Granite counters perform well in the bathroom due to their beauty, solidity, and water-shedding properties. As long as granite is well-maintained, it can be expected to return years, even decades, of high performance in the bathroom. Poised against competitors such as solid surface and laminate, granite countertops typically return more resale value upon sale.
Natural Granite Slab vs. Engineered Stone
Natural granite slab is exactly what the name says: granite cut from the earth like slices of bread. Natural slab has unique, chaotic patterning and is very expensive. Engineered stone is a mineral and resin mix that is formed under high pressure into slices. Engineered stone has a more balanced appearance and often costs less than granite slab since it is made from the byproducts of natural granite slab fabrication. Both natural slab granite and engineered stone fabrication and installation is usually performed by qualified technicians. The only exception to this would be pre-made bathroom vanity slabs with factory-cut sink holes.
Natural Granite Slab Requires Sealing
Most people, when they think of granite, believe that it is the ideal surface material in terms of durability. After all, what could be stronger than rock hewn from the ground?
Granite indeed does a fairly good job of resisting staining—but only to a certain point. Because natural granite is porous, it does require frequent re-sealing. Granite is as dense as vitreous tile, so both have the same properties with respect to heat and water.
Since water is so prevalent in bathrooms, engineered stone tends to work better than natural slab granite for countertops. The various resins and additives in engineered stone mean that it resists water without the need for additional sealing.
Natural Granite Appearance Can Vary Dramatically
Because granite is a natural material, it does have a variegated surface appearance. It can be speckled or mottled, and even different granite slabs or tiles from the same batch or box can differ substantially. Even though packers do try to maintain consistency, it is still smart for you to inspect each granite slab or tile individually to ensure that consistency.
Engineered stone's appearance is controlled in the factory with the slurry mix. This means that every slab of engineered stone material should be similar in appearance.
Consider a Bathroom Vanity Top
Bathroom vanities are base cabinets that typically range from 24 inches to 44 or 48 inches wide. Instead of fabricating a bathroom countertop from scratch, consider purchasing a pre-made bathroom vanity top in engineered stone. Vanity countertops usually have pre-cut holes for drop-in, self-rimming bathroom sinks or for undermount sinks. Pre-made bathroom vanity tops, too, allow for do-it-yourself installation. As long as you have a partner to help you lift the vanity top onto the base cabinet, the rest is a simple matter of attaching the counter to the cabinet from the inside.
Watch for Granite Strength and Friction
One thing to note about purchasing natural granite for the bathroom is that natural stone does not receive strength and COF (coefficient of friction) ratings as do manufactured ceramic or porcelain tiles. Natural granite varies in strength from slab to slab. That is why you will typically find thicker granite tiles then you will find with ceramic tiles—usually 3/8-inch thick or more. Be careful about using honed natural granite as a flooring material in bathrooms because it can be dangerously slippery to walk on.
Keep the Grout Lines Thin
Both granite and ceramic tile have seams and use grout within those seams. Wider or thinner grout with ceramic tiles can emphasize or de-emphasize the appearance of the tile. With granite, you want to emphasize the beauty of the stone, not the lines. So that is why grout lines are very thin—1/8 inch—and the color of the grout often attempts to mimic the color of the granite.
Another positive about granite countertop installation is that you do not have to use thin-set mortar or grout. Simply lay the tile close together on clear silicone caulk. When finished, apply sealer across the entire surface (you may need to apply several coats to fill all cracks).
Save by Installing Granite in Smaller Slabs
One way to save money on natural or engineered stone is to install the countertop with large tiles or modular slabs. While large, continuous slab tend to be more highly valued among homebuyers, these smaller slabs help you save tremendous sums of money on the professional installation.