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Granite: real thing and fool-the-eye.

Granite: real thing and fool-the-eye

A meteor shower of choices confronts homeowners searching for surfacing materials with the look of granite. There's the real thing: one of nature's hardest stones, available in numerous colors and patterns. Then there are manmade products --from cast stone to plastice laminate --designed to resemble it.

To help you make decisions, we review the materials now on the market, with information on characteristics and costs of each. Your selection will depend on how the surface will be used, your own esthetic preference, and your pocketbook.

Granite: hard, handsome, expensive

Defined as an igneous rock having cry-stals or grains of visible size, granite is found around the world. It's one of nature's oldest, strongest, most plentiful building materials. Traditionally the stone of choice for large civic structures, granite has come into the home.

Beautiful and extremely durable, it makes counters that resist heat and stains. Although it is expensive, even a small amount can have a striking effect. Patterns vary from fine-grained or speckled to streaked. Most colors are dark.

Granite is generally sold in stone yards as slabs or tiles; you can also get granite tiles at some tile stores. Slabs vary in size, but usually are 4 by 8 feet, 3/4 inch thick, and extremely heavy (roughly 12 pounds per square foot). Tiles are 12 or 24 inches square and usually 3/8 inch thick; they weigh at least 5 pounds per square foot. Granite slabs sell for $35 to $60 or more per square foot, tiles run $10 to $22 or more per square foot. In general, figure about $60 to $80 per square foot for standard slab installation, including materials (tile installation is significantly less expensive). You can cut granite yourself with a diamond blade, but with such an expensive material it's probably smarter to have it cut professionally.

Both tiles and slabs should be installed over a rigid base (see page 116).

Agglomerate: more uniform looking

Also known as cast stone, agglomerates combine crushed marble with polyester resin to form slabs and tiles in diverse colors, with patterning that is generally reminiscent of granite but more even and consistent. They resist most spills, but acids and alkalis can stain them. They don't burn, but can chip on impact.

Slabs are 3/4 inch thick and range from 4 by 4 to 4 by 8 feet; tiles range from about 12 to about 24 inches square and are 3/8 to 1/2 inch thick (some dimensions are metric). Prices start at about $6 per square foot, but figure roughly $25 per running foot of 24-inch-deep counter for standard installation. Agglomerates are available at some building supply or ceramic tile stores and marble and granite yards.

Synthetic stone: it's seamless

The granite look is beginning to appear in patented stone-like materials. Avonite, made from a modified polyester plastic, now has 14 so-called granite colors. Acrylic-based Corian, manufactured by Du Pont, has just been introduced in two new stone styles. Also new on the market is Nevamar's Fountainhead, with two granite styles.

These dense, nonporous surfacing materials offer the peppery, close-grained look associated with some granites, but without as much weight. Surfaces are chemically fused or bonded with special joint adhesives--not grout--so most joint lines disappear. Synthetic stones are resistant to most household stains. Excessive. heat can scorch them. None is appropriate for use as a kitchen cutting surface, though gouges can be patched.

For a standard 24-inch-deep counter with 4-inch backsplash, figure from $110 to $125 per running foot, installed. Any additional detailing or edging will cost more. Professional installation is recommended.

Crystallized glass: new from Japan

A fused-glass material manufactured in Japan by Nippon Electric Glass, Neoparium was originally devloped as a corrosive-resistant surface for Tokyo office buildings. It's just beginning to find residential applications.

Neoparium comes in an increasing variety of colors--each soft, opaque, and light-reflecting. It does not absorb water and is almost impervious to acid. It's very hard, and, like glass, it won't burn.

Standard 5/8-inch-thick panels (normally measured metrically) come in two sizes: 35 7/16 inches square (weighing 88 pounds) and 35 7/16 by 47 1/4 inches (120 pounds). They cost about $40 to $50 per square foot for straightforward designs, cut and installed; prices go up with increased complexity of design or detailing. The distributor is Forms and Surfaces, Inc., Box 5215, Santa Barbara 93150.

Plastic laminate: light, inexpensive

Photographic realism is the distinguishing feature of laminates with a granite theme. About six dominant colors are currently available, including green and pink.

The lightweight sheets are sold in several standard sizes, including 2 1/2 by 6, 4 by 8, and 4 by 10 feet, depending on the brand, and should be fixed to plywood or particle-board backing. Prices range from $1.20 to $4 per square foot; figure about $55 a running foot, installed. Laminates can burn or stain and should not be used as a cutting surface. They can be formed into curves. Edge seams are visible.

Ceramic tile: fool-the-eye?

The speckled look of some granites is becoming more popular among tile manufacturers. Colors generally range from grays through beiges, with patterns of varying intensity. Sizes range from 3 to 12 inches square; prices run about $3 to $9 per square foot. Installation adds $4 to $10 per square foot. Some jobs may be estimated by the hour.

Photo: GRANITE

Striking veins, dense crystalline patterns, and richly varied colors make real granite worthy of emulation

Photo: AGGLOMERATE

Even distribution of suspended marble chips gives blocks of agglomerate consistent pattern, like terrazzo. Colors approximate granite's

Photo: Countertop of true granite gives elegance to kitchen in Inglewood, California, and provides ideal dough-rolling surface. Design: Steve Factor

Photo: SYNTHETIC STONE

Patterned by finely grained particles, synthetics have a homogeneous look that echoes granite in a general, not particular way. Finishes are mat or polished; colors are muted pastels, light browns, grays

Photo: CRYSTALLIZED GLASS

Dense and heavy, this material feels like ceramic. Patterns and colors are subtle and quite uniform; surface is glossy

Photo: PLASTIC LAMINATE

Sharply contrasting colors and fool-the-eye realism of speckled, granite-like patterns give visual punch to sheets of plastic laminate (here shown mounted on plywood)

Photo: CERAMIC TILE

Smooth graining of glaze makes impressionistic reference to granite

Photo: Sand-colored cast stone creates distinctive work surface in kitchen by Kimberly Walsh, Design Unlimited, Mill Valley, California

Photo: Glass with gloss: pale blue, lightly patterned panels of crystallized glass add sleekness to kitchen designed by Los Angeles architect Heather Kurze of OKG group

Photo: Seamless countertop of synthetic material does away with grout lines in Glendale, California, kitchen designed by Shari and Ken Taylor

Photo: Realistically pattenred plastic laminate dresses up wood cabinet by San Francisco furniture designer Daniel Friedlander

Photo: Cutting and installing granite panels: how to do it

1. After cutting plywood backer board for base, position panel; mark for cutting

2. Take correctly marked panels to a professional stonecutter to make precision cuts

3. Trowel latex mortar across cement board screwed to plywood base. (The cement board provides a strong contact surface)

4. Squeeze bead of clear silicone caulk along one edge of panel

5. Set panel in place, making sure it rests flush with front edge and adheres to adjacent panel
COPYRIGHT 1987 Sunset Publishing Corp.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1987 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:Sunset
Date:Nov 1, 1987
Words:1215
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