Over the years there has been a lot of bickering back and forth between the makers of “engineered stone” and “natural stone” suppliers. Lot’s of arguments and misinformation about stains, heat resistance, and what looks natural. So let’s get one thing clear. They are different products with different advantages. Both are pretty easy to keep clean and sanitary. Both are very hard and resist scratching. Both cost about the same to install as a kitchen countertop. But in the interest of acquiring market share both industries have engaged in a winner take all approach. That was unfortunate. But designers and home owners have been turning the tables on both industries by coming up with “Two Tone” kitchen countertop designs that incorporates natural stone with engineered stone. From an aesthetic standpoint the reasoning is quite simple. The island get’s to be the wild or elegant show piece while the surrounding counters offer a complementary consistent color. The effect can be quite stunning. From a functional standpoint, it means you can take advantage of the engineered stone as a food prep surface while having marble as your centerpiece.
Award reflects businesses’ consistently high level of customer service
EleMar Oregon has been awarded the prestigious 2011 Angie’s List Super Service Award, an honor bestowed annually on approximately 5 percent of all the businesses rated on the nation’s leading provider of consumer reviews on local service and health providers.
Owner Darrel Boyd credits his team, “I’m very proud of this recognition by Angie’s List. What makes EleMar such a special place to shop for slabs is the personal attention that every customer receives during their visit. Furthermore, our educational versus selling approach empowers our customers to make their own decisions about what they like, and what they want.”
“Only a fraction of the businesses rated on Angie’s List can claim the sterling service record of being a Super Service Award winner because we set a high bar,” said Angie’s List Founder Angie Hicks. “The fact that EleMar Oregon can claim Super Service Award status speaks volumes about its dedication to consumers.”
Angie’s List Super Service Award winners have met strict eligibility requirements including earning a minimum number of reports, an exemplary rating from their clients and abiding by Angie’s List operational guidelines.
Ratings are updated daily on Angie’s List, but members can find the 2011 Super Service Award logo next to EleMar Oregon in search results on AngiesList.com.
Angie’s List collects consumer reviews on local contractors and doctors in more than 500 service categories. Currently, more than 2 million consumers across the U.S. rely on Angie’s List to help them make the best hiring decisions. Members get unlimited access to local ratings via Internet or phone, exclusive discounts, the Angie’s List magazine and help from the Angie’s List complaint resolution service. Take a quick tour of Angie’s List and view the latest Angie’s List news.
EleMar Oregon is now proud to offer designers, contractors, fabricators, and their customers a brand new space in which they can coordinate their stone choices with tiles, cabinets, faucets and sinks. We recognize that making a trip out to the warehouse to choose granite is time consuming enough without having to drive somewhere else to choose tiles, and yet another stop for sinks. Now, you can choose your granite, compare it with different cabinet colors, look at complimentary tiles and hold them up to your actual slab, and choose a stainless steel under-mount sink package, all in one stop.
The Design Center is open to the general public. Bring your designer or schedule an appointment with our resident stone expert Jessica Neilson for a countertop & backsplash design consultation. At EleMar we know that with any remodel comes a lot of coordinating and decision-making. We hope to help simplify part of the process for you by providing one location where multiple choices can be made.
Join us for our Grand Opening on Saturday, October 15th from 10am-3pm.
“The best liar is he who makes the smallest amount of lying go the longest way”. Samuel Butler English composer, novelist, & satiric author (1835 – 1902)
Nothing fits this description better than a sample of a natural stone slab. These seemingly innocent chunks of rock come through our doors everyday in the unsuspecting grip of frustrated home owners. More often than not, (if we do have the same stone type in stock) these folks will stand in front of the full slab glancing back and forth at their sample, and say “That doesn’t look anything like what I expected”. Shame on you sample.
Natural stone is “Natural”. Which means nature is not handing out the specific formula for stone colors and types. Quarries do not have the luxury of knowing exactly what the polished stone will look like until they get it out of the ground and cut it up. Also, over the course of time, as the vein is mined, the color and patterns tend to change. Even colors that seem very consistent, will vary in color, shade, crystal size, speckles and so on. Some slab suppliers have tried color dye to make their material seem more consistent. For the most part color dyes are disdained in natural stone because stone fabricators can have a difficult time getting the edges of countertops to match the top. So with all of this variation, the best a sample can do is give you a general idea of the stone. Nothing more.
So here are a few tips about the use of samples…
1. Do not use samples to select color swatches, tiles, curtains, flooring and so on without first holding the sample up to the specific bundle (or block) of slabs you’re interested in. You need to confirm that your sample is a reasonable match to the actual slabs that will end up on your countertops before basing other decisions around it.
