Is It Really Granite?

Granite is a popular countertop material because it is durable, resistant to scratches, chips, and heat, and relatively easy to maintain compared to other types of natural stone. However, some stones that are definitely not granite are being sold as if they were. Here are some ways you may be able to tell.

Faux Granite

Vinyl countertop films and laminates are often printed with a granite pattern, and quartz or solid surfaces are created to look like granite. These materials cannot duplicate the true appearance and durability of a natural granite slab.

If your countertops are already installed…

Perhaps you purchased a home with stone countertops already installed. An inspection of the color, pattern, and the appearance of the seams, as well as the porosity, may help you determine whether the material is granite.

Color & Pattern

If there is very little variation in the color and pattern, or if there are no natural imperfections, you may be looking at something other than true granite. If you see repeated patterns, then this is a strong indication of a man-made material.

Inspect the seams in the countertop. You should be able to see a change in the pattern. If you don’t, then the material is most likely not granite.

Porosity

You can check the porosity of material by putting a few drops of water on the surface. If it is granite, it should darken as the water is absorbed, unless, of course, the granite has been sealed.

If your countertops are not yet installed…

There are a couple of observations you can make in a fabricator slab yard that may help you determine whether a slab is genuine granite.

Sound

First, bring a small hammer or piece of metal with you. Gently tap the back end of the slab. If it is true natural stone, it will produce a ringing sound. Engineered stone contains synthetic resins and a tap on it will sound dull in comparison. Disclaimer: The only problem with this method is that the slab may be a real natural stone that is not actually granite. It may contain acid-sensitive minerals that will etch like marble.

Price

Second, pay attention to price. Real, quality granite is rarely ever inexpensive. If the cost per square foot is suspiciously lower than other dealers in your area, the material probably isn’t granite. And if it is granite, it probably isn’t a very good quality granite. You get what you pay for.

An Expert Opinion

We asked Fred Hueston, world-renowned natural stone expert, author of many books, instructional videos, and articles on stone installation, care, and restoration in the U.S. and abroad, and Chief Technical Director for surpHaces if there is any sure way to know whether a stone is really granite. He explains,

It can be hard to tell but there are some clues. If it does not scratch with a knife and it doesn’t etch with a mild acid it could be granite. However, there are other stones that react the same, like quartzite, for example. Any stone restoration contractor worth their weight in salt, or should I say, marble dust, should be able to tell the difference.

If It’s Not Granite

If you already have stone tops that are not holding up the way granite should or that prove to be something other than granite, you may not need to replace the stone. We can resolve a host of natural stone countertop problems and restore your countertops to a like new condition, as well as provide cost-effective protective solutions to keep them looking great.

New Trend: No More Bar Height Tops

New Trend: Saying Goodbye to Bar Height Tops

Many kitchen islands include a convenient place for casual dining, elevated six inches above the work/prep area, that is, a bar height countertop. The recent buzz among fabricators and installers is that they are noticing that more and more of their customers are opting to do away with bar height tops.

How Bar Height Tops Became Popular

As a result of homes with open floor plans, the bar height counter installation became popular, acting as a screen for the clutter and mess that often accompanies meal preparation and clean up, as well as a way to visually separate the kitchen from the living space in leu of an old-fashioned wall.

Diminishing Popularity of Bar Height Tops

Customers who choose to do away with bar height countertops usually cite reasons such as children having a hard time using the bar height seating, increased difficulty with clean up, and the tendency for bar tops to become a catch-all for mail, keys, and other clutter.

Pros and Cons of Bar Height Tops

If you are having new tops installed or considering altering your current set up, consider your options carefully. There are pros and cons for either option. Think about what matters most to you. Appearance? Functionality? If you need guidance in your decision, we are always here to help you weigh the pros and cons. Please don’t hesitate to contact us.

Tips To Remove Stains From Bird Droppings

People may love hearing and seeing birds, but nobody loves bird droppings, especially on their outdoor kitchen countertops or other exterior natural stone surfaces. Sometimes we get calls from frustrated customers about stains from “bird poop” (or other creative expletives). This article explains how to clean up bird droppings on natural stone, remove the stains that may persist after cleaning, and avoid having to do the same thing again next week.

How to Clean Bird Droppings on Natural Stone

First, remove any solid material. If it is dried on, use a plastic putty knife to gently scrape it away. Do not use metal, as it may leave scratch marks on your stone finish.

