Monday, April 3, 2017

Tips On How to Find the Perfect Counter Tops for Your Kitchen

Have you ever had wanted to change out the counter tops in your kitchen or bathroom?  Well a couple months ago I wanted to and when I started looking into it, I was CLUELESS on the process that goes into it.  There is a LOT more details and steps that I was expecting.  I was thinking that you would just go to the store, pick out a granite and call it good.  But there are so many options and styles and edges and all of that jazz it was crazy confusing and intimidating.  Since I was so clueless about replacing counter tops, I figured that other people might be too, so I thought I would share the things that I learned along the way with all of you :).  So rather me showing you had it done, I am going to show you the process that you go through to get new counter tops!

The minute that I replaced the counter tops in my master bathroom and in my kids' bathroom I knew that I would start to hate my kitchen counter tops.  I am trying to get more grays and whites in my house and the browns and blacks in my counter tops were clashing.  Plus I couldn't handle the tiles, even though they were granite tiles the grout lines drove me nuts.  And that black glass tiles on the edge, I always HATED those from the first day I moved in, they were just too dark and masculine and they are a PAIN to clean.  After lots of convincing and bargaining with my husband, I was able to get him on board, so I started the process of getting my counter tops replaced!

Once I got my husband on board to get new counters, it was time to hit the stores. 

 I first went to the box stores because that's where I go naturally when I want to start a project.  I learned there that there are "semi-custom" options compared to full custom options.  Semi custom options you only have a few styles and colors that you can pick from and then you can only have a certain edge but they are usually cheaper than going full custom.  So I checked out the ones they had at the box stores and compared all the different styles.  They have granite, quartz and solid surfaces.  They also have price groups (that is also in their full custom counters).  If you don't know what the price group means, it's like the counters are in different grades, so the basic ones are in group A and are about $44 square feet and the more fancy ones are in group D and cost about $80 a square foot.  This is something that I had no clue about, I just amused there were all $44 a square foot when I first went looking (that was wishful thinking!). 
Here is an example of the semi custom options. 

So here is an example of the cheapest granite that I found at the box stores.  I compared the piece with my wall color and decided that speckled granite was a little too busy for me and the color was too cream based, I wanted something that looked more white. 

Once I hit all the big box stores and saw all the options that were available there and what it would cost, I then went to the specialty stores, like a flooring/tiling store.  You know those stores that have huge slabs of granite in the front.  So the specialty stores do things a little differently than the box stores, instead of having a bunch of price groups and samples, they have a lot of different slabs and then each slab has a price on it.  Another thing about specialty stores is that when you buy a slab for your counters, you buy the whole slab no matter if you want the whole thing or not.  So if you have 45 square feet but the slab is 55 sq feet, you still pay for the 55 square feet, they cut it and you get the left overs.  The benefit of this is that you can get some BEAUTIFUL slabs of granite and because each slab is different you get very unique counters.  Another perk is that if you get a remnant of a slab, then you can get a really good deal.  

So the way that it works with the slabs, you find a slab and then find a granite installer to cut it and put it in for you.  So you buy the slab from the specialty store and then you pay the granite specialist an additional price to install the granite/quartz. So let me give you an example of how that works.  Let's say you find someone who will install the granite for $25 per square foot (that's pretty standard) and then you find this slab of granite for $19 a square foot, you will be paying $44 per square foot, which is about the price of the semi custom programs but you get a more unique piece of granite that is prettier for about the same price. 

While I was at the specialty store I noticed that they had a semi custom program too, they called it the builder's grade program. As you can see they have more basic colors and styles and not as many options as the slabs but with this program you are only paying for the square footage that you need, instead of buying the slab. So if you have 45 square feet then you pay for 45 square feet. And another thing with this builder's program the price was the same price no matter who installed it, so if one contractor says they charge $25 a square foot to install and another one says $30, if they did this program they had to honor the price that the specialty store had.  **** I'm not sure if this is a common thing for flooring and tile stores but if you go to one, it wouldn't hurt to ask if they have something like this.****

So once I shopped around to several different stores and looked at several slabs, I decided that the builder's program was the best choice for our kitchen.  Our kitchen ended up being 65 square feet and chances are we would have had to buy two slabs (slabs are commonly 6 feet by 10 feet) and it would cost us more so we went with this quartz called Iced White.  The second I saw that they had really nice quartz for roughly the same price of granite (it was a little more) I was super excited.  I immediately looked at pictures online to see what styles and colors I liked and then I brought samples of all of tiles and colors that we were doing in our kitchen (and bathroom) to see if I liked the counters with them.  **** If I were do this all over again, I would pick out the counter tops before picking out the tiles and colors because there are a LOT more options of those than there are in counters****

Once I picked out the type of counters I wanted, it was time to call all the different granite contractors.  I had three different people measure my kitchen, one came up with 59 sq ft, another one said 65 sq ft and another one said 70 sq ft and they said that they would charge me $200 for my bar.  So I would definitely get more than one estimation when you do it because it could save you money.  Also I asked the workers at the flooring/tiling store who they recommended to install the counters. They gave me a list and highlighted the people they recommended.  I asked two different workers to see who they said and those are the people I called to check it out.  When they came in to measured I also based my decision on the vibes that I got when they came and measured, like if they were excited to work with me or how they answered my questions.  With all things considered, I picked out a contractor to install my counters. I ended up going with the guys that measured the 65 sq ft (I ended up measuring them and got 64).  

