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marble kitchen

Oh Countertops! We notice you on TV shows and in magazines. We see your samples at the store. We like you enough to bring you home. We see that palm-sized sample in our kitchen and fall in love. Then we double-check your square-foot price. No way. No how. Back to the store. Love is so cruel.

The countertops were a major sticking point for us. Mr. V wanted to go dark, as in black. I was worried it would look cold. We started grabbing every possible black, gray and other dark color countertop sample we could get our hands on. This was a total flip for us in terms of our apparent luck in making decisions up to that point. When picking out other items for the remodel, most decisions were easily made and those that required a night’s sleep, in the morning we knew what we wanted. We knew what color we wanted the cabinets. The sink was the easiest by far of all the decisions. We had a solid idea for the faucet style. For the backsplash tile, we went into one showroom – and one showroom only – to “check it out” but found exactly what we wanted within the first five minutes. We stumbled upon an amazing sale for the appliances and got them for a song, leaving us a bit of budget wiggle room for any unexpected costs. Thank goodness.

We knew the cabinets were going to be a big-ticket item. We had an idea of what the countertops would cost, but they still threw us for a loop. Even with the pricing charts and estimates we plotted with Sam from the design, we were still flattened by them. Those suckers are expensive. Our main thought though: make the investment for both day-to-day use and resale value down the road (a little bit of the “measure twice, cut once” theory). We needed something that would last.

So, in that vein, we got down to it. Granite requires annual resealing. Concrete actually requires a bit of care. Butcher block requires regular sealing and sanding. Quartz wipes clean. Hmmm. (By the way, if you’re lost on where to start your counter research, here’s a little something to help get you on your way.)

We finally found our countertop sample of choice. (Commence the happy dance!) Now it was time to get the new counters in our home.  (Ugh!) At this point I really wanted wave my wand and say “bibbity-bobbity-boo” so it would magically appear. Sadly though my wand was in the shop.

Total admission here: this is where we didn’t listen to Sam’s golden advice about the timeline and we delayed the process. I don’t think I’d necessarily call it dragging our feet, but we delayed setting up the template appointment, which delayed the rest of the project. I know we were incredibly fortunate Cherry Design+Build did as much as possible to help us out while we waited for the countertops: the sink was already in place and the faucet was hooked up (running water!); the appliances were installed (stove! fridge! dishwasher!); and hefty plywood counters were in place while we waited (these were also to be used extra support for the final countertops). All of these items made our kitchen useable while we waited.

Here’s the scoop on countertops because this was a total learning experience for us. The countertop installation is an important moment during the remodel since they can a hold-up progress. For example: the backsplash tile cannot be done until the counters are in and it’s best to pause on lighting details since you don’t want to break anything with the slabs being moved about. As a side note: to save costs, we took on arranging and ordering the countertops, even though Sam had offered to do it.

  1. The very minute your contractor gives you a target date for the countertop template appointment, which will be based on the install dates of the lower cabinets, call the countertop supplier! Do no pass “Go.” Do not collect $200. Do not stop for coffee until you call. Even if you’re still deciding on the final choice, just pick one for the call and if you need to change it later, there should be time. The supplier will need a general idea of your choice and surface dimensions for the deposit so just make sure it’s within the right price range.
  2. Have a solid idea of where you want your faucet placed, along with other related hardware if needed, before the template appointment. You will also need to know what kind of edge you want – bullnose, waterfall, beveled, etc. Also double-check with your contractor if you’ll need a second “inner” edge, under the counter. We needed secondary edge to ensure the plywood was properly concealed.
  3. On the day of the template appointment (and later for the install date), make sure everything is cleared off from the kitchen “counters” and stove if it’s in place. Be available to answer questions they may have about edges, the sink, and so on; they’ll also want to confirm your countertop material/choice. This will be your final say for the style and material. Be sure to review the “what to expect” info from your installer prior to the appointment.
  4. Wait two to three weeks for the countertop creation. If the amount or type of material changed between the initial phone call to schedule the appointment and after the template was completed, you’ll get a call about difference owed or refunded.
  5. After the install is complete, know you’re part way there! (Celebrate the moment with a cocktail.) The remodel can move forward as planned.

As a bit of advice: listen to the installer’s instructions about the sealants drying time. This is super important to ensure your countertops’ seals will set and last. We had to wait about 24 hours before anything could get wet (and in the scheme of things, this request was a cake walk).

Tomorrow: Survival of the Fittest! – or how to live with a remodel project.


Cherry Design+Build is a partner of Sparrow Soirées. All opinions expressed are my own.