Granite Tile Countertops - An Affordable Alternative
The deal with tiles
Granite tile countertops are made from the same incredibly hard, heat resistant natural material as granite slab countertops, but are much more affordable. The reduction in cost of granite tiles over granite slab is due to the ease of manufacturing and shipping small tiles rather than a single monolithic granite slab. This means you can still enjoy the quality and natural beauty of granite in your kitchen, but at a more reasonable price. The installation of granite tiles is also substantially easier (and therefore cheaper) than a heavy one-piece granite slab countertop.
Granite tiles come in many different sizes, but the most common size is 12 inches square. Tiles usually come in boxes of ten and should be stored vertically instead of horizontally to prevent cracking and damage.
There are some disadvantages of installing granite tile countertops. Not only must they be sealed to prevent their porous surface absorbing liquids and therefore staining – like all granite – but the grout used to join the tiles must also be properly sealed to prevent spills getting underneath the tiles. However, since granite tiles are usually very large, there is less grout joins required than with the smaller ceramic tiles commonly used in countertops. The other disadvantage of granite tiles is that the color range is not as large as for granite slab countertops – so you may have to settle for less than perfect color. This has been disputed - according to Bill Vincent (www.creativeceramicandmarble.com) " Any color available in slab can also be found in tile. You may have to look for it, but it CAN be found, and now, with the internet, it's even much easier to search out and order your perfect color."
It is important to ensure the granite tiles you purchase are intended for installation on kitchen countertops only. There are many different thicknesses and types of granite tile, many of which are designed only for flooring or decorative wall use, where they are not put under the same conditions of heat and the use of sharp objects as tiles intended for kitchen countertops. This advice has been questioned and disputed by Bill Vincent - who advises as follows:
"ANY granite tile, if installed properly (and this includes a thinset installation) will stand up to whatever you can dish out on a countertop (no pun intended). Concerning heat, unless you put a direct flame to it (and a lighter won't do it) or extreme friction for an extended time (such as when polishing), heat will NOT hurt granite.
As for scratching the granite by cutting on it, I'd be more worried about dulling your knives. I've got a piece of blue pearl tile here at home that my wife has been using as a cutting board for the last 5 years. It looks just as good as the day it came out of the box. (Between that and my next comment, you'll realise I'm a big fan of blue pearl) Back about 16 years ago, I built a home in which I did my front entry in Blue pearl tile. At the time, I had 4 kids, all under the age of 10 years old. When we first moved into the house, it was too late in the year to pour the concrete front walk, and we went through our first winter with crushed stone for our walkway. Of course, all winter, the kids (as well as everyone else) tracked that crushed stone across the granite. Come spring time, I cleaned it up and it still looked like brand new. As far as I'm concerned, it's as tough a surface as you'll ever find. Oh -- one more thing about my old house-- I also did the hearth in front of my wood burning fireplace in 2 cm slab (again, BP), and I used that fireplace as a secondary heat source. There were times where we had that fire so hot that it actually began to melt the cast iron log carrier. It DID soften it enough to bend it. Still, nothing happened to the stone.
The ONLY disadvantage to granite tile countertops is staining grout joints (which can be alleviated by using an epoxy grout), and for people who bake and role their own dough, the joints would definitely be a detriment."