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My name is Steven Nenzel. Along with my wife, Tracy and brother, Richard, we are the owner's of Rock-It Surfaces. I hope you take the time to enjoy this short video and explore our website.
Breathe life into your kitchen with granite countertops... the natural choice.
We carefully select granite from around the world. We have over 80 colors in stock. Some are so unique that the supply is such we may never see it again... you certainly won't see it in your neighbor's home. Drop by with your sketch and we'll provide you with a price for every color we carry. You can then walk the slab yard with your price list and discover just how affordable granite is.
Click the image above to view our inventory!
Our competitors use thin 2cm (3/4") granite with a double up edge to save cost on stone. The results are usually less than desirable. At Rock-It we only process thick 3cm (1 1/4") granite! Yes, the granite costs us more but the labor savings of not gluing on an edge offsets the added cost and adds value to your granite countertops. The results speak for themselves. If you are going to go with stone....go with the good stuff!
Not a pretty
picture at all!
Thick granite is stronger and seamless.
Thin granite doubled up makes for ugly edges!
I'm Steven Nenzel, president of Rock-It Surfaces a San Diego granite countertop company. I have been in the granite business for over 11 years and in those years I have seen some pretty unbelievably bad granite work.
Within our industry there are no standards to which a consumer can point and say, "This is how it is supposed to be". So I decided to publish an insider consumer guide to help inform consumers BEFORE they purchase granite.
This guide will help you avoid potential pitfalls and recognize good and bad work when you see it. It will give you insight into how granite is priced, fabricated and installed. It will also expose some, which I consider to be less than ethical practices.
Granite countertops are an investment....invest wisely
What is granite? (and why this is important)
Granite is a common and widely-occurring group of intrusive felsic igneous rocks that form at great depths and pressures under continents. Granite consists of orthoclase and plagioclase feldspars, quartz, hornblende, biotite, muscovite and minor accessory minerals such as magnetite, garnet, zircon and apatite.
Granite is very common and has hardness properties and stain resistance that make it ideal for countertops.
Most of the stone sold in granite slabs yards is technically not granite. While not technically granite, most of these stones are perfectly good for kitchen countertops and will outlive you and your home. However, there are some stones sold that I consider less desirable for the average kitchen.
What is NOT granite, and what you should avoid!
One of the most problematic stones is called Comos. This stone is not even close to granite and has a foliated structure. It can be difficult to fabricate (we will not touch it) and it scratches easily. Your heart will sink after you slide that porcelain serving plate across the stone and discover the result. Unfortunately, the sales person at the slab yard did not inform this customer of the nature of this stone. Reputable slab yards will provide a disclaimer on stones such as these but many do not... so buyer beware. Do a scratch test on the corner of a slab. I use a razor blade to see if it will scratch. Of course if you use enough pressure any stone will scratch. If it scratches with light pressure it will not make for a durable countertop surface.
Here are a few stones that may have characteristics not suitable for your kitchen countertops:
Cosmos also known as Asterix and Saturnia is classified geologically as a phyllite. It is a slate based material with various types of minerals and quartz in it.
Blue Bahia is a very expensive stone that is hard yet fragile. The sodalite (refers to the sodium content in the stone) in the stone will etch from acids (lemons, limes, apple juice, etc.). It has been know to fade when exposed to UV light.
Absolute Black also known as Zimbabwe Black and Premium Black is a basalt. While it shares some qualities of granite it has calcite in the stone which will etch when exposed to acids (lemons, limes, apple juice, etc.). The density of the stone can make it either a good stone or problematic. The problem is, you nor the slab yard will know how dense the stone is. In my opinion, there are other blacks out there that are free of any problems so why bother with this one. I much prefer Black Pearl.
Quartzites are becoming more common in the market and you need to be sure the stone your are considering has the durability you desire (some quartzites are extremely strong and very resistant to acidics and others are soft and easily etched). The nature of Quartzite is a hard, non-foliated metamorphic rock which was originally pure. Sandstone is converted into quartzite through heating and pressure usually related tectonic compression. Pure quartzite is usually white to gray, though quartzites often occur in various shades of pink and red due to varying amounts of iron oxide. Other colors, such as yellow, green, blue and orange, are due to other mineral impurities.
Moon White is a quartzite that has all the known characteristics of a soft marble (scratches and etches easily) while White Macaubus is harder than granite and resistant to acids. Be sure to do a scratch and lemon juice test on the quartzite you desire. They are not all the same!
What are resined slabs?
15 years ago there were virtually no resined slabs. Now nearly all slabs I purchase are resined as they often have a superior finish and are difficult to stain.
