Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Outdoor Kitchens

We've seen a growing trend toward the use of outdoor kitchens.

Apparently, others have, too. As I know there are some local appliance places opening new stores dedicated toward this end. So, I believe there is a trend evolving.

Natural Stone is the obvious choice since it's lived outdoors all it's 'life'.['Engineered Alternatives CANNOT live in any sun. Guaranteed Failure. Same for any resin-based product.]

However, almost all Granites have a resin top coat on them. As I've mentioned before, this is for stronger yields. In a lot of cases, the glue is stronger than the surrounding stone. But, at some point, even that small amount of resin is going to give up the ghost. UV and resins don't mix. Period. [Oh, but Boyd, it's advertised as UV resistant...Answer: Umbrellas with holes are water resistant.]

So, the [ethical] stone providers who know this try to limit your selections to stones that are not typically resined. This is very, very limiting. [In our yard, at this moment, I can think of maybe 5 that fit that description]. This means the really pretty exotic ones are off base, unless the outdoor kitchen is 100% shaded.

Well, that is no longer true. We can strip the factory resin and either leather, caress or re-polish the stone. Not all stones will work as some have concentrated areas of factory resin that act as fillers for voids native to the slabs. But, most certainly will work. We can tell by looking at it.

So, you are free to choose what you like. With proper techniques and treatment, a whole new array of exotics are now available.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Bad is still bad

We are frequently called to repair what the low bidders hoped would be acceptable. While we can usually help to one degree or another, whole scale miracle working is a bit rare.

Let's go back to the car analogy.

If you buy a brand new low end Kia, you get what you paid for. Basic transportation that should get you here and there. It is not a ferrari. It is not a Lexus. It's not an Acura.

When you go furniture shopping, the high end leather couch is going to cost more than the micro fiber alternative. And, if you buy the micro fiber, I can't turn that into leather.

The lifetime warranty costs more than the 'till the check clears' warranty.

The point being that things cost what they cost for a reason.

You can drop a hat over comparable bids from the top 3 shops in Tulsa. We all understand what it takes to do it right and back it up.

When someone comes in 30% cheaper, there is a reason. And, it ain't because they're smarter. It's a matter of how many corners you'll allow them to cut and get away with.

Just a little basic common sense...

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

De Colores Collection

I've been admonished recently for not updating this blog very frequently. Probably true.

I'm going to talk about some stuff we've been doing for the past year and a half that, while not new, is certainly new in our market.

When the people who make engineered stone [aka gravel] started squawking about radon and radiation, it really re-infuriated me since this is an old scam that first surfaced about the time gravel hit the market. Marketing against something instead of for something. So, I began researching exactly what their product was and how it is made. A staggering array of chemicals involved. From what the chemists tell me, the vast number of individual components are present to counteract some of the nasty tendencies of the other ingredients.

But, when you boil it down, it is quartz [for the most part- there are other types of natural additives in offshoot products] and colored plastic glue. The colored plastic glue is where the color comes from. Frankly, that is the only advantage the product has. You can get some cool, radical color schemes from their offerings. So, you can have blue oatmeal or green oatmeal or teal oatmeal....

IDEA. I won't go into boring details, but the plastic glue is resin, of which there are a number of types. Resin is present in most natural stone slabs. I've discussed this before, but suffice to say it increases the yield of the slab suppliers.

Certain types of resins are designed to embrace color. An example of this is the glue used for seaming countertops together. Most people color the seam glue to match the base color of the countertop. Makes it less visible.

The Italians, Brazilians, Indians and Chinese routinely dye stone. They won't tell you they do it, but any fabricator who has been around for awhile knows they do it. When the surface of the stone is a deep yellow, then you cut and process it and the edge remains white, that is a fairly clear indication of a dyed stone. There is nothing innately wrong with combining the resin and color aside from the fact that it is a total misrepresentation to both the US supplier and the US fabricator. There are solutions to it, but it is basically dishonest.

This is the background on how the idea came to life. We now inject color into the resin of the slabs and can come up with some very unique offerings that no one else can duplicate. There
are all kinds of nuances and natural characteristics that come into play that influence your results, but we can do some fairly amazing transformations.

We've got some really unique looking stuff that has just landed from Brazil. If you don't understand the potential, you'd be freaked looking at the natural material. As we see it here within the next week or so, I'll chronicle a transformation.


Is it permanent? Yes, for indoor use only.

Will it fade? It can't when used inside. UV light is the enemy, not so much for the dyes [as they are all natural], but for the resin. All resins eventually surrender in UV light. There are some inroads being made in this regard, but I'll wait for long term tests before I get on that bandwagon.

Is it food safe? Absolutely. Along this avenue, we are pursuing an anti-microbial ingredient to add to the mixture for those that are concerned about such things.

