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Going granite

2010/7/1 21:05:40  |  Total Clicks:  211

From beautiful BBQ countertops to pool or pond tiles and stones, granite has people talking this summer. While stone dealers rave about granite's lasting quality in the elements �C not only is its heat and scratch resistant, stones are also hard to stain �C homeowners fall for its looks. Outdoor kitchen countertops are intensely coloured with patterns of remarkable veining. Natural granite blocks show off grains and mineral specks in every earth tone imaginable. At work and play, there's plenty to appreciate when granite is in the picture "I would recommend light and dark elements," Surrey design professional Danielle Howell says, advising that in setting up outdoor spaces, let elements of contrast play off each other to "add visual balance." Finding light and dark granite that works with the yard and house is not difficult �C the market in the Lower Mainland is healthy and growing. About 1,500 polished choices exist for counter tops, barbecues and bars. In an outdoor kitchen area, granite's many mixes of grey, black, brown, green, orange, rust, gold and even pink inspire homeowners to define their own visual balance. "Contrast keeps things interesting," Howell explains. Interest is behind the trend toward distinctive colours, something she sees at work with Surrey's Hari Stones Limited. This is one of many Lower Mainland companies bringing in exotic granite from the eastern coast of South America, South Asia and several European shores. When choosing tiles for the floor, steps or patio, put contrast in the passenger seat and let unity do the driving. "Focus on a colour that will tie all the elements around the space together," Howell suggests. Small showroom sample squares are great to hold for comparisons. Getting a sense of the overall character in a big piece like a worktop or table needs more full-size thinking. Make time to visit a warehouse and see how the patterns play out in an entire slab "Each granite slab differs in hues, flakes and speckles," Howell said. The differences found among various granite slabs are a result of the stone's journey from the centre of the earth. All granite was once molten, oozing magma, moving in channels deep underground. Forced between harder rock in the earth's crust, it eventually stilled, cooling ever so slowly, creating the treasure of patterns and colours. Patterns are formed by different levels of feldspar, quartz and mica. There are a handful of coveted colours from Canada in the granite market. "Cambrian black is probably the most popular granite in brushed form," says Robert Bordt of Surrey's Apex Granite and Tile Incorporated. This is North America's best seller for rough blocks, slabs, tiles and construction-ready granite. While the polished variety works well in countertops, it is slippery when wet, Bordt cautions. Brushed is rougher, and that texture works well everywhere besides countertops Massive amounts of raw granite are quarried in B.C., by the thousands of tons, in the mountains around us. The stone has a long history with both builders and sculptors. A quarry discovered as early as 1887 cut granite from the Sunshine Coast, and a Nelson Island location provided the stone used to build the B.C. legislature in the late 1890s. One of the ruling natural granite monoliths in the world is about 200 kilometres inland. The 700-metre Stawamus Chief is thought to be the second largest in the world. "When I see that cliff from the Sea to Sky highway outside of Squamish, I'm impressed," Bordt admits, even after a lifetime exposure to stone. Robert and his brother, Doug, have been in the business since they were teenagers, and are well aware of the stone's appeal. "People have a fascination with granite," he says. "Homeowners are drawn to it." Granite is abundant, stylish and lasting. That allows homeowners to design a high-style backyard for grown-ups to play in, not work in. The stone is nothing if not practical and low maintenance. Wipe countertops down using water and maybe a little dish soap. Forget all about scouring powders and abrasive cleaning pads. Sealers are important. A penetrating sealer applied annually boosts granite's stain-free quality For homeowners willing to invest in an outdoor space, and unwilling to fuss with maintenance, granite is the choice. "It's going to be in the higher price bracket," Bordt warns. "But over the long term it is well worth it."