Natural stone comes in many different colors, shapes and textures and is made of varying minerals. Many of these stones have natural occurring fissures, micro-fissures, fractures and superficial holes and pits. After the granite slab is cut an epoxy resin coat is applied that fills the naturally occurring fissures, pits and voids. After the resin is cured the slab is ready to be polished. The polishing process removes most of the resin leaving the micro fissures and pores filled. The polished granite surface is an all natural shiny easy to maintain surface.
A few granites are not resined. Giallo Ornamental is one of those stones. Often slabs that are not resined have very small pores that you can feel. The best advice I can give is to carefully look at the stone from an angle where you can see the micro fissures and pores. If the finish looks too pitted or spotty for your tastes, then consider another color. I will be happy to help you choose the right color for your project.
3CM (thick) VS. 2CM (thin) stone
There are two different thicknesses of granite sold; 3/4 inch and 1 1/4 inch. Within the industry we refer to the thickness in centimeters: 2cm and 3cm. At one time most of what was sold was 2cm but over the last 15 years a transition has taken place and now most of the market in the US is 3cm.
San Diego and most of California has been slow to transition. A 2cm kitchen countertop has a laminated (glued) edge that hides a plywood sub-deck. The 2cm needs extra support over the span of the cabinets. A 3cm countertop sits directly on the cabinets without a plywood deck and there is no laminated edge. It is one solid thick piece of stone.
Being in the stone industry I have a bias towards 3cm. I prefer not seeing a seam on the front edge and I like the thick looking edge on sink cut-outs. In addition since I provide a long warranty period I want to eliminate potential future issues a glued edge may have.
Choose an average or below average fabricator and your laminated edge will look like the one in the picture on the right!
Thick stone looks great!
Not a pretty
picture at all!
Thin stone has ugly seams!.
High quality seams are very important to the look and feel of your countertops.
First and foremost, the quality of a seam cannot be determined solely by the color and grain match. You can have a perfect color match but a horrible looking seam. A well fabricated and installed seam will be very tight at less than 1/64 thick and will be relatively chip free on the top. It is not always possible to have a completely chip free seam as some stones are very brittle and even with the best milling method will chip. A properly colored epoxy will do a good job in hiding any chips.
Great seams are not produced with a saw cut, they are milled with progressively finer grits and take time to produce. Companies that have CNC (computer numeric controlled) stone machines and know how to use them can consistently produce tight seams that are relatively chip free.
On the right you can see the results of unprofessional hand fabrication. At Rock-It Surfaces we have the machines and technical know-how to give you a great seam every time.
Getting the veins to line up on you granite countertops.
Color and grain matching are critical components to nearly invisible seams. However, even the best fabricator cannot always produce invisible seams as it is dependent on how closely the two or three slabs match in color and grain and if the consumer has purchased enough slabs to obtain near perfection. Know what you are getting before the installation by requiring your approval of the slab layout before the stone is cut.
We use a program called SlabSmith that allows me to digitally nest the countertops onto high resolution photographs. We can send an e-mail you with an actual picture of the countertops....seams and all.
Granite is an investment....invest wisely
Seam locations and seaming in a sink cutout.
Often fabricators put seams on sinks in order to make the seam shorter (and supposedly less visible). Within the stone fabrication industry there is much debate about this and some think it is fine and others not. I think it is a bad idea. By putting a seam in the sink cut-out you have just made a potentially fragile area more fragile. Most sinks are located at window openings. Placing the seam where it can be seen the easiest in the reflected light is a bad idea. Worse yet, you have very small areas holding very large pieces of stone together.
We have had more service calls to repair seams on sinks installed by other shops than any other type of call. We normally will not put a seam on a sink cut-out and if a customer insists, I will exclude it from our warranty.
The location of other seams is dependent on slab and countertop size, number of slabs purchased for the job and grain direction of the stone. It is impossible to give any real guidance other than common sense; try and avoid them on peninsulas and islands. Usually, but not always the grain direction should flow one way in the kitchen. There are exceptions to both these rules but they are rare. One of the nicest islands we have ever installed had a booked matched seam running through the middle.
A good seam will be hard to see and feel
Most people want sinks that mount under the granite (undermount sinks). I always make the cut follow the shape of the bowl but I have seen lots of track homes with cuts that follow the edge of the flange of the sink and not the bowl. It is easier to make a rectangular cut by following the flange of the sink than it is to cut to the shape of the bowl. Following the shape of the bowl looks much nicer and adds more granite area around the bowl which adds strength to the area; it is a double win. I consider following the flange of the sink a short cut. When cutting to the flange, I have seen my competitors put 4 seams on the sink cut-out; two in the back and two in the front. They did this to save time and material without much regard for the home owner. I replaced the countertops shown above.
The is no excuse for a poorly polished edge on your granite countertops.
I have seen many jobs where the edge is duller than the countertop. Some fabricators have been known to use wax or rouge to brighten the edge but the shine will quickly wear off. That is unacceptable!
