what to check for when your stone counters get installed

feisty68May 8, 2014

It's been hard to read all the threads about shoddy countertop work. I thought it would be useful to collect a thread about how handle the important pre-, during-, and post-installation phase to prevent and pursue remedy for installation problems. It sounds like one often has to play hardball with the contractor, and most of us are not experts on that.

I'd welcome thoughts on:

1. what to do before installation?

2. what to inspect after installation?

3. how to handle final payment?

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What to do before installation:

1. Agree on the edge profile, sink reveal, location of any seams, backsplash if applicable.
2. Inspect your slabs (even quartz to avoid resin blobs).
3. Be there to lay out the template on the slabs. If not possible, at least review pictures.

What to do after installation:

1. Inspect seams (visually and by feel), edges, reveals. Look for obviously repaired sections.
2. As for payment, we weren't required to pay on the spot. They sent us the bill the next day, and we paid it because our installation was problem-free.

    Bookmark   May 8, 2014 at 12:28PM
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Search on you tube for 'granite shorts', it's a stone company that produced a series of videos on having stone counters installed. One of them is specifically on what to look for after install.

    Bookmark   May 8, 2014 at 12:40PM
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Without question, the most important tool for checking a new stone installation is a level, at least a 4-footer.

Place it over any seams. It should not rock, nor should there be any gaps underneath. The closer to level the better, the MIA allows 3/16" over 10' or so, but I'd take a tad out of level for tops on plane.

If there is an appliance opening, the level should not only be used front to back and side to side, but placed in an "x" over the opening. It should be level in all directions.

Place a straightedge long enough to span appliance openings to ascertain that the adjacent tops are in plane. Tops should be square to the rear wall, parallel to each other, not necessarily parallel to cabinet sides, in appliance openings.

Make sure sinks are mechanically fastened. Wood shims and/or stone scraps polyestered in place is not mechanical fastening. Silicone is to be considered a gasket, not an adhesive bond, between an undermount sink flange and the bottom of the top.

This post was edited by Trebruchet on Thu, May 8, 14 at 18:48

    Bookmark   May 8, 2014 at 12:55PM
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Check that the slabs are set level front to back as well as side to side.

Check that the overhangs are consistent.

Check that there are no excessive gaps between slab and wall.

If you have an undermount sink, check that it is mounted with mechanical support, not just a layer of caulk/adhesive/sealant holding it up.

Check that the reveal on your undermount sink is acceptable to you.

Check that the holes for your items (faucet, soap dispenser, etc.) are where you expected and that your things that go in them will fit and are not impinged underneath, etc. (i.e., that what mechanical support system that is holding up your sink is not in the way of mounting any of these things, etc.)

Check that the mechanical support system holding up your sink does not interfere with other structure, such as mounting the disposal, hot water heater, RO unit, etc. in the undercabinet space.

Check that you can reach whatever you need to reach in the under cabinet, for example that the undermount support does not keep you from reaching an outlet or shutoff if need be in a hurry.

Check that your seams are acceptable to you.

    Bookmark   May 8, 2014 at 1:01PM
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Very helpful :) Thank you sjhockeyfan, Christina, Trebuchet, and beautybutdebtfree!

    Bookmark   May 8, 2014 at 2:07PM
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Another thing to consider is communicating a list of expectations per the above recommendations. I wish I had from the get go but relied on statements on their website and the literaure they gave me that guaranteed professional installation and customer satisfaction and I assumed too much. If you can maybe craft an email that lines out these expectations then you both start on the same page. We shouldn't have to do this, but I sure wish I did. You don't want to scare them off or sound demanding, but just matter of fact of what you'll be looking for at inspection. I wish this thread started 3 weeks ago!

I truly hope your install goes smoothly.

    Bookmark   May 8, 2014 at 9:32PM
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If you are doing a special edge, have them make a sample for you. There have been a few people that thought they were getting a mitered edge & were disappointed when it was laminated.

