Before you make a large purchase and crucial design commitment such as stone countertops, you should educate yourself and make a rough plan before agreeing to buy from a particular countertop seller. You will thank yourself by taking these 5 easy steps to prepare for the shopping and installation process.
1. Take Measurements
Whether you are remodeling a kitchen or replacing bathroom countertops, you should have a rough estimate of the space you are filling before you start shopping for countertops. Dimensions do not need to be exact. In fact, they may change a few times during your shopping process. Countertop suppliers are basically looking for the longest piece of material you will need and a rough idea of square footage in order to accurately estimate the price of your job and ensure enough material for the job.
2. Determine Your Project Deadline
Do you have a firm deadline your new countertops absolutely need to be installed by? Countertops should be installed after cabinets. If you are still unsure whether there is a firm date you need to complete installation by, consider what is more important to you – the price, quality, or deadline of your project. If deadline is not key to your project, it may pay off to focus on working with a countertop company that has a lower price, does high quality work, and is responsive to your questions and specific needs.
3. Find a fabricator (not necessarily a supplier…know the difference)
Now that you have estimated measurements, you will need to find a fabricator to estimate the price of the job. In case you are like me and confused by the term “fabricator”, it is the shop that will install your granite, marble, or quartz countertops and make any modifications to the stone such as cutting and edging. A fabricator should not be interchanged with the term “supplier” which is a company that supplies huge slabs of stone. You or I would have no business buying directly from a supplier because once we received the giant 9x10’ slab of stone, we would not know what to do with it. On the other hand, a fabricator, would carefully cut the slab(s) into countertops to fit perfectly in your new kitchen or bathroom. Nearly all Seattle area fabricators buy their stone from suppliers in the SODO district (south of downtown Seattle in Georgetown). Because of this, you do not necessarily get access to larger array of colors of stones by working with one fabricator over another; any fabricator in the area should be able to get the same stone from the supplier in Seattle.
Read recent reviews of the countertop company you are considering working with. Watch for red flags. Was it tough to get a hold of them? How patient were they in guiding you through the initial quoting process? Did they thoroughly answer your questions? These small gestures will make a huge difference once they start working with you on key details and attempted to meet your deadline. They can also be an indication of how they will respond if they run into a problem along the way in your counter installation process.
4. Choose Your Stone Type and Color
While you won’t be buying directly from a supplier, what you can do with some suppliers is visit their giant showrooms and see your potential new countertops in person in Seattle. Whether you are looking for colorful granite, textured quartz, or neutral colored marble countertops, you can visit some suppliers that are open to the public. If you fall in love with a stone, you can even reserve that particular slab for your job. I chose to go this route because the little 6x8” sample stones were not enough to give me an idea of what counters would look like in my new kitchen. Plus, fabricators don’t always have samples for you to take home and you may find yourself choosing off pictures.
5. Get a Quote…or 3 like the experts say
Once you know the exact stone you want, (type: quartz, granite, marble, etc. and color: exact name referred to by the fabricator) and have your estimated measurements, your fabricator will help you draw a layout of your counters. They will confirm which edges need finishing vs. which will be against a wall. This is when you need to give information regarding any cut outs you want: sink, outlets, etc. If you don’t have all the details, the fabricator should be able to work around your decisions and provide an estimate even if you haven’t made all decisions yet. It is good to know whether you want to use an undermount sink or drop-in. If you’re unsure the difference, read about the pros and cons.
You will also want to decide whether you’ll add backsplash in the stone of your choice, what style edging you prefer, and what radius you want on the corners. These options can but don’t always affect the price of your job, depending on what your fabricator offers.
Using the rule of thumb, it is a good idea to get 3 bids for your countertops. This is likely not a cheap part of your project, and countertops get lots of daily use. You’ll want to ensure you choose someone you trust while not overpaying.
Are you in the greater Seattle area? You can start by requesting your first estimate from Seattle's Best Granite, serving King and Snohomish County.