Granite is an amazing material that comes straight from the ground. Not only is it absolutely beautiful and available in a wide array of natural occurring colors, granite is tough, durable, resistant to high temperatures, and both scratch and stain resistant when properly sealed. Granite truly is a remarkable material.
The granite countertop process is not an easy task. Granite has to be pulled from the Earth, cut into specific measurements, polished thoroughly, fabricated to specific specifications, and then marketed and sold. Once you understand every step involved, you’ll probably have a much higher appreciation for granite than you did before.
Taking granite from the ground
Granite comes from deep in the ground, several kilometers beneath the Earth in fact. Granite is made when extremely hot rock called magma begins to build-up a lot of pressure due to the high temperatures. The magma then rises through the cracks and crevices in the surface of the Earth. Once the magma breaks through the Earth’s crust, it begins to cool and solidify resulting in a bed of granite.
Typically, most granite beds are located beneath sediment rock. In fact, most of the Earth’s surface is composed of sediment rock. After a bed of granite has been located, the granite collectors start by outlining the rock wall. This is usually 30 meters long by 7 meters wide. The collectors then use a gas flame to create channels that are both long and narrow. These channels help free up the sides. From there, near the back and bottom, they drill several holes that are all 7 meters long.
After these holes have been drilled, the granite collectors take explosive cable and feed it down through the holes. The explosion is so strong it detaches the section right off. A variety of tools and equipment are then used to cut the granite down into sizable rock blocks. These blocks are usually 3 meters long and 1 ½ meters wide and deep. These blocks may look small, but they can weigh over 20,000 kilograms.
The granite cutting process
The blocks of granite are now transported to the factory where they will be cut into slabs and then polished. The first cut is made with a large gang saw. The blade on the saw have segments with tough edges that are able to create the amount of fiction necessary to cut the granite blocks into slabs. To keep the saw from overheating, water is consistently poured over the blades.
The process of cutting granite is quite slow. The gang saw will only cut around 8 square meters of granite per hour for a slab that’s thinner than 5 centimeters. To cut through a whole block, it takes a total of three days. Now that the block of granite is cut into slabs, the slabs will now go through the polishing process.
The granite polishing and finishing processes
The polishing and the finishing processes are what give granite its beautiful or unique look. When polishing the granite, the slabs are run through a huge polishing machine. This machine uses 19 polishing heads to polish a granite slab at the rate of 1 square meter per minute. The polishing process is similar to sanding a surface with sandpaper.
There are two different polishing processes. For a high gloss finish, all 19 heads are used to polish the slab and for a sunny gloss finish, 10 heads are used. For a rougher and more unique surface instead of a glossy one, the slabs are put through a different process referred to as flaming. The slabs are put through a machine that runs a propane flame at a temperature of 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit. A stream of water is also use at the same time to prevent the slab from cracking under the heat.
The intense heat used in this process makes the quartz particles in the granite literally explode. These small explosions cause the surface of the granite slab to become bumpy and rough in texture. In addition to countertops, this technique is also used for non-slip surfaces too.
Granite fabrication process
Some countertops are fabricated on a mass level. These are usually all the same size, thickness, and design. On the other hand, other countertops are custom made. The design for these are usually done with the use of a computer. Many companies only fabricate granite slabs in one size. They’ll then sell it to another company wo will custom fabricate it for their customers.
If you’re investing in a custom granite countertop for you kitchen, the company you hire will usually come into your home and take down the exact measurements for the specific style you’re interested in. Many professionals will even make a physical template using thin strips of foam core board and a strong glue. With a magic marker, they can also make notes on the template for whoever is going to fabricate it.
After the template has been measured out and glued together, it’s taken back to the company headquarters and placed on a digital board. This digital board will translate all the dimensions and create an illustration of it with the use of certain computer software. From there, the image and all the dimensions are transferred to a C & C routing table. In just a few hours, this machine can cut a slab of granite countertop to the customer’s exact specifications.
This is just one of the ways granite is fabricated. Some companies don’t use templates and simply feed the measurements right into the computer software. There’s also several different kinds of fabricating machines used today. When choosing a company to fabricate your granite countertops, always look at their portfolio and read their customer reviews.
Granite installation process
Once your granite countertops are completed, the installation process can begin. If you are not skilled in this area, it’s best to let a professional install them for you. Handling and installing them properly takes experience expertise. For example, when the pieces of your countertop are laid down in the right locations, a special resin will need to be mixed. This resin is what will hold the slabs together. When this resin is being mixed, the right pigment will also need to be added, so it matches the color of the stone. If you don’t get this right, the seams will definitely stand out, especially in the light.
To make sure that the countertop’s seam is perfectly level, many professionals will lay small granite blocks on the countertop during the drying process. A clamp is then used to hold the bricks down tightly. Once dry, another layer of resin is added.
After the second layer of resin has dried, a polishing machine is used to make the seam unnoticeable. An experienced professional can be all the seams completely disappear. If you can still see your seams, ask the company you hired to redo them. You shouldn’t be able to see your seams at all.
The next step is drilling the proper holes for the faucet and installing the sink. If the measurements are all correct, your sink should fit right in like a glove. The sink will be held up by brackets while the holes for the sink faucet are being drilled. To do this, a diamond core bit will need to be used. The last step is to fasten the faucet and the sink to the countertop.
Sealing your granite countertops
Now that the countertops have been installed, they will need to be sealed with a quality sealant. There are many reasons why homeowners should seal their granite countertops. Sealing your surfaces annually will keep them shining and looking great for several years to come. Sealing then will also prevent them from being scratched by sharp objects and stained by red wine and other acidity liquids.
There are many quality brands on the market these days, but the most popular include Granite Gold, Black Diamond Nex-Gen Natural Stone, and TriNova’s Granite Sealer and Protectant just to name a few. Using a product with a built-in cleaner is your best choice for maintaining a shiny granite countertop.
When applying your sealant, make sure you have already cleaned your countertop with warm water, a mild soap, and a soft washcloth. You don’t want any dust or dirt on the surface when you apply your first coat. After the first coat has been applied, let it dry and then give it the water test. Pour just a little water onto the surface of your granite countertop. If the water beads up, then you know you know your countertop is properly sealed. On the other hand, if the water starts to soak into the surface, then you’ll know you need another coat.
Now that you know the complete process of manufacturing high-quality granite countertops, you probably have a much higher respect for this beautiful rock. The amount of different people who are involved in the process of creating such beautiful pieces is incredible. Granite truly adds that timeless, elegant look to your home, a natural look that’s extremely popular with so many homeowners.