Frequently Asked Questions

What do I need to consider when buying marble or granite?

Being natural stones, marble and granite have been blessed with remarkable characteristics that have captivated humans throughout the ages. Inherent in such natural products is a certain lack of predictability that architects and designers celebrate. Consumers who are less acquainted with the material expect the stone ordered to be identical to a picture or sample they were shown. Although sample stones are intended to be representative of the quarry’s product, the material quarried at one time may differ slightly in color and veining from the sample. Moreover, even a single marble or granite slab will possess a certain amount of color variation from one end to the other. Interior designers and architects have come to view this tendency of natural stone as an advantage. Slight irregularities can be pleasing, introducing an element of the natural into human-designed spaces, whether residential or commercial. For even more information on choosing the right countertop for you, please check out our guide here.

What is the difference between granite, marble, and quartz?

Granite and Marble are 100% natural stone quarried from the earth, while Quartz is a synthetic man-made material made to mimic natural stone.

Granite and Marble have similarities, they come in many colors, each slab being unique. They are both durable, resistant to heat, scratches, and stains, they also have many differences. Granite and Marble are both relatively easy to maintain, they should both be sealed during the fabrication process prior to customer installation.

Granite and marble (along with marble’s relatives – limestone, onyx and travertine) also have many differences. Granite is formed deep in the earth’s mantle at extremely high temperatures. It is a very hard, resistant stone made of crystallized minerals. The marble family – limestone, travertine, marble, onyx – start out as sediment – animal skeletons and shells, plant matter, silt – at the bottom of bodies of water. After millions of years this solidifies (lithifies) into stone. Because its main component is calcium, it can be affected by acids such as vinegar and citrus. When it comes to care and maintenance, Marble is not quite as tough as Granite and Quartz – it is a porous material and is more susceptible to stains, chips, and scratches.

Quartz, being a man-made product, has, in most cases, a uniform appearance in comparison to granite or marble. Quartz countertops are engineered from approximately 93% natural quartz, blended with advanced polymer resins and colorfast pigments to create an elegant, durable work surface. In a quartz countertop you may have small pieces of quartz, granite, and even recycled mirror particles or colored glass. These materials are all mixed together with the resin, poured into a large block mold. Vacuums and Vibration help to press out the air, then the quartz blocks are “baked” in a special process using heat and pressure. Once the quartz block is baked, it is loaded into a gangsaw to be sliced, you can liken this to a bread slicer slicing a loaf of bread. Then the slabs are polished on one face and prepared for shipment. Once at the stone fabricator, the quartz slabs can be finished with any custom countertop edge, based on customer preference. Quartz countertops come standard in a polished finished, and can be customized with a honed finish as well. Additionally, some quartz manufacturers offer a leathered finish for some colors. Great Lakes Granite has a wide variety of quartz color options that you can view here, or by visiting our showroom.

Should I use marble or granite for my kitchen countertop?

Although typical application of marble is for the bathroom vanity tops, Jacuzzi tops and fireplaces, it is possible to use it in the kitchen. However, due to the fact that it is easy to scratch and is affected by acidic substances, such as vinegars, ketchups etc, we don’t usually recommend it. Moreover the high-gloss of the marble countertop can be partially lost as many chemicals etch its surface. Granite in turn is considered the second hardest stone, its polish is not subject to etching by household acids, or scratching by knives and pots and pans under normal use. It is also not affected by typical kitchen heat such as hot pans. For more information on the comparison of stones, check out our comparison chart and the Consumers Report Countertop Comparisons guide here.

Is it necessary to seal stone? If so, how often?

No, it is not necessary to seal stone, however we do it to most natural stone countertops because the sealer provides great benefit at little cost. In 99% of the cases if you clean up after meals you will never have a stain. Mineral surfaces like granite are generally not porous, but some stones can absorb minor amounts of liquids, which rarely result in minor discoloration and staining. Although there are many good sealers on the market, taking simple precautions and performing regular cleaning can save trouble and cost. All marble and granite tops are sealed twice in our shop before they are installed. The impregnating substance penetrates the stone deep below the surface, making it quite impervious to alcohol, juices, soft drinks, cosmetics, cleaners, coffee, food and even oil. Over the course of time, and everyday use, the sealer wears out (10 to 15 years inside the home). For information on how to seal your countertops click here.

