What SEAMS Unbelievable

I can feel my blood pressure rising as I write this. I’m very perturbed by a granite kitchen countertop I saw in a new client’s home while there to discuss their new master bathroom project. During the visit they asked me to take a look at “some things we’ve noticed in our kitchen” —  a kitchen that had been renovated by one of our competitors. What I saw was disturbing and inexcusable.

 

Most Granites Have A Visual Direction

Most granites and other natural stones have a visual “direction” to the crystals in the material. Whether the crystal pattern is large and wavy or overtly “linear,” a professional fabricator knows direction must be respected when planning a granite countertop project. Layout, or the way the slab cuts are planned to create congruent directional transitions across counter top seams, is very important. Layout planning should start in the sales cycle, long before the execution phase begins. A trained stone salesperson would have to be blind not to notice the shape of the countertop being planned, the relative spans of the runs required and the appropriate specifications for the pieces that must, therefore, be cut in order to render proper flow of stone direction at seams. These important details are, essentially, “Ned’s first grade reader” for experienced professionals.

 

Doubling Down

Even in this low-quality cell phone photo it's apparent a competitor of Affinity Stoneworks ignored a basic characteristic of stone: many natural stones have visual direction.

Even in this low-quality cell phone photo it’s apparent a competitor of Affinity Stoneworks ignored a basic characteristic of stone: many natural stones have visual direction.

And here’s the seam at the right of the counter top run:

Improper seam layout: at least the competitor was "consistent"....about protecting their profit margin!

Improper seam layout: at least the competitor was “consistent”….about protecting their profit margin!

So as if once wasn’t bad enough, the competitor changed visual direction again at the other end of the run — and I know why. It wasn’t because they thought it would look just fine, had no other choice, or didn’t know any better. Nope. I happen to know this competitor. They did it to save material; in other words they did it to cut their cost and maximize their profit. I also know the job could have been executed with proper visual direction flow without increasing the number of seam cuts. That would’ve cost a little more money in slab material — $300 by my calculation (I know the material cost) — but the result would have been much more pleasing to the eye.

Sadly, it was only after the project had been completed and the homeowners had lived with it for a little while did they begin to sense something didn’t “feel quite right.” And we all know that sickening pit-of-the-stomach sensation after we’ve spent significant money and then realize we’ve been had. Nevertheless, since the homeowners had accepted the countertops and paid the countertop company, they were stuck with the result. Shame on the fabricator.

 

Caveat Emptor

So how can you avoid this unfortunate result when buying granite or any countertop stone with a visual direction?

  • Ask the countertop company what you can expect from the seams in your project and how they plan to place the cuts. Walk away if they don’t discuss visual direction with you and require that you see and approve the layout of your countertops prior to the slabs being cut. Discussion about layout, client review and written approval are standard practices at Affinity Stoneworks because even the tightest seam won’t look good if the layout doesn’t accommodate the visual direction of the stone.
  • Inspect the finished installation carefully before signing off on and paying any balance due on the project. Confirm that the layout you approved is, in fact, the layout that’s installed.

Bottom line, an ethical granite countertop fabricator would never sell the aesthetics of your home down the river just to pocket a few more dollars. Any fabricator that doesn’t voluntarily lead you through the process of planning your countertop layouts doesn’t deserve your trust or your hard-earned money.