The Misconception of Radon and Granite

Radon gas is a serious health hazard, causing nearly as many cases of lung cancer each year as smoking. For this reason, a lot of homeowners take steps to protect themselves, testing for radon and installing abatement systems whenever necessary. Because one of the ways in which radon gas is given off is through the decomposition of granite, it has led to the misconception that radon gas can be given off by your granite countertop. This is categorically untrue, however; granite counters are safe to have in your home.


Most stones that are sold as “granite” and used on countertops today, are not actually granite. These stones are known as “commercial granite”, but may actually be dolomites, gabbros, or quartzites. So the vast majority of stones that you may select to have in your home may not actually be an igneous rock.

Even if you do choose a real granite for your home, the stone itself is still unlikely to have an issue with radon gas. This is because radon is produced when uranium begins to decompose. This uranium may be found in some types of igneous rock and granite, but not all types. It also needs to be broken down, usually through a great deal of pressure and time, before it begins to produce gas. Your granite countertop is not in a state of decomposition when it is installed in your home. Therefore it will not produce or give off radon gas.

Radon becomes a problem when large amounts are being produced by the rock or soil beneath your home. When the gas rises, it becomes trapped in your home where it mixes with the air you breathe. Even if your stone does contain minimal amounts of uranium, it should not produce radon in quantities that will become a hazard for your home. Numerous tests have been carried out on homes with granite counters, and no counters have ever tested with high enough levels to indicate a need for abatement.

If you are truly concerned, you can have a sample of the granite you are considering for your home tested for the presence of uranium by sending it out to an independent lab before you purchase or install the slab. Or, you can choose to install a different type of stone, such as soapstone or quartzite, which are not igneous in nature.

While radon gas is a serious issue for some homeowners, your granite counter will not produce the same type of problems or cause a health hazard. Be confident that your new counter will be a beautiful addition to your home, and not something that could be considered a negative.

Coordinating Your Granite and Backsplash

The backsplash is the finishing touch of most kitchens, and in some cases it’s also the most decorative item within the room. Because granite is also a very decorative, beautiful, and highly sought after addition to many kitchens, it makes sense that homeowners will want to work to coordinate their granite and their backslash into one, cohesive design. There are many ways that you can do this that will highlight the beauty of both and create a kitchen you can be proud of.

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Begin by waiting until your granite is installed to select the backsplash material. Granite slabs have a lot of variation in tone and color, as well as veining and pattern, and some of these things may not be apparent until you’ve seen them in the light of your home. You will also want to see how prominent accent or secondary colors are within the stone, as well as how visible the veins are, and where they are placed near the backsplash.

Ask for the sink cut or a sample from your slab to use as you visit tile showrooms; this will help you narrow down your color selections more easily as you go.

The basic rule of thumb when pairing a backsplash and granite is to look at how busy the stone is. Very wild stones with lots of color and movement would compete with a backsplash that has a lot of the same. So for these stones, choosing a simple, solid color backsplash is the best way to go.

For more sedate stones, however, or granites that have a very tightly packed grain, such as Uba Tuba or Giallo Ornamentale, you can get more wild and decorative with the backsplash. Start by examining your granite for undertones of color that you may want to include in this area. For example, Uba Tuba often has cream, yellow, and turquoise color flecks, while Giallo Ornamentale has cream, dark brown, and cranberry. So for a backsplash paired with Uba Tuba, you could use a cream colored tile with turquoise and gold accents. By working with the colors in the stone, you ensure that your backsplash and granite will work together in perfect harmony.

Always pick your backsplash after your granite has been installed to ensure that you find the right tile to match.

Is It Marble or Quartzite?

There can often be some confusion surrounding the type of stone that you’re buying for your tile or countertop. Sometimes this confusion stems from the name of the stone, with some suppliers renaming the stone when they sell it. Other times the confusion stems from the type of stone; at times you may find the same name of stone labeled as a quartzite and a marble by different suppliers. Quartzites are much more durable and resistant to staining and etching than marbles are, which makes them a great choice for kitchens and other high-use areas. But how can you tell if something is a quartzite or if it’s a marble? The answer usually lies in the appearance of the stone.