Quartz and Slate do not require sealing. Granite is also a very low porous stone and doesn’t require sealing after purchase and installation. Quartzite is similar to granite and should not require re-sealing before the 10-15 year timeframe. Travertine should be re-sealed on an annual basis. Sandstone and LImestone also require annual re-sealing but these materials are typically not used for countertops.

Is marble appropriate for high-traffic areas?

Yes. Marble since ancient times has been used in all areas of homes from furnishings to floors. Marble has proven as durable as materials traditionally considered to be sturdier with the added benefit of creating a warm welcoming atmosphere. For a comprehensive look at selecting the right stone for your project, check out our Ultimate Countertop Guide, specifically the Care & Maintenance Chapter.

Do I have to buy the whole sheet/slab?

Generally on a stock color you are only paying for the square footage actually used. If the stone you select is a custom order slab then it will be necessary to pay for the entire slab. Slabs are always sold intact. Buying random slabs is similar to buying fabric. Like a seamstress or tailor, your fabricator buys the raw material and sells you a completed installation. In the price is included the cost of transporting the material, making field measurements and templates, cutting, polishing, bringing the pieces to your job site and fitting them into place. How much material he needs is determined by the layout and the amount of waste. The fabricator will lay out your job in a way that will minimize the amount of waste material while maximizing the natural beauty of veining and pattern. At Great Lakes Granite and Marble, our policy is to only make the customer pay for the actual square footage they use of the material unless it is a special order material.

What is the best way to clean my natural stone countertop?

The old rule of thumb is never to use anything you wouldn’t use on your hands. Never use powdered cleansers or abrasive pads to clean your natural stone countertop. Even “soft scrub” type cleaners contain pumice, which is powdered volcanic stone, and might damage your marble vanity tops or floors. You should always use sealers and cleaning products designed for natural stone. Clean your stone with lukewarm water and dry with a cotton rag.

Polished granite is a very durable stone, much harder than marble. Granite has been used in the past in the commercial industry. Some of the obvious applications have been panels on the outside of buildings, walls, and floors of “high-traffic” areas. Granite will withstand almost any element it comes up against including heat and cold. Granite itself is approximately 95-98% stain resistant although, we use a silicone impregnator sealer on all our natural stone products. This will insure lasting life and beauty. Polished Granite should receive the same cleaning care as polished marble, use lukewarm water and dry with a cotton rag. When needed, spray glass cleaner (i.e. windex) and paper towel dry.

How do I deal with sink and stove cutouts?

With CNC technology we have the ability to cut any sink or surface unit cutout with computer aided design files. Undermount sinks (sinks that are mounted under the countertop so as not to show any rim) are fully cut out, then the inside rim of the cutout is polished. The countertop is also fitted on the bottom surface of the top with special cutouts that accept a steel anchor that will allow us to mechanically attach your sink to the top. Self-rimming cutouts are only scored 6″ into each corner leaving some of the material to be cut in the field to facilitate safe shipping. For more information on selecting the right sink for your kitchen project, check out our article here.

Can I cut on my granite countertop?

Only if you want to ruin your good knives. Granite is harder than your knife blades and will dull them very quickly, if you use the countertop as a cutting surface. Always cut and chop on a wooden or plastic cutting board.

Can my granite countertop be damaged?

Like any solid surface, high impact blows can harm granite. Because of its crystalline structure, it can chip if subjected to hard blows with sharp hard objects. You should not stand or sit on your granite countertop. Unsealed, granite can absorb stains such as oil, which can ultimately cause dark spots or discoloration. Heat from pots and pans or burning liquids will not affect granite under normal circumstances. If you have a stain in your top contact your stone supplier, they can help you remove the stain by supplying you with a poultice that you can apply to the top to remove the stain. For information on how to apply a poultice on your countertops click here.

My sample has pits on the surface; will my countertop have them too?

Yes, granite being crystalline in structure always has tiny pits – spaces between the various mineral crystals. Some granites pit more than others when being polished, we suggest that you take a closer look at the slab you choose for your job. Chances are, if you look at it across the light you will notice the natural pitting of that stone. Remember, this is natural and it should not be considered an imperfection of the stone. Granite sometimes has natural fissures as well, which may look like cracks, but are not structural defects and are a naturally occurring result of the immense heat and pressure which formed the granite eons ago. These characteristics are part of the natural beauty of stone and will not impair the function or durability of the material. A product of nature cannot be expected to look manmade.

Will my granite look like the sample on this website?

