Stone Quarries

Have you ever wondered where your stone countertops came from? Or why they’re so expensive? This article will explain the process in which stone is quarried, and just how much goes into the extraction!

 

Natural Stone quarries can be found all over the world! They reach from Brazil to India, and everywhere in between. The quarries start out as huge rock mountains. Some may be marble, some granite, others could be soapstone, limestone, quartzite, etc..

 

The exploration starts out by hiring geologist to take core samples of the mountain. This is done by using diamond core bits that drill deep into the earths surface. The stone is formed when magma, which resides one mile into the earth core, rises up between the cracks of the earth, then hardens and solidifies.

 

Once they know what kind of stone lies beneath, and they’re happy with the discovery, they apply for licenses to mine. They must have approval from local, state, and federal government in order to get these licenses. This can take anywhere from months, to a few years!

 

If all branches of government approve the licensing, it’s time to begin mining. But it’s not as easy as bringing in a few sticks of dynamite and a bobcat. First, the movement and veining patterns of the slabs have to be taken into consideration. The way the blocks are cut out of the mountain determine how the veining will show on the finished slab. After mapping out the initial block cuts, it’s time to really start.

 

The miners start by placing dynamite into large holes in the side of the mountain. This loosens the stone enough that the miners can use heavy equipment to separate the blocks. Then they use a HUGE wet cutting saw that looks like an asphalt compactor is used to cut the blocks into approximately 10 foot sections. Most blocks weigh anywhere from 15,000 to 25,000 lbs.

 

After the blocks are cut, they’re split into slabs, this is done at a separate location. Cutting slabs out of blocks can take up to three days or more! One block can produce anywhere from 10-20 slabs depending on the size. Distributors will then work with the quarries to choose the slabs that they’d like to purchase.

 

After the distributors choose theirs slabs, they are sent all over the world for resale. This is where we come in! We have 5 different distributors that we have the option of ordering from. They post photos on their websites, and have hundreds of slabs to choose from at their locations. Our clients can either fly to Seattle and pick something out in person, or we can request specific pictures of a slab and order by photo. Another option is to come and look at all the slabs and remnants we have at our shop. Of course no two slabs are exactly the same, but it gives a better idea of the colors and patterns that you don’t always get from looking at a picture.

Picking out a material for your countertops can be daunting! There’s quartz, granite, soapstone, marble, and more! Not to mention, you have to pick out your edging, finish (see Ali’s post about leathered finishes), backsplash, and color matching it to your cabinets and floors (sometimes even your sink). It can all be a bit overwhelming, so below is a guide to help you pick the right material for your home!

 

Buyer's Guide

First thing’s first, when picking out the material for your countertop, it’s important to take your lifestyle into account. For example, if you had a get together in your home and something were to spill on your beautiful countertops, would you wait until the following morning to clean it up? Or would you rush to clean the area immediately? Are you a person who is up to the task of sealing your stone every few years, or would you prefer to not seal your stone? 

Quartz

Quartz is man made and never has to be sealed. It’s stain, scorch, and scratch resistant, so if you’re someone who typically likes to save dishes (and possibly stain cleaning) until later, quartz will be your best friend! Notice that it’s stain, scorch, and scratch resistant, not proof! So, it is possible to scratch and discolor and deform your quartz. You can spill a glass of red wine on it and it won’t immediately stain the stone, but you will want to clean it up fairly quick using mild soap and water, no harsh cleaners! You can also discolor light quartz by exposing it to sunlight over an extended period of time (leaving the curtains open all day every day). This isn’t to say you can never open your curtains during the day, but just to use caution. Try keeping the curtains open for a couple of hours and then drawing them around the sunniest parts of the day, or keeping them closed while you’re at work. Lastly, quartz does have a heat cap of 230 degrees Fahrenheit! If you’re a person who frequently forgets to put that freshly baked pie on a hot pad after you take it out of the oven, you may want to rethink getting quartz because setting that hot pie dish on your countertop will discolor and deform your stone which may cause a seam to pop!

Granite

Granite (unlike quartz) is a completely natural stone; meaning it comes straight out of the Earth. If you want your kitchen to have a natural, non-uniform look, granite is the way to go! Now, granite doesn’t have a heat cap, so if you forget to put a hot pad under that hot pie dish or cookie sheet once or twice, it’s no big deal. But, just because you you don’t have to use hot pads doesn’t mean you shouldn’t! Granite is also a porous stone, so it needs to be sealed every 3-5 years and most granite shops will sell sealant that will last you at least 3-4 seals. Because it’s porous, that means it’ll soak up that spilled red wine fairly quick, so you’ll need to be diligent when it comes to cleaning up any spills. Granite is also extremely hard to scratch or chip, so unless you’re going out of your way to damage it, it won’t show easily. Also, don’t confuse cracks with fissures; fissures are small marks in the stone that occur naturally and can be easily filled because they’re on the surface of the stone. Cracks go deeper in the stone and are most likely a result of mishandling and may be able to be filled dependent on the severity of the crack. To clean, use a mild soap and water, no harsh cleaners (bleach, scrubbing bubbles, etc.) and nothing with hydrofluoric acid!

Marble

Marble has traditionally been a status symbol throughout the ages due to its beauty and price point. But all that beauty comes with a price, so buyers beware! Although marble is gorgeous and is definitely a conversation starter, it’s super high maintenance. The first thing to know about marble is that there are NO SPILLS ALLOWED, and if you do spill, you’d better hope it’s not something sticky or colored. Marble is extremely soft and porous, so it will scratch, etch, and stain easily… even water will leave marks that could be permanent! So if you absolutely have to have marble, be ready to constantly be on stain/coaster patrol and maybe even put a protective layer of glass on your counter to prevent anything happening to your stone. Marble will definitely discolor if you put a hot pan on it without a pad underneath, so watch out! To clean, use a mild soap and water, no harsh cleaners (bleach, scrubbing bubbles, etc.) and especially nothing with hydrofluoric acid!

Above all, what you put in your home depends on your preference! Our helpful and knowledgeable staff are happy to clarify any questions you may have and whether quartz, granite or marble would work best for you and your home.