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Part of the confusion comes from the veining and patterns of the stones. Both often have a lot of veining, and sometimes even similar coloration. Greek Ajax, which is a quartzite, very closely resembles Bianco Carrara, a marble, for example. So at a quick glance, one might assume Ajax to be another type of white marble like Calacatta or Danby.

If you look closely at the surface of the stone, however, you can notice subtle differences which can help you determine whether the stone is a marble or a quartzite. Marble has a fairly uniform surface in texture. Whether it’s polished or it’s honed, the marble will reflect light evenly across its surface.

Quartzite, on the other hand, will appear more crystalline in nature. At times, the stones may be described as “sugary” or “glittery”, even when they have been honed. So a side by side of comparison of Ajax and Carrara will show similar colors, but the Carrara will have a uniform surface texture, while the Ajax will sparkle in individual grains beneath the polished surface. This sparkle or glitter is apparent in all quartzites due to the way that the stone formed.

So when looking for a durable, marble-looking stone for your home, and you’re not sure whether the stone you are considering is truly a marble or not, take a close look at the surface to find out more.



Choosing Your Stone Counter Thickness

Homeowners today have lot of choices when it comes to natural stone countertops. The type of stone, the color and the edge treatment are all considerations that a lot of homeowners are prepared to make when it’s time to visit the stone yard and choose their new counter. What many homeowners may not realize, however, is that for some stones, there is one more choice to be made, and that’s the thickness of the counter as well.

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The vast majority of stone slabs come in two standard thicknesses – 2cm and 3cm, or roughly translated, ¾-inch and 1-1/4-inch. Some stones, such as marble, are more likely to be found only in 2cm, while some granites may only be available in 3cm.

In some places, such as in the western part of the United States, the trend is to use a thinner counter – 2cm – regardless of where it is installed. In other places the trend is to use a thicker, 3cm, counter in the kitchen, while bar areas and bathroom counters use a thinner, 2cm stone.

Generally, however, a larger slab counter like a kitchen will do better with a 3cm stone. This is because some 2cm stones may need additional support in order to avoid slight bowing or cracking over time. Many homeowners may choose to use the 2cm slab thinking that the less expensive stone fits into their budget better, but often the bracing required during installation brings the price back up again.

Occasionally, you may also find slab counters in 2 or even 3-inch thicknesses. These thick slabs are generally more expensive than the others, but other than in extreme overhangs, they don’t usually add a lot of additional structure or function to the stone.

For most large countertops, a 3cm thick stone is generally sufficient, provided that overhangs have enough support. If the stone you love only comes in 2cm, however, it can still make a beautiful, functional countertop, as long as reinforcements are used.

Stone thickness is often driven by availability, area trend, and price. Weigh these considerations together to find the best stone for your home.

Should You Hone Your Countertop?

Trends in kitchen design come and go, but natural stone has remained one of the more popular choices for countertops for the last several years. The color of the stone and the stone itself may change, but the beauty and durability of the material is lasting and not something that’s going to change soon. One of the trends that seems to be reemerging again this year is using honed stone in the kitchen. Honing refers to the finish given to the surface of the stone – a flat, matte finish as opposed to a polished one. Any stone can technically be honed, giving your kitchen a more natural and muted appearance. That said, it isn’t always the best idea to get a honed counter, however, even if that choice is available to you.

Honed Granite Island

Some stones naturally look beautiful when honed. Absolute Black granite, for example takes on a softer color and appearance when honed that works well in Country kitchens. Other stones perform better when honed. Bianco Carrara, for example, does not show etch marks and scratches quite as much on a honed counter as on a polished one.

The vast majority of stones, though, react very differently to being honed. Some stones, such as Labrador Antique, which contains a lot of mica in its surface, shows numerous pits and fissures when honed that weren’t readily apparent when the surface was polished. This is because a polished surface reflects light away from these areas, disguising them. Other stones such as Rainforest Green, which is known for its beautiful colors and veining, may appear dull and muddy when the polish is gone, because the polish is what brings those colors out and makes them pop.

