For many good reasons, granite has become a sought-after building material. Its beauty, durability, permanence and relative ease of maintenance make it an excellent choice for many interior and exterior applications.
Paying careful attention to key factors will help ensure a successful project. Dimensional stone, which can also be referred to as "cut-to-size" stone, is for architectural use and is fabricated specifically to a designer's project requirements or specifications.
Only nature could create the beauty of granite. This igneous rock is formed beneath the earth's surface out of slowly cooling magma. The stone's large, easily visible crystals of quartz, feldspar, and mica give granite its unparalleled appearance and variety of colors. Its applications include interior or exterior cladding, flooring, paving, and monuments.
Granite can be finished in different ways that will enhance its look. Granite finishes generally are available in five categories:
1. Coarse surfaces emulate the natural cleavage of the stone and are used primarily for decorative finishes.
2. Rough surfaces imitate the stone’s natural surface, but are less rugged than a coarse finish.
3. Non-reflective or textured finishes are good choices for many applications including non-slip flooring, paving and building facades.
4. Smooth surfaces exhibit machined textures to accentuate different patterns of the stone.
5. Glossy surfaces are luminous and highly polished.
Consult a trusted granite quarrier or fabricator. The same company often performs the quarrying and fabrication operations. Using a granite source that provides integrated control of the entire process can provide the ideal scenario, as control over the granite acquisition process will not be subject to outside factors. Designers will be more efficient since they will have one fewer supplier to deal with.
Consider the following when evaluating a potential granite supplier:
- Is the supplier respected and trusted by your colleagues in the industry? Contact colleagues to find out who they use. A trusted supplier will have a reputation for high quality and good service.
- Does the supplier provide in-house services such as drafting and project management? These can prove invaluable on a project. While many suppliers subcontract these services, suppliers that offer them in-house can provide an unmatched level of responsiveness and service that leads to a smooth, successful design and installation.
- Does the supplier offer a wide color palette? Nature determines granite’s many different colors. While different quarries may develop proprietary names for their offerings, the National Building Granite Quarries Association (NBGQA) specifies all colors in 10 categories: white, gray, buff, beige, pink, red, blue, green, brown and black.
- Are the supplier's practices environmentally responsible? For example, does the supplier minimize potable water by recycling and reusing water required for quarry and plant operations? Does the supplier optimize its energy consumption? Does the supplier have post-quarry plans in place for restoring the site afterward. Does the supplier process the stone the quarry to minimize transportation and handling?
- Does the supplier provide historical test data or ASTM test information?
Not every granite company can supply the desired material. Doing the research necessary to find a credible supplier will go a long way toward assuring a successful project.
Once you decide on a supplier, begin by working with the supplier to establish budget parameters even before researching the type of granite to be used. Next, researching the material selection in the context of the project application and requesting ASTM data on the material from the supplier are essential. Not every type of granite fits every application. One of the biggest considerations is determining whether the granite will function as desired in the intended application. Ask the supplier for historical data on the granite. Inquire about already completed projects done with the same application using the stone you are considering. If possible, walk that site and see how the granite looks.
"We're continually working with our clients to help them problem solve when granite is desired for their project," said Duane Krueger, regional sales representative for one supplier, Cold Springs Granite in Cold Springs, Minn. "We find out what their design intent is and help them consider the many options they have."
Beyond color, consider other criteria in selecting the granite for your project. This is where the supplier's help is invaluable.
Focus on the stone's physical properties and consult guidelines specified by ASTM C-615, which provides the standard specification for granite dimension stone. It includes material characteristics, physical requirements and sampling appropriate to the selecting granite.
Determine if the granite’s thickness is suitable for the desired application. Certain applications require a minimum thickness. For example, vertical granite cladding is recommended to be at least 1-3/16 inches thick.
Consider temperatures and freeze-thaw cycles in the area. Be mindful of the ASTM standards relevant to the project application and apply them appropriately.
The final touch
The supplier can help determine if the finish selected is suitable for the specific application. This will helps specifier make sure the selected finish fits the project's needs.
The same stone finished two different ways will look different. Examine samples of the desired finish on the selected granite to be sure it has the preferred look. Also, remember that applying two different finishes on one stone can provide a cost-effective method of creating different looks without having to select two different stones.
In addition to polished, thermal and honed, there are numerous options for finishes. Many fabricators can even provide a custom finish to suit certain project aesthetic requirements, such as matching the pre-existing stone at a project location.
Consider the stone's strength. Sometimes the finish affects the effective thickness of the panel and thus, its strength.
Dan Rea is senior vice president, commercial group, for Cold Spring Granite. Visit www.coldspringgranite.com.
Collaboration with the supplier played a critical role in determining treatments for the SunTrust Plaza, a high rise, multiuse office building in downtown Nashville, Tenn. The polished Carnelian granite on the building’s façade was accentuated with thermal-finished bands on the north and south façades located at column lines from the ground to the 12th floor.
"We visited one of Cold Spring Granite's operations and saw the finishing process first hand at their fabrication facility," says Chuck Gannaway, project manager with Hastings Architecture Associates in Nashville. "This helped us understand the various finish options. We selected both polished and thermal finishes, including some thermal banding on select pieces of the building's façade to add accents. Taking one type of stone and making it look very different proved to be an effective approach."
By working closely with your supplier, your finished project can also be a success.