Modern technology has improved our ability to quarry, cut, shape, and finish granite, which has dragged it out of the kitchen and into a host of other applications for the home and office. Granite began its modern life as a building stone: a durable, sturdy surfacing material. Granite buildings were erected, most often public buildings like libraries and courts, composed of both polished and unpolished granite.
As mining techniques improved and granite became cheaper, it moved into the home. Because of its hardness and imperviousness to moisture and acid, granite was a perfect countertop material. Today, granite countertops are still the most demanded of all countertops. It’s almost impossible to scratch. When properly sealed and cleaned, it’s almost impossible to stain. Countertops are custom-made for each application, usually from a template made directly from the homeowner’s cabinets, so the countertop is a perfect fit for the space. A wide range of colors and edge treatments are available. Provided the cabinets are strong enough to support the weight of granite countertops, they are the sturdiest and most durable of all countertops. Even the most modern solid-surface countertops don’t come close to its strength and scratch resistance. And nothing matches a granite countertop for beauty. A granite countertop will outlast the construction of the home, and long after the foundation has cracked and the walls have tumbled, the countertop will still be as strong and beautiful as ever.
Granite tiles are an excellent alternative to solid granite countertops if cost is a factor. Granite tiles can be laid almost edge to edge, providing the look and feel of a solid granite countertop, at a fraction of the cost, and quite within the capability of most do-it-yourselfers.
Granite tiles are also a very popular choice for flooring. Polished tiles are perfect for formal areas, while honed tiles should be used in wet locations such as bathrooms and kitchens. Polished granite tiles, ranging in size from less than 1” (mosaic tiles) to 16” or larger, are also popular for kitchen backsplashes.
The fireplace is another superb place for granite tile. Either honed or polished, something about a crackling fire next to the hard stone accentuates a fireplace like nothing else can. It provides a more formal look to a fireplace than hewn stone or brick. Entire fireplace hearths, mantles, and surrounds are available, carved from solid granite. These can be as ornate or simple as the homeowner desires, and provide a stunning centerpiece to the home.
In the bathroom, granite gives a sumptuous, luxurious feel. It is often used to surround Jacuzzi tubs or framed Roman tubs. And the feeling of being immersed in water and wrapped in polished stone is second-to-none. Granite is the best natural stone to use in large walk-in showers or steam showers, because of its natural water resistance. Many bathrooms are lined (floor, walls, and ceiling) with granite, for a supremely elegant look.
A recent advance in granite finishing technology has increased the availability of granite sinks. All varieties are available, from drop-in vanity sinks to countertop vessel sinks and even farmhouse-style kitchen sinks. Appropriate support is needed for these heavy sinks, but few things in a house will surpass a granite sink as a conversation piece.
Outdoors, granite is a superb choice because of its resistance to the elements. Honed granite will need less maintenance to retain its look than polished granite will. Honed granite should always be used near a pool or hot tub, unless tiny mosaic tiles are used (another popular application) where the grout lines will provide traction and prevent slipping.
One thing is for sure: there is no substitute for granite. It adds enormous value to a home. Depending on the application, it can make a home feel much warmer and more inviting, or very formal, regal, and impressive. Granite is practical, economical, and justifiably the most popular natural stone for the home.