A Sleek and Cool Silestone Fireplace

Queen of the Tile was asked to work on a very cool, contemporary project in Houston.  It involved a shower pan repair, new tile on the kitchen floor, new Silestone countertops in the kitchen and one of the most interesting fireplace designs that we have ever installed.  The Silestone color selected was Kensho from the Volcano Series.  Here is the “Before” picture of the fireplace.

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The architect and general contractor for the project was Jesse Hager from Content in Houston.  The installation took two days because some of the pieces like the caps and side wall could not be measured and fabricated until after installing the larger face of the fireplace.  Below is the “After” picture.

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This installation was very detailed due to the precise cuts for the shelf and firebox openings and all the corners (top and side) were all mitred corners as can be seen in the next picture.

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Alot of other fabricators would probably find a project like this a pain in the a__, but Queen of the Tile is always ready for an interesting and different challenge.

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Granite or Silestone: That’s the Question

Silestone Countertops

Blanco-Zeus Silestone Kitchen

Customers ask me this all the time:  What material is better for kitchen countertops, granite or silestone?  Well, I’m a bit partial, but I will be as honest as I can on this subject.  They are both wonderful products and each have pros and cons.

Let’s talk about Silestone first.  Silestone is a man-made quartz product that comes in 2cm and 3 cm thicknesses and a variety of beautiful rich colors.  Silestone is made with anti-bacterial magic stuff put into all slabs, thus the need for sealing is not necessary.  Silestone is also a more flexible material, thus eliminating the need for plywood decking for support.  Although sometimes decking will still be required so the drawers do not interfere with the edge lamination.  Your builder or granite fabricator should be able to help you with this option.

Granite is a natural stone that is quarried from all over the world, sliced to 2 cm and 3cm thicknesses, polished and imported to our area.  All natural stone varies in its porosity, but all natural stone should be sealed.  This may sound scary, but it is not.  Sealing is included in all installations by Queen of the Tile.  This process should last 2 – 3 years depending on how you are cleaning your countertops.  I encourage all our customers to use a Stone Tech product called Revitalizer.  It is a cleaner and a sealer, so everytime you are using it, you are re-sealing your tops and should never have any problems.

Have you figured it out yet?  I believe that  whatever shortfalls granite or silestone  may have, these issues can be easily overcome one way or another.  So I tell my customers to pick the color that best suits their decor and just go with it!

Granite and Silestone Edge Options

Edge Options for Granite and Silestone Countertops

3 Edge Options for Slab Countertops

There are 4 things that will decide how much you pay for your granite countertops.  The material and color  you choose, the edge option you choose, the slab yard your material comes from and the fabricator you choose to do the fabrication and installation.  I have already touched on the slab yard experience that is a must for your project.  In fact, if your granite fabricator or remodel store does NOT let you select your own slabs*, you should not use them!!  This means that they might be buying inferior material from an natural stone importer that is bringing in poor quality slabs.  If you are “flipping” a house or your project is for a rental property, this might be okay.  But if your project is for your home, I would run away from this fabricator or remodel store!  I encourage customers to make that trip to the yard so they know exactly which granite slabs (and color shading) will be going into their home.

Let’s talk about material thickness today.  Natural stone and quartz slabs come in 2 thicknesses:  3/4″ (also called 2 cm) and 1 1/4″ (also called 3 cm).  You have 3 common options on what edge thickness you will have installed.  Please see the sketch I have drawn to better illustrate the edge options.  What’s the difference in the two materials, you ask?  Obviously, 2 cm material costs less(on average about $ 5.00-$ 7.00/SF) than the 3 cm material because you are buying less material.

The common edge choices when using the 2cm thickness is a 3/4″ edge or a 1 1/2″ laminated edge.  The second choice is laminated because a 1 1/2″ strip of material is glued to the bottom edge of the countertop, making the edge 1 1/2″ thick.  When using 3 cm thick material, the common edge is 1 1/4″.  We have laminated the 3 cm material before, making the final edge thickness equal to 2 1/2″ thick.  We have also used 2 laminations on the 2cm material, making the final edge thickness equal to 2 1/4″.  These were done due to the need to cover 2 layers of plywood decking for a bartop or just due to customer preference.  You must be careful that your granite laminations do not interfere with the drawers opening after installation.  On some occasions, more plywood decking must be installed.

As noted earlier, the 2 cm natural stone material costs less than the 3 cm material and there are often more color choices in 2 cm material.  I’m not quite sure why, but the Houston countertop market has focused more on the 2 cm material, while the Austin and Dallas markets install more 3 cm granite material.  It is also a common miconception that using 3 cm material will lower your labor costs since the fabricator is skipping the lamination step. While this is true, 3 cm material is so much heavier to install that 4 – 6 men or more are required to lift these pieces when a 2 cm job is usually installed by 2 men.  You will save some money due to the fact that plywood decking** is not necessary for a 3 cm installation.

*  If your selection of countertops is a quartz product like Silestone, you won’t be asked to go select your slabs because this product is a man-made product.  While some specific colors will probably vary a bit, the overall color and pattern remain fairly consistant to the samples you see in the store.

**  Plywood decking is not required when installing a quartz material like Silestone since these quartz products have a bit more flexibility than a natural stone has.