Price, quality make granite king of the kitchen remodel

Granite is king when it comes to kitchen and bathroom countertops and Ted May, kitchen designer for Imperial Stone Collections in Elk Grove Village, expects it to remain in the top slot for at least the near future because its price has become more affordable, it is more beautiful than its competitors and while it is not resistant to stains, unless regularly sealed, it is resistant to damage from heat.

“Fifteen years ago granite was only for people who made money. But today 90 percent of the countertop business we do is granite, with the other 10 percent being quartz,” May said.

The popularity of granite has convinced many to mine for it in places like India, China and Brazil, increasing competition and bringing down prices.

“Granite is so inexpensive these days that literally everyone is using it. Corian is dead because it isn't heat-resistant and is hard to clean; and laminate countertops are only carried by the big box stores like Home Depot,” he stated.

So granite is even being purchased for use in related areas like window ledges, swimming pool surrounds, fireplace surrounds and showers. Once in awhile, a customer even orders granite steps, May said.

“Our customers like granite because there is more variety and granite has such beauty and movement in it,” he continued. “Quartz, on the other hand, has no discernible pattern so most customers ultimately prefer granite, even though the quartz is nonporous so it requires no sealing to preserve it against liquids like red wine or orange or grapefruit juice which will stain granite.”

Other specialty countertop materials, such as concrete, are gaining in popularity, but are still prohibitively expensive for most homeowners and they have their own problems like cracking and a shortage of skilled workers to install them, according to May.

When it comes to color choices, most granites chosen are medium to dark in color because few light-colored granites appear in nature. People generally choose their particular granite based on the color of their cabinets, May said. The least expensive “basic” granites averaging $32 per square foot are Verde Peacock, Verde Butterfly and Uba Tuba (all of which are shades of green) and Tropic Brown. The less common varieties can cost up to $60 per square foot.

“Often it isn't how a particular variety of granite looks that makes it expensive. It is how much it costs to get it out of the ground that drives the price,” May explained.

The way granite is used in kitchens has also evolved over the years. Thanks to the lower prices, the ¾-inch granite that used to be a low-cost option for bathrooms has all but disappeared. According to May, virtually all countertops are now cut to an inch and a quarter depth which enhances the countertop's durability and, in some cases, the richness of the granite's color.

“We have also seen a huge change in the fact that homeowners are now avoiding using a four-inch backsplash of granite that was once so popular and the full backsplashes have disappeared completely. They were too overwhelming. Instead, people are opting for granite countertops which meet up with tile backsplashes. They look really nice,” May explained.

The tile most often chosen these days is subway tile made of glass, marble or porcelain which comes in 12-by-12-inch sheets and is easy to install.

When it comes to countertop edges, Imperial Stone Collections offers five free choices and one for which they charge extra. The most popular edges are the half-inch and quarter-inch bevels. Less popular are the straight edge and the full and half Bull-noses. The more intricate ogee edge costs extra.

“The majority of our customers today are remodeling their existing kitchen with new countertops instead of doing a major rebuild of the entire kitchen,” May stated. “They have decided that they are going to stay in their house and want to make the kitchen nicer.”

The Imperial Stone Collections showroom is located at 460 Lively Blvd. in Elk Grove. Once a customer chooses a color of granite, they are then taken to one of three nearby storage warehouses where they are able to choose their specific slab. The fabrication is then done elsewhere.

“We then go out to the customer's house to take measurements and, if necessary, make a template; cut the stone to fit and make the sink cutouts; and then install. It generally takes about a week and a half to get it all done,” May said. “Certain sinks are included free.”

For more information, log onto or call (847) 640-8817.

Granite edges are a matter of personal taste and can be straight, beveled or bull-nosed; there is an extra charge for an ogee edge, shown here.
More customers are choosing a tile backsplash to pair with a granite countertop.
Granite countertops are chosen by the slab in the warehouse based on the color of their cabinets.
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