Indianapolis homeowners seem to be following a new trend to trade in their quartz and tile countertops for much more durable granite. Dan Marsh, co-owner of A-rated Classic Stone in Carmel, says 75 percent of his countertop installations involve granite, a stone that not only withstands extreme heat but also doubles as a kitchen cutting board because it's nearly impossible to scratch. "As far as durability is concerned, granite far surpasses solid and laminate countertops," he says.
In addition to durability, homeowners select granite for its lasting color and texture, easy maintenance and resistance to bacteria. While Marsh says he favors the stone, he never pushes his clients in one direction or another. Rather, he starts every job with an in-home consultation during which he explains that while granite provides many perks, certain precautions must be observed. For example, without the use of a stain-resistant sealant every three to four months, granite becomes susceptible to stains, he says. Homeowners should also avoid using harsh cleaners that contain acid, bleach and vinegar.
Dave Esslinger, owner of A-rated Granite by Design in Indianapolis, says most homeowners ultimately pick granite over less costly materials after viewing a wide variety of samples that come from countries such as Brazil, India and Argentina. He says he helps customers narrow down their preferences to fit their budgets before visiting one of several granite suppliers in Indianapolis. "A lot of companies send the client to the supplier to pick out the stone by themselves," Esslinger says. "I meet them at the supplier so we can discuss the stone together."
When Angie's List members Tom and Susie Hacker decided to buy an Indianapolis apartment complex and move into one of the units, they hired Esslinger to remodel their kitchen. Susie says they found the granite they ended up using at the first supplier, but Esslinger was patient. "We had been there for about an hour, but I still wasn't quite sure so Dave took me to two other warehouses and we spent most of the day looking around," she says. "He was just wonderful."
Esslinger says he encourages clients such as the Hackers to consider the color, design and cost of granite before investing in the higher-priced material. His clients most often select a simple, single-color stone that costs about $4,000 for a standard-size kitchen installation, but occasionally his customers select more colorful and complex granite from what he calls the "don't ask" price range, which can cost upwards of $20,000 to install.
In new and remodeled kitchens, contractors suggest accessory options for homeowners. Once they select such items as their sink and faucets, the contractor uses a wet saw with diamond blades to cut the granite accordingly. If homeowners are only replacing their countertops, then contractors draw up a template and do as much of the cutting in the shop as possible. "Consequently, there is less mess in the house and the process takes much less time," Esslinger says.
After a typical two weeks of preparation, the granite is ready for the four-hour installation process. In the shop, employees move the slabs of stone with machines that clamp down on the slab and guide it through the air. On location, though, contractors rely on nothing but teamwork and strength to carry and place stones that weigh between 600 and 1,000 pounds. Maneuvering the massive slabs of granite is the most difficult part of the job, according to Classic Stone's Nick Miller.
After installation, the contractors carefully examine the stone, caulk along the cabinets, coat the granite with a stain-proof impregnating sealer, polish it to a brilliant sheen and present it to the homeowner. "My objective is that when I'm done, my clients get exactly what they want," Esslinger says. "People very rarely expect a contractor to give them more than they paid for. But for me, the intention is not to be the biggest granite company in town, but to be the best.