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DWYER MARBLE & STONE  •  DESIGN NEWSLETTER  •  Vol. 2, Issue 1  •  Back Issues click to call: 248.476.4944
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A Beginner's Guide to Stone Selection
Natural stone is a versatile material that can be used in many places throughout the home. Commonly used for kitchen countertops, stone is also a great choice for fireplaces, bathroom vanities, cladding, flooring ... read more>>>
What Stone Fabricators Wish You Knew (For Their Good — and Yours)
The idea of installing stone countertops is usually thrilling - and sometimes a bit scary - because you'll be living with the decisions you make today for years to come. No one expects consumers to be experts on ...
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A Beginner's Guide to Stone Selection

by Rachel Potter

Natural stone is a versatile material that can be used in many places throughout the home. Commonly used for kitchen countertops, stone is also a great choice for fireplaces, bathroom vanities, cladding, flooring, outdoor kitchens, and fire pits. Choosing the stone best suited to your project means you will enjoy your stone for many years. Spending some time considering your stone choice will allow you to select the stone that works best. Below we consider some factors to take into account, plus some common applications for the most popular stone choices.


Choosing natural stone means that your design will be truly unique, because each slab of natural stone is different. When choosing your stone, be sure to visit stone yards to look at the actual slabs you're going to use, rather than selecting from a sample. This allows you to see the color, veining, and movement that appears throughout the slab. Natural stone presents a huge range of color choices, so taking samples of other parts of your project, such as paint samples, cabinet doors, backsplash tiles, or faucets, can help narrow down the selection.


It's important to think about the space where the stone will be used. If it's for a high-traffic area, such as a busy family kitchen, you may want to select a harder stone that is more resistant to abrasions. Softer stones require more frequent cleaning and care to prevent etching and scratching. For this reason, softer stones are often more suited to areas where the stone is not exposed to as much use, such as wall cladding, backsplashes and bathroom vanity tops. The amount of time you want to spend cleaning and caring for your stone should be considered as part of the selection process.


Granite is an extremely hard, durable stone that is available in almost any color imaginable. Consistently popular as a low maintenance, high performance kitchen countertop material, it requires little aftercare if it is cleaned after use. Cleaning is simple with mild dish soap and water. In many cases, granite should be sealed using a quality sealer. Once properly sealed, granite will be even more resistant to everyday dirt and spills. Due to its durable nature, granite is suitable for many applications, such as flooring, shower walls, fire pits, wall cladding, bathroom vanities, desks and tables.


Marble is an elegant, classic choice popular throughout the ages. While white marble is the most popular color choice, many other color options do exist. Marble is softer than granite, so it will stain, etch and scratch more easily. Commonly used for bathroom vanities, backsplashes, fireplaces and bar-top designs, it can also be used for kitchen countertops, but users need to be aware it will develop a patina (a slight change in color or texture as it's exposed to various elements) over time as it wears with use. For this reason, it is not usually recommended for high-traffic kitchens.


Quartzite is most often found in white and grey color varieties, and can look similar in appearance to marble, but is much harder than marble, making it an attractive alternative for kitchen countertops. Other popular applications include walls, flooring, and stair steps. Quartzite usually needs to be sealed when it's installed, to help it resist stains. It should be cleaned regularly with a damp cloth and mild soap and any spills should be wiped up immediately.


Using natural stone for a project presents an exciting array of choices. Ultimately, the choice of stone is down to personal preference, but the factors discussed above should be taken into consideration to help with the decision making process. Talking to an experienced stone professional about your vision and specific needs for your project is also recommended.

© UseNaturalStone.com

What Stone Fabricators Wish You Knew (For Their Good — and Yours)

by Iyna Bort Caruso

The idea of installing new stone countertops is usually thrilling — and sometimes a bit scary — because you'll be living with the decisions you make today for years to come. No one expects consumers to be experts on stone fabrication or installation but the better educated you are, the better your odds for a smooth experience and a happily ever after. Here are a few things industry professionals wish their customers knew.