Next, wash the area with a stone-safe, pH-neutral cleaner and a clean rag. (You may need to allow the cleaner to dwell for a few minutes to soften and loosen dried-on solid material that would not come off with the plastic putty knife.)

If you see any remaining discoloration on the stone, give the stone time to dry before proceeding to the next step. The discoloration you see may actually be moisture absorbed into porous stone and not an actual stain.

How to Remove Bird Dropping Stains on Natural Stone

To remove stains from bird droppings, make a poultice with an absorbent material, such as diatomaceous earth, flour, or a paper towel, and 40 volume hydrogen peroxide (12%). You will need to purchase this kind of peroxide online or at a beauty supply store, because the peroxide at your local drug store isn’t strong enough.

For more information on creating and applying a poultice, including a how-to video, use our Stain Management App.

IMPORTANT

• Always read the label on the chemical bottle.
• Always follow the directions and precautions listed on the label.
• Never use a chemical if you are unsure what it is or how to protect yourself.
• Always take the time to protect yourself and those working around you.
• Always dispose of a chemical properly. Every municipality has a household hazardous waste drop-off location. For safe disposal of chemical products at work, contact your health and safety representative.

What to Do If the Poultice Doesn’t Work…

Sometimes it takes several poultice applications to remove a stain. If you notice some improvement after the first application, keep trying. It’s very likely that the stain will come out with some persistence and patience.

If you do not see any improvement after your poultice application, remember the stone may just need time to dry.

If the discoloration remains after the stone is dry, then the discoloration may not actually be a stain. Bird droppings contain uric acid and may result in etching on some stones. Etching is chemical damage to the finish. But don’t worry, the finish can be restored by a professional stone restoration contractor.

How to Avoid Bird Droppings on Natural Stone

Some people recommend buying plastic owls with big scary eyes or rubber snakes to keep birds away, but birds eventually catch on and adapt.

If you have bird feeders or bird baths, move them to an area in your yard far away from your natural stone or remove them from your yard altogether.

Movement and sound will discourage birds from getting too close. Try using wind chimes, flags, wind spinners, and the like. If all else fails, cover outdoor kitchen countertops when not in use.

Getting Rid of Streaks on Natural Stone

Do you have streaking —cloudy, uneven patterns —on the surface of your natural stone floors? This article explains the causes of streaking and what you can do to get rid of it.

Dirty Mop Water

Sometimes, in an effort to be efficient, homeowners or cleaning and janitorial service workers fail to change mop water often enough. The result is that dirt, grime, and contaminants get spread around rather than eliminated. The solution? Damp mop (rather than wet mop) and change the mop water as soon as it no longer looks clear for streak free floors. If the streaks still appear, try buffing the floor with a white nylon pad.

Improper or Too Much Cleaner

When it comes to floor cleaning solutions, there are many cleaners to choose from, but only a few of them are safe and effective for cleaning natural stone floors. Sometimes when floors are very dirty, it is tempting to use more than the recommended amount of cleaner. Using the wrong cleaners or the right cleaners in the wrong amounts can result in streaks. The solution? Be sure to select a stone safe cleaner or stone soap and use the recommended ratio of cleaning solution to water for streak free floors. Again, if you re-mop the floor and the streaks still appear, try buffing the floor with a white nylon pad.

Waxes or Coatings

Although there may be certain circumstances where waxes or coatings are necessary, it is best to have your natural stone floors honed and/or polished to a beautiful, natural shine. However, if waxes and coatings are necessary, they must be applied properly. If your marble, limestone, granite, travertine, or other natural stone floor is streaked because of a build up of waxes or coatings, then the floors must be stripped. We highly recommend you have a professional stone restoration contractor perform this service for you, however, if you must do it yourself, be sure to use a commercial wax stripper.

Sometimes etching, scratches, or dullness from foot traffic can be mistaken for streaking. If you are unable to get rid of streaking on your natural stone floor, perhaps it isn’t streaking at all. A clear, beautiful, reflective finish can be achieved with professional stone restoration services.

Common Tile Cleaning Mistakes

Tile and grout floors and surfaces are durable and relatively easy to keep clean. When sweeping and mopping don’t suffice, some people resort to more drastic cleaning methods that can cause an unsightly appearance or even permanent damage to the tile and grout. Here are the most common cleaning mistakes.

Wet Mopping with Dirty Mop Water

The first and most common mistake is wet mopping rather than damp mopping. Dirty mop water seeps into the porous surface of grout and unglazed tiles. Damp mopping and frequently changing the mop water is the method of cleaning we recommended.

