Chinese Granite?
Anne
July 28, 2013 in Design Dilemma
I've been reading a lot on the net on how Chinese granite is of inferior quality to others and even that it can be dangerous. Is this true? Or does all granite have the same problems?
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Anne
Bump. Am I alone in my concern?
July 28, 2013 at 11:44AM   
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PRO
PYRAMID DESIGN GROUP
All granites should be tested for radon--not just granite from China.
that being said granite is a fantastic and easy to maintain material.
PyramidDG.com
July 28, 2013 at 11:49AM      Thanked by Anne
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judianna20
Never even thought about it, Anne, but, read this: http://www.ehow.com/info_12183280_chinese-granite-problems.html
July 28, 2013 at 11:55AM      Thanked by Anne
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Anne
@judyg I think that may be the site that got me started.
July 28, 2013 at 12:51PM     
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Anne
@pyramid Design Group. How is it tested? Who does the testing? How do I know it's been tested?
July 28, 2013 at 12:53PM   
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judianna20
Anne, from ehow again...how to test for radiation in granite. http://www.ehow.com/how_5879043_test-granite-counter-before-purchase.html
July 28, 2013 at 1:00PM      Thanked by Anne
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PRO
Wyland Interior Design Center
I agree, you can test any granite. However......Please be careful!!!! You get what you pay for. Why take the chance to save a little money?

More importantly..........I would rather support our local businesses! Please shop local! Isn't about time we all quit giving China our money and keep it here at home!!!!!!
July 28, 2013 at 1:19PM        Thanked by Anne
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Anne
@Wyland Interior In my search for new counters that are inexpensive but not "cheap" I have not found what I would deem "local" product. Most Granites seem to come from China, India and Brazil, with a few very expensive stones that are mined here in Canada or the US. I know the old adage "you get what you pay for," but I've found the exact same granite at home depot and kitchen design shops and the difference in cost is up to $33/sq ft installed. I know that I'm paying for design and project management with the design shop but I don't need those services. The price difference is similar between home depot vs craigslist tradesmen. I know that I need to be wary of craiglist deals, but there are legitimate people who find work on craigslist as well.
Some people, myself included do not consider saving $1500 just "a little money." On the other hand, $1500 is not worth health problems or counters that do not last. I am on a budget, so I want to spend my money wisely are carefully.
July 28, 2013 at 1:38PM   
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judianna20
And, according to the above articles, China does not sell its own granite to the Chinese because the radiation levels are so high. How’s that one? I would like to know how it winds up in our kitchens? Who is responsible for this happening? I never even knew about this until Anne posted. I don’t have granite from China, but that is only by luck, not because I was consumer savvy.
July 28, 2013 at 1:41PM      Thanked by Anne
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Anne
@judyg That's what I've read as well. What scares me about this is China isn't well known for doing things out of concern for it's average citizen and yet (according to this article http://solidsurfacealliance.org/G-radioactivity-radon-issues.html) the Chinese government has "actually prohibit(ed) the export of the safer, lower radiation level granite."
July 28, 2013 at 2:31PM   
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sheltiegirl
Wow, sounds like this granite issue is a disaster waiting to happen, thanks for posting. Remember the Chinese gypsum/wallboard problems a few years ago that rendered many homes completely inhabitable? Why take a chance with your health and your largest financial asset?
July 28, 2013 at 8:03PM        Thanked by Anne
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Anne
@sheltiegirl actually I don't know what you're talking about. Was it asbestos?
July 28, 2013 at 8:09PM   
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sheltiegirl
Going on memory here but it was a widespread problem several years ago, particularly in the South, prior to the housing bust. Many new construction homeowners were getting sick from toxic fumes emitted by the wallboard. They only remedy was to completely strip the homes down to the studs and rebuild. I think there were other issues as well (wire corrosion?). Many builders denied liability under the theory the wallboard manufacturers were at fault, but seeing as they are governed by another country, it made recovery/restitution all but impossible for the average homeowner.
July 28, 2013 at 8:40PM      Thanked by Anne
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sheltiegirl
A quick search on "Chinese drywall" will bring up a myriad of links on the topic. Here is one: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinese_drywall
July 28, 2013 at 8:45PM      Thanked by Anne
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Anne
So I'm still looking at Chinese Granite and the radon kits require "closed house" for seven days. That is no windows or doors opening for seven days. I don't see how I could do that.

