Helping Clients Select Their Granite
Narrow the Options
Shopping for granite starts before you hit the slabs.
Remodeler Chris Newcomer points out the unique veining in a piece of Blue Bahia, a level-five granite. Clients need help choosing from granite’s thousands of color and veining options.
How do you keep clients from becoming overwhelmed during the selections process? Even after they have chosen the type of material they want to use — for example, granite for a kitchen countertop — the number of options can be astounding. To help clients make decisions, Chris Newcomer, owner of Prism Home Improvement & Restoration, a design/build company in suburban Rochester, N.Y., starts working with clients on their selections well before clients visit a showroom. “My job involves playing the counselor role, keeping clients grounded and helping them visualize the final product,” Newcomer says.
His advice: Take “baby steps” when figuring out what clients want. “Look at their space with them and probe for answers. Do they like darker or lighter materials? What kind of lifestyle do they lead? Often clients have seen what they like at friends’ homes,” Newcomer says. Before sending clients or going with them to a showroom, the remodeler shows them product samples and uses computer images to help them visualize how their remodeled space might look. When looking for kitchen countertops, for example, Newcomer tells clients to bring cabinet doors, paint colors, and design ideas — photos, illustrations, magazine articles, anything that can help them visualize their kitchen — to the showroom.
NO Two Slabs the Same
At Rocky Mountain Granite & Marble, in Webster, N.Y., there are more than 2,000 slabs in 500 colors, “and every cut is one of a kind,” says office manager and salesperson Frances LaBarbera. Color and pattern, texture, edge profile, and surface finish determine the price, which can range from $60 per square foot for a basic level-one granite, such as Ubatuba, to about $140 per square foot for a level-five stone, such as a Verde Borgogna from Italy. (Prices include installation.)
Granite slabs come in a wide range of colors, with veins, mottling, and sometimes other stones, such as quartz, running through the material. The more consistent the pattern, the less expensive the stone. Level-one granite is usually easily available and has simple patterning. The more exotic level-five granite has more variations in color and veining, making it more costly.
Clients must also consider finish, whether they want polished granite, which may show more streaks; leathered granite, which is high-grade, exotic, and unpolished with an orange peel–like texture; or honed granite, which has a smooth matte finish. All are sealed with the same water-based sealer put on once a year. “You can just wipe it down as if you’re cleaning your countertop,” Newcomer says. Then the client has to choose an edging — the more complicated and detailed the profile, the higher the price. Edging can be a simple eased edge, a quarter round, or a more contoured shape such as a bull nose or ogee, which goes from flat to curved. Of course, they may opt for a custom edge such as the natural rock face, which shows the slab’s interior. No one edge is stronger than any other.
Seams are often a bone of contention with clients, who may not be aware of the need to join granite pieces in this way. Newcomer asks clients where they would like a seam to be and in general tries to “hide” them at breaking points, such as near a stove. Good installers make sure that the meeting point is level and is smooth to the touch. Clients also should be made aware that where two granite pieces meet, the veins may not match. A portion of their slab may have to be cut away (which adds a discard fee) to make the veining continuous. Newcomer suggests they save the small pieces for shelves in the bath, for instance.