Granite countertop gaps - poor install?

lahattaJune 20, 2012


I am hoping to find some assistance with the attached photo. Two months ago I contacted a BBB accredited and highly recommended granite fabricator and installer. The owner came to my house, created templates, and at my request, created templates with the specification that we did not want a backsplash installed at this time.

The granite has been installed. The attached photo is what I have throughout my kitchen - gaps spanning from 3/8 of an inch up to 1/2 of an inch. Some of these gaps are between the granite and cabinet walls and some of the gaps are between the granite and the drywall.

This granite was installed 3 days ago, and since then, my attempts to install a subway tile backsplash are very frustrating due to the fact that the gap makes the bottom edge look messy due to the large gap. Also note the 1/4 inch gap on the front of the granite tops between the counter and the cabinet wall - this is very noticeable and cannot be covered up by a backsplash.

The fabricator has told me that I should use a larger trowel - up to 1/2 inch, to smooth on more mastic to feather out the wall to bring the subway tile out more in the areas where there is a large my opinion this will form a wave or a bow in the wall. It was my impression that creating templates for the granite should have eliminated this problem completely.

Is this an acceptable install? Am I insane to think that a template should have fixed these unsightly gaps when I specifically requested that the granite be templated for "no backsplash" at all? I appreciate any insight you can provide. If any of you think that a 1/2 trowel will really fix my problem, I am all ears...

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Here is the standard for gaps according to the Marble Institute of America site discussing the installation of natural stone surfaces in a kitchen:

"Visible joints between stone and other materials (e.g., cabinetry, gypsum wall board) shall be 1/8", with a tolerance of [plus or minus]1/16" ([plus or minus]1.5 mm), and filled with a soft, elastic material."

This works out to a maximum acceptable gap of 3/16". You're reporting gaps of 6/16ths to 8/16th, twice and more than the maximum industry standard.

If you go to the link, click on Homeowner's Guide to Countertop Installation, which brings up a pdf. The part I quoted in on p.5 of the pdf.

I really don't think you can cover up gaps this large with thinset under your subways. bazingabetty had this same issue with her granite last April. I don't know what happened about it though since she never let us know how it was resolved.

Here is a link that might be useful: Marble Institute of America

    Bookmark   June 20, 2012 at 2:33AM
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Thank you for your quick reply SuzanneSL. I had seen where you posted the guidelines in a previous article and have printed them for reference when the fabricator comes out to the house today to look at my complaints. He is currently telling me that I need to float more thinset to bring the wall out farther to disguise the gap, but I think this will bow the tiles and give the overall look a wave effect...I need to have as much knowledge and justification for my case as possible.

This is something I did not notice until the crew had cleaned up and left...I tried to give them their space while they worked, and was more worried about whether the seam was noticeable that I did not pay as much detail to items that I thought the template would have fixed.

    Bookmark   June 20, 2012 at 6:34AM
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mama goose_gw zn6OH

I don't have granite, but used solid epoxy resin tops, and had to score the drywall in a few places to get a closer fit. Your installers should have done the same.

I like using mastic, but when I was researching materials I found this warning (although I'm not sure this was the website where I originally found it):

Q: What is the difference between tile mastic and thinset mortar in terms of installation and procedure?

Tile mastic will have better adhesion properties for vertical surfaces. It has great "grab," and this is important on those walls. Another difference: sometimes when tiling you need to build up depressions a bit with your thinset mortar. This is impossible to do with the tile mastic because it is more syrupy and has no building capabilities.

Check your mastic container for recommendations or warnings.

Here is a link that might be useful: Tile Mastic info

    Bookmark   June 20, 2012 at 6:36AM
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Here are two more attached pictures. On one, you can see the gap next to the wall cabinet, and on the second photo which is positioned to the left of the sink, you can see the 11/32 of an inch gap. I know when tiling a backsplash I should leave a 1/16 gap between the bottom of the tile and the countertop so that a a flexible bead of caulk can be inserted, but it seems that a gap this large will be unsightly. Am I correct?