Can this process be done to countertop's that are in someone's home? The process is done to whole slabs over a series of days in our shop. We have tinted stone in the field with an offshoot of the overall process. But, 'tint' is the key word. Subtle shading would be another apt phrase. It does not compare to what we can do in a controlled environment.

Do the edges match the surface color? That is the key to it. Since we know what the infused color was, we use the same color to treat the edges. Everything matches. Then, we put a couple of specially designed sealers on the edges. [The color won't move no matter what you do to it, but the 2 sealers are the very best offered on the market. The final sealer is actually said to prohibit UV instability, but I'm not willing to go there just yet.]

We've got some tests going on right now for marble. Since it's getting more and more popular here in the States, we're trying some new techniques to guard against it's natural tendency to etch. Too early for details.

[BTW, some of that pink and blue and green marble you see from Italy began it's life as a gray or white. Been happening for years.]

Monday, April 6, 2009

Alternative Finishes

I've written about honed, leathered and brushed finishes. These finishes are gaining more and more popularity, especially on the left and right coasts.
Add a new possibility to those. It is called caressed. Think of it as leather with a shine.
You get the same texture as you do with leather [or brushed- same thing], but it takes 5 more steps beyond a traditional leather finish. It brings back a sheen to the stone. Not a full polish, just a sheen. It is very elegant in appearance.
Aside from honed, which is a totally flat finish, leathered and caressed finishes subdue the coloration of the basic stone. What may have been a vivid rust coloration as a polished slab is now muted down about 3 shades as you add texture to the face of the slab. No doubt, it is from the way the light strikes the new finish, but it is remarkable to see.
When the distributors bring in 'brushed' or 'leathered' finishes, that is done at the factory in Brazil or Italy or wherever. It appears that they all stop at the same grit. So, we can duplicate that if need be. However, there are 5 possibilities beyond what they normally provide. We can do any of them.
Want a little more shine? A little less? Whatever you want, we can do.
We have the only machine in the state that will do these alternatives on any stone.

Thursday, May 15, 2008


I'm going to address this bit of nonsense one more time.

There is a company in Houston, Build Clean, that has resurrected the Radon in Granite myth, again. There are a few things to be aware of:
1] About 1/2 their funding comes from the company that makes Silestone, an engineered gravel alternative to Granite.
2] The other 1/2 comes from Cambria, another engineered gravel company.
3] The national marketing director for Cambria sits on the Build Clean board.
4] One of the major Radon testing kit manufacturers is owned by the parent company who also makes Silestone.

See any pattern here? The old adage 'Follow the Money' couldn't be much clearer.

Here are the results from an independent study on this subject:

"New Study Confirms Safety of Granite Countertops

Cleveland, OH , May 14, 2008 The Marble Institute of American has announced the conclusion of a recently conducted scientific study of thirteen of the most popular granites used for kitchen countertops in the United States during 2007. The study confirms that granite is a safe material for use in kitchens.

The issue of granite containing radon has surfaced repeatedly over the years. The origins of these concerns are advertisements and other communications from the manufacturers of radon detection devices and the manufacturers of competing synthetic countertop materials. Each time these concerns have arisen, the Marble Institute of America, as well as several producing companies, has responded by thoroughly researching the issue to determine if potential health hazards actually exist.

MIAs most recent testing was conducted by L. L. Chyi, a Ph.D. and professor of Geochemistry and Environmental Geology at The University of Akron, Akron , Ohio . Dr. Chyi studied 13 of the most popular granites used throughout the United States as determined by an industry-wide survey. Due to their popularity these 13 granites, are believed to represent up to 85% of the granite countertop market in recent years. The granite types are as follows:

New Venetian Gold, Brazil; medium grained, yellow-beige gneiss with many dark red garnets.
Uba Tuba , Brazil ; A medium- to coarse grained, olive-green granite.
Santa Cecilia , Brazil ; A coarse-grained, yellow-grey gneiss with up to pie-sized, red garnets.
Tropic Brown, Saudi Arabia; medium-grained, brown granite.
Absolute Black, India; black basalt.
Tan Brown, India; A black-brown igneous rock with big, shapeless, brown-red feldspar crystals.
Giallo Ornamental , Brazil ; coarse-grained, brown-yellow granulite with some brown-red garnets.
Crema Bordeaux, Brazil; Juparana Crema Bordeaux (Brunello). A coarse- to very coarse-grained, pink to red granite with areas of quartz, alkali feldspar and quite a lot of ore.
Baltic Brown, Finland; brown-black granite.
Giallo Veneziano , Brazil ; medium- to coarse-grained, ochre-yellow to golden-brown, also light pink, gneiss.
Dakota Mahogany, USA; medium- to coarse-grained, brown-red granite.
China Black, China, a fine-grained plutonic rock.
Yellow Star, China, a medium-grained yellow to pink granite.