A polished edge takes more time and skill to produce, so it is easy for me to spot a "hack." I've hired experienced fabricators who have, on their second day of employment, used their trick of the trade. After spending the first day trying to polish a black granite (usually the hardest to polish) and not finding any wax or rouge in our shop, they bring their bag of tricks the second day. That next day was their last day in our shop. I can teach them how to properly polish, but it is too late to teach them character.
Quality is important to me. You have to look at your granite countertops for as long as you own your home.
Quality edge work is critical.
How your sink is installed is critically important
A large percent of the service calls I
receive involve improperly installed sinks.
A properly professionally installed sink will
have a bead of 100% silicone between the
granite and the flange of the sink and will be
mechanically fastened to the underside of the
granite. There are various ways to accomplish
this and different sinks and the available room
inside the cabinet will require different methods.
For stainless steel and composite sinks I usually
drill holes 5/8" deep in the underside of the
granite. I insert grommets into these holes
to provide screw holes in which we can use clips to fasten the sinks directly to the granite. Before we install the sink we run a bead of 100% silicone around the flange. When the sink is pushed to the granite the bead of silicone flattens out and provides a solid seal.
Make sure 100% silicone is used to seal your sink. I have seen many sinks where the installer used regular caulking and the result is not pretty. Caulking does not resist mold as well as silicone and does not adhere to the sink and granite as well. The reason less reputable companies use caulking is it is less expensive and easier to clean up.
When using 3/4" thick stone many companies will sandwich the sink flange between the granite and the plywood deck. I personally don't like this because if moisture gets to the plywood it can swell up and rot. If this happens the sink will eventually drop away from the granite. The moisture can come from the sink not being properly sealed or from a faucet, soap dispense, water spigot or dishwasher vent. If you are using 3/4" thick granite do not allow them to sandwich the sink. There are better methods of fastening the sink to the granite.
A properly installed sink will not fail!
What is the difference between hand fabrication and using a CNC milling machine?
Five years ago I purchased a Computer Numeric Control (cnc) stone milling machine. We produced top notch hand fabricated countertops but I must say not as good as our cnc is able to produce. A cnc will use an autocad drawing of the countertop and will mill the edge to exact size. When it mills a 6 inch radius, it is an exact 6 inch radius. A kidney shaped island is a cake walk. Undermount sink cut-outs are produced exactly to the drawing and consistently follow the shape of the bowl.
Hand fabrication is not as precise and is prone to more error. Hand fabrication depends solely on the individual doing the work. If the individual takes pride in his work and is very detailed he can produce nice results. However, I found that even my best guys had their off days and they are only human. When we switched to cnc machining we found that not only did our quality go up but we dramatically reduced errors. Now only one or two at the most make any substantive decisions about work to be performed on the kitchen countertops. This insures that few errors are made and our turnaround time faster. On a scale of 1 to 10, my stress level went down to a 2 from an 8 after we deployed this technology. Day in and day out the machine produces the same high quality and never calls in sick. Our countertops fit in kitchens with absolute precision. That is the Rock-It difference.
How you measure the kitchen for granite countertops matters!
When choosing a granite fabricator you should consider the technology they are using to create your countertop. Although some hand fabricators can produce decent results you are taking a greater chance finding one that will. As we all have come to know as a sad reality, there are fewer people today that take pride in their work than in days past. Trying to keep a shop full of those fewer people is a challenge I won't take up again.
Part of the process of using cnc machines is the required deployment of a digital measuring process. When hand fabricating we would create templates of the kitchen cabinets using strips of wood and hot glue. Although this worked for the time it is nothing like a laser measure that can scribe to the bows in the walls.
We never have to adjust countertops out in the field to make them fit... they fit perfectly and with tighter tolerances. That is precision.
Understanding how stone overhangs the cabinet.
As a standard I use 1 1/2" off the face frame of the cabinets which shows approximately 3/4" overhang off the door fronts. It is common to use 1 1/2" and you can do more or less just make sure it is agreed upon at the time of templating. The overhang can vary slightly and some tolerances should be expected. A large tolerance would be 1/4" variance, however, keep in mind that your cabinets may not follow a straight line. If the two cabinets on the end of a run were set out 1/4" or more from the cabinets in the center, you would not want granite to take a dip in the center; it would look horrible.
When extending out from cabinets and pony walls for bar tops and seating areas, the Marble Institute of America states the maximum unsupported overhang for 3cm stone off a 24" cabinet is 10" , for 2cm stone with a plywood deck it is 6". 3cm granite extending off a 5" pony is more difficult to answer because it depends upon other factors including cantilever issues. I have a general rule (but not always followed) that anything over 4" requires support.