2. Not all slabs come with samples. As hard as we try to get samples along with our slabs, suppliers don’t always send them. They are getting better. If a sample is not available from the same slabs you are looking at, you can often use a sample from a different lot, or in some cases, even a different stone type. Just make sure that you hold it up to the slab you’re considering to make sure that it is adequately representative.
3. The bigger the sample the better. Especially if you’re talking about stones with lots of movement. When slabs like these come with samples, we often see sample stacks that have a lot of variation (as shown in the picture above). Again, a good rule of thumb is to hold up the sample to the full slab and decide for yourself whether or not you think it generally represents the colors and patterns of the overall.
4. Carrying both a sample and a picture of the slab together is very helpful. The sample gives you color accuracy while the picture gives you a sense of the overall pattern as it relates to sample.
Just a few other notes:
- Sometimes a sample can be attained by breaking off a corner of a slab. However, this is only when the slab has a corner that is already cracked. Most suppliers are understandably hesitant to break off home-made samples, as sometimes a missing corner can make or break a potential job.
- Samples you obtain from a tile, flooring or cabinet store may be out of date with what’s currently available at your local slab supplier.
- Finally, if you’re finished with a sample, it’s always appreciated when you return it so that others can make use of them.
Hopefully this information is helpful to you as you begin your quest for your dream kitchen or bathroom. As always, the EleMar crew will go above and beyond to accommodate you in your search for the perfect stone.
As you begin doing research for your countertop project, you’ll quickly find that there are a plethora of generalizations about the properties of natural stone (i.e. “the properties of granite” or “the properties of marble”). For the most part, those kinds of general qualities about stone are an excellent starting point for your research, but it is important to remember that every single rock is entirely unique – in beauty, and in natural properties.
There are three important qualities that you should find out about your stone before making a final decision: the hardness, the porosity, and the potential for etching. Here are two suggestions on how to find out the answers to these questions firsthand:
1. The Key Test
If you’re curious about the hardness of a certain stone, try using a car key to test its scratching potential. On the back of a sample or on the very outer half inch edge of the slab (this area is usually discarded by the fabricator anyway, but it is polite to ask permission first), drag your key firmly down the surface and see what happens. The more types of stones you key, the more familiar you’ll become with the varying hardness of stone. Whether it scratches easily, or not at all, it’s up to you to decide what you can live with.
2. The Ketchup Test
If you’re curious about whether a stone will stain or etch, take a small sample of the stone in question home. Try leaving a few drops of ketchup on the unsealed polished surface of the sample. Wipe off the spill after 15-20 minutes (about the time is takes to clean up after making dinner) and look for two things: any sign of a red stain (this indicates porosity and staining potential), or any spots where the surface is no longer shiny (this indicates the level of calcite content – the more calcite, the more the surface will etch). Next, try sealing the stone and repeat the experiment to see how much of an effect the sealer has on the stones’ natural qualities.
People will tell you all kinds of things about what stone is “good” or “bad” for your project, but when it’s all said and done, you’re the one that has to live with it. If you love marble and don’t mind its natural properties, go for it! If you’re looking for granite that won’t scratch or stain or etch easily, test it out for yourself to be sure! Only you know what constitutes a “good value” for you.
The answer is Quartzite. Not to be confused with manmade Quartz products, natural quartzite is a very hard metamorphic rock consisting of a mosaic of inter-grown quartz crystals. Quartzite forms when sandstone is heated to extreme temperatures during metamorphism. It’s often white and grey in color, but blues, reds, greens, or beiges are not entirely uncommon. The formation process behind this metamorphosed rock tends to give it soft, somewhat linear veining that resembles marble.
Quartzite is a whopping 7 out of 10 on Moh’s Scale of Mineral Hardness. As a comparison, granite is typically between a 6 and a 7, and marble is only a 3. The density of natural Quartzite, which directly corresponds with porosity, can vary. Sometimes this stone is extremely dense making it practically nonporous, other times it is less dense and more porous. Try taking a sample of the specific quartzite slab you’re considering and testing the staining potential by leaving a colored liquid on the surface for 5-10 minutes. When you wipe off the liquid, if it leaves little to no color on the stone, the quartzite is probably very dense and an average sealer will suffice. If the liquid leaves a medium to bright color on the quartzite sample, you should probably consider a powerful sealer to help protect the stone.