As the radiation comes from the natural mineral content of the stone, I wonder if certain granites or colours of granite would be more suspect than others.
July 29, 2013 at 1:28PM   
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Anne
I also wonder about the quartz made in China, if I would have the same concerns because it will be made from crushed rocks and have a certain mineral content as well.
July 29, 2013 at 1:29PM     
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PRO
Wyland Interior Design Center
I'm sorry, please let me clarify myself ....

In my area, along with also receiving mail and emails from Chinese companies, there are many "so called" Chinese fabricators that are trying to sell granite slabs that are already fabricated at a very low cost. This is mainly what I was referring to when I say, You get what you pay for. However,.......

In terms of the difference in pricing between kitchen design shops verse big box stores, there are many factors and variables that play into this. I can typically beat the "Big Box Store" prices when you are bidding is "Apples to Apples". Here are some other the reasons for buyers to beware:

First, and most important ......... it needs to be an "Apples to Apples" bid. The best way to make sure of this, is to go select your granite slab that you want from the slab yard, then have everyone bid on the same exact thing. This is the only way to do a true bid comparison.

1). Many of the "Big Box Stores" or other stores will list their per square footage price at a very low price. If you also read the fine print, the have disclaimers.

* What is thickness? I have seen some of them post a 2 CM thickness (approx. 3/4" thick) instead of the typically 3 CM (approx. 1-1/4" thickness)?
* Other times..... Does it include the edge detail? Typically not, which it is then an up-charge?
* It doesn't include a back splash, radius corners, clipped corners, overhangs or supports, etc.
* Then is it "Top Grade" or a lesser grade quality stone slab?
* Where and who are they buying there slabs from? Ask who the fabricator is and clarify where the stone is coming from.
* Ask them if you can go physically select your own slab....... typically no, they will not let you. There is a reason for this.
* There are only a select few granite slab colors that they are offering at that price. If you go to a slab yard a select your slab yourself, you will be able to find several slabs that are less expensive than the ones they are offering.
* If there is a big vein running through the slab, will they allow you to strategically place that vein on your counter top where you want it, like on an island? Or will the vein come somewhere that you don't want it to be placed? Will they allow you to work with the fabricator in the layout of your counter tops? Typically, not. This sometimes can make or break the look of your kitchen!
____________
2). As a full service one-stop-shop kitchen design showroom that sells everything (Except appliances and doors/ window), I'm set up on the best pricing with all of my counter top fabricators. Depending on the volume and what type of store/ showroom you have, each fabricators will qualify and structure what kind pricing scale or level they will sell to your store. I'm on the "Best" price level and get better pricing than many of my competitors in my area. Often a full service kitchen design showroom will get better pricing than some cabinet stores, a flooring stores, or a contractor, or interior designers. So it depends on who you are getting the bids from and what pricing scale they are set up at.

I'm purchase my granite directly from all of my fabricators at the best pricing scale, I'm currently getting the same price level as the "Big Box Stores" do. So it has been easy for me to beat their prices, as long as it is "Apples to Apples" bid and the bid is for the exact same thing and same stone!
______________________
3). Granite and stone slabs come in different grades just like woods. Wood comes in clear, select and rustic. Rustic the least expensive due to the knots and imperfections. The same holds true to granite and stone slabs. In my area, the slab yard distributors and fabricators I deal with typically have three different grades on their stones; Top grade/ Best grade, Medium and Lower grades of stone.

