Typically we at Quality Stone Concepts, field phone calls where the question is asked: “what is your price on granite countertops?”

Even though it seems like a straight forward question, we always struggle with how to answer that question.   Without seeing the kitchen, measuring it, and knowing exactly which countertop the customer wants, it’s really a best guess as to what the final price is going to be.

However we realize that most shoppers have seen a print add or walked into Home Depot and seen the amazing deal on granite for $35 per square foot.

That sounds super-affordable right?  You’ve probably measured your current countertops and calculated the square footage, you’ll have the price for installing new countertops, right?

Not so fast, why does the final estimate rarely equal the advertisement? What does the * mean in “*per sq. ft.”

Pricing factors for countertops

“Some people charge for an edge and some don’t, depending on what you select,” says Gary Rogers, owner of AGS Stone and Tampa Bay Kitchen and Bath in Tampa, Florida. “Edge selection is going to impact price of the countertop. In our price, we include five standard edge detail options; some companies, each edge has its own price.”

The real countertop installation cost not only includes the price of the material, but also, modifications, edging and sealing, as well as cutouts for outlets, sinks and faucets, delivery fees and sales tax.  Depending on the company, these costs may or may not be included in the per-square-foot cost of materials.  They are not included in the advertisement outside of Home Depot or Lowes.

Granite countertops and quartz countertops

Material costs also vary depending on the quality and color. Granite, a natural stone, and quartz, an engineered stone, include two of the most popular countertop types. Quartz, which is about 97 percent natural stone and three percent man-made materials, is consistent in color and non-porous so it doesn’t need sealant, says Natalie Buccieri, owner of Buccieri’s Custom Countertops, Sussex, N.J.

Blanca Arabescato Quartz

Countertop installers say cheap granite could signal the product has blemishes, fissures and may crack over time.

“There’s only three things that make up the cost of raw granite — the supply and demand, the part of the world it comes from and how hard it is to excavate from the earth,” says Dave Carver of Jim Carver and Sons of Cincinnati, Ohio.

Carver says his entry-level granite countertops cost $50 to $55 per square foot, while basic quartz countertops typically cost $75 to $85 per square foot.

Hansen says his basic granite countertops start around $60 to $65 per square foot, while entry-level quartz runs in the high $70 range. He says homeowners need to know the origin of the granite they plan to purchase. Highly discounted granite countertops may come from China or a warehouse with a huge stockpile of inferior product.

“You need to know the origin of the granite,” Hansen warns. “Because it says Brazil in the name doesn’t mean it came from Brazil. You need to see the paper work. If they don’t have the paper work, you don’t want it.”

Both Hansen and Rogers say the best way to calculate the cost of installing kitchen countertops is to draw a sketch of your kitchen like you looking down from the ceiling, include all the features you want, such as backsplash, type of edging and material thickness and take the measurements to a reputable countertop fabricator.  The fabricator is typically the company that has the machines to measure, cut, and polish and the professional experts who physically install it.

“Shop that,” Hansen says. “Don’t worry about the square foot cost because that’s such a small part of it. Unless you know what’s included in the square foot, it’s so irrelevant.”  The best way to determine which company to use is to ask two simple questions:

  1. Are you a fabricator (i.e. do you cut, polish and install) or supplier (i.e. sell raw slabs to fabricators)
  2. Can you direct me to your unsolicited online reviews?

According to Carl Kingson, owner of Austin Granite and Marble, “After you weed through all the initial smoke and mirrors offers, settle on an experienced reputable fabricator with numerous and strong online reviews.  Most fabricators use the same pricing model, they just go about different way of ending up at the same number.  That’s why it’s so important to feel comfortable working with people who you trust.”

This article was originally published on Angies List.

Quality Stone Concepts is Hampton Roads Best reviewed fabricator.  We have a beautiful showroom located at 1373 London Bridge Road, Va Beach, VA 23453.  You can request an estimate, in person, online or over the phone at 757-615-7662.