Colored Cleaners

Beware of colored cleaners. They can stain unglazed tile, because the surface of the tile is porous and may absorb dye from the cleaning agent.

Harsh Chemicals

Muriatic acid, bleach, and other harsh chemicals should not be used for routine cleaning and care of your tile and grout floors and surfaces for several reasons. First, harsh chemicals can be dangerous. Any mishandling or misuse of these chemicals can result in severe burns or respiratory problems. Secondly, splashes or spills can damage plumbing fixtures, appliances, or other belongings in the surrounding area. In some cases, even when no splashing occurs, the vaporous fumes can cause damage. Thirdly, strong cleaners can cause premature deterioration of grout, especially if the grout is alkaline and the chemical is acidic.

Abrasives

Never use steel wool or metal scouring pads to clean your tile, because these can cause permanent scratches, stains, and ruin a glossy finish. Abrasive powders and abrasive tools should be avoided, as well.

Waxes, Oils, and Sealers

Waxes and wax-based cleaning products may offer some temporary protection against stains, odors, and wear, but for a long-term solution, waxes pose too many problems and may actually increase maintenance costs. They must be continuously stripped and reapplied. If the stripping process isn’t thorough enough, wax build-up occurs and becomes an unsightly mess as it turns yellow, becomes scratched, and functions as a dirt magnet. Oil-based cleaners, especially on glazed tile, pose an increased risk of slip and fall accidents. Sealers can be tricky, and unless you have the knowledge and experience of a tile and grout cleaning professional to select the proper sealer and apply it appropriately, you could end up with slippery tile, stains, or peeling and flaking grout lines.

If you are trying to resolve some specific problem with the appearance of your tile and grout, avoid the mistakes mentioned here. Download our FREE Stone and Tile Care Guide for tips and helpful information about routine cleaning and care of your tile and grout floors and surfaces. Feel free to contact us for specific recommendations.

How to Prepare for Countertop Installation

You have selected the perfect material for new kitchen countertops as part of your home renovation project. So, what’s next? Installation. This article will guide you through the steps you can take to help us provide a seamless countertop installation experience for you.

Clear a Path

First, it’s important to make a clear path from the work truck to the work area, removing any loose items or debris outside the home and any furniture or breakables inside. If it’s winter, make sure the path is free of snow and ice. If we are tearing out your old tops, be sure to remove any items on the tops. This gives us more elbow room to work on your project, and it keeps your things from getting dusty.

Kids and Pets

We love kids and pets! However, two or more installers will be moving very heavy stone slabs and making quite a bit of noise for several hours or more. If you have children or pets, you’ll need to secure them away from the project for their safety.

“Helpful” Homeowners

We’re glad that you are excited about your new countertops. However, we would prefer to work uninterrupted so that the installation process is efficient. Once the work is complete, you will have the opportunity to admire your new tops and ask questions.

Finishing Touches

Twenty-four hours after the countertop installation is complete, the backsplash can be installed, and water and electricity can be reconnected. Plumbers, electricians, and tile installers do not accompany our countertop installation crew. Make sure you leave the sink base cabinet and other areas clear until these folks complete their work. Once everything is done, some dust may settle, so plan to give your kitchen a good cleaning.

Countertop installation requires some preparedness, but the time and effort are well worth the reward! Feel free to contact us with any questions or concerns you may have about your countertop installation.

Remodeling Your Kitchen? 3 Things to Consider…

There are many decisions to make if you are having your kitchen remodeled or designing a kitchen for a newly constructed home–from countertop and cabinet materials to paint colors, fixtures, and appliances. Here are a few often-overlooked details to add to your list.

Faucet Placement

Your faucet doesn’t have to be centered with the sink. You may want to have the faucet centered on a window, wall panel, overhead lighting, or some other architectural detail. In addition, keep in mind that with a wall-mounted faucet, cleaning your countertops will be a cinch.

Countertop Overhangs and Brackets

Placing brackets under your countertop overhangs adds furniture-style detail to your kitchen without breaking the bank. Plus, brackets provide additional support, so you can breathe a little easier about how much weight an overhanging countertop can handle.

Countertop Height

A standard kitchen counter is three feet, but countertop height can be adjusted if the chef in your family is especially tall, short, or handicapped. Even if you decide to go with standard height kitchen countertops, you may want to have one small section of the top set lower to provide more leverage for chopping, kneading, and similar tasks.