    Bookmark   June 20, 2012 at 7:08AM
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The second photo with the 11/32 and 15/32 inch gap

    Bookmark   June 20, 2012 at 7:10AM
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There shouldn't be a gap between counter and cabinet. That looks awful. We have an uneven wall, and the slab between that wall and the cabinet is withing guidelines on the wall and tight as a drum against the cabinet.

    Bookmark   June 20, 2012 at 8:32AM
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@lahatta: Sorry to hear about your granite install troubles... hopefully this will get resolved.

What type of granite do you have? Name? Costing? Pictures?

    Bookmark   June 20, 2012 at 8:36AM
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mama goose_gw zn6OH

I agree with may_flowers. Walls that aren't straight are a challenge, but not butting up against the cabinets is sloppy work. Are you going to put tile on the cabinets shown in the pictures?

The only place in my kitchen that the countertop butts up against cabinets is the fridge surround, and there are no gaps. It was a DIY/amateur installation--pros should be held to a higher standard, IMO.

    Bookmark   June 20, 2012 at 8:55AM
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Is that a glob of glue at the front of the granite piece? It looks like that is what is holding it away from the wall. Wonder why they did that...You specified there would be no granite 4 inch back splash and yet it seems they did not take that into account. Even if it would have had one I still don't understand why they didn't move it all the way against the wall. It would seem they could salvage the job if someone came out and just fixed it. You poor thing, how frustrating.

We had to have a sink reset because it was crooked. It's in the laundry room, a stainless deep sink undermount into granite. Every time I would go to turn on the water I would have to cock my head to bring it into square. They were able to unmount it and remount it for me. I didn't think it would be possible but they did. It's better but basically I guess the cutout is messed up but they were so awful I just wanted them out of my house after awhile. I don't notice it now and it is a lot better than it was. It's so hard to find accomplished workers who take pride in their work. I hope it all works out : ) We had a lot of problems with that company and BTW they had all of these consumer's choice awards on the wall but later I found out not many people really vote on that stuff and you can solicit for votes or "likes" on FB to get some types of awards. Wish I had known that beforehand. What a fiasco with that company. Good luck!!!

    Bookmark   June 20, 2012 at 9:21AM
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Thank you all for your helpful insight. The fabricator is on his way to our house this morning to hear our concerns and "bring a larger trowel" for me to borrow as that was his fix action for my gaps.

The granite is called Vesper, and we have a small kitchen, approx. 65 sq. ft of granite was installed. The cost was $2600 to remove the old counters and install the new. The drywall repair was not factored in this cost.

mama goose - I had planned to tile a backsplash at the back of the counters, but was planning to factor the "look" into the backsplash to see whether I wanted to backsplash the sides....but with the huge gap, I do not have a choice in the matter.

gr8day - that is a large goop of caulk that the installer put in the front of the cabinet. It is my opinion that they did this to make the counter top to wall cabinet look "seamless", but it looks anything but. I am very frustrated and very worried that I will not get any satisfaction out of this...we had been saving for years, and finally took the plunge.

One thing to note that I believe has factored into this. Two months ago the installer came out to our house and created templates. I received a call 3 weeks later from him saying that a paperwork mistake had been made and he had cut the wrong granite. He only told me after the install that he had to reassemble the templates that he had taken apart after the first stone cut...

He told me that he didn't want to "bother me" by coming back to my house to take a new template, so he reassembled the template (is that possible?) and cut the new stone, which is what you see in the pictures.

I thought they were professionals, but I figure I would not be losing this much sleep when working with professionals. I will let you all know what comes out of this after his visit. Thanks for the encouragement to state the obvious to him and the unacceptable work.