* The Lower grades can have fisher, pit holes or other imperfections that can let water absorb more easily. Many of them have larger pit holes that are filled with epoxy fillers and polished to hide the imperfection. A big RED FLAG, is when you see a 3 CM thickness slab with a fiberglass mesh on back to hold them together. The Medium and Lower grades are sold for many times for hundreds less than the Top Grade granite and stone slabs. Some of the better slab distributors will only sell Top quality stone and don't even offer any of the others.

* Here is an Example of what can happen with a Lower grade stone:
About 5 years ago, I had one of my client who found a granite counter bid at $ 1,115.00 less than my bid, that is a chunk of change. Why? My bid was for Top Grade / best quality granite the other was for the lower grade quality. A little over a year later the epoxy fillers started popping out leaving big gaping holes. There was only a large fisher that she tried sealing several times that water kept seeping through. She had no recourse, since the fabricator had gone out of business. So two years later, she came back to my showroom to replaced her counter tops with a Top Grade granite. This is why I say, Please Buyers Beware!
_______________________________________

I have always recommended to my clients to go select the stone slabs and check out several stone yard distributors in your area. This can be very educational, rely on them and their expertise. They will direct you to the quality and the pricing of each slab. Some of them will have the Radon information also.

Here are some articles regarding Radon that I found interesting:
1). http://solidsurfacealliance.org/G-radioactivity-radon-issues.html
2). http://solidsurfacealliance.org/granite-Radon-issues-page-2.html
3). http://www.trulia.com/blog/BONSAI/2009/05/granite_countertops_and_
July 30, 2013 at 12:40PM        Thanked by Anne
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Anne
@Wyland Interior Design Center - Wow! That's a lot of info. Thank you so much for explaining things for me. I do by nature try to avoid the lowest bid, and I'd rather buy local if I can. I have a hard time because we are on a budget and it's hard to convince my husband that there is value in going with something a little costlier, especially as we might be selling within a year. But I can see now that there are differences. Apples to apples as you say.
I've seen the solidsurfacealliance.org links but the trulia.com link is new to me and raises some really good points.

Thanks again, I'm really grateful for the lessons in granite purchasing. You're the kind of expert that makes this site great. Too bad I don't live in WA.
July 30, 2013 at 1:30PM     
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Sara Parker
One more reason to try something other than granite!
July 30, 2013 at 1:49PM     
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PRO
Wyland Interior Design Center
Hi, Anne!

Hey, if you are thinking about selling your home in a year, why not consider saving money and tiling the countertop with granite tiles? You could save as much as 1/3 to 1/2 the cost of going with slab counter tops.

According to a local home appraiser in my area, if done correctly it can increase the value of your home and the buyers the same as going with slab countertop. However, this will depending on your neighborhood. What kind of counters are found in homes around your surrounding area? If slab, go with slab or consider doing just an island or peninsula in a decorative tile layout. There are also many wood or glass countertop that can be less than expensive than stone. The name of the game is to set yourself apart from the other homes and consider something "out of the box" so buyer's will remember your home.

When I have a client that is on a tight budget, to stretch their budget, we have decide to go with granite tile. Instead on a typical straight laid pattern and the typical self bull-nosed and polished edge, consider laying it on the diagonal with decorative details and nicer edge details like a V-cap, metal listello or chair rail edge.

The BIGGEST recommendation..... Go with a very small grout line and use Laticrete's Spectralock Epoxy Grout. It will not stain, mold or mildew, chip out like your old standard grouts and it will never need to be seal! When you sell your home make nice sign decribing the attributes of the grout.
July 30, 2013 at 2:36PM        Thanked by Anne
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Anne
@Wyland Interior Design Center they look nice but isn't the labour quite expensive. In our case the labour to install our backsplash will be at least as much as the counter installation and there's a bit more counter than backsplash. I have looked at reclaimed wood and I can get that installed for about the same price as Home Depot granite (about $4k), but the price I've gotten for the Chinese granite is half what the depot wants (about $2k). This makes me very suspicious of the Chinese granite. If we sell, we will still be in the same complex so we don't want to cheap out entirely because whoever buys it will be a neighbour.
Here's the site of the importer. Not a lot of information there. http://tcestone.com/
July 30, 2013 at 6:49PM   
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PRO
Wyland Interior Design Center
In my area, tiled counter tops and back splashes are 1/3 to 1/2 as much as granite slabs, that includes the cost of labor.