Know Your Stone

Just a generation or two ago, consumers were limited to just a handful of stone choices, both in terms of type and color. Now you need only walk into a stone yard to see an astonishing range of granite, quartzite, marble, onyx, and more. Choose wisely. Harder stones like granite are workhorses, perfect for high-traffic kitchens where durability counts. Softer stones like marble and limestone require more care to ensure lasting beauty and can be better choices for bathroom vanities. "I educate the end user on what to expect as far as wear, tear, and maintenance," says Buddy Ontra, owner of Ontra Stone Concepts in Bridgeport, Connecticut. "There's a trend toward white marble right now, for instance." Marble has been prominently used in European homes for centuries and many love how it patinas with subtle etches from use. "It's a living surface that tells the story of the family over the years," Ontra says. But, he cautions, for someone who wants the surface to always look like the day it came out of the showroom or for a growing family who's liable to subject the countertop to spills and splashes, "it may not be the right choice."

Photo courtesy of Miller Druck Specialty Contracting.

Make It Your Own

It's not enough to select the stone from the showroom. Fabricators recommend you visit their shop. It's a fabricator's job to cut and shape the slab to fit your exact cabinet dimensions. To do so, they make a template of your counters with cutouts for the sink, faucet, and cooktop. If seaming is needed, and most installations require at least one seam, you should collaborate with the fabricator on positioning based on aesthetics as well as technical and logical considerations. The same goes for the length of the overhang for island seating. What's more, because stones have natural variations and sometimes movement, you should work with the fabricator in determining the best part of the slab to use in the most visible areas, such the island, and which part you may want to position in a less prominent section, perhaps because of natural pits or fissures. "Tastes vary from one consumer to the next," says Ontra. "Maybe they like the odd inclusion. In any case, it allows them to be part of the process. This is their home. It's where their kids do their homework, it's where they relax after dinner with a bottle of wine. They're going to be spending a lot of time there."

The MIA Accreditation Seal.

Banish The Unknowns

Rare that it is, there are companies that fly under regulatory radar and use unskilled labor. Always hire a company accredited by MIA+BSI, which recognizes businesses that meet the industry's highest standards for product knowledge, fabrication and installation. "Ask questions," says Paul Menninger, owner of Capitol Granite in Midlothian, Virginia. "Find out whether the crews are insured and have workers' comp coverage and whether the templaters or installers have been background-checked. Consumers who don't ask put themselves at risk every time a less-than-reputable company brings individuals into the house who have not cleared a background check."

Don't Be Thrown

When budgeting your project, be aware of what goes into pricing so there are no surprises. No two slabs are alike, which is the beauty of natural stone and what distinguishes yours from the rest. But the cost of the slab is just one part of it. Prices rise the higher the grade and the more exotic the stone, but there are plenty of budget-friendly options, too. Labor accounts for 25-35% of countertop costs, according to some estimates. As a result, decorative edging profiles, thickness, certain finishes, more cutouts and backsplash heights are among the elements that affect fabrication pricing. In addition, some stones are simply more challenging to work and take more time to produce. When shopping around, Menninger says it's important to understand exactly what goes into their quotation. Some companies "attract the customers with a very low price point and then a la carte everything that goes into the job, from the sink cutout to the edging. In the end, the customer ends up paying more."

Prepare Your Home

On the day of installation, make sure there is a clear path to the front door along the driveway and walkways as well as easy access to the kitchen or work area. You may need to move the odd piece of furniture so installers don't have to navigate the terrain carrying a thousand-pound payload. And, of course, keep small children and pets out of the work zone. Your old counters should be free and clear of any items including small appliances and especially items of value. Ontra learned his lesson early in his career. In helping a homeowner move antique crystal glasses out of a display rack in the kitchen during a job, a glass wiggled free and he watched helplessly as it shattered into pieces. It had been a family heirloom. He was mortified that in handling her personal belongings, something irreplaceable broke on his watch. It never happened again. Now his clients know exactly what to expect and what's expected of them.

© UseNaturalStone.com