When extending overhangs beyond 16 inches on islands and peninsulas, the support issue needs attention as there is a point at which a leg of some kind will be required to properly support the countertop. No one is going to pay the huge expense for an hire an engineer to construct the load factors, etc. to determine at what point and where legs need to be added. The homeowner, the fabricator and the contractor (if one is present) need to discuss this issue and act conservatively. There is no way I could begin to cover the complexity of this issue considering all the different scenarios there could be.
How are granite slabs priced and sold?
The cost of the stone varies dramatically and is primarily supply and demand driven. The quarry where the stone is mined determine what they are willing to sell the blocks of granite to the polishing factories. If they have a hot color that everyone wants and they control the supply, they can demand a higher price. If there are many quarries producing a similar color and the color is not as desired, the price will be much lower. Once purchased form the factories, the slab yards determine their mark up on the stone. Again, the mark up they charge is cost and supply/demand driven.
Many slab yards will not sell directly to the consumer. They sell to the fabricator who sells it as fabricated countertops to the consumer. Many slab yards categorize their stone into groupings from A to F (A being the least expensive). They do this it to give consumers an idea of price range without telling them the exact price. Most slab yards will not disclose the price to the consumer. When they do, it's at an artificially high price so that the fabricator has an opportunity to mark up the granite to the customer. When they do it is often at a higher price.
If you are purchasing slabs from a slab yard keep in mind you have to purchase the right number of slabs to insure your seams look good. If your kitchen is small, say 45 sf, you may think you can get away with one large slab and you may be right if you choose a stone that has no grain direction or color variation. Your cabinet configuration will also play a role. As a general rule I use a 15% to 20% waste factor on granite that has no color variation or grain direction. I use up to 50% waste factor when using exotics that have movement and color variation. I've found many consumers make the mistake of believing there is no color variation or movement in a slab. If they did not see it before the slab was cut they certainly will see it when the seam is put together; color variation and grain direction will present itself like a sore thumb.
These pictures show the layout of a 74 sq. ft. kitchen that we installed. In order to get the right color matching and maintain the same grain direction in the kitchen, we had to cut into 3 slabs. We could have done it in two slabs if we put another seam to the right of the sink but I really did not want to do that and I'm sure the home owner would not either. Since I import and carry all our slabs it is easier for me to rationalize cutting into 3 slabs as the third slab is usable with the remaining slabs I have.
You can avoid all this hassle and save money by choosing a granite fabricator that imports his own stone; a one-stop-granite shop. Since they import the stone they eliminated the mark up from the slab yards. In addition, a good one-stop-shop is not as concerned about material waste; the left over can be used with the remaining granite slabs. This is how I set up our company. If I have to cut into a third slab to make that seam right, I'll do it, no big deal. I am not forced into trying to make it work with two slabs. Over all there is less wasted stone because I buy bundles of granite and can yield more kitchens per bundle. That is a win for me and a win for the customer.
What does it cost to fabricate and install the granite countertops?
Before you even consider whether or not a price is good or bad, investigate the fabricator. Hare are some key questions to consider:
1. Do they offer a written warranty period and are they likely to be around to service that warranty? A warranty is worthless if the company will not be around to service it. Less than 45% of new businesses make it beyond their 5th year. However, a company that provides a long term written warranty is more likely to deliver a quality job than one that does not. I offer a 10 year warranty.
2. Is the fabricator licensed and insured to do the work? In California if you have an unlicensed trade do work in your home you have no recourse other than the court if something goes wrong. In addition, if a trade does not carry the proper insurance and one of his employees is hurt in your home, he can sue the employer and the home owner.
3. Is the fabricators shop and place of business clean, neat and organized? This is an obvious sign of how they view themselves and their work. A sloppy shop will likely produce sloppy work. If they cost $300 less than they fabricator down the street that is clean, neat and organized, are you really going to take the gamble to save $300? In my mind, and knowing this industry, it is no gamble at all. You will get a job worth far less than the $300 you saved.
4. Get the last 3 jobs the fabricator has completed and call the home owners. You will be amazed how forth right a happy and unhappy customer will be. Don't put any value in a reference that is 6 months old other than it tells you everything you need to know! Run!
Fabrication is most often quoted by the per square foot with added charges for labor intensive edge work, sink cut-outs and other miscellaneous items. The per square foot rate will vary from region to region as the cost of doing business varies (rent, labor, regulations, etc.). Get 3 quotes and do not base your decision on price alone. If you think all tradesmen are equal, then you have never had any work done in your home. Consider the overall value.
The question you might ask is: What am I getting for this price? If Company A is $300 more than Company B, is the quality of work from Company A likely to be better? Does Company A use CNC machines, can you approve slab layouts before they cut, were their references glowing, do they provide a lifetime permanent sealer on the stone, etc? Also, how comfortable are you with the people at Company A and B? What does your gut tell you?
Buying granite is not that much different than buying most other things manufactured by people. Who are the people behind the company and are their values similar to yours?