Bespoke Stone Surfaces FAQ

GRANITE WORKTOPS

What is granite?

Granite is a term used to describe igneous rock of visible crystalline formation and texture. It is composed of feldspars and quartz, with a small amount of mica and minor accessory minerals. Granite crystallises from magma that cools slowly, deep below the earth's surface.

Why is granite suitable for use as kitchen worktops?

Because it was created under great pressure, granite is one of the hardest (and therefore most wear-resistant) kinds of natural stone. It has a low porosity, so is stain resistant, and also very hygienic. The beautiful range of colours on the market also make granite a popular choice for aesthetic reasons. Granite has practical uses too – for example, as it is a cool surface, it is ideal for pastry making.

What finishes are available on granite?

Granite has traditionally been supplied with a glossy polished finish. This is still the most popular finish, however other finishes are becoming more trendy, such as honed (a matt finish) or soft stippled (a textured finish with the feel of leather). We can apply both of these finishes to any granite in our own workshops. This is different to most other fabricators, who will have to order full slabs with a factory-applied honed or textured finish, resulting in a more expensive job and a longer lead time.

How many granites are there to choose from?

We have selected around 25 popular granites, which we always keep in stock in our yard. This makes us different from many smaller granite worktop fabricators, who have to sell using small samples (which may not be fully representative of the granite currently coming out of the quarries), then only buy the full slabs once you have committed to an order and paid a deposit.

Where are the granites from?

Our granites come from renowned sources all around the world. Many of the materials are from Brazil, India and Africa, while some originate closer to home in places such as Norway and Finland. The origin of each material is listed on the material’s stone sample page.

Does granite vary in quality?

Yes, there is a huge variation in the quality of granite available on the market. We only ever buy granite classified as first choice or premium grade, which is the industry accepted best possible quality of a given material in terms of the colour, veining and integrity of the stone. We are very discerning buyers, and only use sources with a reputation for supplying the best quality materials. As an additional form of quality control, we often travel to view slabs before buying our granite.

What would constitute a poor quality granite?

Second choice (or commercial grade) granites have been classified as such because the stone contains defects, either superficially or technically. These materials should only ever be used on commercial developments (e.g. for flooring or cladding), but have increasingly made their way onto the slab market as discount worktop fabricators look to cut costs in order to offer cheap headline prices. These materials often arrive in the UK in the form of ‘granite blanks’. Poor quality, rejected blocks are sent from quarries, often to China, where outdated machinery is used to produce pre-cut worktop lengths, which are shipped in crates to the UK. Using granite blanks can cause countless problems, such as variations in colour and thickness, and poor quality finishes. It also limits what can be done in a kitchen, as the tops are all cut to set lengths.

How can I ensure my worktops will be made using good quality granite?

It can be difficult for the layperson to make a discerning choice, but a good starting point is to always ask to see the slab your worktops will be cut from. Any good fabricator will be happy to show you the material, or at least a photo of the slab if they are quoting based on material they have not yet bought from their wholesaler. This should enable you to see any visual issues with the material, such as unsightly lines, patches or variations in colour.

So are you happy for me to come to your yard to look at the granites?

Yes, in fact we thoroughly recommend that you visit our yard to view the materials. This enables you to view our full slabs of granite, giving you the full picture of what you will get in your kitchen. We would not buy without seeing what we are paying for, and we do not expect you to either. You can even choose the exact slabs of granite to be used in your kitchen.

Do you have samples of the granites?

We do not post granite samples, but we do have samples of our stock granites in our showroom, which customers are welcome to take away. Our samples are not just rough offcuts, but are properly finished pieces of stone at 200 x 100mm, with neat polished edges. Therefore, as there was a cost involved to make the samples, we ask customers to return samples within 4 weeks. Alternatively, please use the sample images here on our website. Please be aware that, as a natural material, granite varies in colour and veining from batch to batch, so samples and sample images are only intended as a guide to the characteristics of a material. To get an accurate picture, visit our yard to view the full slabs.

