Take 2 parts rain, 13 slabs of granite, 1 tub of mud, 2 pounds of drywall screws and mix well using a carpenter’s square and a level. Add sand 80 grit sandpaper and rub vigorously. To this add 1 portions of hope and a dash of disillusionment and you have our kitchen counter tops.
I knew we were going to be challenged by the leftover hotel granite counter top leftovers. I steadfastly held to the hope that they would be OK. I dragged others down that line with me and today they took the gradall down the driveway to a truck to pick up a palate of granite chunks and with its forklifts, placed them gently on the deck by the kitchen door. All of this happened while I was off getting the last of the last of the plumbing parts from our warehouse. Had I known it was going to be lay out the granite time I might have been reluctant to make the warehouse run but I did not know.
When I returned the slabs were laid out on the counters and two people were looking at the slabs with downcast looks.They quickly filled me in on how organic the rock was. We knew the slabs were going to vary in lengths by as much as a eighth of an inch on the 39 inch pieces. We knew about the thickness differences but the differences were a lot more than at least I expected. The way they had the chunks laid out there were pretty little intersections between the 12 x 39 inch pie4ces that made me quite pleased. The differences in height on the other hand, were not going to be OK. Our tile and stone expert who bravely lept into this with us told me that he could make some adjustments to get the chunks to come together but he could not really do much on the interior margins because the granite was so heavy.
The second really big problem was that we had no way to cover the edge of the plywood on the countertop. There were cabinets, a big layer of plywood and granite sitting on top. We had planned to slip a bit of matching granite tile up under the front edge of the slab to use as a lip. The chunks were short of our being able to do that.
We talked for a while longer and my heart was heavy. I went and made a call to the store where the granite came from and established that we could change but the cost would increase and the quality of the granite we would change to would be far less although it would be even in size. I called my spouse and gave him the news and the options. First we could go get a real granite countertop custom cut but that would be thousands of dollars. We could shift to thinner granite tiles and have a tiled counterop but that would also cost about 20% more. Or, we could try to figure out how to live with what we had.
I went and got some sand paper to see how well I could bring the edges and rough spots together, completely ignoring for the moment the fact that I would be taking off the finish. I could put that back. I could not live with 1/8 inches differences in height from one chunk to the next leaving a small hiccup in the middle of the counter. A small sharp hiccup. I ascertained that I could deal with the sharp edges and a tiny bit of the evenness but it would not be a fix.
I stood back and looked. I just stood still and looked.
In the left corner of my visual field were a couple of kick plates I had finished for the cabinets that we did not use. I picked one up and put up on the edge of the plywood and realized there was one really good solution. It was easy, available, no more cost and it looked sort of cool adding one more layer in the bas relief of the cabinet drawers and doors. I looked at our granite again. I grabbed some slices of tile we have from our showers and slid the chunks apart to slip the slices in and it worked. We could make patterns out of the thin 12 x 12 tiles that matched our chunks. The thinner tile could be put into a bed of adhesive that would allow them to be leveled to the larger chunks. There would be small unevenness across the small slices that would be the joinery but it would be inconsequential across the run of a counter.
The pattern will be all out of the same type of granite so the joinery will be tone on tone. If you stop to look you will see the creativity of how our granite comes to live on our counter top. If you don’t look you will not notice.
During the initial discussion I looked up and realized that while I was gone someone had installed our new skylight to replace the one that broke under the snow load. The light in the kitchen, even on a rainy day, was dramatically different. I liked that it was but needed to pay attention to the granite. I did and we found our pattern. Later tonight I went upstairs to do something and looked out the library window that overlooks the forest and the edge of the lean to kitchen and remembered that you can see into the kitchen from the library. I designed it and had completely forgotten. It, like the granite, was unexpected. It was a surprise and a delight even thought after I saw it I remembered that at the very first of this plan I had seen that skylight in relationship to the library windows tucked into the shoulder of the wall above the lean to. It is perfect.
Tonight I invited my spouse upstairs from our basement apartment so “play” if he was not too very tired. He was tired but came anyway. I was hoping he would be as delighted with the view as I was. I sent him up while I dashed to the kitchen where I had turned on the lights. He could see me. He was happy.
We traded places and I took this photo from the library window through the rain-bespectacled skylight into the kitchen where he was being silly and happy like a little kid. I liked that we were laughing. It was a long day and every bump so close to the finish line feels like a boulder even when solutions are found.
Tonight a simple game of hide and seek brought delight into our home.