5 Benefits of Granite Countertops in Your Family’s Home
Whether you are on the hunt for a new home or are considering renovating your existing kitchen, one of the big questions you’ll face is: “What sort of countertops should I get?” For the past few decades, the answer to that question has been an easy one for many homeowners: granite.
Since the mid-1980s, granite has been one of the most popular countertop material choices. In 1986, a New York Times profile of a graphic artist called granite a “down-to-earth” material. The Los Angeles Times called out granite as a “must-have” status symbol in 1987, describing it as “the most prestigious” counter material. By 2016, 64 percent of new homes had granite countertops.
Granite can come from quarries found in the U.S., such as in Chester County, Penn., Barre, Vt., or New Hampshire, which is also called the “Granite State.” In recent years, there’s also been an increase in imports of granite from countries such as Brazil. The U.S. imported 872,000 metric tons in the first half of 2014, an increase of nearly 22 percent from the year before.
If you are still trying to decide whether new granite countertops are the right choice for your home or kitchen renovation, take a look at five benefits of granite counters in your home.
At first glance, granite can seem like a costly material, which can have some homeowners wondering if it is worth the high price tag, especially compared to other, more budget-friendly options such as laminate countertops. Although granite costs more upfront, installing it in your kitchen can pay off in the long run, as the material is incredibly durable.
You would have to work very hard to destroy or significantly damage a granite countertop. For the most part, when or if people decide to replace the granite in their kitchen or bathrooms, it is because their tastes have changed, not because the granite itself has gotten worn out or damaged.
Here is some of the typical kitchen and bathroom wear and tear that is no problem for granite.
- Cutting on it with a knife: For most countertops, cutting boards exist to protect the surface of the counter from the sharp blade of a knife. The reverse is true for granite kitchen countertops. You want to use a cutting board on your granite counter to protect your knives. Try cutting something directly on granite, and you’ll end up with a dull or damaged knife, not a scratched or damaged counter.
- Putting hot items on it: If you’ve ever put a hot pan or pot down on a countertop, without using a potholder or trivet, granite is a good choice for you. The stone surface can take the heat and won’t get scorched or burned by hot materials.
- Spilling on it: You can spill things, such as tomato sauce, red wine or soda, on granite with little concern, provided you seal the surface first. Unsealed granite typically has small fissures on its surface. Liquids, such as juice, wine or sauce, can seep into those fissures, discoloring the stone. Sealing the granite creates a protective layer on its surface so liquids can’t seep in.
Granite countertops can also be an ideal choice for households with children. From pulling all the pots and pans out of a cupboard to using counters as a canvas, it can be difficult to predict what kids are going to do next. Even as children grow into teenagers, they can still do a lot of damage to a home. Teens can spill their nail polish or facial cleansers on bathroom counters or leave their heated hairstyling tools plugged in. Since it can withstand wear and tear and can clean up easily, granite can take whatever creative children give it, and still emerge at the end of the day looking as good as new.
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2. Unique Look
Granite is a natural material. It’s a type of igneous rock, which forms when magma crystallizes beneath the surface of the earth. It usually contains a mixture of feldspar, quartz, mica and other minerals. The stone needs to contain anywhere from 10 to 50 percent quartz and 65 to 90 percent feldspar to be considered “granite” officially. What minerals the granite contains and how much of each mineral it contains determines its color and appearance. The composition of granite also varies based on where in the world it comes from.
Each mineral in granite has a different color. For example, feldspar is often pink or white, while quartz is usually gray or white. Other minerals, such as biotite or hornblende, might be black, gray or brown.
The size of the crystals found in granite depends on how rapidly or slowly the molten magma cooled. Slower cooling produces larger crystals, compared to magma that cools down rapidly. The swirls you commonly see in granite slabs are a result of the shifting of the earth’s plates while the magma is cooling.
What that means for you is that it’s possible to find a truly unique slab of granite to use as a countertop. Even though granite is one of the most popular materials for use in countertops, you don’t have to worry that your neighbor down the street will have the same counters as you.
It also means that there is a considerable amount of variance in the appearance of granite, even when it comes from the same location. For that reason, it’s a good idea to visit a showroom before you decide which countertop you want, so you can see the slabs up close and in person.
Granite’s natural qualities aren’t the only things that make each granite countertop unique. After the stone gets harvested, there are several ways to prepare and polish it to create the look a homeowner is going for. It’s possible to polish granite to give it a mirrored, super-shiny finish or to leave it relatively alone so it has an antique, textured look.
When choosing granite countertops, variations in colors, swirls and texture of the crystals are all usually a selling point, not a defect.