What if I have seen a granite colour elsewhere, but you don’t stock it?

No problem. There are literally hundreds of different colours of granite available on the market. We can source any granite using our network of suppliers, and are happy to quote for individual jobs in materials we don’t stock as standard. We also regularly have exclusive materials in stock, where we may have bought 2 or 3 slabs of an interesting or unusual material, helping you to create an even more unique kitchen. Please call into our yard and have a look at what we’ve got available.

Can I have marble for my kitchen worktops?

This cannot be recommended. Marble is softer than granite, so can be damaged more easily. It also has a greater porosity, so is far more susceptible to staining, and more vulnerable to attack by acids such as vinegar and lemon juice. However, on occasions where a client insists that they can only achieve the look they desire in their kitchen by using a marble, we will carry out this work on the basis that the client signs a disclaimer acknowledging the extra care they will need to take with their finished surfaces.

How about limestone for kitchen worktops?

This is certainly not recommended. Limestones are too soft and porous, so would result in serious scratching and staining issues if used as kitchen worktops. If you like the look of lighter cream coloured limestones, take a look at our engineered quartz materials, which have many available colours and finishes in whites, creams and beiges.

How about slate for kitchen worktops?

Again, this is not recommended. Slate scratches easily, so you would never be able to maintain the condition of the surface. If you like the look of honed (smooth finish) slate, we recommend Honed Black Granite instead. For a look similar to riven slate, you may wish to consider Black Satino Granite, which has a textured finish.

Is it easy to look after granite worktops?

Yes, by following simple maintenance procedures, combined with some common sense, it is possible to keep your granite worktops looking as good as new for many years. Spillages of acidic substances such as lemon juice, vinegar or wine can attack the stone, so it is essential to clear these up immediately. Although granite is very durable, we recommend that you do not chop directly on the surface, as this can dull the polished finish. We also recommend using a trivet for hot pans.

Do you seal the granite worktops?

Yes, all granite worktops are sealed with Lithofin MN Stain-Stop before leaving our factory. This is a special impregnator designed for natural stone and helps to reduce – but not totally eliminate – the risk of staining. We recommend a further application of Stain-Stop about 6 to 12 months after installation. This can be purchased from our showroom.

What should I clean granite with?

Never use ordinary household surface cleaners on your granite worktops. They contain acids, which will start to attack the stone. We recommend the Lithofin range of cleaning and maintenance products, which have an alkaline formula specially designed for use on natural stone. The protective effect of Stain-Stop can be maintained by using Lithofin MN Easy-Clean on a daily basis, which comes in a handy 500ml spray bottle. A range of other Lithofin cleaning products are available to suit more specific or stubborn dirt or stains – please ask for details.

 

QUARTZ WORKTOPS

What is quartz?

Quartz refers to any of a number of brands of man-made engineered quartz stone which have become popular on the market in the past decade or so. The stone is manufactured using ground natural quartz, resins and dyes. The material has the feel of granite and is worked using the same tooling and methods.

Why is quartz suitable for use as kitchen worktops?

Quartz has a very low porosity, in fact it is almost totally non-porous. This means it is highly stain resistant and hygienic. The material is also very hard, so is resistant to scratches and other damage.

Why would I choose quartz instead of natural granite?

Both quartz and granite are perfectly suitable for the day-to-day practicalities of kitchen worktops, although quartz is slightly easier to maintain. The main benefit that quartz offers is a consistency of colour, and a greater range of light colours. Some people prefer their worktops to have a uniformed colour across the whole kitchen, while other people prefer the unique beauty of natural granite – it is really down to personal preference.

Which brands of quartz do you sell?

We choose to promote Silestone, Caesarstone and BQS quartz surfaces, and are an approved fabricator for all of these materials. We can also source and fabricate numerous other brands of quartz, including Quartzforms, Samsung Radianz, Quarella, Cambria, Cimstone, Diresco, Technistone, Unistone... there are many dozens of brands of quartz on the market and we can get most of them, so if you are looking for a product not listed here, please contact us!