So here is a rough estimation of how the price of granite/quartz goes:
• $$ for square footage times by the amount of square footage you have
• $$ of the installion per square foot times by the square footage you have
• $150-250 to cut the sink hole, it was $250 for an under mount and $200 for a regular sink
•$150-300 for the sink

So here is a very rough estimation.  If you have 50 square feet and pick a granite that is $45 installed, then it would be $2250 for the granite then $250 for the sink hole and $200 for the sink it would cost $2700 before taxes.  Before I started the process I didn't realize that they charged to cut the sink hole, that surprised me, so I didn't want you to be surprised :). 

Once you have an estimation from the contractors you call them to make a template of your counters.  What they do is come and take thin pieces of wood and glue them to the shape of your counters.  This is what they use to cut the granite/quartz. When they make the template that's when you decide on the size of sink, if you want an under mount sink, what kind and all of that fun stuff. Also you talk about the style of the edge.  Since I picked one that was semi custom I just had to get the eased edge (which is the style I like, it's simple and clean cut) but there are several different types.  After you work out all the details then it's time to wait and wait and wait.... :).  It usually takes about 1-3 weeks after you get the template to install them. I took those 2 1/2 weeks that I had and painted my kitchen and ceiling to make them match my new counters. 

To save money we decided to take off our old counter tops by ourselves.  It would have cost $325 for them to do it, so I decided to do it myself.  It took awhile to do and chances are next time I might take them up on the offer, it was definitely work.  Like I said before our counters were tiles and they are AWFUL to take off.  Solid surfaces are much easier to take off.  With the tiles you have to take off the tiles and then the plywood that they are on.  I just used a putty knife and hammer but my husband like the crow bar and rubber mallet. 

It took me about 6 hours to get all the tiles off. 

The next day I took off the plywood. You have to take off all the wood, just leaving the cabinets. 

Here is the whole kitchen ready for them to install.  If you have a back splash you have to take off bottom layer of the tiles so they can put the counters in.  **** If you're thinking about doing a back splash and counters, wait to do the back splash until after you do counters, it's a pain to take them off and put them back on.****

Here is a picture of all the plywood off the cabinets and all level and ready to go. 

Now for the fun part, the installation!  When the day came I seriously felt like it was Christmas.  They came and then I went upstairs to let them work.  Every time they would go outside, I would run down stairs and sneak a peak of the counters, take a picture and run back upstairs.  I even would sit at the top of the stairs and just sit and watch them without them seeing them :).  

One of the most fascinating parts was the seam.  Of course they couldn't just have one big slab for the majority of my counters, so it came in two parts.  So they put on one. 

And then they put in the other one and then hooked up this nifty machine to seal them. The seam looks amazing and you can't even tell it's there unless you are looking for it. 

Once all the counters were installed, we had to reconfigure the back splash.  Since we had tile counters the thickness was different than the quartz counters.  They used to be 2 inches and with the plywood, they ended up being about 3/4" taller than the new counters.  So we had a gap that we had to fill.  Since I wanted the back splash to look the same, we removed the bottom two layers and then added one mosaic layer and then put the two bottom layers on again.  We had to cut the tiles around the outlets again but the other ones we were able to just put right back onto the wall. 

We put the back splash back on the wall, using this tutorial.  It's hard to tell, but the mosaic layer now has 7 rows instead of the six it had before.  We then grouted it and now the counter tops installation is complete!  

Now it's time to just sit back and look at my pretty counter tops!  When I started looking for the counter tops I never thought that I would pick a white quartz, I was out looking for a white and gray granite but in the end I'm so glad that we went with this quartz because I absolutely love it! 

Doesn't it look so much better?  It's amazing the difference counter tops make!  Well the painted the walls and ceilings also make a difference too :).  The paint is called Worldly Gray from SW.  

Here is the area that the seam is, you can't even tell and I love that!  Also the counters are about 1/2 inch deeper now, so I have more counter space, woohoo!

The bar is one of my favorite parts, they were able to do it in one single piece and it looks awesome!  It's nice that it has curved edges instead of pointed edges.  And don't my turquoise pendant lights look awesome too?!  

And lastly the sink.  We decided to go with the 60/40 sink.  It was the same price as the 50/50 one and so it was a no brainer for me.  I LOVE the under mount sink and it's so nice to clean the counters and just wipe it into the sink.  I have never been so excited to clean my sinks :).  And my Moen faucet looks amazing with it.  When the guys were installing the sink we had a discussion on how many holes to drill (that is one of the last things they do when they are installing). We decided to have only two holes, one for the faucet and one for the air gap.  

Over all the process was amazing and I am so glad that I did it.  Even though when I started looking I was NOT looking at getting quartz, I'm so glad that I did.  Here are a couple reasons why I am glad I went with quartz:
•It's not porous like granite it (you have to seal granite)
• There have more white options than granite
•It's not as busy as granite, I love the subtle design of it
• It's just as durable as granite

I hope that these tips have helped you and answered any questions about counter tops.  If you're looking at replacing your counter tops, good luck!  It's a big , expensive and stressful process but the end result is amazing and so much FUN!

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McGypsy9 said...

I just want to thank you for this post! It is definitely something we all need to know. For a woman I am pretty handy around the house and learned a lot from my father when we, yes we, used to remodel homes. He taught me everything I know today about the ins and outs of a home. Well, maybe not everything as I have learned a lot over the years just asking questions and reading. I have always loved learning about this stuff so if I ever have a problem I will know what to do. I do want some sort of new counters in my kitchen and would have eventually had to go through the same process as you ha e explained here. So now that I know, 👍🏻I will go straight to the source and bypass all the rest! Thanks again as you have written a very informative article!