Modular Granite Countertops – Everything You Need To Know
Are you renovating the kitchen in your own urban oasis, affordable family home, or perhaps updating a rental property? You want a granite worktop, but are having a hard time making it fit into your budget.
Modular granite (or prefabricated granite) is an alternative option to expensive slab granite or clunky granite tile for crafting a durable and attractive worktop in your home.
In this post, I’ll explain what modular granite is, how it’s installed as well as go over its pros and cons. So you’ll know if it’s the right countertop choice for your kitchen needs.
Let’s get started!
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What Are Modular Granite Countertops?
Modular or pre-fab granite worktops and countertops use pre-cut sections of granite pieced together to form a complete work surface. The pieces are typically sold with a dimension of 650mm deep with a precut edge. They are thinner than slab granite with a thickness of about two centimetres. Some suppliers also offer pre-cut pieces designed to accommodate your drop-in or undermount basin in standard sizes.
Modular granite is popular with DIY homeowners and smaller contractors for its lower price and easier installation. When you opt for a full custom granite slab worktop, you pay for the entire slab even if you have a small kitchen. You only need to buy as many modular pieces as required for your job. It is thinner, which also reduces its weight. That makes it possible for just you and your mate to lift the pieces into place without the need for specialised lifts or equipment. It can also be cut using your power saw with the proper blade.
You will be limited in colour selection when shopping for pre-fab granite. Suppliers generally use neutral beige and grey stone with few inclusions and subtle veining. This helps to minimise the look of seams as each piece is butted up against another. But for a fraction of the price of a custom unit, you get a real granite worktop.
Seams? Yes, there will be visible seams, but they are not nearly as noticeable compared to granite tile. During installation, a colour-matched resin is used to help hide the seam. The resin is sanded down after it dries, leaving a completely smooth worktop.
Maintaining Modular Granite Countertops
Your modular granite worktop requires the same maintenance as a stone slab worktop. Simply wipe it down with a mild detergent for everyday messes and apply a specially formulated stone and tile sealant twice a year to prevent staining. It will resist scratches just as well, but you should use a cutting board for chopping veggies and a trivet for hot pots.
When properly installed, your modular granite countertop will last for up to 20 years, which is about the same time that you will want to update the kitchen again. Slab and tile granite are more easily found than modular, but it is becoming more popular as DIY’ers are discovering this new material.
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How Is Modular Granite Installed?
Modular granite is installed over a plywood base that is screwed to the top of your base cabinets. A thin layer of mortar is laid on the plywood and the granite piece is slid into place. The installer must check for a solid and level position before moving onto the next unit. Shims are used at the back between the worktop and the wall to create an even front edge. A matching upstand is installed at the back to hide the shims.
The modular pieces will have to be cut at either side for proper width. A thin slice of matching stone is glued to the end for a more polished finish.
Once all the pieces are in place, it is left to dry for a day or two. Once the mortar is set, a resin is mixed to colour match the granite. The colour matching can include flecks to better hide the seam. It is applied to all the seams. The resin dries nearly as hard as the actual stone and can be sanded down after it dries. You won’t feel the seams after a professional installation.
Should a piece ever crack, you can either replace the entire piece or fill the crack with more resin.
Modular pieces can be ordered with precut holes for your taps or they can be drilled out after the worktop is installed.
The entire installation process takes two or three days.
Advantages Of Modular Granite
- More affordable than custom slab granite worktops
- Can be installed by a homeowner or small contractor
- Just as hard as slab granite
- Easy to care for and lasts for decades
- Similar appearance to popular stone slab worktops
- Great for new islands or small kitchen projects
- It resists scratches and stains
Disadvantages Of Modular Granite
- Thinner stone is more likely to crack
- Visible seams show that it is not a slab worktop
- Fewer choices of colour and variety
- New product/harder to find a local supplier
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How is Modular Granite Different from Granite Tile?
Granite tiles are manufactured for a number of purposes including flooring, walls, and worktops. The tiles are cut in sizes from 20cm to 60cm square or in rectangular shapes. They are typically thinner than slab or modular pieces with some tiles just 0.5cm thick.
For the purpose of creating your own stone worktop out of tile, it is much more labour-intensive compared to modular pieces. The seams are more numerous, so much more visible. Many people opt to use visible grout lines instead of the invisible seam approach. Instead of a single seamless surface, a tiled worktop will feel rougher to the touch. You may have to think twice about setting down a glass to stop it from spilling.
Granite tiles are more affordable than modular granite, but the cost savings may be lost in the time it takes to lay the entire worktop. A single person can work with tiles without assistance while some modular pieces may be heavy enough to require a second worker to slide them into position.
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There you have it! Everything you need to know if you are considering having modular granite countertops in your kitchen.
It can be a great cost and time-saving alternative to slab granite and have fewer grout lines than granite tiles.
However, modular granite will still have more seams (joint lines) than slab granite and won’t quite be able to create that wow factor that custom slab granite installations can achieve. If your budget allows, opting for a truly bespoke slab granite is still the way to go!
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Michael is a kitchen designer from the UK. He's been designing and project managing new kitchen installations for around 10 years. Before that, he was an electrician and part of a team that fitted kitchens. He created Kitchinsider in early 2019 to help give people advice when it comes to getting a new kitchen.