Stone Myths and Other Fairy Tales

Sharon Koehler

Artistic Stone Design

The three most dreaded sentences spoken by a customer to ANYONE in the stone business are:

#1 “I saw on HGTV that we could (fill in the blank) ______!”

 
#2 “On DIY, they… _____.”
(again, fill in the blank)


#3 “I read on the Internet that… (once more, fill in the blank). 

Now, the first two you can probably explain as dramatized television, and what they have to do to make it look as easy as they make it look. Everyone knows (hopefully everyone knows) that what you see on TV isn’t always a true picture of real life. 

It’s the third one that sends a shiver down my spine. A lot of people out there believe EVERYTHING they read on the Internet. After all, they (whoever they are) couldn’t put it out there if it wasn’t true. To top it all off, when the customer comes at you with lies, falsehoods, half-truths and half-baked ideas that they got off the Internet, it’s very difficult to counter their preconceived notions because you don’t know who said it, where they read it, or if they even read it correctly. 

What can you do? You can’t smirk or guffaw at the customer or call them stupid. You can’t point and laugh (even though sometimes you want to). The customer really thinks they did their due diligence by doing research on the Internet. The problem is that the Internet isn’t ALWAYS wrong. But, it isn’t always right, either.

Plus, sometimes the people giving information give a very knowledgeable vibe, like they truly know what they are talking about. People can be fooled. 

Right now there is a guy in Texas who is adding to the myth collection. He and his company have a very nice looking web presence, including great pictures, and he sounds knowledgeable, to boot. If I were a customer just starting to look I would believe him. A direct quote from his blog says :

“No matter which countertop provider you choose they always use subcontractors to do the installation and they are paid about $2.50 per square foot which means they don’t spend a lot of time to do your installation.”

Now admittedly some fabricators do use this method of hiring and getting the job done. But not ALL providers use this approach. I have personally worked for three providers and NONE of them used this method to get the job done. 

Admittedly, it may be common to do it that way in Texas, but this guy’s blog is open to all, not just Texans, so my customers come in concerned and misinformed. He has made an absolute statement that is not absolutely true. 

Again, from Texas, directly quoted:

“When you select a slab, please keep in mind that nobody can “face polish” the surface so watch for dull spots or imperfections as they don’t go away.” 

In theory, that statement is true — up to a point. Nobody “wants” to face polish anything, so you educate the customer and tell them that imperfections are part of the charm of natural stone. What you see is what you get. Granted, most providers don’t advertise that they can face polish stone, but what happens when you get a small scratch while shop handling? Do you throw the whole piece away? Probably not. You face polish it. 

What happens when the countertop gets a small scratch during the install? Do you leave it for the customer to deal with? I hope not! You face polish it. 

Sometimes, when the slabs sit in the slab yard, they get little tiny dings or scratches. You don’t throw the whole slab away or return it to the distributor. You face polish it. If you absolutely refuse to face polish for any reason, you are probably dealing with unhappy customers and are definitely losing money. If you don’t face polish because you can’t, then you’re in the wrong business. Shoot, we even sent a couple of our guys to a Braxton-Bragg class a couple of years ago to learn how to face polish natural stone and quartz. Why? Because occasionally, you just have to! 

Now, I don’t know what they do in Texas, but where I come from we have a company here that can take a polished slab and take it to a honed or leathered surface and vice versa. Yes, they use a big machine to do it, but if that’s not face polishing, I don’t know what is. Once again, we have a misleading, absolute statement that is not absolutely true.

Sadly, there is an article in a national online journal by a well-known remodeling expert that states:

 “You’ll also need to reseal granite once a year. Granite looks solid but it’s porous.”

Whaaat? Bull chips! The fact that someone is still perpetuating this myth in this day and time is mind boggling.

All granite is not the same. Yes, granite is porous and needs to be sealed. Yes, lighter stones need to be resealed more often than darker stones. Absolute Black can go for YEARS without being resealed. Not to mention, with the creation of 15-and 25-year sealers, it is possible to go DECADES without ever sealing your stone countertops. 

Recently, a another prestigious online publication printed the following:

“Granite is one of the hardest natural stones, which is why pool designers select it when looking for a consistent look that can stand the test of time.

Made primarily of quartz, granite is usually dark in color, holds a shine, and repels water. Granite decking is perfect for pool designs that are natural in motif — but also a good choice for elegant settings.” 

Lord have mercy, the last thing you want around your pool is dark polished granite. 

#1 – Let the granite sit out in the hot sun and then try to walk on it. Ouch!  Several years ago a customer wanted Ubatuba for his outdoor kitchen. The salesperson warned him against it multiple times. He went somewhere else and got it done. In less than a month he was calling us, asking us to rip it out and put in something much lighter because the stone was too hot and he couldn’t touch it, much less use it. We put in Arabesco and he was fine. 

#2 – Polished granite is slippery when wet. Unless you are willing to dot your beautiful poolside with those neon yellow “Slippery When Wet” signs, be prepared for some claims against your homeowners insurance when people start slipping and getting hurt. 

Poor, poor customers.  No wonder they get confused. Truly, what can you do? Don’t get mad or frustrated. Simply explain to them how you do things in your shop and how that benefits them. Or explain the reality of the situation and why their idea might not turn out the way they want it to. Most people will listen to reason. Occasionally they won’t, like the guy with the outdoor kitchen, but even he came around eventually.  Be calm, be confident and be prepared to back up your statements with facts that customers can relate to. The trick is to educate your customers and turn them into qualified, knowledgeable consumers that will sing your praises for years to come.

Sharon Koehler is a 10-year veteran of the stone industry and currently head of marketing for Artistic Stone Design in Richmond, Virginia. She has been a regular contributor to various trade magazines for several years. Please send your thoughts on this article to .