At the stone yard

On Tuesday, Nick, Missy, and I hopped in the GTI to test the new EZpass with a trip to Triton Stone in Portsmouth, Virginia. Triton Stone is our local stone supplier. Triton imports granite, marble, onyx, and quartzite from suppliers world wide. Being a natural product, each piece of stone is unique. The primary constituents of granite are quartz, feldspar, and mica. It is common for garnet to be present also. Impurities influence the color of the garnet, feldspar, quartz, and mica. The relative amounts and arrangement of the different constituents give the stone its look.

What’s in a Name

The producer names each granite. The name suggests a pattern and color and means something to those in the trade but are opaque to those not in the trade. Often the name reflects the primary colors and pattern complexity of the stone and perhaps some of the secondary colors in the stone. Pricing of stone is like pricing of diamonds. If it can be made to appear exotic, rare, or somewhat unique, it costs more. If it is in fashion, it costs more. If the yard is full of it, it costs less. The common stones are

  • Saint Cecelia, and Saint Cecelia Extra A
  • Venetian Ice, Gold, etc
  • Giallo Fioritto (pictured)
  • Giallo Ornamental
  • Kashmir White

These stones have a medium pattern, warm coloring except for the Kashmir White which is a bit icy to my eyes, and a peppering of garnet. These inexpensive stones do not have strong veining.

The Giallo Fioritto stone pictured is a low tier stone. Finely patterned stone, uniformly colored white, ivory, cream, or grey stone, and granite with pronounced feldspar (solid color) or quartz (crystal white or gray) bands are mid-tier or upper tier stones. These stones ofter have red, green or blue accent color mixed with ivory or white.The really unusual colors and patterns of quartzite and onyx are exotic stones.  Strongly colored stones with dramatic structural elements to the pattern are exotic stones.

Remembering what you saw

I can’t remember what a stone looks like so I took photos. On a second trip with overcast sky (high color temperature indirect light), I took photos of stones that were my taste including the end label in the photograph. When I returned home, I spooled the photos off, cropped, straightened, and corrected for illumination to make images like the feature image above. These are proving a big help in remembering what i’ve seen. Unlike Internet images, these are the stones actually available for purchase and the images have not had the snot compressed out of them for quick loading. They are high resolution low compression JPEGS shot using an iPhone 6+. This technique works nicely for the low and mid tier stones. For upper tier and exotic stones, it will be less useful as important feature elements are located away from the label, the fancy stones are in the warehouse, and room is limited to compose photographs that include the stone’s dramatic features that you would be paying for. But you can capture the primary color and character of the stone.

One Name, Many Sources

Stones sharing a name may be from different parts of a single quarry or from one of several quarries that have similar color and pattern. Because stone color and pattern varies from one quarry to another and as a deposit is quarried, color and pattern match is best when the slabs are cut from a single part of the mountain and are used in order sliced. When looking at slabs, you will see that each has been numbered in slice order so they can be sold and used together. When you are choosing stone, you will not know how many will be needed but a small kitchen will require 1 to 2 slabs. A large high end project may require several. The number of slabs needed may rule out some lots of a given stone pattern.

When to use upper tier stone

Use of exotic stones makes sense when the finished stone will express the features that make the stone exotic. If you are cutting the stone for 24 inch counter tops, or cutting openings for sinks and cook tops, you should choose low and mid-tier stones because the final installation may require cutting out the large scale features that give a high tier stone its interest and drama. Tables and large island tops not having sink or cooktop cutouts are an appropriate use for upper tier stone.

Pricing Stone

Stone yards don’t talk prices to clients. The price of a slab at the port is relatively low. The handling of that slab from the port to your home raises the cost. Some factors influencing cost.

  • Freight cost from the port to the fabricator
  • Color and pattern rarity and complexity
  • The amount of cutting (time and abrasive use)
  • The amount of polishing
  • The sealing techniques used
  • The edge treatment used (fancy is more)
  • The cutting of openings
  • The amount of salable remnant left
  • The amount of waste

Different stone yards have different schema for classifying stones by price. Triton talks low, medium, high, and exotic. Other yards have more bands within the readily available stones and several tiers of exotic prices, usually 3, and Trump/Romney stone. No yard associates a price with any of these price bands, just an ordering from low to high that can be determined from the price band name.

Finished Price and Job Price

My contractor priced my job using an allowance of $52 per square foot which covers the more common stones, finishes, edge treatments and cutting of cooktop and sink openings, and reasonable waste. If the finished cost of the stone is more or less, the job cost is adjusted at final settlement. Only the fabricator can get from a slab cost to a delivered cost. The yard can’t price the stone for the client because they don’t know how many slabs a job will require, the amount of salable remnant, or the cost to finish the stone for its intended use.

When to Pick Stone

You need to pick stone pretty early in the project process, first during conceptual design so the contractor can set an allowance rate and again before cabinet fabrication. Because price changes with availability, you need to do it using this two step method.

During bid solicitation pick a reference stone that reflects your taste in color and pattern so the contractor can set an appropriate allowance rate. Once the project is underway, select the specific stone and slabs from the price band used for the estimate. Your contractor will adjust the job price at settlement to reflect the as-built cost of the stone.

Keep in mind that all stone that can be seen together should come from a single slab or consecutive slabs. Stone from different queries or different faces on the mountain will have different color and pattern so all stone that you want matched must be bought together from consecutive slabs. This is why you make a second trip with your fabricator to get the correct number of consecutive slabs.

Stone Pick Drives Tile and Backsplash Picks

The stone hue and saturation drives the tile color and pattern. There is an art to picking tile that is compatible with the color and pattern of your stone. The tile should repeat the hues of the stone but have a simpler pattern so that it is not competing with it. Generally, the tile colors will be less saturated than those in the stone and the pattern will be larger than that of the stone, expressed as random areas of two or three harmonious hues with linear and point features in contrasting colors. My taste runs to a honed finish floor to have good wet slip resistance, hide the week’s dust and dog hair, and avoid glare from overhead lights.

The stone pick also drives the backsplash material pick. Again, the idea is to harmonize with the stone by echoing the field color form the stone with less saturation or by picking a complementary color at low saturation. Travertine or travertine with mosaic feature band are popular. I prefer a honed finish for easy cleaning and a low glare look with the stone variation providing some interest.