthetic value and at a good price.

All about new sinks

Most of the people look for the same thing when it comes to sink selection; elegant design, easy maintenance and simplicity. You can always design where to start from, there are many different options that you can choose from.

Where do you start? There are thousands of different types of kitchen sinks to choose from. Deciding which sink is best for you depends on:

Stainless steel

For many people, this is their first choice, maybe because stainless steel appliances have a very high tech appearance, and also because they look really elegant with modern kitchens. Stainless steel that is custom fabricated is usually expensive as compared to generally reasonable prized options.

Many people consider stainless very easy to clean as well.

Nickel, Copper and Brass

There are other options besides stainless steel; nickel, copper and brass. These materials are available for the kitchen and the sinks. These days, copper is a little more popular , as it requires no maintenance to speak of. A copper sink should be pure and nothing else. Another point to be taken under consideration is that copper should be welded and not soldered. A soldered sink will get black at the joints as it ages with time.

Porcelain enamel over cast iron

For kitchen sinks, this option is the most durable and widely available. This material ranges in color, style and quality. The life expectancy for a high quality sink is 25 to 30 years or more.

Engineered materials

Engineered materials include a wide variety of sink materials; from swanstone to quartz- slate or granite acrylic composites. Swanstone to a quartz-, slate-, or granite-acrylic composites, as well as cast acrylic.

Composite stone sinks such as Silgranite by Blanco are starting to gain popularity. They are made of various rockincluding quartz, granite, or slate and combined with acrylic. They are very hard, warm to the touch, and have a matte finish. They don’t scratch or stain easily and are not effected by heat. The range of sizes, shape and colors are growing with the demand for the product.

Acrylic sinks are also available. They may come with impressive warranties, but in the paper clip test, they scratch easily and quite badly.

Fireclay

Fireclay is an advanced form of china that contains more quartz and feldspar. Its life expectancy is again from 25 to 30 years. Many farmhouse sinks are made from this material as well.

Mounting your new sink

1. Undermount

2. Drop-in

3. Apron-front

1. Undermount Sink

An undermount sink is installed under a countertop. Undermount sinks are easy to clean, and you do not need to see the big lip of the sink on the counter.

It is not the best choice for every kitchen because it only works with countertops made out of stone, quartz, concrete or another solid material. If installed with a laminate countertop, a very specific model of undermount sink need to be used to avoid bubbling of the laminate edge

2. Drop-in Sink

Top-mount (drop-in, self-rimming) sinks are best for someone with a tight budget. It sits directly on top of the counter. Top-mounts work with any countertop material and are the simplest to install. All you need to do is to silicone the sink down to your counter.

3. Apron front (farmhouse) kitchen sink

An apron front, or farmhouse, kitchen sink usually has one large bowl with an exposed front panel. This type of sink has become very common in recent years. Farmhouse sink are installed to the cabinets, before countertops can be measured. The unique design of the sink may need custom made cabinetry.

Other Details

Other Stuff to Know and Consider

New Construction

If you are installing new cabinets, make sure that the people installing new cabinets know that only natural stone countertops should be used. Your cabinets should be within 1/8 in. of level. Also make sure that they use large level for installation. Ask them to give extra attention to spans across gaps.

Diswashers

Dishwashers are mostly screwed to the bottom of the old wood or laminate. We would not recommend you to make holes in the stone by drilling near the edge; you will have to use another attachment method for this purpose. There are two popular methods that can help you in this task.

Method 1:

* You can attach a metal bar to the bottom of the natural stone and cabinets that are on the opposite side of the dishwasher and then drive the same screw through it.

Method 2:

*This method is known as a side-mount kit. This is a more elegant procedure that enables the dishwasher to be attached to the cabinets on the other side of the opening.

You have to ask the dishwasher manufacturer if either of the methods are available and choose the best possible option. You will also have to use adjustable legs to raise or lower the dishwasher in its opening.

Bar-Tops

Most of the houses have a bar top areas that rest upon the stud walls. Old bar countertops are mostly supported on the plywood, this plywood is then screwed in the wall. This may not be the case with natural stones; because you will be able to see through the rough edges of the plywood. It is important to give proper support to the natural stone because naturally they weight a lot much than other materials. You can use two methods for this purpose.

Method 1:

*Use substantial, structural brackets.

*Use corbels of matter or wood as well.

Method 2:

*Marble and Granite can provide you with the bar steel straps.

Vanity Sinks

Most vanity cabinets differ from kitchen cabinets. Firstly on the basis of their height; vanity cabinets are only 21 inches deep whereas kitchen cabinets are 23 inches deep. So make sure that the sink you choose for your vanity should fit into the standard 21 inch cabinet.

Cooktops

Almost all cooktops have very specific and non-standard cutout dimensions. A 30″ Jenn-Air cutout may be completely different from a 30″ GE. Again (at the risk of sounding monotonous) make this choice early .

Kitchen Sinks

There are many options when it comes to kitchen sinks. You can choose from a variety of these styles and designs.

Faucets

Just like with sinks, faucets also come with different ranges based on style, quality and materials.

Choosing Fabricator

So how do you find a competent fabricator?

In the past few years the demand for stone countertops has increased rapidly. As a result this has also increased the demand for potential contractors and other fabricators. This has caused many inexperienced people to come forward in hopes of getting profit from this booming opportunity as well. That is why it is important to get a professional and sincere fabricator.

There are many types of companies selling countertops, supplying materials and other products. Among these companies there are many unprofessional companies that sometimes have their offices in the garage and still get the projects to make your kitchen countertops. That is why it is important to do a thorough research while selecting a fabricator for your house. Make sure that you look at their machinery/equipment, working station/office and inventory. Apart from that you can also ask some specific questions.

What questions should you ask?

If a fabricator can answer all of the following questions to your satisfaction, then you can be confidant that you are hiring the right contractor to do the job on your new marble, or granite countertops.

1- What kind of Certifications does the fabricator have?

This is an important point. Installation and fabrication certification have certain standards that the fabricator has to follow up to. These certification programs make sure that the fabricator has an understanding and knowledge about the fabricating machinery, equipment, materials and installation processes. Do take a look at the certifications that your fabricator holds.

2- What kind of fabrication equipment do they use?

Many professional fabricators, no matter how experienced they are, give different results and variations with the finished product. Machinery plays a vital role in this business. In our company, we use best of the best available, so that you face no problem. One single cut can change the complete outlook of your countertops.

3- How well are they established, number of locations?

It is very important to deal with an established and solid organization so that you face no certain problems in the future. We at Fairfax Marble and Granite offer solid and strong connection with our customers.

4- Material variety? How many colors do they offer?

The size of the inventory matters a lot; it shows the status of the organization. If a company is short on inventory then that can cause problems. If the fabricator buys from other�s inventories then he may not be able to provide his client with the finished product on time. So the size and restocking of the inventory is another matter to look at.

5- What type of license do they have? What is their license number?

All of the states require a license regarding the contractors. This was done to protect general public from the dishonesty and incompetence of certain deceitful contactors. It is important to search the type of license the contactors hold.

6- Are they bonded?

Dealing with the contractor who is bonded shows sincerity, safety and insurance against accidents. We in our company offer up to $1,000,000 bond to our clients.

7- How do they template? Do they offer digital templating?

What type of machinery/technology does your contactor use when it comes to templating technology? This is to make sure that every minute detail is taken care of when it comes to giving your desired products.