Possibly the greatest benefit of quartzite in the kitchen over marble, is the greatly reduced potential for surface etching. Marble is a calcite, and calcite reacts with acids, so when you’re dealing with acidic foods or liquids on a marble countertop, you’re likely to etch the surface polish. Quartzite on the other hand, is made almost entirely of quartz, which does not typically react with acids. To be sure that the specific quartzite slabs that you’re considering for your project will not etch, use the same sample you used for your porosity test and try leaving a small puddle of straight lemon juice on the surface for 5-10 minutes. Wipe it off and check for any signs of etching (spots where the polish isn’t as shiny any more).
So, if you love Bianco Carrara Marble, but you have to have a stone that will withstand the everyday wear and tear of your family, Quartzite slabs like our Moon Light Quartzite are the perfect solution to your dilemma.
We’ve recently seen a significant increase in the desire for soapstone. Some folks just want to know the difference between soapstone and granite but many have already done the research and are looking for a specific color of soapstone. So what’s so special about it?
First of all it’s soft to the touch because it’s made primarily of metamorphosed talc, which is soft. But wait you say, isn’t that a bad thing? Nope because even though soapstone can easily scratch, it is this very softness that makes it easy to repair and a quick application of mineral oil can make most scratches disappear. It’s called soapstone because it feels soft like soap.
Second, it is completely non-porous and does not need sealing. In fact, soapstone is FDA approved for food handling because it can not harbor bacteria. Mineral oil is periodically applied to give you the balance of color you desire. Mineral oil does not spoil, so this is not an issue either.
Third, it handles heat beautifully. Soapstone has been used as cookware, stoves and barbecue cooking surfaces. Which means it can withstand direct contact with flame and show no damage.
Finally the soft look in soapstone is available in various shades ranging from black to grey to green/blue green. It’s makes for a striking darker countertop that does not show streaks. We carry an exclusive line of Brazilian soapstone slabs mined and produced by Mirasol. Mirasol owns the quarry that produces the blackest soapstone on the market. They also have a wide selection of other colors with alternative finishes. Mirasol will soon have a line of cookware and sinks available. Once you realize how truly versatile this material is, you’ll come to respect it’s potential as a kitchen counter top.
It’s taken a year but our 3 part video series is nearly ready for publishing in HD DVD format. Much of it was shot on location in Italy. The video was produced and directed by Tracey Whitney of MaeStar Productions. This is a sneak preview of Part 1, which explains the characteristics of each stone type and the process of mining and creating slabs. Once published, the DVDs will be available online, from our Oregon Office, or the many Designers and Fabricators we work with.
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Recently I took a road trip to visit a number of the stone fabricators I supply slabs to. Now the first thing to realize is that fabricators come in all shapes and sizes. Sure a lot of them are huge hulking guys who could lift a car while answering a phone but that’s not what I mean. There are “one man” shops who depend on the creative use of handling equipment to move slabs. There are shops with crews that do hand work without a lot of automation. There are shops with all kinds of cutting edge technology using digitized design, CNC cutting, Water Jets and edge profiling equipment. And there is every kind of shop in between. As I visited these guys it struck me how hard they were working to find ways to cut costs. Many of them get caught up in bidding wars that drive them crazy. So why am I telling you about this? Well it’s becoming pretty apparent to us that more home owners are getting competitive bids, working fabricators over and over against each other in order to grind out the best price. That should be a good thing right? Well if you were trying to buy the same make and model flat screen TV from each of them I would say yes. But this is NOT the same. That because there is artisanship and the final cosmetics of your dream kitchen involved. Now before you run off thinking I’m telling you to spend more please read on. It’s actually about knowing what you’re really getting.
Like I said before fabricators come in all shapes and sizes. So do natural stone slabs. The size of the slabs and how they are utilized will play a huge role in the cost and cosmetics of your kitchen. The most confusion seems to result from the number of slabs needed to do the job. For the sake of this discussion let’s say Fab A is quoting two slabs on a color with lots of movement. Fab B comes in with a lower quote using only one slab. Fab C comes in with a bid that presents an option of one or two slabs. The first thing to know is how tight the job is if it’s done in one slab. Because if there is a miscalculation, the fabricator B, who came in low may be calling on you to buy another slab after the job is started. All of a sudden he’s not such a great deal. Fab C, has at least prepared you for the possibility. However, Fab A may have been the best option because that fabricator had something very important in mind. For stones with lots of movement, he probably is the one thinking about seams and the grain direction of your kitchen. This is the artisan factor.