In some cases, that duller color is what will make the counter work best in your kitchen, while in others that duller color will detract from the look of the stone. Therefore, whenever possible, see if your fabricator will hone a small sample of the stone for you before you commit to the whole slab. A sample may not give you all the colors and variation in a slab, but it can give you a general idea of what that stone will look like without its polish, helping you make a better choice for your kitchen.

While honing is popular right now, it might not always be. Make a decision that suits your kitchen and not the trend to get the best look for the stone and for the space.

Creating a Waterfall Island Countertop

More and more homeowners are beginning to feel that the kitchen is just not complete without an island in the middle. The kitchen island gives you additional storage, seating, and workspace that you might not have otherwise. It also gives you the opportunity to add some dimension to the kitchen design by giving you the ability to use a different color or style of cabinetry, as well as a different type or style of countertop as well. And one of the most popular island counters emerging right now is the waterfall counter.

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A waterfall countertop features a slab counter – usually stone – on top of the island. The slab then turns 90 degrees and flows down the side of the island from the top of the counter straight to the floor. While this does restrict the use of the island on this side, it makes a very striking and interesting focal point for the entire room.

Because the waterfall counter is so eye catching, it makes sense to choose a countertop material that is going to be eye catching on its own. Using a gemstone countertop, a marble or granite with wild and prominent veins, or a stone that has a very vivid counter is one way to ensure that your waterfall counter is going to become the focal point you intend.

The key to a really successful waterfall counter is making sure that the join between the two sections is as unobtrusive as possible. For this reason, you may want to work with your fabricator to ensure that any lines or veins in the stone change direction with the direction the counter is moving so that it looks natural. If the direction of the veins sudden went from horizontal to vertical, for example, this could detract from the beauty of the island. A smooth, mitered edge is also a nice attribute to include at the point where the counter turns, otherwise the change in edge may be too obvious, also detracting from the space.

If you want to bring your island to the next level of design, consider using a waterfall stone countertop to highlight your style.

Decoding Stone Names

Granite and marble are two of the most popular materials out there for use in and around the home. There are also numerous variations of each, with hundreds of choices. There are a lot of ways that you can go about narrowing down your field of options, including price and size. But if you don’t know where to begin, and you’re just searching for options either online or at stone yards, you may want to look by color. Because most stone yards don’t organize their slabs this way, however, you may want to start by searching out specific stones in the colors you’re interested in. Some of these are easy, “Coast Green” for example, is easily identifiable as a green-colored stone. Some are trickier, however, because part or all of their name may be the language of the country where the stone was quarried from. Learning to decode some of the more popular names for colors and stones can help you determine if you want to see these stones in person before you get to the stone yard.

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Giallo is the name for “gold” and usually refers to any granite or marble that is yellow or gold in tone, including Giallo Ornamentale and Giallo Antico.

Azul is the name for blue, but this one is a little more misleading. Some stones with azul in the name will be blue – Azul Macuba or Azul Celeste. Some stones, however, such as Lagos Azul, are gray in color, but may have a cool or blue undertone to them.

Bleu is another name for blue sometimes found on stones, such as Gascoigne Bleu. These stones are not always blue, and may be a shade of gray as well.

Many black-colored stones may include the words “Nero” or “Negro” in their name, such as Nero Marquina.

Some stones may also be named for their place of origin, or for their appearance in other ways. Jerusalem stones such as Jerusalem Gold and Jerusalem Bone both refer to their place of origin, and both indicate color at the same time. Vermont Danby is another stone that refers to its location, as is Bianco Carrara – Bianco meaning white and Carrara referring to the quarry the stone was found at.

It’s also important to note that some quarries and stone yards will rename stones on occasion, as well. While not every stone will have a name that is easily translated, many do, and learning the key can help you come to your perfect selection sooner.

