Kitchen Renovation: Phase One Planning (part 2)

So we’re getting closer to deciding on a contractor. Our salesman at the counter top company (which I’ll be reviewing when this process is done) is actually a reputable contractor and we’re getting a quote from him. It’s amazing how difficult it is to find someone who is licensed and insured (per the HOA’s and just a smart thing to do) and who will take a job under $15k-ish.

Anyway, counter tops are a big-ticket item and, as my mother in law said, “you can’t put them away.” Sage advice. Like most people, our first step was a trip to our local big box store to look at options. In short, I wanted my counters to look like Carrara marble but not be marble. And not granite. Natural stone is out. For one thing, I want to be able to wipe it clean with any normal kitchen cleaner. Natural stone is porous, needs to be resealed every once in a while and should be cleaned with something safe for natural stone. I need something that’s lower in maintenance if for no other reason than our condo will probably become a rental someday and I can’t trust a tenant to take special care of the counters as I would.

We were at yet another kitchen showroom store and saw samples for Cambria. At first we thought they were granite and were admiring the different patterns and it turns out it’s a fabricated material like Caesarstone. We then turned to the Cambria website and found a local company who has a decent showroom. Here’s a few things I learned:

Most definitive statements about granite, or other materials for that matter, are probably incorrect. There’s granite that would cost me tens of  thousands of dollars and there’s granite you can crumble in your hand. So when you hear someone say, “granite is twice as hard as…” or “granite will always…” they’re probably basing it off a specific kind. If you’re set on getting granite, research the different types and sources before you make a decision.

Same goes for fabricated materials. The list of companies is endless: LG Hausys’ Hi-Mac, Corian & Zodiaq, Caesarstone, Silestone… They’re all pretty much the same and all have big fans and disappointed customers. I think the trick is to find someone who works with multiple types and see what they think.

Take responsibility for your purchase! I read some reviews from a few years back about resin pooling in Cambria slabs. It basically looks like a large mammal blew their nose into your counter. Ick! I’m requesting to see the slab of Bellingham before they start cutting it to size so I can be sure it’s what I want. I would definitely do this for granite as well. Don’t rely on a square foot sample to look exactly like your slab.

I found the big box stores are VERY expensive. Including materials, installation, measuring, edge treatments: Lowe’s was $3700, the local stone shop was $2600. Clearly, this is a huge savings.

Based on our counters, we updated our 3D plans to reflect a different tile for the back splash.


Mr. Los Angeles used SketchUp and while it’s great for planning, it’s hard to make the lighting accurate. Therefore, surfaces don’t render the way I’d like, but it’s great at helping us visualize the space. Here is a photo of our samples thus far:

Kitchen material samples: IKEA Adel cabinet, Cambria Bellingham counter top.

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