The sample images you see on our website are scanned and saved digital images. We have taken every step available to make these sample representations as accurate as possible. You should not rely on the website images to make a final choice. We encourage you to come visit our indoor warehouse where we have over 1800 slabs in stock. Nothing can compare to actually viewing and selecting your slab in person. This is the only way to ensure that color, veining and other characteristics on any specific material is to your satisfaction. Click here to see our Granite or Marble Gallery.

What will happen if I spill on my countertop? Or how d I avoid stains on my countertop?

All stone is porous to some extent. Granite and Slate are both very low porous and stain-resistant, making stains less of a concern than with other stones. In general, with any spill, a quick clean up is a good idea. Some materials will be more forgiving than others. For example, a puddle of water left on the counter for 30 minutes for some colors (especially lighter), may show a dark spot when the water is wiped away. This spot will then dry up and no evidence will show.

Quartz and Marble are both slightly porous materials and can be subject to stains if abused. In many cases, stains can be prevented by wiping the spill. Marble can be sensitive to oil and acidic based products such as juice, tomatoes, and oils. Travertine is very sensitive to acids and a slight spill of juice can stain the surface. Limestone and Sandstone are both porous and will stain easily.

Stone sealers were introduced to the market in the mid 1990’s. Having your stone properly sealed by a professional will increase the stain resistance of the stone. For example, if your stone is 90% stain resistant with no sealer, you may increase the resistance to 95%.

Should you get a stain on your stone, depending on the stone, you may be able to apply a special paste called a poultice, made of liquid cleaner mixed with an absorbent material, to pull the stain out. Check out our experiment to test how granite would hold up to olive oil stains. For information on how to apply a poultice on your countertops click on this link.

Can my countertop fade?

Because engineered stone is treated with resin, quartz is more susceptible to discoloration over time with direct sunlight. This is something to consider if all or part of your surface will be in direct sunlight.

There have been no issues with natural stone (such as granite, marble, and quartzite) fading in direct sunlight over time.

Can granite chip?

In only cases of sever abuse with a hammer or impact tool. A chip can be filled with a granite dust and epoxy mixture.

Do granite seams show?

Because granite is a natural material and is mined from the quarry in blocks usually no more than 9′ to10′ in length, you will end up with seams should your countertop run be longer than that. Also, because granite is sold in rectangular pieces, you may want to use seams to reduce your costs, such as in an ‘L’ shaped corner. The visibility of seams will depend on the granularity, color and pattern. A small, uniform grain will not be as apparent as a larger varied grain. A dark color will be less apparent than a light color. A dramatic pattern with swaths of color definitely will show more seams than a uniform pattern. For more information on seams check out our Templating and Seams article. Most customers have found that the beauty of natural granite outweighs the concern of seams.

How are seams made?

Seams are created by joining two pieces of granite together with a knife grade epoxy that is color matched to the background tone of the granite countertops. Suction cups and seamers are then used to tightly join the pieces together. Any excess bonding material is then cleaned off the surface with razors to leave a smooth and sleek bead of epoxy between both pieces. Occasionally, in areas where expansion and contraction are predominant, the use of silicone replaces the epoxy.

Can I set a hot pan on my granite countertop?

Under normal conditions, granite will actually absorb heat from hot trays without being harmed. Granite is formed by extreme heat and pressure combined beneath the earth’s crust. It cannot be affected by heat from a cooktop or frying pan. A lit flame placed under the granite will have no melting effect and will not leave any burned or scarred marks.
Limestone, quartzite, slate, and silestone are also heat resistant.
Excessive heat can cause damage to marble and quartz.
Travertine can also be damaged by heat.

Can granite crack?

With ordinary use and common sense precautions, it is highly unlikely to crack natural stone. Granite is most susceptible to cracking during transportation and installation. Normal use will not overstress this durable material. You should not stand or sit on your natural stone countertops. Depending on installation, you may need to support your countertop, especially an island overhang. Your stone supplier, fabrication, and installation team should advise on the need for support.

Can granite cantilever?

You can cantilever granite up to 12″ with sufficient support on the fixed end and with a large enough piece. Never cantilever unsupported granite where it might receive excessive stress like someone sitting on a counter or stepping on a counter to change a light bulb. You must have support underneath for these situations.

How long will it take to have my granite countertop installed?

Typically, there is a 2-3 week turnaround time from measure to install.

Do natural stone countertops increase resale value?

Yes, Natural stone is known for its longevity and durability.