kitchen design with light cabinets

The Rise of the American Obsession with Granite Countertops

It’s no secret that Americans love granite. It’s being used as countertops, floors, fireplace mantles and backsplashes. It can also be found in kitchens, bathrooms and even in outdoor kitchens. If you watch popular home remodeling shows on HGTV and other networks, you’ll notice many of them opting for granite countertops. Even house hunters learn towards homes that already have granite applications. Granite is a sensation in America and it didn’t happen overnight. When did this craze begin and how did it all come about?

If you look back to the mid-’80s when graphic designer Deborah Sussman renovated a kitchen with granite countertops, it was called a “down-to-earth” choice by the New York Times. It wasn’t until the next year in 1987 when it was considered a cutting-edge material (according to the Los Angeles Times). At this time, it was still a pretty penny for a lot of people, so the trend didn’t catch traction just yet. The 80s was the battle between granite and marble (another expensive stone favored by Californians).

Over the past two decades, we’ve watched the granite trend grow tenfold (if not more). The fixation on granite has increased the amount of imports of granite coming into the states. What changed the trend was the flavor shift among consumers. Not to mention the global market force, which also had a major impact on the takeover of granite.

Brazil and Other Countries Jump On the Bandwagon

A number of countries around the world started to mine granite after seeing the growing trend among consumers and businesses. Brazil is one of the leading suppliers of the stone. Before that, in the mid-’90s and early 2000s, it was Italian granite that took the cake. The 2000s was when other countries jumped in, creating more competition in the granite industry. These countries were quarrying tons of granite (mining and processed it so it would be ready for cutting). Although the U.S. has granite, it can’t compete with the abundance other countries can produce at much lower prices. This caused the supply and demand for granite to soar.

The countries dominating the imports of finished granite include India, Brazil and China. Brazil, however, provides about half of the granite supply. If you have granite in your home or business, it more than likely came from an international supplier, and probably made it to Brazil or China at some point before reaching the U.S.

According to the US International Trade Commission, the amount of processed granite being imported into the U.S. was around 206,000 metric tons back in the mid-’90s. In 2014, this was at 2 million metric tons. The amount of imports hit a peak in 2006 at 2.6 million metric tons. At this same time, Brazil was going through the U.S. looking for excess capacity to take granite. The supply of granite was definitely not a problem, it was about which countries were able to produce it quickly and cheaply. To date, there are only three countries capable of doing so – China, Brazil and India.

Shipping Granite Became a Breeze

It wasn’t always easy shipping tons of granite across the world. This is why domestic granite was more popular back in the day. Once shipping became easier, the granite industry became more affordable for consumers and builders alike. Granite prices decreased, thanks to the rise and influence of containerized shipping.

Countertop granite can be cut on site before being packed and shipped to the buyer. This was first introduced in the ’90s, making it more feasible for people around the world to obtain granite.

Cutting Granite Became a Lot Easier

After granite is mined and processed, it has to go to a workshop to be cut into the appropriate rough size. In the past, someone had to hand shave the slab, using an industrial grinder. Today, though, a computer controlled saw is used to make major cuts in the granite. It can even be used to cut the hole in the slab where the sink sits. The entire process is simpler, thanks to technology. This easier way of cutting has streamlined the process, making it market ready a lot sooner.

The Housing Boom Boosts the Granite Trend

The 2000s was the time of the housing bubble, which made all things to do with remodeling a big deal. Granite just so happened to be in the mix. Construction trends in this time period more than likely influenced how consumers perceived “quality” countertops. Majority of contractors were applying granite into their construction projects, which helped create a standard for kitchen counters.

Any older model homes needing a makeover normally turn to granite countertop installations. This housing boom helped the granite craze rise to the extent it’s at today. Since then, the craze has yet to die down. It continues to be a top pick for kitchen and bathroom counters. It’s to the point where we’re now seeing ads for free granite countertops.

The Great Qualities of Granite

What’s also made granite a popular material to buy is its variety of colors and styles. Granite is a natural stone, so it comes in a variety of patterns and colors. Granite is also considered better than marble countertops because it doesn’t etch and stain. At the end of the day, granite is a luxury find at a budget price. It’s the ideal choice for the middle class home.

The only other material rising up against granite is quartz, which has its own unique benefits, like being non-porous and having more varieties of colors. It’s man-made, typically stemming from recycled glass. It’s possible we may also see a comeback with marble, as white countertops come back into play. For more information you can visit our facebook page!…

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