    Bookmark   June 20, 2012 at 9:36AM
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65 square feet is NOT a "small kitchen". Kitchens average around 55 square feet of counter for most jobs, and yours is 10 feet above average. You paid a VERY low price point for this job overall. It's not a bad job considering those circumstances, just a slightly sloppy one. If the installer had done a better job with caulking the seams (as he should have) you would never have noticed most of these issues---which are not really big issues at all. Most counters will have slight gaps. On a budget job, what usually happens with a slightly wavy wall is that they are cut slightly deep front to back, and the drywall is scored and the granite is inserted a tad into the drywall. Or else the homeowner is told to float the drywall after the fact. And that's basically what the installer is telling you to do here.

Put your straight edge on the wall and use drywall compound to fill in those low spots, then prime and paint and then your backsplash will be good to go. Or you can go without if that's what you really prefer. And caulk the uncaulked edges. That unfinished detail is the true culprit here for the gap issue. 90% of everything that you see as "wrong" is because it wasn't caulked.

    Bookmark   June 20, 2012 at 10:09AM
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My apologies on the typo: the kitchen counters measure 45 sq. ft.

I really can't believe that caulk is the fix action for these large gaps. A template and professional job would have a tighter fit between counter tops and cabinet walls - I know this to be true based on friends and family who have also had granite installed in their homes with similar configurations.

I plan to backsplash everything, except for the cabinet wall which is seen to the left of the countertop, so yes, some of the gaps could be better covered by tile, but I truly believe that the majority of the counter could have been installed better / tighter to alleviate the need for caulked joints.

    Bookmark   June 20, 2012 at 11:46AM
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You're going to need a caulked joint between your tile back splash and the granite anyway. From the looks of things, with floating out your drywall as LWO described and then the thickness of your BS tiles & _thinset_ (mastic is bad, icky, gooey, nasty stuff that never really cures!), you should be able to wind up with a nice, neat, professional looking job. Without a doubt, this is a bit of a sloppy granite installation, but you got it at a very low price. $2600 for removal of the old counter, the granite itself and the installation is an incredible price! The job can easily be saved and you should have a great looking BS and counter top when all is said and done.

    Bookmark   June 20, 2012 at 12:10PM
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I recently was asked to do a backsplash over new granite that had a very "bad cut" about 18" long to the right of the stove. It was a poor cut and gapped just under 1/2" ! We discussed floating the wall out and rejected the idea.

The solution I came up with was to fill the gap with expanding foam and, when set, use a razor blade to cut it level with the granite. In this case, the foam was quite close to the colour of the granite, and we were using a brick-joint tumbled marble. By building the tile out just slightly, only a sliver of the foam was visible.

I always us 1/8" spacing off the granite and, using a color-matched caulk on the seam, the foam was invisible. As well as hiding the gap, this also provided a base upon which the tile sits.

This may or may not be helpful to you.....

    Bookmark   June 20, 2012 at 1:21PM
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Clever, TileTech! It's unfortunate, though, that excellent craftsmen have to come behind sloppy "professionals" to figure a way to clean up their messes. Well, at least there is a way.

    Bookmark   June 20, 2012 at 1:57PM
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Thank you tiletech for the advice. Since I am a diy homeowner and have only laid tile once before, I feel that I may be in over my head trying to level out the backsplash by building it up.

The installers will be here later today...I should have an update soon.

    Bookmark   June 20, 2012 at 2:37PM
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Well....keep us posted. I might be able to walk you thru some other options.........

    Bookmark   June 20, 2012 at 7:20PM
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@lahatta: The gap you have... where is it located.. is it a long run wiht a join in the middle which was done onsite? or is it a small piece that has no wall on one side?

If its a small piece it would be easy to replace and i would pressure the vendor. Also make sure your walls are square, if they are not square this could be reason of the gap.

I have a long run of counter with one join... cabinetry on one side and wall on the other. One of my wall was not square (at the end) so i have a gap there as well. I have caulked the area and there will be no tile there.

If the gap for you is in an area where tile would go then you can build it out by using any suitable material and bullnose the end.

the foam idea above is good as well as you just need a place to start off from... you can also fabricate drywall between the gaps many options.