What colours can I choose from?

Our quartz ranges cover a whole spectrum of colours, ranging from black through greys, browns, beiges and creams to white. Lighter colours, particularly white marble-effect surfaces, are by far the most popular and new colours which look increasingly like natural stone are being developed all the time.

What finishes are available on quartz?

In addition to polished, Silestone offer a range of colours in Suede and Volcano textured finishes. Caesarstone and BQS colours are only available in a polished finish.

Do you have samples of quartz?

Yes, please let us know which colours you are interested in and we will ask our distributor to post some small samples directly to you. Please try to limit your request to 3 or 4 colours, so they can be sent in the post without the need for a courier.

Should I view the quartz slabs before I order?

Because quartz is a man-made material, there is no natural variation between batches. Therefore, samples are representative of the material you will receive, so it is not necessary to view the full slabs.

Is it easy to look after quartz worktops?

Yes, ease of maintenance is one of the main selling points of quartz. Because the porosity of quartz is so low (typically around 0.05%), it is stain resistant. It is also a highly durable surface, so is resistant to scratches and damage. However it is possible to mark and damage quartz worktops if they are not cared for correctly, so we issue some simple care and maintenance guidelines for clients to follow after we have completed an installation.

Do you seal the quartz worktops?

As a virtually non-porous material, polished quartz does not need to be sealed.

Can I place hot pans directly onto a quartz worktop?

No, this is not recommended. The thermal shock of a very hot pan onto a very cold man-made stone which contains resins could damage your worktop. We recommend the use of a trivet.

What should I clean quartz with?

For daily maintenance, we recommend Lithofin MN Easy-Clean. If the material gets overly dirty, use Lithfon Wexa. Both these products are specially formulated to be suitable for both natural and artificial stone.

 

WORKTOP PRODUCTION

Where are the worktops made?

We manufacture granite and quartz worktops in our own workshops in Cambridge, using a combination of state-of-the-art CNC technology and traditional hand finishing techniques. We are the area’s longest established fabricator of granite, quartz and marble. We do not subcontract any fabrication work out.

How big can the worktops be?

This depends on many factors, not least the available slab size of the chosen material. As natural materials, granites can vary in slab length from block to block, usually from around 2.7 to 3.3 metres. Quartz slabs are made to set slab sizes, usually around 3.0m x 1.4m, but some brands (e.g. BQS and Silestone) offer jumbo slabs at about 3200 x 1600mm. Other factors may limit the size of top you can have in one piece – for example, positioning of sink or hob cut-outs, access to the property (e.g. are stairs involved?), health and safety limitations and so on. If any joints are required, these can be discussed at the templating stage.

Am I limited to straight worktop runs?

No, we can create granite and quartz tops in all shapes and sizes, such as L shapes, large island units, curved pieces and circular tops. We have over a century’s experience of working stone, and relish the challenge of an unusual job which utilises our skills and experience.

What options are there for the edge profile?

The least expensive edge profiles are a simple flat polished edge with either a Double Bevel or a Double Pencil Round. Additionally, a range of shaped edge profiles are available, such as Bullnose, Half Bullnose and Bird’s Beak. Mitred built-up edges can be used to create the illusion of a thicker stone surface, and can look particularly stunning on quartz surfaces. Meanwhile, our specialpitched edge treatment offers a unique rustic finish to natural granite worktops.

How about cut-outs and other fabrications?

Our state-of-the-art CNC machine cuts precision fabrications in worktops, such as sink and hob cut-outs, tap holes and draining grooves. We have the exact size and shape of many sink manufacturers’ products already pre-loaded onto our machine, ensuring a perfect matchup between your chosen sink and our cut-out.

 

WORKTOP INSTALLATION

Do you install granite and quartz worktops?

