Granite countertops are a great addition to any kitchen. They have a beautiful luster, unique and intricate colors and markings, are durable, easy to maintain and will dramatically enhance the overall look of your kitchen. The process of finding, mining, shipping and fabricating the final granite countertops is a tedious and lengthy process. Bringing a piece of Earth’s crust that is millions of years old and shape it into beautiful granite countertops is no easy task. So, what’s involved exactly with this process? Here is what had to happen so you can enjoy your beautiful granite countertops.
Granite countertops – from the Earth’s crest to your kitchen
Granite is made of large mineral grains that fit tightly together. That physical characteristic gave that natural stone its name: granite. Granite is easily recognizable with its light-colored and coarse-grained rock with a random arrangement of minerals. Granite rocks can be found in park where there are rock deposits, but that type of granite has actually no commercial value and cannot be used to fabricate granite countertops.
Granite mining companies are always on the lookout for new sites to excavate. Finding good quality granite blocks is hard work. It requires a geologist to analyze stone outcrops (visible exposure of bedrock on the surface of the Earth) at different locations worldwide. To determine if a particular bedrock is suitable to quarry to produce granite countertops, samples are taken by boring into the Earth’s crust. Because granite is such a hard rock, diamond-tipped drill bits are used. One of the reasons why granite countertops are so popular is because of their durability. In order for a site to be selected for mining, the samples collected must have the optimal deposit of material with desirable colors, patterns and composition.
Once a site is deemed suitable for quarrying, the mining company owners apply for a concession. Soon after, proper licensing from local, state and federal government must be obtained. This, in itself, is a lengthy process, especially in poorer countries where corruption is high. It could take years before a final approval is given to start the quarrying process.
Granite countertops – mining for granite blocks
When it comes to extracting granite blocks, each quarry requires a different approach, hence presenting unique engineering challenges. Often times, a huge amount of dirt will have to be excavated first before being able to get get to the actual granite blocks below. That process in itself could take years. When a quarry is started, a basic infrastructure needs to be put in place for access to and from the quarry. This is especially challenging when the area being mined in the middle of a war zone or located in areas with extremely cold temperatures.
Bringing a quarry into full production takes experience and vision. A quarry manager should be able to precisely control how material is removed from the earth crust based on the veining and coloration within the deposit. This will affect the markings of the final granite countertops. The manager must have the vision to see how the stone “flows” through the quarry. The markings on a granite slab can take on many different physical characteristic based on how the block is cut from the wall and later processed. Cuts have a direct impact on whether or not a slab can be used to fabricate granite countertops. Once the quarry manager decides on extraction methods for the granite blocks, the drilling begins.
Granite blocks weigh between 38,000 and 42,000 pounds on average. Once granite blocks have been extracted, they are sent to a processing facility either locally or internationally. Depending on the geographical location of the quarry, transportation could cause logistic challenges (if for example the granite blocks are transported from mountainous areas and poorly accessible areas.
Granite countertops – processing granite blocks
On arrival at the processing center, large granite blocks are cut into smaller, more manageable pieces. Granite blocks are cut into slabs using a gang saw, a saw that looks like a giant bread slicer. Then it’s on to the polishing line (the step prior to the final fabrication of granite countertops) where granite slabs pass under polishing heads.
Once polished, slabs are inspected for quality and packaged for shipping. They are then bundled together and loaded, using massive cranes, into standard 20 foot shipping containers. The granite slabs are shipped to wholesalers who will then ship to granite counter top fabricators, who will custom fabricate granite countertops for your home.
Extracting granite blocks from quarries for commercial use is a long process, but the resulting granite countertops that are manufactured are well worth the wait.