Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Bad Granite Install

It’s February of 2014 when Hubby and I decide to take the plunge and upgrade our kitchen countertops. Our home came with green Corian and a 10 year warranty. The house was built in 2001. We purchased the house in 2011. The Corian started cracking in 2011. (Insert bad word here. The one that starts with F).

Hoping to someday sell our home and walk away with some profit, we purchase granite countertops from the big-name, orange-box-home-improvement store. They were having a 10% off sale so we jumped on it. Our total price including 68 square feet of granite, eased edges and labor was $4,446.00 minus the 10% discount = $4,001.40.

Why did we decide on granite? It’s beautiful, it’s easy to clean, it’s heat resistant, it’s scratch resistant, it’s a long lasting material and it came with a 15 year-warranty. (At least ours did) 

Who needs a savings account in their late 20’s anyway, right? It’s okay though; we've spent money on far less useful things in the past. Not that much money. But money.

Well it turns out the orange-box store subcontracts their parts and labors out. We were dealt the crappy hand of a company I’ll call “Zero Star.” (That’s not their actual name, but I’m not here to slam them. I just want to inform others about what to look for in a bad installation). I could write out the entire ordeal, but it’s such a hassle that I’ll spare you the details and give you the summary:

The installations were awful. Notice that “installations” is plural. All-in-all, Zero Star and Orange-Box store had to come out 13 times. There were multiple templates, multiple installations, multiple attempts to cover horrible work, and even a few meetings with the owner of the company.

Anyway, I am obviously not a professional contractor and this was my first experience having granite installed in my home. However, for those of you looking to replace your countertops with granite, here’s what I hope you look for:

Gaps: According to Residential Stone Countertop Installation standards set forth by the Marble Institute of America, “Visible joints between the stone unions and other materials (like the wall in this case) shall be 1/8” nominal, with a tolerance of +/- 1/16”. This allows a maximum distance of 3/16.” Zero Star was much more proactive in returning my calls after I sighted the MIA. Interesting ... huh?

Gaps - part of the granite in the wall and part 1/2 inch away.
Gap - granite almost 1" away from the wall.
Seams: If your seam is visible from across the room, it’s not a good seam. They should be barely visible. In my case, two of the seams were close to perfect. You can see photos below of the third. “With stone seams they are not sealed like smooth glass. You will always feel and see them and flour can get on the surface and appear to be stuck.” –Zero Star (via email, Friday, May 09, 2014 10:39 AM) Please do not allow your installers to walk away from the job if you can get flour in the seam. This guy had no idea what he was talking about. The photo is clear, you can see how it’s a trench. All four photos below are of the same seam through multiple installs. It was a problem.

On that note: I was informed that I was not the only customer with problems with Zero Star. Apparently, they also put a seam over a dishwasher. Please do not allow your granite company to put a seam over a dishwasher. Granite is extremely heavy and there's no support under dishwashers. Not to mention the the amount of heat a dishwasher can put out which can add to the breaking of the seam.

At one point the seam broke apart!
Flour stuck in the trench.
Thick seams are ugly.
They replaced a bad seam with an ugly chip.

Chips: Zero Star informed me that “fissures” are common during installation. Whatever. Don’t let your installers get away with giving you a slab of granite with multiple, noticeable chips in them. You've paid too much damn money for that.

Chips happen. But multiple chips? No.
Look for chips in the sink lip!

Wall Damage: Zero Star said, “Any time that we install or remove granite there is the chance of damaging some walls and those are considered minor incidental damages as part of the construction.” (via email Tue, Apr 22, 2014 at 6:47 AM). Okay, so I’m told to expect wall damage. Not the worst thing because I can fix most of it myself with some plaster and paint. However, when your wall has been cut and damaged so badly that you’ll HAVE to do a backsplash just to cover the plaster and paint … that’s not good.

Wall Damage ...
In attempts to smooth over a chip in the granite, the installers took the grinder to my wall.
They cut into the wall and the granite isn't even in the wall.

Cabinets: You should absolutely not be able to see the cabinets underneath the granite. That happens only if the template was wrong, the cutting was wrong or the installation was wrong.  

If your granite does this, that's not good.
Overhang: Overhang means that the granite should hang over the cabinets at the same distance around the entire kitchen. So you don’t want to have one cabinets where the granite is out three inches and another part where it’s out two inches. One of the installers informed me that the granite should be cut and installed so that the edge sits right above the cabinet line for the edge. I don't know if that's total bullshit, but okay. I'll play. If that's true then, the slab on the right of the stove was cut too long. Either way, it made the stove look uneven. The President of the company shoved some contractors shims under the stove and that helped the appearance slightly. 

I was told the granite should sit right
above the cabinet line, which would
 mean this is how is should look.
Granite overhangs too much on this side.

In Conclusion: 

Zero Star is scheduled to come back one last time in a few weeks to buff out two more minor chips. In conclusion, this has been the worst experience I have ever had dealing with contractors and will be looking for a house with granite already installed when I move again. My hubby's coworker had granite installed in his house around the same time but decided to go with a locally-owned company. He paid about $1,000 more, but comparing our experiences, it was worth it. I am absolutely not discouraging you purchase from the big time stores, but rather hope this give you newbie home-owners (like me) some information on what to look (or beware of).


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