Monday, September 30, 2013

How to fix a granite countertop seam

Answer (in my opinion):  Hire a professional granite installer to do the job for you.  There's no way to DIY this kind of thing properly because it requires specialized tools and skills, and you could really screw up your expensive countertop if you make a mistake.

Here's how it went with our repair, and also an explanation of why we needed to repair our countertop in the first place.
This is the edge of our cooktop cut-out, which were also having trimmed at the same time as the seam was being fixed (mobilizing a service person is so expensive that we figured we might as well get everything done at once). 

When we built this house, we chose "five-quarter" (1.25" or five quarters of an inch) granite instead of the builder grade of granite, which is typically 0.75" thick.  It looks wonderful but it's bloody heavy. 
We have one seam in our countertop, which is comprised of one nine-foot and one six-foot span of granite in an L-shape.  That's an awful lot of granite to be meeting near the middle and staying put.  A lot of heavy granite, especially given the extra thickness that we paid for as an upgrade.  What I think happened is that the supportive under-cabinetry simply settled a little over the past three years (the wood grain compacted or whatever).  It wasn't much, but it was enough to move the two slabs differentially just a tiny bit, and destroy the original granite seam.
BEFORE:  It was gross.  The putty totally disintegrated and fell out.  Worse, the two sides of granite were no longer in plane.  One side was a tiny bit higher than the other, enough to serve as a "lip" and make cleaning impossible.  Water and food fell down into the open crack.  Sanitary fail. 
This is why a professional is needed.  In order to do this job right, it's not just a matter of mixing up a two-part epoxy and re-packing the seam.  The two pieces of granite must be planed so that they are put back to being a continuous uninterrupted smooth surface.  This picture is blurry because it's a long exposure (I didn't want the camera flash to go off in the tradesman's face), but this is a coarse diamond wheel he was using here in the first stage of grinding the area flat.   

This takes a long time and a lot of careful work with successively finer polishing grits.  Remember, after the two sides of the granite are ground down to the same height again, they will look like raw rock with a very dull, pitted surface.  The re-polishing is required to return the seam area to an appearance that matches the rest of the countertop.
AFTER:  Here's a close-up of the final result.  Yes, a seam is visible, but everything is sealed and back in plane and it doesn't look conspicuous from a distance.  Hopefully now that the cabinetry has had three years to settle, it's done moving and I won't have to re-do this seam again in the future (hopefully). 
We hired DE Flooring (no active website right now), which is located less than a mile from our subdivision in League City.  They sent a very nice tradesman over to do the work. 

Listing screengrabbed from Google.
It took the tradesman at least 90 minutes at our house to fix this seam and also to trim the original opening in the granite that had been cut for our cooktop (to be discussed in a future post).  DE Flooring charged me $300 for this service call, plus I always give a decent tip to service people (I was a service worker myself once upon a time).  Obviously this is not cheap, but again, in my opinion there's just no other way to get this kind of work done.  Suck it up, bubbas!!  Open your wallets and hire a professional if granite-grinding is what you need done. 

If I have experienced this seam separation problem, it's possible that other homeowners in Centerpointe have also faced the same issue, because the same building materials and tradesmen were used in many, many of our houses.  If you want to get your counter seam re-done, you might want to call DE and ask for the same tradesman they sent to my house (ask to speak to Mr. Abdul and describe the work - he'll remember the job, and if he doesn't, tell him that it was one of his Sept. 28, 2013 receivables).  I didn't get that contractor's name, but he's a really nice guy and he did good work for us. 
Hopefully this post saves at least one marriage.  Don't screw yourself - granite fixing is not on the honey-do list, she opined. 

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