|Natural stone countertops are not only beautiful to look at but are a smart investment as well|
Natural stone countertops are not only beautiful to look at but are a smart investment as well.
According to Realtor Carole Perini of Coldwell Banker Real Estate of Acton, Mass., in today's market, it matters where you put your investment dollars if you want a return on your money. A minor kitchen remodel gives you an 83 percent return while a major kitchen remodel gives you a 78 percent return in New England.
Before purchasing your stone, there are several things to consider. You may think of the choices as being simply those of color, style and price, but there are different varieties of natural stones available.
You may be familiar with granite, marble and onyx. Here is what you may not know.
Granite, a natural stone, is strong, durable, easy to clean, and heat, chemical and water resistant. These qualities make granite the No. 1 choice in countertops.
Marble is made from shells. Although marble is beautiful with its fluid movement, its uses are restricted due to the softness of the material, which makes it a risk to scratching or staining. Marble is not as durable as granite and cannot handle chemicals and cleaning agents.
Onyx, another beautiful stone, can be used as an accent stone to create an artistic edge.
Stone fabricators Laura and John Phinney of Cutting Edge Stoneworks in Leominster, Mass., offer a striking design detail to a countertop by adding a slice of onyx between the counter surface and the bottom edge. The accent piece can also be lit from the underside giving it a dramatic glow.
Just like buying a diamond ring, your stone purchase requires the same amount of care and attention to detail. The first order of business is choosing your dealer. Believe it or not, choosing the right dealer for your stone is not much different from choosing a jeweler. Like a fine piece of jewelry, you will be making a significant investment in this piece of stone for your home. Look for a dealer with a good reputation you trust.
There are several different grades of stone. Look for someone that carries only Grade A stone. You may be told there is no such thing but that is just not true. Fifteen percent of the stone on the market is classified as Grade A. The remainder is Grade B.
How do you tell if a stone is Grade A? You need to see your stone. If you don't go to the fabricator yourself, make sure your architect, builder or designer does this for you. Look carefully at the front of the stone. Look for cracks, pits or possible areas where the stone has been filled. Go to the back of the stone. Run your hand across the surface to feel any imperfections. What can be hidden on the front with polish and fillers is readily apparent on the back.
When you look at the stone's polish, can you see into the stone like looking through glass or is the polish somewhat muted and cloudy? It is hard to see the difference unless someone points it out to you. A reputable dealer will always be able to instruct you on the differences in a stone and its clarity.
Not choosing wisely can cost you a lot of money in the end. If the stone is cracked, that crack will only worsen with time and use. Some dealers may actually try to convince you to install the stone, thus walking away from the liability of the stone breaking during installation.
Some stones, like absolute black, have become very rare. Wholesalers try to sell stones that have been dyed. If this occurs, sunlight will fade the stone in a matter of months. A good stone dealer will make sure that their stones are without color enhancements.
Natural stone countertops are not only beautiful to look at, they are easy to maintain, convenient, durable and will undoubtedly add to the investment in your property. Choose with care and you will enjoy your new counters.
Anne Hentz is a partner in the design firm of Lee Hentz Interiors. Anne Hentz and Donna Lee share more than four decades of experience in design, project management and real estate trends, with a focus on residential design and real estate staging.
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