Thursday, June 25, 2009

"Inspect what you expect." Step one when selecting natural stone for your project.

"Inspect what you expect", that is a quote I heard as a young man from an old sage concerning the successful management of his enterprise and it became instrumental in my own management of the stone selection and purchase process over the years.

It always amazes me when I see small 2" x 2" stone samples in the office of the Architect or Interior Designer that they are using to select stone from for their projects. In some cases only one piece is provided to the subcontractors and suppliers to bid from. These small stone samples should not be used for bidding or purchasing purposes. They should only be used as a starting point in educating the Architect/Designer and client to the actual stone that is currently coming out of the quarry or material that may be in stock (in the case of tiles) in sufficient quantities for the project at a local distributor. If you do not have experience with the stone specified and know the actual range that will be produced by the quarry fabricator or local stocking distributor, if there is one, then you will inevitably contribute to a disappointing result for the Architect/Designer, Owner and/or General Contractor.

Research must be done by the subcontractor/supplier to determine the range of the specified stone that is available at the quarry for the quantities required for the project. At least 15 - 30 samples (12" x 12" minimum size), depending on the stone specified, should be presented to the Architect/Designer and Owner for approval. Many stone materials vary from slab to slab and block to block so an accurate representation of the actual range of material should be ascertained and submitted.

Take a look at the photo of the marble slab below (approx 50" x 70") and imagine a few 2"x 2" sample cut out randomly from any location. You can understand that if you were to supply 12" x 12" tiles cut from this slab that they would not match each other or the original 2"x 2" sample. You can see in the upper left hand corner of the photo, where I copied three small sections from the slab photo and aligned them next to each other, that if this slab were cut into small pieces and laid next to each other not many would match. Of course, the slab selected for the purpose of this example is not the best type of stone to be used for 12" x 12" tiles. Stone such as this that has heavy and varied veining, while beautiful in its own right, is better utilized in pieces that are as large as possible and are matched to adjoining slabs/pieces.

In many cases the 2"x 2" sample in the Architect's office does not represent the actual range of material that is currently available. It may have been on the shelf in that office for quite some time. It is prudent to provide current information regarding the stone specified to the Architect/Designer and also the prospective client prior to being awarded the stone supply contract. Unless you have received the 15 -30 samples you submitted back from the Architect, with a written approval of the range you are going to supply, you may be required to match the small sample that was sitting on the shelf in the Architect's sample room.

Let me know if this post was helpful in your understanding of the stone selection process. I would be interested in any of your experiences with stone selection and or purchase for your project.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Natural Stone can contribute to LEED Credits

The Natural Stone Council (NSC) in partnership with The University of Tennessse Center for Clean Products has published three case studies concerning the environmental advantages of natural stone.
The studies can be accessed on the NSC's website links listed below.

Case Study: Application of Green Building Certification Programs to Natural Stone
Prepared By The University of Tennessee Center for Clean Products

Case Study: Durability of Stone Flooring in High Traffic Areas

Case Study: The Use of Reclaimed Stone in Building Construction

As stated in the first case study above, "LEED-NC, for New Construction projects, is the most widely used green building rating system in the US. 3 LEED-NC emphasizes six categories for environmental improvement:

1. Sustainable Sites (SS)
2. Water Efficiency (WE)
3. Energy and Atmosphere (EA)
4. Materials and Resources (MR)
5. Indoor Environmental Quality (IEQ)
6. Innovation and Design. (ID)

Natural stone products, such as those made from granite, marble, and limestone, among others, can contribute to points in several of these categories."

For more information about the Natural Stone Council visit their website at the following link.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Are Granite Countertops now passe?

Over the past twenty years granite countertops became increasingly popular for use in residential kitchens and baths. Many alternative surfaces have been introduced to ride the wave of granite's popularity over the past few years citing they are better, safer and more economical. And some of these other surfaces have made some headway into the granite countertop market share.

Now that granite countertops are a common finish in many residential kitchens across this country are they now passe? If you were going to redo your kitchen today what surface would you prefer for your countertop? Would you be looking at greener / recycled materials? What surface would you consider more luxurious or more aesthetically pleasing. What feeling are you looking to convey?

Please drop me a note on this blog and let me know what you think. Or you can send me a tweet at

Monday, April 6, 2009

Unfounded Granite/Radon Scare

It is understandable for the public to have been confused by the recent media stories about granite, but it is important to recognize that the facts do not support these claims. Often times the media and other organizations will take quotes from reliable sources like the EPA and only highlight the areas that create more interest or help promote alternate products with no regards to the factuality of the data. Recently, Elizabeth Whelan, president of the American Council of Science and Health wrote an article titled "unfounded health scares" which was posted in the Washington Times. The article mentions granite's relation to radon as one of the top 10 controversial unfounded health scares of 2008.

With regards to actual science, the most recent study on the safety of granite completed on November 21, 2008 can be read in its entirety on the Marble Institute of America's website.

I encourage you to visit their site for a truthful evaluation of over 115 of the industries most commonly used stones for bathroom and kitchen countertops.