Like a McDonald’s at every major intersection, granite has become ubiquitous. It’s now the quintessential countertop material. But how did we get here? Apparently, there was an unspoken yet telepathically transmitted mandate that said if you own a home you must have granite. If you’re selling a home, you must update it with granite. Or, if you are buying a home, you must expect granite on the countertops. If you are building a home, well, you know how it goes. But let’s get to the nitty gritty about granite and see what all the fuss is about.
Granite is one tough countertop material. It’s almost indestructible. It can withstand heat and if professionally sealed, it can handle any stain. It’s also drop-dead gorgeous. Who can resist that sea of solid earthly beauty? It also comes in a range of colors and styles that can fit into any style of kitchen.
It’s a pain to keep clean. Yes, all that high-polished glass-like reflection is gorgeous, but it comes with a price – the price of time that it takes to keep granite clean. A damp microfiber cloth will make it sparkle and not eat up your budget in paper towels and window cleaner (which should never be used on granite anyway). Another lesser known granite evil? It can absorb odors and begin to smell. A mild disinfecting cleaner will handle the odor if yours develops an odor.
The biggest drawback to granite is the price. Even though it’s become very popular and there are lots of companies that will take your thousands of hard-earned dollars to install it for you, it is also possible to get the granite look and panache without the high price. How so? There are a couple of ways around the high granite cost. One of those is to choose a discontinued color or buy a pre-cut slab. This saves you money because you aren’t getting something custom. Also, some colors aren’t as popular as others and that drives down price. Check with your granite dealer about any sale pieces of discontinued styles. Another option? Granite tile.
In 2003 when I built my house, granite was very expensive. We were putting in a large island into our kitchen and wanted to put in granite, but a slab the size of my island was going to cost almost $10,000. So, we opted for twelve by twelve granite tiles. We chose “Baltic brown” that has medium brown splotches on a black background.
When we put the tile in and added black grout, the island looked like a solid sheet of granite. If you want to do the same thing, it’s important to select a tile that allows you to use grout that has the same background color as the tile. Otherwise, if the grout lines are highly contrasted, such as black tiles with white or grey grout, it won’t work well. Darker, patterned tile will probably be the safest bet and the best look.
Katherine Pope of WP Construction in Inez, Texas, who I consulted with on her gorgeous Parade of Homes entry for the Victoria Builders Association also chose granite tile instead of slab granite for her master bath. Pope opted for very small mosaic-sized granite in the master bathroom, but the look was instantly fresh, unique and gave the same luxurious look at a fraction of the cost. You can have slab granite in your home and it will look great. Granite tile just gives you a less expensive option for granite, and one that’s a real budget-saver.
If granite has been out of reach, check with your local dealer for prefabricated pieces or closeout colors. Or, try granite tiles. They’re gorgeous and a great-looking and an affordable granite option.