Fixing Pits in a Granite Countertop

Granite counters are beautiful, natural, and full of variation. It’s not uncommon to find counters that not only have unusual markings, veining, or coloration, but that also have small pits or fissures as well. For the most part, these small pits and fissures are just natural parts of the stone that don’t detract from the beauty or their function. Occasionally, however, a small pit or fissure does become larger over time, particularly if the stone has sustained a sharp impact or a thermal shock. In this case, a larger pit could be cause for concern, simply because it may compromise the integrity of the stone, as well as become a catching place for dirt and debris. Thankfully, these pits can be filled.


Very large cracks or fissures may be best filled by a professional using a color-matched epoxy, particularly if the crack goes right through the stone. Small pits and fissures, however, can be easily filled at home usually within a few minutes.

The key is to use a light-curing, clear acrylic filler. Light-curing acrylics require no mixing and usually come in pre-packaged syringes so you can easily apply them right to the crack or pit. Because the substance is clear and remains clear even as it dries, the natural color and variation of your stone will be visible through the repair. This means you don’t need to try to match the color or the veining of your stone. The acrylic also dries to a high-gloss finish, which also makes the repair less noticeable, because light simply reflects off of both your granite and the repair. This is different than the way that light may hit an epoxy repair, where the fill is not as reflective as the stone surrounding it.

Light-curing acrylic fill should only be used on horizontal surfaces such as countertops, because it is fluid and does run. Used sparingly, however, it can help extend the life and beauty of your granite counters if a pit or fissure should occur.

Granites to Consider for Modern Kitchens

More homeowners are turning toward contemporary kitchens than ever before. And with these contemporary spaces comes a need for countertops that can help complete the space. Some homeowners choose to use manmade materials such as ceramic or quartz counters to complete their contemporary design, but many more still turn toward natural stones such as granite to get the look they want. There are several different granites that work particularly well in contemporary kitchens, any of which is sure to get the modern look you’re after.

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For white contemporary kitchens, one of the most sought after stones right now is Bianco Romano. This very light-colored stone includes gray, cream, and burgundy veining and accents, but keeps the kitchen very light and bright in color and in feel.

For homeowners that want more of a contrast in their kitchens, Absolute Black granite makes an impressive choice. Absolute Black looks particularly good in contemporary kitchens when honed to give it a more made and subtle appearance. With no veining or additional colors to work in, Absolute Black granites is perfect for the very stark, clean contemporary space.

Many contemporary kitchens make great use of bold color to help them stand out. And while most people associate bolder colors with manmade products, there are a few granites that can truly stand out in a modern space as well, including Hidden Treasure, a black stone that has thick gold veins and lots of movement, Stone Wood, which is an incredible stone with a cream to tan background and lots of heavy black veins, Dynamic Blue, which is a bright blue stone with waves of lighter color moving through it, Seacoast Green, which is a bold green stone with yellow undertones and lots of movement and veining.

Also popular in modern spaces as stones that have a lot going on; these stones work best on island counters where they can become the focal point of the room. Rainforest Green and any color of Mariachi work well here.

It is possible to have a contemporary kitchen and the beauty of granite together; simply work with the room to find the right look for you.


Maintaining Your Stone Floors

Stone flooring makes a beautiful addition to many homes. A lot of homeowners get nervous about using it, however, knowing that stone requires more maintenance than things like porcelain or vinyl do. While natural stone does require some care, maintenance does not have to be difficult or time consuming. Done correctly, you can easily maintain your stone floors, keeping them looking as beautiful as they day there were installed with very little effort.


Scratches are one of the biggest issues with stone floors, particularly those that are polished. Help cut down on scratches by placing rugs near entry ways to help stop the tracking of sand and other abrasive elements. Removing shoes before walking in high traffic areas can also help cut down on scratches.

Sweep or damp mop the floor regularly to help pick up sand, grit, and other dirt that could leave scratches on the floor. If you vacuum, turn off the beater bar to avoid unnecessary friction against the stone.

Stains are the other biggest issue surrounding stone floors. To help prevent stains, make sure you seal your floors with a silicone-based impregnating sealer on a regular basis. A well-sealed floor will bead water up like a waxed car; if your floor stops beading water, it’s time to reseal.

Always wash stone floors with a PH neutral cleanser to avoid etching and to help preserve the sealer. Wipe up spills as soon as you notice them to help impede stains as well.