    Bookmark   June 20, 2012 at 8:49PM
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I'm going to have to remember that foam trick, thanks Tile Tech!

    Bookmark   June 20, 2012 at 9:23PM
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Here are some additional photos that explain the whole picture better....

    Bookmark   June 21, 2012 at 7:36AM
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Photo of the long run of granite

    Bookmark   June 21, 2012 at 7:38AM
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What did the installers have to say?

    Bookmark   June 21, 2012 at 7:47AM
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@lahatta: In the first picture that piece is very small and they should have been able to fabricate it so the gap was very minimal (even if the wall is not square).

The second picture if the overhang is not consistent then there is a problem. More than likely the templater did a poor job or the cutter did a poor job. Installer just puts the granite in and has little to no choice if the pieces were cut incorrectly.

How was the template done? Measuring tape? Cardboard pieces? or computer aided?

I think the inconsistent overhang is a place where you have a lot to complain about.

I am sorry but seems like you will have to pressure them to fix this, they will be very reluctant to fix these issues.

Good luck!

    Bookmark   June 21, 2012 at 8:14AM
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Thanks again all of you for the invaluable advice and support. Yesterday, the installer came out, assessed my concerns, and will be coming out this morning to remove sections of the granite to take back to his shop for more fabrication. At this point he has agreed to come out and:

1. Re-fabricate the 2 pieces of granite for the 2 tops that are beside the stove. He said there was enough left over of the original slab to do this. He agreed that that the gaps were terrible and looked "bad".

2. This is where my concern is: He will be removing the slab to the left of the sink and taking it back to his shop for fabrication and more cutting. He said that he will bring the slab back, shift it down (toward the end of the counter where the clock is hanging) and then shift the slab that has the sink down to meet the seam.

I am concerned about this as to the fact that the sink is held in place by epoxy and support boards. It will be a small shift, but a shift nonetheless.

Wouldn't the slab that holds the sink need to be removed, and the epoxy cleaned and then reset again? Wouldn't shifting this slab cause a question in the integrity of the epoxy holding the sink?

I have to say that the fabricator / installer seemed concerned that my happiness and satisfaction were important to him. We live in a very rural area and word of mouth is important to a company.

Do all of the options that he plans to implement seem like a solid fix or just icing to cover a poorly made cake?

Thank you all again.

    Bookmark   June 21, 2012 at 8:29AM
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@jmith - I think you will find this interesting as did I.

Templates were created for the long section of granite using plywood and wood pieces. The 2 tops beside the stove were measured with a tape measure only.

The same individual who did the templates, did the fabrication and did the install. It is a small company with only 2 owners who do all the work.

I think the root of the problem here is that the owner cut a completely different granite piece than the one I selected. He admitted that he made this mistake. But what really concerned me was that he also stated that he had already broken down the templates when he cut the granite that you see in the photos.

The owner had said that he did not want to inconvenience me by coming to the house to take a second template, so he built templates off of the first granite stone that he cut.

Thank you for your input about the overhang - it helps solidify my resolve to get this done right.

    Bookmark   June 21, 2012 at 8:36AM
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I am glad that you are getting some resolution but also understand that you are a little anxious about the outcome. I hope it will take care of the problem. I don't really see how they can shift the sink section without loosening it and then moving it. We had to have our island removed and repolished. They just loosened it by gently taping shims into the edges and then it just lifted off. We also had to have a sink reset and they just cut the epoxy and reset and re-glued it.

BTW, your granite is beautiful if that is any consolation! I love it. It looks great with your cabinets.

    Bookmark   June 21, 2012 at 9:45AM
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gr8day - u are correct. They will have to remove / pry off the section of granite with the sink installed in order to shift it down to meet the seam of the granite next to it. A jar such as this will surely ruin the integrity of the epoxy holding the sink, wouldn't it?