The testing methodology was designed to measure the amount of radon which each granite type would add to the interior of a 2,000 square foot, normally ventilated home with 8 ft ceilings.. The results show that Crema Bordeaux (the most active in terms of radon emissions) would contribute a concentration component of less than 0.28 pCi/L, or less than 7% of the EPA's recommended actionable level of 4.0 pCi/L. This radon amount is well below a level which might cause health concerns. Tropic Brown and Baltic Brown, second and third in radon emanation based upon Dr. Chyis testing, amounted to only 1% of this action level. The other granites tested added almost immeasurable amounts of radon to the house.

Dr. Chyis test results show that the granites that are currently found in the United States  market place are insignificant contributors to radon levels in the home. Based on the testing results and EPA standards, we can conclude that the most popular granites used as countertop surfaces pose no health threat to homeowners. The test results are available on MIAs website, http://www.marble-institute.com/industryresources/radontesting_u-akron2008.pdf. "

Radon is a naturally occurring gas that is everywhere. The primary source of it is in the earth beneath your feet. Some areas have more than others. In that case, there are remedies for it.

If Radon were the raging concern painted by the engineered gravel people, 1/2 of Europe would be uninhabitable, since stone is everywhere over there. And, it has been for years.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Counter top heights

If you've been in the remodeling industry for a number of years, this won't be news. However, if you are a normal human, I'm going to address the issue and ramifications of counter top height.

Since we do so many remodels, we are often asked to try and save an existing backsplash. Mostly, we replace formica counters with stone counters. A 'normal' base cabinet is 34.5 inches tall. A 'normal' finished counter height is 36 inches tall. The typical method to prep for formica is to strip out the tops of the cabinets with 1X2's. These are placed around the perimeter of the cabinets and across the tops of the bulkheads of the cabinets. Then, a sheet of 3/4" plywood is placed on top of the furring strips. Then a 1X2 band board is place around the outside perimeter of the cabinets, nailed into the side of the 3/4" plywood. This covers the 1X2 furring strips. Formica is then glued to the top of the plywood and glued to the face of the band board. The top intersection edge is usually beveled so you get that black line that runs around the edge of the cabinets. The backsplash is then placed on top of the formica. Usually, it is tile.

When replacement time comes, here is what you are faced with: 2cm, 3cm or 4cm [laminated] granite tops. 2cm=3/4". 3cm=1 and 1/8". 4cm is two pieces of 2cm glued together. Be mindful that 2cm may actually be 11/16" or it could be 7/8". It depends on who produced it. The same variables apply to 3cm.

So, if you are wanting to save your backsplash, remember it is going to start at 36" off the floor. Once the formica is stripped off, your base cabinet is going to be 34.5" off the floor. So, if you use 2cm or 3cm, there is going to be a gap somewhere. Either on the bottom of the granite, or between the top of the new counter and the existing tile backs.

If you do 4cm, you can re-strip the cabinets with 1X2 furring strips and the laminated edge will cover the furring strips. The counter height should match the existing tile, or within a caulkable margin. The problem here is two-fold. One, you must 'handle' the material about 5 times to get a tight lamination. It is not a matter of simply gluing a secondary piece on the bottom and calling it good. Thus, with all the additional handling, the costs go up.

The second problem is grain match. As people's tastes in stone continue to get more sophisticated, they tend to like unique stone with movement. If all your cabinets are straight runs, no big deal. We can make the grain match. Got any funky angles, big round corners, want the top grains to match properly? Big problems. With any of these conditions, something has to give. And what 'gives' is grain match. So, if the grain match is no big deal to you, this solution will work. However, most of our clients expect it to be right [as do we], so lets go back to 2cm or 3cm.

Furr up the tops to meet the backsplash and run a piece of wood trim under the tops to hide the height variation. This works.

Leave the counters on top of the cabinets and run a piece of tile trim or stone trim to cover the void between the counters and backsplash. This works.

Now, lets look at economics. I'm going to use some 'average' numbers. Let's say you are putting in some very nice 3cm granite. Let's say it will cost $4000. The average backsplash will cost [labor and material] about $350. Am I going to go into contortions trying to save the $350 component? Economically, no.

There are always variables, and if you have individual questions, I'll be happy to answer them, but this should give you a basic overview of some considerations you might want to ponder. No one likes expensive surprises. We would be included in that group.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Leathered finish

We are now able to offer 'leathered' finishes on any stone. We also do honing and brushing.
The leather finish is kind of like a river-washed effect. As if the softer portions of the stone had been eroded by a natural stream over many, many years. To the touch, it has the slightest texture as you run your fingers over it. It also takes away most of the shine, although we can color enhance it to bring the uniqueness of the stone color back. But, it will remain a matte finish.
Several US slab distributors offer a very limited amount of colors in leathered stone. Usually in dark colors. [Cambrian Black seems to be used quite often]
Now, we can leather any stone. We are not limited to what their suppliers provide. We're running some Golden Crystal right now.
Any color you want can now be leathered, honed or brushed.