If you’re truly nervous about using stone, consider investing in a material that is more variegated in color and texture, such as slate, which can help disguise a lot of dirt and scratch marks.

If your stone loses some of its shine or appears duller in color, apply a shine or color enhancing topical sealer once yearly to help maintain its original appearance.

Natural stone is not difficult to maintain, and does not become extremely scratched or discolored easily. Get the beautiful stone floor you’ve always wanted, and rest assured that its maintenance is not nearly as difficult as you may have believed.

Add Color with Crushed Stone

Natural stone frequently gets a lot of attention when used on floors, walls, and countertops, but these aren’t the only places where it can be used. In addition, stone can be used as a loose “fill” around landscaping, bathtubs, and window boxes. Sometimes this stone may be polished and smooth “river rocks”, while in some areas crushed bluestone is popular. A newer trend sparked from areas surrounding companies that use mosaic stone is to use leftover or crushed colorful marbles, granites, and limestones as fill.

coastal influence

Mosaics are pieces of tile that measure 2-inches or smaller in size. They are frequently cut and pieced together to form pictures and patterns, and often small pieces are leftover when the work is done that can’t be reused. Those small pieces mixed together can form a unique and colorful fill for driveways, landscaping, or loose bathroom or hot tub room floors.

The popularity of these types of “crushed” stone has led more homeowners to begin using leftover stone pieces in similar ways. This may include taking leftover pieces of tile or slab, and breaking, cracking, or tumbling the stone until small chips or pieces result which can be used in this way.

It’s now becoming more common for people to use polished stone mosaics or leftover pieces to bring additional color or interest to their homes and landscaping. Because the loose stones can be pushed, moved, turned, and otherwise interacted with, it brings a new level of interest to the areas as a whole.

Using the small broken pieces of more “luxury” stone doesn’t have to be done on its own, either. It is possible to mix in pieces of polished marble or granite with more common crushed bluestone. Used this way, the more polished, colorful pieces will stand out more against the gray background, giving the fill a more subtle look that is still filled with interest.

If you’re looking for a way to add a little more depth to your crushed stone landscaping, consider adding some unique stone pieces to the mix.

Types of Soapstone

Soapstone has an ultra-smooth surface and an appealing depth of color that makes it one of the more popular choices in kitchens around the world. Made of metamorphosed talc, soapstone doesn’t stain or etch the way that other stones do, and it can be oiled to bring out a lot of additional depth and color. There are also several different variations of soapstone available, which means there’s likely a type for everyone to enjoy.


Vermont Soapstone is a dark gray stone with minimal veins that becomes a very deep green when oiled. Despite its name, this stone originates in Brazil, and is most often what people think of when they consider soapstone for their kitchens.

New Iceflower is also from Brazil. This is another dark gray stone that has minimal white veining. What makes it unique is the fact that it frequently has white crystalline spots across its surface that make it appear as though it has freshly fallen snow on the surface.

Green Soapstone is from Finland. It’s a very rich green in color that is reminiscent of some very dark green marbles. It’s a lot denser and more substantial than soapstones found in Brazil, so it can sometimes be cut into extremely large slabs.

Barocca is another soapstone from Brazil. This is a very light gray stone that has minimal to no white veining, and a much more consistent appearance than some other stones.

Silver soapstone is another very light gray stone from Brazil. What makes it different from Barocca is the presence of lots of white veining, which in some cases can appear as though swirls of marshmallow were moving through the stone. This soapstone has a lot more movement and energy to it, while still remaining very light and neutral in color.

Emerald soapstone is an extraordinarily wild green stone from Brazil. Dark green in color, this stone has a lot of movement, color, variation, and veining. It’s a fairly rare stone, so on the pricey side, but when oiled it has the appearance of a rich, emerald green that makes it extremely appealing.

Gray soapstone is the final stone emerging from Brazil. It has a dark gray color, but lots of rich white veining and a lot of movement.

Soapstone’s popularity isn’t going away anytime soon. If you want a unique, low maintenance stone for your kitchen, consider one of these beautiful options.