Questions? We are always available to help you work out every detail of your new kitchen design. Feel free to contact us any time.

Considerations for Mixed Stone Installations

The highest concern of natural stone installers and designers is to make sure your natural stone floors, walls, countertops, or other applications look great and are installed correctly. They often don’t give much thought to what the stone might look like after traffic and use have taken a toll. As natural stone restoration contractors, we sometimes get calls from home or business owners who want us to refinish their kitchens, baths, or other areas that have soft stones like marble or travertine with hard stone inlays, such as granite. These clients are frequently surprised at the cost difference between refinishing a single stone versus refinishing a design that incorporates several types of stone. In addition, people who have combination finishes, for example a floor with some parts honed and some parts polished, run into the same situation. This article explains the reasons behind the price differences and also provides some suggestions to people who are considering utilizing more than one type of stone or one type of finish in a new installation.

Time = Money

We asked Fred Hueston, Chief Technical Director for SurpHaces, and a world-renowned natural stone expert and author of over 30 books, 10 instructional videos, and over 100 articles on stone installation, care, and restoration in both the United States and foreign publications and journals, to explain why mixed stone surfaces require more time to restore than single stone surfaces. He said,

The reason for this can be a little confusing to the average client. There are diamonds made for honing and polishing marble and others specifically for granite. Some diamond pad manufactures now have combination diamonds that can be used on both. But the price difference has to do with time, not diamond cost.

For example, granite is going to take four or five times as long to refinish and polish than marble. The contractor may opt to tape off the granite, refinish the marble with one set of diamonds, and then tape off the marble and refinish the granite with another set of diamonds. If the contractor uses a diamond pad that can restore both marble and granite to refinish the entire area all at once, the amount of time spent on the floor must be based on the granite, not the marble. In certain circumstances, only the marble is refinished, because the granite is in much better condition than the marble. Even so, the granite portions of the surface will need to be taped off.

Suggestions for New Installations With Stone Combinations

We also asked Hueston what kinds of stone combinations he would recommend for people who have their hearts set on utilizing more than one kind of stone in their design. He said,

Obviously, using different colors of one type of stone would be good, for example, black marble with white marble. If you are going to use different types of stone, they need to match in hardness. So, generally marble, onyx, and limestone can be combined and then later restored or refinished with little or no price difference from a single-stone application.

Combination Finishes

Home and business owners also can expect to see a price difference to have combination finishes restored. A honed finish must be achieved first, and then the portion of the surface that should remain a honed finish must be taped off before the polished portion of the surface can be restored. This takes extra time than just achieving a single finish for the entire surface. However, there should be no price difference if you want to go from a combination finish to a single finish. If you are having new stone installed, you must either go with a single finish or be willing to pay a little bit more to maintain the appearance of a combination finish.

Stone Restoration Pro vs. Cleaning Company

When your natural stone has lost its luster or has become damaged in some other way, or needs to be protected, who do you look to? Do you look to your cleaning or janitorial company? Or should you be looking elsewhere? 

The fact is, stone restoration and maintenance, from chip and crack repair to deep cleaning and sealing to honing and polishing, requires specialized knowledge, training, and equipment and it is important to find the right service provider.

Residential and commercial property owners and managers are often “up-sold” specialized services for natural stone by unqualified janitorial services and carpet cleaning companies. Specialized services for marble, granite, travertine, and other natural stone on floors, countertops, walls, and surfaces fall outside of the realm of expertise of regular cleaning crews. Here is what sets properly trained and qualified stone restoration contractors apart from well-intentioned but misguided cleaning and janitorial services.

Specialized Knowledge

The properties of natural stone vary from one stone to the next. Contractors need to have a solid understanding of the properties unique to each type of stone. For example, let’s have a look at granite. It is much harder than marble. When it becomes dull or scratched and needs to be refinished, there is a greater level of difficulty and special equipment necessary to get the job done right compared to marble refinishing. In fact, some stone restoration contractors who restore marble all day long, every day refuse to work with granite, because they know they would be getting in over their heads.

Granite and marble are just two types of stone, each with unique properties and restoration methods, but there are many, many more examples. Unless a cleaning or janitorial service has been specially trained, they are simply not equipped to understand, let alone resolve the problems for all the different types of stone.

