Seam Help - What is a "good seam"

oldryderDecember 24, 2013

I am a fabricator ... and pretty fussy.

" I think many of the posts here are stressing that a lot of problems could be solved by better communication before the materials are chosen or cut"

The discussion on the "Cambria - Seam Help thread" led me to believe the following could be helpful.

A "perfect" seam is one that is is invisible. In practice "invisible" is unattainable.

A very well done seam is one that has to be looked for to notice it is there. Given the technology available to fabricators and installers a well done seam is attainable a large majority of the time.

The following situations can create a seam that is somewhat more noticable while IMHO still be very acceptable.

It should be a given that the seam is very very tight (the thickness of a razor blade or less) and that the underside of the seamed pieces are flush at the joint. The color of the adhesive at the seam should be close to the stone. In highly varied stone the color is a compromise since its impossible to vary the adhesive color with the varying stone. What looks best is somewhat subjective and sometimes the color match selected by the installer is too light or dark for the homeowner. fortunately this can be changed if necessary,

1. A slight step (maybe a 1/16") can occur at the middle or back of a seam where the top of the 2 pieces isn't perfectly flush. This can happen when mating 2 pieces of stone because natural stone and quartz isn't perfectly flat. (perfectly flat stone is sold as "surface plates" for machinists and is very expensive.) Very large seams in islands can be very difficult to get perfectly flush. It is possible to repolish the whole island after glue-ing the pieces together but the resulting piece is probably too large to handle and install.

If you have a piece with a slight rise or dip on either side of the seam this can make it impossible to get the desired perfectly flush surface at the joint. Installers with the proper tools can minimize the step and when it can't be completely eliminated will normally set the pieces to the step is to the rear of the top.

Some fabricators will grind the top of an irregular seam but it my experience this leaves an area that has clearly been worked if viewed from the correct angle or in certain lighting. (I might be wrong. Some stone experts will assert that the top can be ground and refinished to a perfect polish. So far I havent seen anyone that can do it consistently and I have been looking for it. I go to a annual trade show in one month and will be looking for it again.)

2. Grain transition is the other bugaboo. There are a lot of options to minimize the grain transitions. Some cost more because they require additional material. A competent fabricator works this issue with the customer BEFORE any stone is cut. Best is to involve the customer in the layout of the parts so they are bought into the final product BEFORE any stone is cut. This approach takes considerably more time after the sale but before fabrication and many fabricators don't do it for that reason.

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jellytoast

Oldryder, you rock!

    Bookmark   December 24, 2013 at 6:47PM
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ineffablespace

How would people feel about this seam, from the Dupont Website

    Bookmark   December 24, 2013 at 6:57PM
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Sophie Wheeler

It's perfectly fine. Seams in any man made material that has movement are always going to be visible because it doesn't have natural veining. It's a foolish expectation to expect them to be any other way.

    Bookmark   December 24, 2013 at 7:10PM
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weissman

The issue with the above seam is that the grain switches from horizontal to vertical. I personally would not be happy with that.

    Bookmark   December 24, 2013 at 7:21PM
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oldryder

"The issue with the above seam is that the grain switches from horizontal to vertical. I personally would not be happy with that."

unfortunately the change in grain direction is often unavoidable. Consider a "L" with two 10' legs. Since slabs are between 55 and approx. 70" tall you simply can't get two 10' pieces with the grain running in different directions. Additionally, having the grain parallel to one wall and perpendicular to the other wall is generally considered less desirable than the seam in the corner which is often obscured by items on the countertop anyway.

    Bookmark   December 24, 2013 at 7:30PM
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sjhockeyfan325

FWIW, I like the change in direction when the counters change direction.

    Bookmark   December 24, 2013 at 8:02PM
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Trebruchet

I could fabricate the pictured Corian as shown or with the grain running one direction, no matter the length of either "L". With a little fooling around, the seams would be highly inconspicuous.

    Bookmark   December 26, 2013 at 11:26AM
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Trebruchet

" The color of the adhesive at the seam should be close to the stone. In highly varied stone the color is a compromise since its impossible to vary the adhesive color with the varying stone."

    Bookmark   December 26, 2013 at 11:34AM
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Trebruchet

Three tinted adhesives.

    Bookmark   December 26, 2013 at 11:35AM
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Trebruchet

Finished.

    Bookmark   December 26, 2013 at 11:37AM
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live_wire_oak

Trebuchet, only about 5% of the fabricators I've encountered have your skill. You're setting the bar a little high for your average stone worker. It'd be nice if the market skill could rise to that, but like anything, the vast majority of consumers prefer an below average price with above average work. Expectations outstrip budgets of the consumers and the skill levels of the workers.