Yes. We offer a comprehensive templating and installation service. This involves our installer visiting to take templates of your new worktops, then returning after approximately 7 to 10 days to install the finished tops. The templating stage gives us the opportunity to discuss the positioning of any joints with you. Following templating, we can provide the final cost of the order. This sometimes varies from the estimate due to factors which come to light during templating which were not apparent from the initial plan, or if you decide to add additional pieces of granite such as shelves, windowsills or additional tops.

Will you make worktops to my own templates?

Yes, we are more than happy to cut to your templates. However, this will be on a ‘supply only’ basis. If you want us to install, we will only work to our own templates.

Do you supply and/or install worktops anywhere in the UK?

We prefer to focus on our local area, where we can offer a complete quality service to customers – from the initial sales consultation, to supply and/or installation, to after sales service. Therefore, we aim to deal with customers within an approximately 40 mile radius of Cambridge. However this can be flexible, so please check if you are unsure.

Will I see the joints between pieces of granite?

Yes, but the joints are usually no more than about 2mm wide and are filled to give a professional finish. We can normally advise where any joints may have to be from your plan, and can discuss the final positioning of joints when our installer visits to take the templates.

Will you install my sink for me?

We do not carry out any plumbing work, so you will need to schedule your plumber to visit after our installation. In the case of undermounted sinks, we recommend that the sink is fixed and properly supported within the base unit so that the top surface of the sink is approx. 2mm below the top line of the carcass. This should be carried out by your kitchen installer before we visit to template your kitchen. This not only makes the templating process more straightforward (and ensures we make your sink cut-out in precisely the right position), it also provides a "belt and braces" approach to supporting the sink. Our installer will seal between the sink and the bottom of the worktop with silicone.

Should I order upstands or a splashback?

This is really down to personal choice. Some customers choose to tile or paint their walls, but a small upstand (usually 100mm high) at the back of your worktops in granite gives a really neat finish. The upstands can also hide any small gaps between the granite and walls (as walls are rarely perfectly straight). We can also supply and fit granite splashback panels to match your tops, for example to go behind the hob. These can be cut with straight edges, or even with an attractive curved profile on the top edge.

 

BATHROOMS

Can you cut and shape pieces of natural stone for bathrooms?

Yes, we have many decades of experience in creating bespoke stonework forbathrooms, including vanity tops, bath surrounds, bath and shower panels, and shower trays.

Which materials are suitable for bathrooms?

Marbles and limestones are fine for bathroom use. This is because, unlike in kitchens, stone in a bathroom is only likely to come into contact with soap and water, which will not damage the surface. Traditionally, people tend to prefer the lighter and more delicate colours available in marbles and limestones, although granite can also be used in a bathroom if you prefer.

What finishes are available on the stone?

Marbles tend to come in a high polished finish, while limestones often have a more contemporary honed (matt) finish. Another finish to consider is our unique ‘soft stippled’ finish, which has the texture of leather.

What are the lines I can see in the stone? Are they cracks?

No, the visible lines in marbles and limestones are naturally occurring veins or fissures. They are not cracks, and do not render the material any more or less likely to break than if the lines were not present. Natural veins in marbles are often filled with special cements or resins. Again, this does not represent a weakness in the material, and in fact is accepted in the natural stone industry as necessary in order to deliver a sound surface.

On the back of some marble slabs is what looks like a mesh. What is this?

Some marbles have such open veining that it is necessary to back the slab with a special mesh or matting, often made from fibreglass. This is necessary in order to give the stone the required integrity to be supplied in large slab form. It is an accepted production technique used across the natural stone industry, and does not indicate that the marble is too weak or unsuitable for its specified purpose.

How many marbles and limestones are there to choose from?

We hold around 12 marbles and 5 limestones in slab form in stock in our yard. You are welcome to visit us to view the slabs we currently have in stock. We prefer customers to choose from the actual slabs, rather than just small samples which may not be fully representative of the current batch of material.