3. Higher Home Value
If you’ve ever watched an episode of “House Hunters,” you know granite is in demand and is something buyers are actively seeking in a home. In some cases, the difference between getting a good offer on the house and not getting an offer might be the presence of granite counters in the kitchen or bathroom, or a lack thereof.
Since granite maintains its appearance and good looks over the years and because it doesn’t go out of style, it’s also a smart choice to make if you want to preserve or increase the value of your home. While features like avocado-green appliances, shag carpeting or wood paneling can all make buyers think twice, no one walks into a room with granite counters and ever thinks, “How dated.”
Another reason why granite counters can help increase the value of your home is that the kitchen is one of the most essential rooms in the house. Even if you’re not a big cook, think about all the things that happen in your kitchen throughout the day. It tends to be the room where your family gathers, not only to eat, but to socialize, work on school projects and catch up at the end of the day. If you host parties, people tend to mass together in the kitchen, even if the rest of the living area is wide open and available.
If you decide to remodel your home, a kitchen renovation tends to pay off more than other remodeling projects. According to Remodeling magazine’s 2018 Cost vs. Value Report, a mid-range minor kitchen remodeling project usually costs around $21,198 and has a resale value of $17,193, meaning homeowners can often recoup about 81 percent of the project’s costs. A mid-range major kitchen remodeling project usually costs more than $63,000 and has a resale value of more than $37,000, meaning it’s possible to recoup around 59 percent of the project’s costs. An upscale, major kitchen remodel often recoups about 53 percent of its costs.
Although granite countertop installation is often ideal in the kitchen, granite can also be an attractive addition in the bathroom, which is yet another important room in the house. Like kitchens, a bathroom renovation tends to have a high resale value. According to the 2018 Cost vs. Value Report, a mid-range bathroom remodeling project can recoup up to 70 percent of the cost, while an upscale bathroom renovation can recoup 53 percent of its costs.
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4. Enhanced Appearance
Along with its durability and uniqueness, one of the things that has helped make granite one of the most popular countertop options for kitchen or bath is its good looks. Granite is beautiful and has a high-end look. That combination could be what made it such a status symbol back in the 1980s, and what led to its persisting popularity today.
Since it comes in so many different colors and a range of patterns based on the crystal size and formation of swirls, there is likely a granite slab out there to suit all tastes. You can find a granite countertop that works with your existing cabinetry, or that will coordinate with new cabinets you’re installing in a kitchen or bath. You can also find a granite countertop that works with the type of sink you have or want, whether that sink is a classic farmhouse style, a modern stainless steel marvel or an enamel-coated cast-iron style.
Often, if a kitchen or bathroom looks tired or otherwise unappealing, merely replacing the existing counters with granite can be all it takes to elevate the appearance of the space and make it look like a much more extensive, and expensive, renovation took place.
5. Easy to Clean
Sealed granite counters aren’t porous, which means they can resist stains. Sealed granite surfaces are also pretty hygienic, as they don’t harbor bacteria or create a breeding ground for germs.
That said, it’s still important to clean and maintain granite countertops. Luckily, keeping your counters clean and looking like new isn’t too difficult. You can use a special granite cleaner designed specifically for natural stone. Often, mild soap and warm water are sufficient for cleaning your counters, if you don’t want to purchase a special cleaner.
To keep your counters clean, wipe them down daily. First, brush away any crumbs or loose pieces of dirt from the counter, using your hand or a soft brush. Then, wet a soft cloth or sponge with warm, soapy water and wring it out. Wipe the surface of the counter with the cloth or sponge.
After cleaning your granite countertops, the most important thing to do is to dry the surface completely. Use a soft towel to remove any dampness or water from the surface. Drying the counter reduces the chance of streaking and also helps the surface regain its shine.
Cleaning up spills from the surface of your countertops as soon as they happen is essential for preventing staining. If a spill does linger on the surface of the granite for long, all is not lost, though. It might take a bit more elbow grease on your part, but you can still get out the stain. A mixture of baking soda and water can help remove an oil-based stain, while a mixture of baking soda and hydrogen peroxide will get out a water-based stain.
Although it can be tempting to use a strong, harsh cleaner on your counters to make quick work of a big mess, resist the urge. Cleaners like bleach, ammonia, lime or anything vinegar-based are way too strong for stone surfaces. While they won’t damage the stone itself, they will wear away at the sealant and can make the counter look less shiny and attractive.
The sealant, in part, influences how easy granite is to clean. The seal on your granite countertops should last for a long while with proper care and regular, gentle cleaning. If you notice the counter is attracting stains more easily or doesn’t look as shiny and fresh as it once did, that can be a sign it’s time to call in a professional to reseal the surface.
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