Prices for kitchen countertop granite vary because granite itself varies.
Granite listed in this guide comes in two different forms. Natural slab granite--sliced directly from quarries--is more expensive. Engineered stone--granite particles mixed with other minerals and resins--is less expensive.
Between those two types of granite are different formats: tile, modular, slab.
By surveying granite countertop retailers' prices, we came up with a few surprising revelations--including one "secret" that may help sway you in the direction of purchasing the more expensive, premium stone that you really want.
Slab Granite: $10 to $40 / Sq. Ft. Uninstalled; $35 to $66 Sq. Ft. Installed
Summary: Installation drives about 50% of slab granite counter cost. Surprisingly, with many companies, the more expensive the slab, the cheaper the installation costs.
Slab granite is the highest of the high end. Also, because you are dealing with a raw material, the cost can be highly malleable.
As the name implies, this countertop material comes in giant slabs that are fabricated off-site (away from your home) and brought in.
Cost Averages: Slab and Installation Are About the Same
Surveying a range of stones from granite retailers, we found these averages, all on a per-square-foot basis:
|Cost For Slab Only||$24.33|
|Cost For Installation Only||$23.07|
|Cost For Slab + Installation||$47.40|
What This Means To You
Across the spectrum of stone qualities, estimate that installation costs the same as the source material. So, if the slab costs $20 per square foot, installation will be $20 per square foot--on average.
Or to put in simpler terms if a retailer says that 20 square feet of countertop stone will be $500, you can conveniently double that number to $1,000 for an estimate of the final cost.
But that is only across the entire spectrum of pricing. Read on to see how cheaper stones, in effect, subsidize installation costs for premium stones.
Secret #1: Slab-To-Total Cost Ratio Drops Dramatically As Slab Prices Increase
When researching the cost of granite in conjunction with installation, we found a precipitous drop in the ratio of raw material to total cost as stones became more expensive.
Here are only five stones pulled from the study. These stones represent five positions within the pricing structure: top, middle, and bottom:
|Slab-Only Cost||Total (Slab + Install)||Slab-To-Total Ratio|
You might expect the slab-to-total ratio of the $10 product--3.5--to continue or even increase as slab prices increase. Instead, this ratio drops dramatically.
Secret #2: More Expensive Stones Have Lower Installation Costs
Another surprising statistic is that the actual cost of installing stones becomes slightly cheaper to as the cost of the stone increases.
When all stones are graphed out, the installation cost line gradually drops as slabs become more expensive.
One reason may be that the company is making a greater profit from the sale of the slab, so they do not have to charge as much for installation. Conversely, retailers need to charge more to install cheap granite counter slabs because they make less from the material.
No Such Thing as DIY Slab
Unless you just happen to be a stone fabricator and installer, slab granite installation will never be a do it yourself job. Most people do not have the tools or the skills to work with real stone.
So you must always figure in the high cost of professional fabrication and installation. Local transportation is costly, too, because of the weight and dimensions of the material.
Like Any Other Raw Material, Raw Granite Is Cheap
Cost malleability is evidenced by contractor reports of raw slab granite costing as little as $5.00 per square foot. Sourced from places such as India and China, the stone is container-shipped to Italy or the U.S. for more cutting.
Keep in mind, this is a wholesale cost for marginal stone, with none of the additional costs that are necessary to turn this into a real countertop.
Granite Tile: $6 to $10 / Sq. Ft.
Summary: Granite tile purchased off the shelf is the cheapest possible way to get granite on your kitchen or bathroom counter--though at an aesthetic and functional cost.
To save money, many homeowners install granite tiles on their countertops. Rather than using mortar and grout, these tiles are butted up edge-to-edge and affixed with epoxy.
Essentially, these are floor tiles used for counter purposes. While inexpensive, this is an imperfect, not-so-high-end install because you typically want to limit the number of seams you have on kitchen counters. But again: cheap.
Granite tiles will always be the cheapest form of granite countertop material you can buy, because the stone is cut in smaller sections.
Modular Granite: $25 to $40 / Sq. Ft.
Summary: A tempting compromise between tile and slab, modular granite is still more expensive than it should be, and it is difficult to obtain.
A step up from the DIY granite tile method described above, modular granite is made especially for motivated do it yourselfers. Modular granite counters are composed of mini-slabs that are larger than those cheap 12"x12" tiles above yet smaller than full-size slabs.
Modular granite systems address peripherals you will need in installing granite: backsplashes, edge treatments, corners.
Seams are narrower and less apparent because manufacturers sell grout that is perfectly keyed to the color of the stone.
Modular granite is still waiting to become more popular. Reasons are unknown, but it could be that the modular slabs are still larger than most do it yourselfers are willing wield.