Specialized Training

Just as contractors need to have a solid understanding of the properties unique to each type of stone, they also need to have the skills necessary to work with each stone type. For example, consider travertine. It has naturally occurring holes. These holes are often filled and finished for a uniform appearance when the travertine is installed. With traffic and use, the fillers eventually loosen or fall out. To resolve the problem, stone restoration contractors mix tints with fillers that blend with the appearance of the surrounding stone and use a process called “floating” to evenly apply the filling material. This process is then followed by honing and polishing with diamond-impregnated pads in a series of progressively finer grits to achieve the desired travertine finish, which may be anything from a soft matte to a high gloss finish or something in between. A great deal of training and practice are necessary to perfect accurate diagnosis of stone problems and to implement the proper repair and restoration procedures.

Specialized Equipment

What might you find in the back of a stone restoration contractor’s work van? You might find cupwheels and diamond-impregnated pads to mount on hand tools and floor machines for grinding, honing, and polishing, steel wool and hogs hair polishing pads, gloss meters, moisture detectors, polishing compounds, poulticing materials, sealers, grout color sealers, color enhancing sealers, and other items that would leave most janitors and cleaning companies scratching their heads.

In contrast, regular cleaning and janitorial crews use vacuum cleaners, squeegees, sponges and rags, mops, spray bottles, cleaning solutions, paper towels, strippers and waxes, and often, a floor cleaning or buffing machine.

Although you are likely to find items used by cleaning and janitorial companies in the back of a stone restoration contractor’s work van, it is highly unlikely that you would find the equipment of a stone restoration contractor in a janitor’s or cleaning service’s professional arsenal.

Allowing anyone that is less than specially trained and experienced to resolve problems with natural stone is a risk. It is not worth saving a few bucks if you end up with serious or even permanent damage to your stone. Have peace of mind by leaving your natural stone in the hands of an expert stone restoration contractor, instead.

Kitchen Backsplash Cleaning and Care

Stone and tile kitchen backsplashes improve the value of your home and help protect your walls, but they are subject to cooking or liquid spatters from coffee, spaghetti sauce, grease, and other substances. Recommended methods for cleaning and care of kitchen backsplashes vary, depending on what type of backsplash you have.

Glazed Porcelain, Ceramic, and Glass Tiles

Glazed porcelain, ceramic, and glass tiles are practically impervious to stains, and keeping them clean is a cinch. Mix a mild detergent or vinegar with water and wipe clean with a cloth or sponge. For stubborn, stuck-on spots, spray with an all-purpose cleaner, and allow the cleaner to dwell until the substance softens. For extra greasy messes, spray using a degreasing cleaner.

Unglazed Porcelain, Clay, and Natural Stone Tiles

Unglazed porcelain, clay, and natural stone tiles are more susceptible to stains than other types of tile, and keeping them clean can be a challenge. Do not use soap, windex, or vinegar! These substances can damage the finish of your tile.

Spray with a stone-safe, pH-neutral cleaner and allow ample dwell time. Wipe clean with a non-abrasive cloth or sponge. (For grease and other stains, you may need to apply a poultice. See our Stain App for more information.) Rinse with warm water. Water spots will not hurt your stone, but if you want to prevent them, dry the tiles with a white cloth or paper towels.

Stacked Stone

Stacked stone backsplashes have a rough, porous texture and plenty of crevices that trap food or liquid spatters. They are difficult, but not impossible to clean. Use a stone-safe, pH neutral cleaner and a brush with bristles stiff enough to reach the nooks and crannies but soft enough to be non-abrasive. Follow with a warm water rinse.

Professional Cleaning, Restoration, and Care

An experienced stone and tile restoration contractor can deep clean your backsplash, achieving dramatic results, as well as repair chips and cracks. Honed or polished natural stone can be refinished to like new, virtually erasing signs of wear, such as scratches and etch marks.

Because backsplashes are continuously exposed to substances that can potentially stain, it is best to have natural stone and absorbent tile backsplashes sealed to inhibit staining. Sealers make porous surfaces less absorbent, which means you will have more time to wipe up spots and spatters before they can turn into stains.

Glass and stone mosaic tiles make beautiful backsplashes, but have a lot of grout lines. Since grout is porous, it is susceptible to staining. Your contractor can apply a high quality clear grout sealer or grout color sealer to fill in all the tiny holes in the grout, making cleaning easier. Grout color sealer is impervious to staining and highly recommended. In addition, grout color sealer has a constant-acting mildewcide so your backsplashes will stay more sanitary than backsplashes with clear sealed or unsealed grout lines.

Maintain the beauty of your backsplash to ensure your kitchen is always a clean and inviting place for family and friends to congregate and refuel.