There is an important thing to realize about granite and other natural stones. Stone with lots of movement have obvious grain direction but even stones that look very consistent have directional components. It’s a bit complicated but as crystals form in granite they take on a directional structure. This has something to do with the earth’s gravitational field at the time the magma solidifed. So what this means is, when you lay a slab down and look at it from one direction the shade of color will vary (a little or a lot) from another direction. This is especially true of colors like blue pearl. At first glance you would think there is little or no directional characteristics but if you were to try and get an L shap kitchen from one slab by turning one run 90 degrees to the other you would see they don’t seem to match. Slabs with lots of movement that is directional have much more obvious components that have to be matched up.
One of the best new technologies I’ve seen is slab layup software that allows a fabricator to plan a kitchen using digitized images of the stone. The obvious advantage is that a fabricator can save time and increase accuracy during the layup. But a big bonus is the ability to show a customer what the job will look like if the fabricator attempts to do the job using less slabs vs using more slabs. Now having said that, I need to point out that fabricators have be living without software like this for a long time. A good fabricator can show you how they plan to lay out a job, and why, by placing templates on the slabs while you’re present. In fact we encourage all customers to be present during the layup of the templates. Good fabricators will not mind doing this because it give them a chance to explain why they need to plan the job a certain way. Likewise, you will be able to point out features you would like to include or avoid. This way everybody is on the same page and knows what to expect.
When it comes to creating your dream kitchen, knowledge is king. Be sure to talk extensively to the fabricators you deal with. Ask them about how many seams and how many slabs they plan to use. Good communication is key to everyone involved.
So you’ve decided you want a granite countertops but like a lot of folks you don’t know how to get started. Don’t feel bad. The fact is that most people trying to figure out the process end up overwhelmed. We see them all the time in our warehouse. They wander in with a glazed look in their eyes as if searching for the right first question to ask. Quite honestly we’ll be the first to admit the process can seem a little daunting. It’s one of the reasons we began focusing on customer education (and this blog). People are much more able to make decisions when they are comfortable. And they get comfortable by having their questions answered. So let’s get to it.
- Make a diagram with dimensions of your countertop: If new construction get drawings from your contractor or cabinet specialists. Your diagrams do have to be relatively accurate but do not have to be exact for bidding purposes. A good fabricator will let you know if there are any important details missing.
- Visit the slab warehouse and narrow down color choices: Feel free to bring samples of tiles, cabinets and floors. Typically it’s easier to select your slab color first and then build your kitchen colors around it.
- Pick a fabricator: Review fabricator list. Ask friends and review CCB information. Ask fabricators for references and photos of their work. License and Bonding info should be available for your state online.
For Washington: https://fortress.wa.gov/lni/bbip/Search.aspx
For Oregon: https://ccbed.ccb.state.or.us/ccb_frames/consumer_info/ccb_index.htm
- Get some Quotes: EleMar can help with quotes by faxing size and price info to fabricators in your area. Try to keep your color selections to 3 or less.
- Select a Fabricator (bid selection): Ask lots of questions. Quotes from fabricators can vary for lots of reasons.
- Are they projecting the same number of slabs for the job?
- Are they including tear out (on existing cabinets)
- How is excess material left over from any slabs calculated in the quote?
- If you have a question, ask it.
- Sign a contract and make a deposit with the fabricator you select.
- Picking your stone: Come in to the slab warehouse and Pick your Stones (reserve them). Warehouses like EleMar purchase bundles from the same block. This means the slabs on the top of any given bundle will be almost identical to slabs on the bottom. Slabs can be pulled from the top of these bundles so you can select the individual slabs for your project. EleMar Staff will help guide you through this process. Again, ask lots of questions. Each slab weighs between 700 – 1300 lbs and there is risk of scratching or damage with each move. For this reason suppliers like EleMar will encourage you to select from the top slabs. However, we understand the importance of your selection and will treat you with respect and consideration during your selection process.
- About Reservations: 7 day courtesy hold. Fabricators can hold slabs a little longer. Long term holds (6 weeks or longer) may require a deposit and/or other special arrangements. When slabs are put on hold EleMar will fax confirmation and slab information to your fabricator. The fabricator will place the order directly with EleMar and schedule delivery of the slabs.
- The Schedule: Follow up with your Fabricator and update Schedule if needed. Communication is the key. Keep track of your holds and your fabricators progress. It’s a big investment. Be sure to inform your Fabricator of any delays created by other contractors and expect the same from your Fabricator.
- Enjoy your new Countertops. Send us Pictures. We’d love to see them.
The process described above can vary but this should give you a good outline to go by. Feel free to contact our warehouse with any questions. I think you’ll always find our staff friendly and helpful.