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Despite the rising popularity of other stone materials for countertops around the world, especially quartz, granite remains a favorite for many US homeowners. You will see this in most home remodeling or design shows where people continue to put a premium on granite countertops.
Granite has been around for centuries, used as a building material because it was abundant and durable. Surprisingly, it hadn’t attained the desirability of marble as a dimension stone until relatively recently. It was in 1986 when graphic designer Deborah Sussman featured granite for her kitchen countertops in a New York Times feature. The Los Angeles Times picked up the thread by singling it out as a revolutionary material for kitchen countertops.
However, granite countertops proved too expensive for the average homeowner, and remained a niche choice until market forces took a hand. Here are four factors fueling the granite obsession.
Increase in the number of granite exporters
Italy has always been at the forefront of granite processing and export. However, competition heated up in the early part of the 2000s when other countries started to get into the game. Brazil was particularly aggressive, supplying the US with half of the cut and processed granite slabs in the market at a lower price than local granite manufacturers could provide. Chances are the granite countertops found in many US homes is from Brazil.
Other countries that supplied the US with affordable granite included India and China. A 2014 estimate by the International Trade Commission places the import of granite at about 2 million metric tons. It was just a little over 200,000 metric tons in 1996. At one point, there was so much granite coming into the US that importers were looking for markets to offload the excess.
The excess in supply drove prices down. As granite countertops became more affordable, more homeowners wanted them in their homes. This encouraged the cycle of demand and supply.
Decrease in shipping costs
Containerized shipping is one of the biggest drivers of the global economy. Being able to ship goods at lower costs encouraged countries to export their goods, and people to buy.
It was a similar situation for granite suppliers from different countries, who cut the stone onsite, and then packed for shipping beginning in the 1990s. This meant the supplier could ship more products at any one time, lowering the costs for both suppliers and users. Builders and homeowners could get their hands on affordable granite, and suppliers had a huge market for their products.
It did have a deleterious effect on local granite suppliers, however. Before containerized shipping, the costs of transporting granite from other countries kept them competitive.
Improvement in technology
Back in the day, fabricators had to cut the holes and hew the edges by hand. Because granite is so tough, this took a lot of time. However, advances in cutting technology has now made it possible for machines to do the cutting faster and with precision under the supervision of an experienced fabricator. Computers also make it easier for fabricators to make the cuts that will maximize the stone and show it to its best advantage.
Amplification of the housing boom
Granite experienced a surge in popularity in the early 2000s, which also happened to be the housing boom in the US. It may be a coincidence, but it is more likely cause and effect.
Designers were given a free rein in their choice of materials, and granite happened to be beautiful, durable, and more importantly, available in a wide variety of colors and designs. It also did not hurt that it was heat resistant, which made it also desirable for fireplace surrounds. As more designers put in more granite countertops, it soon became a standard for good countertops.
Since many of the homes that first had these granite countertops were new, granite also became associated with trending or updated design. In fact, it became such a desirable commodity that realtors featured “new granite countertops” as a sales tactic.
The fact that granite countertops are no longer anywhere near as expensive as it used to be in the 2000s does not diminish its value bias in the minds of homebuyers. They still consider it a luxury item, and a natural product besides. This feeds into the current all-natural movement, so this contributes to keeping granite in its place of favor.
That said, some people are of the opinion that granite has had its day. There is a movement away from granite in favor of quartz and other natural stones such as quartzite, which are even more durable than granite. However, quartz countertops are not heat resistant, and quartzite is limited in color and expensive, so granite is still looking like the practical choice for most people until something as well-rounded and affordable comes along.
Market forces have a deep albeit often unseen impact on the decisions people make about their homes. The granite obsession in the US is an illustration of this. Of course, it helps that granite is such an excellent material for countertops. If you need any help with choosing and installing granite countertops in your home, go to a reliable countertop specialist.
Granite ASAP is your best resource for granite countertops if you are in the state of Virginia, including the cities of Alexandria, Arlington, Falls Church, Fairfax, Chantilly, Herndon, Centreville, Tysons, and Washington DC. We offer free estimates and quotes for any of your kitchen countertops and remodeling needs.
We carry over 100 colors of granite and marble slabs are available for inspection at our Chantilly, Virginia showroom. We also carry some of the best engineered stone brands in the country and natural stone slabs. We can offer you products from the Cambria, Caesarstone, Silestone, and MSI brands, each one carrying the manufacturer’s warranty. You can choose what you want and we will deliver it ASAP!
Feel free to ask any questions over the phone, or get in touch using our contact form today!