Thanks for the complement on the overall look - it is good to know I got one thing right! :)

    Bookmark   June 21, 2012 at 11:47AM
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additional photos

    Bookmark   June 22, 2012 at 3:04PM
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additional photo

    Bookmark   June 22, 2012 at 3:06PM
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The installer was to come out on Wednesday afternoon to remove the sections as promised, but called later in the day and cancelled - said he would be by thurs, but never showed. My husband called him on thurs. afternoon to track him down, and he said he would be out friday morning - he finally showed on Friday afternoon and took the 2 sections beside the stove and the long run of granite that does not include the sink.

The installer stated that he would be back another day to template and cut a new stone - stating that he had enough remnants to cut from the same stone.

Today, they loosened the portion with the sink in it to shift it around to try to make it match up with the other granite, just to see how large the gap would become, and when I voiced my concerns about the prying off of the granite with the sink still attached as well as the epoxy integrity the installer seemed to disregard my concerns and said that it wasn't possible - that the epoxy is solid and shifts such as this would have no effect.

I have read too many commentaries about issues with under mount sinks in general to think that shifts such as could not play a role in the sink loosening over time.

When the installer left, you could feel the tension...and I really feel that the working relationship has been damaged.

I will eventually update you on the outcome...but at this point, it may take a while.

    Bookmark   June 22, 2012 at 3:16PM
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long run gap

    Bookmark   June 22, 2012 at 3:21PM
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Isn't it sad that it has to come to this? I can't believe how they treat customers these days, especially the not showing up, not calling, hey it's all about them right? So sorry, I hope it will go well from here on out. You poor thing : /

    Bookmark   June 22, 2012 at 6:32PM
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The sink will be fine as they shift the piece. What worries me more, is that shifting the stone will shift the sink so its nots centered in the sink cabinet below?

    Bookmark   June 24, 2012 at 8:11AM
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That guy should be falling all over himself apologizing for the horrible work. How awful for you to have to deal with being treated like that along with the crappy work. I hope they take extra care and things turn out right for you. I was wondering about the sink being centered when it was shifted over too. Take lots and lots of pictures.

    Bookmark   June 24, 2012 at 2:00PM
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I know it's a moot point now and someone correct me if I'm wrong (TileTech?), but don't you need at least 1/4" tilebacker on the wall when using thinset to mount tile? Putting that on the wall would correct enough of the gap to hide it once the tile is on.

    Bookmark   June 24, 2012 at 8:27PM
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I don't have a picture, but I have been reading all the posts about granite and seem to have the problem with a seam that is more than 1/16th. The fabricator also chipped the granite at the top edge of the lip of my undermount sink right at the front. He tried to hide it with some epoxy. It didn't work and I saw it right away. This is the 2nd piece of granite in this area because he did not center the sink when he cut the 1st piece of granite. I am not sure what to do because the chip and the seams look terrible. Should I expect this contractor to redo the counter?

    Bookmark   June 24, 2012 at 11:29PM
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rmtdoug - There's no problem using thinset on drywall as long as the tile won't be exposed to water. Incidental water splash is not usually a problem. It's common and acceptable practice to install backsplash tiles with thinset on drywall. In an area like right behind a sink that has a higher chance of larger amounts of water and perhaps water sitting, some kind of cementitious backer board is a good idea, but the entire backsplash area doesn't require it.

    Bookmark   June 25, 2012 at 11:31AM
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Thank you for that info, dseng. Sorry I took so long thanking you. It was not intentional.

    Bookmark   July 1, 2012 at 10:54PM
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Lahata, you may have this all corrected by now and are finally enjoying your kitchen with the beautiful granite, but wanted to mention that I have been burned more times by BBB certified tradesman/companies than any others. BBB is a scam and they give good ratings to those who pay their BBB dues. If you ever contact BBB about a problem with a merchant like this, they have this phony evaluation process and then declare their member as right and you are wrong.

Here is a link that might be useful: Expose of BBB

    Bookmark   August 18, 2012 at 8:28AM
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