    Bookmark   May 8, 2014 at 10:04PM
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Don't believe your GC when he tells you that the fabricator won't need to shim the area that is a good 1/4"-ish off from the high point. We had a board that was bowed at the top of the sink cabinet, which was throwing level off of the cabinets adjacent to it. Our GC said that it would be fine and would "flatten" when the fabricator laid the counter on the cabinets.

Turns out that they (the fabricators) don't do that, and when I tried to explain to the GC that it was out of level and it needed fixed, he didn't do it because he thought that the fabricators would just "smoosh" that area down. I went round with him for a while on it. Asked him to call the fabricator so that they could discuss. Apparently, he didn't and just kept telling me the same story. So yeah, they (the fabricators) shim up to the highest point and don't smoosh things down, thank you very much.

If our GC would have not represented as he knew it was going to be okay that way, I would have talked with our cabinet maker and had him redo that cabinet (or portion of the cabinet)...but now instead, we have counters that are shimmed much more than what they should have been.

In the end, I suppose it's okay. In terms of things that could go wrong with an install, that's minor, I guess. But the gap between the top drawers and where the counter is, is significantly greater than what it should be - we have full overlay slab doors, so variations on our lines is very noticeable.

Also, make sure that your cabinet maker gives plenty of room for the sink to rest in it's cabinet. Ours was just a bit too small and it had to be scooped. Which means if we ever have to change our sink, it's going to be quite an ordeal.

    Bookmark   May 8, 2014 at 10:35PM
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Thank you Feisty68 for starting this thread to help many of us also who are not sure what to ask or check for when getting stone counters.

    Bookmark   May 9, 2014 at 12:46AM
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This is a great thread! Thanks for starting it, feisty. I guess I will be the one pestering them with questions before and after. Any tips from the pros and BDDT owners how to get this list without being a PITA home owner?

    Bookmark   May 9, 2014 at 7:29AM
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One other thing. Make sure your stone fabricator doesn't get the blame for something he didn't do. For instance, if your cabinets have been installed flush to a bowed wall and haven't been shimmed into a straight plane, it is completely unfair to blame the stone fabricator when the overhangs vary. What would you do if you were him? Here are his choices:

1. Scribe the top to the bowed wall, keep the front edge straight, and let the overhangs vary.

2. Scribe the top to the bowed wall, curve the front edge to match the cabinets, and keep the overhangs the same.

3. Tell the homeowner their cabinets are installed improperly and reschedule the template.

Tops aren't installed in a vacuum. There are anxious homeowners and a construction schedule to meet, Few fabricators have the guts to charge for a template reschedule, although they should since the improperly installed cabinets weren't their fault. Viewed in context, it's easy to see how things can get derailed sometimes.

We've also seen painters get screwed on this board from an improper top installation. Things aren't always what they seem.

    Bookmark   May 9, 2014 at 7:55AM
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here's some advice, don't expect perfection. i am being dead serious. what i see the experts saying should be done and what is done in practice are quite different. my counters look fine but this sink was technically too big for the base and they under mounted anyway. i can't tell how it's fastened but they used quite a few shims to level all the counters sink included. and i have one counter that has 1" overhang and i just realized that the opposite side of the kitchen has a 3/4" overhang. bottom line, am i going to have them tear it out for 1/4"? no. is it properly done? no. i can live with it and lots of other people on this site live with things that are not quite right too.
do make sure your fabricator has a lifetime warranty and if they fix granite, even better. when i voiced my sink mount concerns to the owner , she assured me that they fix chips for free for their customers and they fix other fabricators mistakes(failed sinks,etc) so if the worst happens and the sink falls out, they will fix it for free since i am their customer. knowing that is better than knowing what to look for honestly.

    Bookmark   May 9, 2014 at 11:54AM
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Good advice ardcp. I must try to remember it during my upcoming countertop install. (I don't think my walls are level).