Yes, I have heard of TCE, I believe they are located up around Vancouver BC. I had contacted them years ago when I first moved to the Seattle area. Their prices were good, but back then it did not include shipping or the counter top installation. I would check with them, maybe things have changed. If it hasn't, back then I would need to ship it down to my area and then find a local installer. It ended costing more than if I would of went with a local counter top fabricator. Then there was liability issues if it was damaged by the freight company or the installer, I would take on all the liability. It just wasn't worth it and too risky at the time.

If you find out anything different, I would love to hear about it. I would revisit contacting them.
July 30, 2013 at 7:07PM        Thanked by Anne
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Anne
I am in the Vancouver area, which is why the contractor who's quoting the job works with them. It just seems too good to be true for their installed price to be $2k (half) less than Home Depot, when the Home Depot came in at almost $2k less than any other company who gave me a quote.
July 30, 2013 at 7:11PM   
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PRO
Wyland Interior Design Center
Ask around Vancouver, Houzz or maybe Facebook to see what others have to say? Does Canada have a Better Business Bureau or something similar? If so, contact them also. It has been probably 10 or 11 years since I have contacted TCE, with them still around and in business that says something. With you in living in the Vancouver area that is good. Your contractor would be arranging pick-up and delivery, along with the installation, so he takes on the risks. Since he works with them, ask him if you can contact some of his customers to see what they experienced and maybe they would let you go take a look at their jobs?
July 30, 2013 at 7:28PM      Thanked by Anne
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Anne
Trouble is we may not sell. The only reason we'd sell is if we could get a larger unit in the same building. If that doesn't work out we'll continue where we are indefinitely and I really dislike tile, so does my husband. It's got to be something I can live with.
August 6, 2013 at 11:34AM   
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Jason Rushin
@Anne - did you ever find any more info on Chinese-made Quartz? We're looking at it for a remodel and it's about 10% of the price of even cheap Home Depot quartz. But, I can't seem to find any info from people who've actually used or installed it.
May 1, 2014 at 10:12PM   
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Anne
@Jason - In the end, we installed the Chinese granite. It was the cheapest alternative and we were basically worn down by the experience. Everything we really liked was two and three times the cost of the one we ended up with and I figured if my husband wouldn't agree to buy the counter I really liked, everything else was a less desirable compromise, then at least I could have the least expensive less desirable compromise and use the money saved to get something I didn't have to compromise on.
A couple of things I found was the cheaper granite was only 2 cm thick. So the larger piece actually cracked at a stress point. I don't think that was necessarily because the granite was of poor quality. Rather I think the fabricators didn't handle it well. They didn't make a template, which resulted in a lot of unnecessary pushing and pulling to get the piece to fit. They only sent two guys to do the installation, when the large piece was so heavy that if my cabinet guy hadn't been here to help, they wouldn't have been able to even carry it into the house. The area around the sink cutout wasn't braced in any way, which is where the crack happened. Without any bracing, I believe this area cracked because it probably twisted with the leverage of the weight of the large corner space beside it. Finally, the edge was stacked and glued with a very obvious seam. Again, this is all about the fabricator and installation and nothing against the granite.
I am not concerned about durability as this (VErde Butterfly) seems bulletproof. I can live with the flaws a little easier knowing it wasn't my first choice and the dark colour makes them harder to see.
One thing I didn't do, and I would highly recommend is to ask to see some of the installations they've done in person. Pictures at a distance do not show the details and it's the details that make or break the installation. Just like Wyland Interior Design Center stated earlier: the installation can make a great granite look horrid or a poor granite look fabulous.
I got a poor granite and a poor installation but my expectations weren't that high and it's completely functional at a very low price and I'm no longer planning on moving, so it's all good in the end.
May 2, 2014 at 12:09PM   
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