How Granite Countertops are made?
If you are shopping for granite, you have probably seen endless photos of beautiful installations and rows of pristine slabs at suppliers. But have you ever wondered how granite goes from untouched rock sitting beneath the earth’s surface to a polished countertop shaped specifically for your kitchen?
In this article, we will give you an inside look into the journey of stone–from the quarry to your kitchen.
A journey from Quarry to your Kitchen
Granite is found close enough to the surface that it can be cut from shallow quarries. In order to get the granite into transportable blocks, small holes are drilled in the shape of the desired block size. Carefully planned explosives placed into these holes create just enough blast to separate the block of granite from the bedrock without breaking the block itself.
The blasting engineers must be careful to direct the falling block onto a bed of soft sand so that it does not crack or split at a bad angle. Earthmoving equipment is used to get these huge raw blocks of granite to load into heavy-duty trucks, to be transported to slab fabrication facilities.
Many blocks of granite then travel by ship from Brazil (the largest source of granite) or wherever they are quarried to countries like Italy, India, and China. These countries have large facilities with advanced machinery for cutting them into slabs.
Most of the granite used for countertops in the U.S. is quarried in Brazil and India. Both countries have developed state of the art stone fabrication facilities. Granite is also quarried in the States in places like Vermont and Virginia, but these are mostly plain colors that are used for building materials.
From Block to Granite Slab
Once a block arrives at a stone cutting (fabrication) facility, it is cut into slabs. To cut the block into even 2 cm or 3 cm thick slabs, it is run through giant saws that make many slices into the stone at once. These can simply have many large round blades side by side or diamond wire blades that cut through the slab-like an egg slicer. It can take up to an hour for these blades to go through one foot of stone, so you can imagine how long it takes for an entire 10′ x 5′ x 10′ block, for example, to be cut into slabs.
The recent introduction of diamond wire cutting saws and other advanced technology to the industry have increased the speed and accuracy of this process, leading to more granite on the market and a less expensive finished product for homeowners.
Polishing the Surface to Reveal the Granite’s Natural Beauty
Once the large blocks of granite are cut into big slabs, the surfaces must be polished to bring out the natural colors and patterns and make them smooth to the touch. This is done by running the slabs horizontally through slab polishing machines.
These machines have large, diamond polishing pads that slowly bring out the shine in the stone with each new layer of polishing. Much like wood, granite much is polished with progressively finer pads to get a quality finish. This process just polishes the top surface of the stone, leaving the slabs with rough edges.
From Manufacturer to Supplier to Fabricator
After the slabs are polished, they are put into bundles of 6-7 slabs, almost always in the order, they were cut from the block (in order to create bundles that have consistent patterning and color).
These bundles are placed into large shipping containers and transported to the US by boat. The containers are off-loaded there before starting the journey overland to the wholesale suppliers in cities around the country.
These suppliers sell exclusively to fabricators, the companies that cut, polish and install granite counters in homes and businesses. MS International (popular as MSI) is one such importer of natural stone and is considered as the largest importer of natural stone in the United States.
Fabricators like UCI visit these suppliers to pick the marble and granite slabs that they will bring back to their showrooms and warehouses. We handpick bundles of stone that are of excellent quality and have visually pleasing patterns. We also import our own stone to help keep prices low for our customers.
Templates ensure accuracy
After a homeowner chooses a particular color of granite, the fabricator sends a trained technician out to do a precise measurement of their cabinets and to create a template. Templates are constructed from strips glued together into a lattice. They are an accurate way to transfer spatial measurements to any sheet material or flat surface.
Important prerequisites before templates can be made
- Cabinets must be set before the job can be measured. In other words, the cabinets must be screwed together and screwed to the walls, not just pushed into place. The cabinets cannot be moved even 1⁄8 in. after the countertop supplier has measured because countertops are fabricated to close tolerances.
- Cabinets must be set level.
- All appliances and sinks should be on the job site at the time of the measure. The fitting of sinks and appliances is often critically close. Design or construction issues that could cause problems or delay the installation should be resolved on the measurement date. If the sinks and appliances are on site, the supplier can inspect them. If there is a defect, damage, or, say, a sink rim that will not fit the countertop, you’ll need time to replace the item before installation.
Cutting the granite to your kitchen’s shape
The template is laid on the stone and the fabricators use a diamond blade to cut through the dense granite. Water is sprayed on the stone to keep the blade cool and to cut down on the dust created during sawing. Once the pieces are cut, the final polishing and edgework begin. The fabricators do a thorough quality control check to ensure that the stone will meet the expectations of the homeowners.
Once the fabrication and polishing process is completed, a trained installer will take the pieces to the home and install the new countertops. The installer will align seams, attach sinks, make cuts for cooktops, outlets, and faucet holes while onsite.
The finished product is a beautiful new granite countertop that can be enjoyed for years to come!
We invite you to visit our showroom at UCI to see the possibilities for your kitchen and bath countertop projects!