    Bookmark   December 26, 2013 at 11:42AM
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ineffablespace

The question is, Would you rather have one run of counter with the grain running parallel and a near equal run of counter with the grain running perpendicular, or would you rather the grain run in one direction with respect to the length of the cabinets. I don't think either is wrong, it's a matter of taste, but linear abutting at 90 degrees is going to make a more obvious seam than pieces seamed in parallel, sort of slip matched.

Also, the difference between natural materials which start out as layers of various sediment that then gets compressed and shaped by geological forces Versus man-made material where the various elements are swirled together, for the most part.

The overall seaming is going to be different with the two, and I suspect, less easy to align in the more random man-made material.

    Bookmark   December 26, 2013 at 11:49AM
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Linelle

I would be fine with the Dupont seam.

    Bookmark   December 26, 2013 at 11:55AM
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oldryder

Trebruchet: nice job on the seam. My "impossible" statement was referring to stone like fusion or betularie where the variations in color and grain are much greater. Regardless, your repair is impressive work.

    Bookmark   December 26, 2013 at 12:24PM
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nosoccermom

Me, too, because I would prefer that the grain runs the same direction all around when I'm standing facing the cabinets and looking down at the counter top.
However, this is an excellent example of the necessity of prior communication. For me, having the grain all run the same direction when looking at it as is on the picture would feel all wrong.

Re: Expectations: When our house was built, it never ever occurred to me that I would have to tell a floor tiler that the space between the tiles should be even, and that if he couldn't achieve that without spacers, he should use them. Same with outlets and light switches having to be straight.

    Bookmark   December 26, 2013 at 12:32PM
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jellytoast

LOL re: "expectations," nosoccermom!

    Bookmark   December 26, 2013 at 3:52PM
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firstmmo

I like the grain change in the Dupont seam because to me, it reminds me of a mitered edge picture frame. What I wouldn't like is if they had done the same thing, but didn't angle the corners--I have seen that and think that looks ridiculous to have one slab going one way and the other going the other way, essentially making one slab perpendicular to the other. I saw that at a open house once and thought "Who designed this?"

Trebuchet: your seam is well done. It would be great if this talent that you possess was available to everyone who needs it!

    Bookmark   December 26, 2013 at 4:25PM
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teachertile

My seam is very good, IMO. Several different colors were used to create the seam. This really helps hide it. I would ask your fabricator about this if you have a multi color stone.

    Bookmark   December 26, 2013 at 4:37PM
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ineffablespace

You can see though, where there is going to be two distinct outcomes when it comes to the seams.

If you want the grain running all in one direction over the entire kitchen, it should be possible to get an "invisible" seam--or realistically an unobtrusive seam.

If you want the grain to run parallel to the length of the cabinets, there is going to be some sort of "mitered" appearance or chevron appearance to the grain at a corner no matter how carefully it's done.

If you like all one direction, or a combo of lengthwise and cross grain slabs, fine. If you like parallel grains and don't mind the intersecting miter or chevron, fine. The problem group of consumer is going to be the one who wants both parallel grain, and an unnoticeable seam. And there will be people who expect both.

    Bookmark   December 26, 2013 at 6:41PM
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marissa16

I just had my Piatra grey caesarstone installed and was having major anxiety about the seam being at the sink but was the best option. I so appreciate the expert comments about seams. This one is 1/16 th of an inch and is flush and level. In my dreams Trebuchet or oldryder would have installed. But not sure how I feel about this seam.

    Bookmark   January 4, 2014 at 11:13PM
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marissa16

From a distance doesn't look bad. Here it is close up. Sorry have to figure out how to post >1 pic at a time.

    Bookmark   January 4, 2014 at 11:18PM
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Trebruchet

marissa16:

Run a permanent dark gray magic marker over that seam then wipe over it with a paper towel. I'll bet it will nearly disappear. You could try black, but be ready with a paper towel with acetone if it's too dark.

Test it on the sink side first if it will make you feel better.

    Bookmark   January 5, 2014 at 12:23PM
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Muffett

Quick question - will a seam feel rough after it is finished? My granite was installed today and I think the seam looks OK but it catches when I run my hand over it. I'm not sure what I should expect.

Also a thank you to the many experts who post - I've learned so much from reading other threads.

    Bookmark   January 9, 2014 at 8:55PM
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Trebruchet

Muffett:

That's a good looking seam. Your fabricator may offer the option of top polishing seams which would make the seam even more inconspicuous and smooth.

    Bookmark   January 9, 2014 at 9:54PM
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Muffett

Trebuchet - thank you for the reply and possible plan of action.

I'm so hyper-aware of every change in the Reno right now that I'm losing perspective on what's a result I should be concerned about vs one I can just enjoy. I'm ready to enjoy. (Oh but wait...backsplash decisions are looming!)

    Bookmark   January 10, 2014 at 7:25AM
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uther

I think I have a good seam in my marble. This is the "L" corner where the breakfast bar meets the wall.

    Bookmark   January 10, 2014 at 11:08AM
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