Granite Kitchen CountertopsThe most popular natural stone countertop material, granite is what many homeowners turn to when it's time to upgrade. The sharpest knives won't scratch it, and a bubbling pot won't mar it. Granite is available in hundreds of colors, both bold and muted, including shades of white, black, gray, green, blue, red, pink, yellow and tan. Patterns are speckled, dotted, veined and more. Every piece possesses its own mineral makeup, meaning each countertop is a unique work of art.
What is it? An igneous rock (formed by the cooling and solidifying of molten materials) composed chiefly of quartz and feldspar, granite is one of the hardest surfaces on earth. Because of the considerable variation, it's wise to visit the stone yard to choose your own piece if possible to avoid surprises.
Considerations When Choosing Granite Countertops
Thickness, Overhangs and Edges. Countertop thickness varies by geographic location, from a three quarter inch to an inch and a quarter inches (preferred). Thicker slabs cost more. Standard overhang is one inch to an inch and a half. Larger overhangs—for workspace or seating—may require additional support starting at 8 to 12 inches. A range of edge treatments is available, including straight, beveled and rounded.
Forms. Granite counters can come as slabs or tiles.
- Slabs. Granite slabs offer a solid and seamless look. These typically come in 10-foot-long pieces. If your counter is quite long or L-shaped, curved or arched, a seam will be required—but should not be too noticeable if done properly.
- Tiles. If you love granite but it's not in your budget, consider tiles. While they require a bit more maintenance, granite tiles cost less than slab and also offer more installation flexibility.
Finishes. Three types of finishes are recommended for granite countertops.
- Polished. This smooth, reflective surface draws out the color and texture for a rich look. It's the least porous finish option, which is great for spills. But the shiny surface also accents any imperfections (and crumbs). Polished is the most popular, perhaps due in part to ease of cleaning.
- Honed. While still smooth, this finish is not shiny and reflective. Though a honed finish doesn't bring out the color as much, it does cut down on glare and mask imperfections. The surface is slightly more porous.
- Leather. This finish, created when fabricators move diamond-tipped brushes across the surface, conveys the look and feel of textured leather.Like a polished surface, it is less porous and highlights the color; like a honed surface, it disguises crumbs and streaks.
Maintenance. Wipe the countertop with a soft cloth and warm water daily. Mild household cleansers are suitable. Certain oils and acids can stain. Most natural granite should be resealed annually.
The Bottom Line. Granite imparts a timeless, high-end look ideal for traditional and classic spaces. Smooth and cool to the touch, it is popular for baking centers due to the ease of rolling out dough.