Q & A - (Overview, Seams, Sealing & Tips)

 1. Give a brief overview of the video and DVD.

"The Way I Do" It demonstrates a simple method of making stone countertops from start to finish. Aaron reveals how to work with granite using methods he has developed while doing it by himself for over 20 years. You'll learn Aaron's time-proven techniques as he takes you step-by-step through the process of loading and offloading, measuring, cutting, polishing, and installing. You'll learn how he transforms a slab of natural granite into beautiful, polished countertops.


2. What knowledge and skills are needed to be able to fabricate stone countertops?

You must have experience using hand-held power tools. That includes understanding the safety requirements and purpose of each tool.


3. How much time does it take to learn how to make granite countertops?

A few hours to a few days, depending on your skill level.


4. What materials are best to start with?

Aaron began practicing with limestone, because it is inexpensive and soft. Then he graduated to marble and finally to granite. Scrap material is obtainable through any stone supplier.


5. How long will it take to fabricate a typical kitchen?

It takes approximately two weeks to do a good job. Working with stone is not a chore. It's a real joy to be involved with a material that is beautiful and durable.


6. How many square feet of material is needed for a typical kitchen?

50 to 65 square feet. The backsplash is extra.


7. What is the cost per square foot of an average kitchen?

At $65 per square foot, it will cost about $5,000 turnkey. A person could do it themselves for approximately $2,500, including tools and video.


8. How does Aaron do the seams?

This is an important question. Depending on the job, the seams are filled with nonsanded grout, silicone, polyester resin, or epoxy.

Aaron uses Chemorset knife-grade transparent epoxy (a 50-50 mix of A and B parts), which can be ordered through Vic International, 1-800-423-1634. Mix colors to match the stone. Usually three shades are found in most materials. Aaron creates a base color which is a muddy grey color (light - dark depending on the color of the stone.) He achieves this by mixing trace amounts of black and white to the epoxy - just enough to make the base epoxy opaque. He then divides the grey base epoxy into three - four groups to begin making the palette. Aaron recommends creating a minimum of three colors. The colors you find in natural stone do not have much chroma in them. It's important to keep the colors subdued (not too much pigment.) The colors can be purchased through VIC International - AKEMI brand colors.

Once the epoxy is mixed, place 2" masking tape on either side of the seam (you only want glue in between the granite, not on its surface). Then take a single edge razor blade, the kind you clean glass with, plus a little water, and pull the blade across the tape to mash the glue between the seams. This may take several applications as the epoxy tends to droop as it dries. Once all layers are applied (at least thirty minutes per layer) pull off the tape. Take a piece of cloth, preferably linen, and get it dripping wet with liquid soap and water. Carefully wipe across seam. The epoxy should be flush with the surface. This is a process of trial and error, but rewarding.


9. Tips on seams and products:

SEAMS: Aaron uses epoxy; order through Vic International, 1-800-423-1634. It bonds to the stone, is strong, and you never have to do anything else to it. Do not use a polyester resin for seams because it pops up; it fills the hole but it doesn't bond to stone and will leak if water gets to it. Nonsanded grout is okay, but it will eventually need to be redone and it's hard to keep clean.

SEALING GRANITE: Aaron uses a product called Premium Silicone Impregnator (PSI) for high polished stone. It completely seals the granite from any liquid, so liquids bead on it and cooking oils cannot penetrate the stone. PSI is a one-time application, with directions on the can. For stones with a matte finish, such as limestone and honed stones, he uses Silicone Impregnator Matte Finish (SIM). SIM is available at Vic International.

Aaron recommends installing granite in the kitchen for countertops, and marble in the bathroom for lavatories, flooring and showers. Granite is better for kitchens because it's harder. Marble looks prettier in bathrooms and you're less likely to scratch it; however, sand or grit on the bottom of hard sole leather shoes will make doughnut scratches in the marble. And, they are difficult to deal with. Aaron prefers to install marble for wall and shower applications where foot traffic isn't a problem.


10. Any tips for making granite countertops?

Aaron always goes slow. You are working with a substance that took a billion years to form and will last another billion years after you're done with it. So go slow and do it right. There is satisfaction in meeting the challenge of granite.

Granite is hard, but Aaron has scratched it with the base plate of his wormgear saw. To prevent this, he places a fiber pad, piece of lifting strap, or masking tape under the saw base or on material to be cut.

Many more tips are explained on the video.


11. What is the difference between granite and marble?

Granite is hard; that's why you need a diamond blade to cut it. Marble is beautiful but it's softer and tends to scratch more easily, making it impractical for most kitchens. Some marbles are hard enough to withstand kitchen uses, such as "Empress" Green from Taiwan. The softest marbles come from Spain and Mexico.


12. What is the average cost per square foot of granite and marble?

For 2 cm (3/4"), the cost runs around $13.00 per square foot. For 3 cm (1"), the cost runs around $16.00 per square foot. As a rule, slabs measure approximately 45 square feet (66" x 108".)


13. How did you get suppliers to sell to you?

Generally suppliers only sell to fabricators, so I look the part and am prepared. I wear work clothes. I put an A-Frame and straps in the back of my truck. I introduce myself as an independent artist working with stone. I begin by asking the slab salesman to show me materials around $10 to $15 per square foot in whatever color I prefer.

I always go slow during the whole process. Even while transporting the stone - it's important to drive around 45 to 50 mph and to make sure the load is balanced and secure.


14. How much can a craftsman save fabricating countertops themselves?

Thousands of dollars! Aaron's way costs about $2,500 to $3,000 (including video and tools), compared to paying someone $5,000 to $6,000 or more to do it for you.


15. Is there a way to get stone materials cheaper?

Yes! I always ask the slab salesman if there are materials that haven't sold or moved in some time. Often they will sell this material to me for considerably less. It never hurts to ask.


16. Material Inspection:

MARBLE: If the marble looks washed out or sun baked, or has tiny fissures that have broken the surface of the polish, it will fall apart after cutting. If that's the case, then I epoxy plywood to the bottom of the stone for support. Marble doesn't weather well.

GRANITE: Always look at the polish from the side and see if there are any cracks running through it. Some suppliers will sell you stone a professional wouldn't buy, or wouldn't even bother tossing in the creek.


17. Is granite acid resistant?

There is one acid that will etch, dull and pit a polished granite surface, known as Hydrofluoric acid(HF) which is found in rust removers. If you have experienced this problem you should check the label to see if it contains Hydrofluoric acid. If so, the granite may need repair.


The Buyer Must Beware!!

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