He says:This was the big opportunity to save money in the kitchen. We had laminate tops in the previous house, and knew we wanted something else this time. We narrowed the choices down to 3:
Butcher block, concrete, and granite.
Butcher block is not very expensive, and we had helped some friends install IKEA block tops in their kitchen so we had experience with it, but ultimately decided that we wanted something more permanent.
I spent a long time researching concrete. Concrete can be either poured into a mold, inverted, to give a very smooth face, or it can poured in-place directly on the cabinets, giving a rougher finish requiring a lot of polishing. We didn't like the look of any of the poured-in-place counters we saw, and so we restricted our decision to molded concrete. I ordered some books on the subject and relentlessly searched the web for ideas and got excited about this project...but then I calculated the weight of the proposed tops. The largest section would be 400+ lbs. Not having a crew of people and no way to obtain one, we decided it just wasn't practical to try to de-mold and install pieces of that size.
Nevertheless, we remain interested in concrete, and if we ever have another big kitchen project and more time to burn, we'll probably attempt it. I especially like the idea of embedding glass in the top and polishing it to reveal the glass sections. I'd like to try that sometime.
This is our load of granite. It comes from India, and it consists of 24"x72"x1" sheets that weigh about 200 lbs. apiece. It cost $900 total, loaded on our pickup truck. To prepare the granite, I had to mark it, cut it, and polish it.
I spent a looong time in the house measuring the installed cabinets and making templates to mark the granite. Since the granite is dark, I chose a silver paint-marker to draw on it and mark cut-lines. To cut the granite, I used a $29 Ryobi angle-grinder and a $9 diamond cutting wheel. This is a very dusty process, so do it outside, preferably on a windy day, and wear a good dust-mask. You can cut at a rate of about 3 inches per minute like this, and I had hundreds of inches of cut to complete...so it took a while. I used up 1 diamond cutting wheel in the process, and the grinder took a beating. I figure cutting the granite cost me about $20 and a day of my time.
After cutting, the exposed edges of the granite needed a full polish, and since the top faces were poorly done, they needed to be re-polished. I used a wet-and-dry grinder for this job. To keep the polishing disc cool, you need to run water onto the disc while you are polishing, and you cannot do this with a regular electric grinder - you will receive an electric shock and the grinder will fail. So, it requires a special grinder that can work safely in water. You can rent this or buy one for about $60. I bought one.
After polishing and wiping up all the dust, we carried the slabs inside and set them. Under the granite is a 1" ply sub-top attached to the cabinets with screws and construction adhesive, and the granite is adhered to the sub-top with silicone caulk. I polished the slabs to 3000 grit which gives a really nice mirror finish. Once installed, we used a granite sealer liquid on them and they were done. It took 2 days from start to finish to get the slabs prepped and installed. Total bill, with tools, was about $1150 for the entire kitchen. Not bad, if I do say so myself.