The Case of the Crack vs. Fissure

Frederick M. Hueston, PhD  

Stone Care Consultant 

I can’t tell you how many calls I get on a weekly basis where some homeowner complains that their granite countertop is cracked and the fabricator says it’s not cracked, it’s a fissure.  This morning I had one such call…        

I was sitting in my office reading the latest issue of the Slippery Rock Gazette when the phone rang. The lady on the other end was in tears. She said, “I had a granite countertop installed a few weeks ago and there is a crack running through the middle of the top.” 

She continued to tell me that the fabricator came out and took a look and told her it was a natural fissure and not a crack. She went on about her distress for almost 30 minutes. 

I was half tempted to put the phone down and continue my reading, since I’ve heard this story a hundred times. I tried calming her down but she just kept saying, “What can I do?”   

So, as a fabricator or a consumer, what do you do? How can you tell a crack from a fissure? I normally don’t go out on these type of calls but I decided this may be a good topic to cover in this month’s story.

So, I hopped in the ol’ Woody and headed over to Mrs. Crybaby’s house to take a look at what she thought was a crack. I arrived at her home and it looked like one of those homes artsy designers call “a Painted Lady,” an old Victorian-style home painted pink and white.  

I pulled in the drive and carefully made my way to the front door, trying not to step on the perfectly manicured lawn. As I was walking up the stairs Mrs. Crybaby opened the front door. 

She was an older lady, gray hair and kind of hunch backed. She was holding a handkerchief and was wiping tears from her eyes. It always amazes me how emotional people get over their stone floors, countertops or whatever. 

Before I could introduce myself or say hi, she told me to come in and led me straight to the kitchen. She pointed to the middle of the countertop and, sure enough, there was a noticeable crack. Or was it a fissure? 

Believe it or not, there is a difference between a crack and a fissure. But it can be difficult to tell unless you know what to look for. 

Fissures are defined as inherent elongated openings in stone resulting from geological formation, environmental impact, mineralogical crystallization, and other factors. Whereas a crack has noticeable unevenness, chipping, separation, movement, fracturing, and obviously broken pieces of stone.

There are several clues to tell the difference. First, run your fingernail across the crack. If you fingernail runs smoothly over it, most likely it is a fissure. If one side is higher or your fingernail gets caught, it’s most likely a crack. Of course, this is very subjective and requires a trained eye.  

The problem is that many natural fissures are weak areas in the stone and can develop into a crack.

In this case, Mrs. Crybaby’s countertop was clearly a crack. It was wide, very uneven. When I looked under the countertop there was a large gap with no support. I could even rock the top back and forth. 

I told Mrs. Crybaby it was a crack and I could write a letter which she could give to the fabricator. He should either repair it or replace it. Another case solved. Now, I think I’ll go fishing. Does that mean I’m a fisher?

The Stone Detective is a fictional character created by Fred Hueston, written to be entertaining and educational. He has written over 33 books on stone and tile installations, fabrication and restoration and also serves as an expert for many legal cases across the world. You can send any email comments to him at