A smart consumer shops around. However, finding the cheapest quote for stone countertops may only save you more of your money up front, and end up costing you more in the long run. There are certain things you don't want to skimp on—like the quality of materials and the level of craftsmanship. To be able to properly compare different quotes for stone countertops, it's important to understand how you arrive at the total cost. A stone countertop project can be broken down into four categories: materials, labor, installation, and profit.
Materials should be about 15 to 25% of the total cost. When comparing wholesalers, you want to know if the materials are coming from a reputable distributor who will back the integrity of their stone. A wholesaler that offers exotic stones means that they are working from quarries that are not found in high quantities and, therefore, require a high level of quality control and reliability. Extremely accessible stones like Ubatuba are a sign of a low-end wholesaler with less quality control.
Labor is where a significant portion of the total cost is found—from 25 to 35%. The price you are paying for labor is covering the parts of the project that include edge profile, polishing, sink cutouts, backsplash, and waste. There are a few things you can look for and compare in a fabricator to determine whether their employees are experienced craftsmen. Fabricators that utilize a CNC and polishing machine are using these in lieu of experienced craftsmen, who do this work by hand. Also, a fabricator who upholds OSHA guidelines and offers their employees insurance will likely have high quality labor.
Between 35 and 45% of the total cost, the installation is where you want most of your budget to go. In comparing different installers, first and foremost, you will want one that is fully insured. Secondly, you want to find one that has the same person do both the template and the installation to reduce the chance of mistakes as a result of miscommunication. When you are paying for a good installation, you should be getting perfect seams, proper sealing, and instructions on care and maintenance.
Finally, about 5 to 15% of the total cost goes towards profit. A quality distributor needs profit not only to keep their doors open, but to maintain a safe working environment for their employees and to meet the requirements of OSHA guidelines.
We explained this in an article we once wrote on understanding stone countertop pricing:
"Knowing how your money is being spent from start to finish will help protect your investment. From personally selecting your first quality material at Marble and Granite, Inc. with an educated representative, to the final details of your installation, you as a consumer should feel excited and confident about your decision. Remember, you get what you pay for."