Am I limited to the materials you have in stock?

No, there are literally hundreds of natural stones available, and we are happy to source any material through our network of suppliers. If you have seen a sample of a particular stone elsewhere, or are looking for a particular colour or pattern in the material, we will do our best to find it for you.

Can you supply stone tiles for my bathroom?

Yes, you can choose from a comprehensive range of marble and limestone tiles, ranging from traditional 305 x 305mm square tiles, to Beltralinea stone strips, which enable you to create contemporary eye catching designs. See theNatural Stone Tiles section of our website for the full options.

Do you offer an installation service?

Yes, we are happy to provide a full templating and installation service for bespoke cut-to-size bathroom work. Alternatively, we are happy to work to your own templates on a ‘supply only’ basis, or work in with your builder or plumber on a bathroom renovation. If you are looking to have just tiles installed, we would suggest that your most cost effective option would be to use a local professional tiler who is experienced in installing natural stone tiles.

Do you have samples of the stones?

We do not post samples, but we do have samples of our stock materials in our showroom, which customers are welcome to take away. Our samples are not just rough offcuts, but are properly finished pieces of stone at 200 x 100mm, with neat polished edges. Therefore, as there was a cost involved to make the samples, we ask customers to return samples within 4 weeks. Alternatively, please use the sample images here on our website. Please be aware that, as a natural material, stones vary in colour and veining from batch to batch, so samples and sample images are only intended as a guide to the characteristics of a material.

Do you seal the stone?

Yes, all stone surfaces are sealed with Lithofin MN Stain-Stop before leaving our factory. This is a special impregnator designed for natural stone and helps to reduce – but not totally eliminate – the risk of staining. We recommended applying a further application of Stain-Stop about 6 to 12 months after installation. This can be purchased from our showroom.

What should I clean the stone with?

Never use ordinary household surface cleaners on natural stone. They contain acids, which will start to attack the stone. We recommend the Lithofin range of cleaning and maintenance products, which have an alkaline formula specially designed for use on natural stone. The protective effect of Stain-Stop can be maintained by using Lithofin MN Easy-Clean on a daily basis, which comes in a handy 500ml spray bottle. A range of other Lithofin cleaning products are available to suit more specific or stubborn dirt or stains.

 

SUPPLY AND SERVICE POLICY

I am a retail customer, will you supply to me?

Yes, we have a retail showroom in Cambridge, and are happy to deal direct with retail customers. This might be, for example, customers who are just looking for replacement worktops, or who have bought a new kitchen elsewhere but wish to purchase worktops from us. If you are an existing customer of a kitchen studio who works with us, you are welcome to visit us to view materials and discuss options. However, from a quoting and ordering point of view, we will only discuss prices with your kitchen studio.

I operate a kitchen shop or studio. Will you supply granite for my customers?

Yes, we supply worktops through many local kitchen studios who take advantage of our vast stocks of material and our local service and reputation. We are always happy to work with new studio customers. Please arrange an appointment to come in and see us, where we can give you a tour of our yard and workshops, and discuss further how we can work together.

How do I go about getting an estimate?

We just need a plan of your kitchen, and for you to choose one of the materials, in order to provide an estimate.

I’ve got a quote from the internet. Will you match it?

We will provide an estimate for any work, and believe that we price fairly and competitively with other reputable stonemasons and fabricators in the region. However, we will not look to price match against discount (usually internet-based) fabricators, who will often be using substandard materials or granite blanks, providing a poor quality of workmanship, or fabricating your worktops in Eastern Europe.

Why don’t you provide an online estimation service?

We choose to offer an individual, tailored service for each customer, so if you wish us to prepare an estimate for your kitchen, please feel free to email or fax your kitchen plan to us. This gives us the opportunity to assess the plan and contact you with any questions which may arise. We prefer to do the job properly, so will prepare your estimate as soon as possible within a reasonable timescale, rather than having a computer program price it instantly and potentially make errors.