    Bookmark   May 18, 2014 at 9:34AM
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After our fabricator left we found a crack in the granite (look VERY carefully) and also discovered no supports for a 12inch overhang on our island. They returned and replaced the granite slab and put in the supports.

    Bookmark   May 18, 2014 at 9:40AM
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A few things to check after the cabinets are installed:

put a long striaght edge against the wall. Sheetrock walls almost always have a wave to them. The granite can be cut to follow the wave but usually is not if you are getting splash as the splash will cover the varying gap at the back of the counter. If no splash or tile then the granite top should be cut to follow the wall.

check if the cabinets on either side of the DW opening are at the same height. If not the granite will have to be shimmed to make up for the difference in height.

Granite is not flat on the bottom (or the top, for that matter) so some shimming is usually necessary even if the tops of the cabinets are all at the exact same height which they almost never are. (Note: cabinets set with a laser projecting level are usually installed perfectly. We love to put tops over superbly installed cabinets.)

the field measurer for the countertops should discuss (or confirm) the stone, edge detail, corner radius's, sink model, sink reveal, faucet hole locations, and the need for supports. Supports should be provided by the cabinet builder as the supports require adequate structure in the cabinet. The supports should be rigid. If you can lean on them and deflect then they are inadequate. Some granites only need to be flexed a very small amount (like a 1/16" or less) to crack.

If you are getting full height backsplash the height for the splash should be measured AFTER the tops are installed and then installed in a 2nd trip. Most shops just cut it short enough to make sure it'll fit and fill in the resulting gap below the uppers with caulk. Sometimes it'll be a pretty big gap.

Sometimes the field measure guy will discover that the access to your kitchen will require additional install crew or additional seams to get the pieces into your kitchen. If this is the case there can be an additional charge for extra installers. If the granite guy says he needs an additional seam he probably does. Granite guys don't like seams any more than homeowners do and if a sink run cracks the granite guy gets to replace it for free so he likes to avoid that.

    Bookmark   May 18, 2014 at 3:48PM
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Thanks again for the expert and homeowner advice provided in this thread. My granite is being installed *today* and I feel more confident knowing what to look for and what expectations are appropriate.

    Bookmark   May 21, 2014 at 11:55AM
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Sadly, I must add my own BTDT experience here.

If you are planning a painted backsplash (no tile or stone backsplash) - do not only state that but actually go over HOW they will achieve that. They will either have to scribe the wall or notch into the drywall and that will take time and perfectionism and careful measuring. Do not allow them to hand-wave and claim that they are not responsible for walls being uneven.

If the installers take a coffee break, check their work even if they haven't completed it - overhang depth and consistency, appliance openings, etc. If there is a problem bring it up right away and call in a boss if necessary.

If there is any difference, decide of how you want things centered - e.g. faucet centered on window vs sink cabinet.

If there will be a seam over the corner cabinet, ask if any additional support will be required (an IKEA corner cabinet is a little inadequate in this respect).

If there will be a seam, ask if you can pick the colour of epoxy (I was offered a choice).

Ask if they shim the countertops if cabinets aren't perfect. My installer said during installation that he doesn't - which came as a surprise to me (fortunately our cabinets were really good).

Try to get them to put as many coats of sealant as needed - if you have to buy more it's $50 at Home Depot for granite (here in Canada).

    Bookmark   May 27, 2014 at 12:02PM
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Excellent advice! I would like to ditto the suggestion to see how your stone is templated, especially if there is any pattern you want to showcase. I bought two adjacent slabs of soapstone which had a unique large white patterned area towards the ends of the slabs and I thought my fabricator understood I wanted to have these patterns in prominent locations. The counters are installed now and there is only one patterned place. I don't know where the other one went, perhaps for the sink cutout??? It is always possible there was not way it could be included but I'll never know because I did not follow up myself. I should have gone to the fabricators and watched while he laid it out. My bad.

    Bookmark   May 27, 2014 at 12:41PM
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