Q. Dear Fred: We use China marker to lay out our templates on the material, but when the slab gets wet it can be hard to see the marked lines. Is there something out there more suitable to use in a wet process?
A. There are a number of products on the market. I, personally, like using the fine tip white out pens you can get at any office supply store or from most stone fabrication suppliers. You have to make sure the stone is dry before marking, but once the ink dries it should not come off when wet. I have had these markers stain some of the darker engineered stones so you may want to test them first on a scrap piece of stone.
Q. Dear Fred: I am having an argument with my shop foreman about the clearance required when not using a backsplash. He believes the stone should be tight up against the wall and I believe you should leave a gap to allow for expansion.
A. When not using a backsplash, you should leave a gap to allow for expansion. I use a ⅛-in. gap. If you are not using a backsplash, most tiles will cover the gap. On some projects, I have also cut into the drywall and then slid the stone underneath the drywall. This gives the install a custom look. Just make sure you discuss this option with your customer first.
Q. Dear Fred: How long should you keep your templates after the job is complete? We have been keeping all of our templates and are running out of space.
A. This is a difficult question and perhaps we should discuss if you need to keep them at all. I believe you should keep them for up to a year and here is why: Most construction warranties are one year. If the customer complains about something, you have the templates as backup. In addition, I have the customer sign off on the templates at the time of templating. You can have them sign or initial the actual template or have a separate form for them to sign off on.
Q. Dear Fred: We do a lot of remodels and don’t want to remove the existing countertops to template. Do you have any suggestions?
A. Ideally, you should remove the existing countertops but I do realize this is not always possible. In those cases, there are several things you can do. If it is a laminate top with the built-in splash, remove the splash with a hammer; then template on top of the existing countertop. The only problem here is you don’t know how out of plane or level the cabinets are. I would get under the cabinets and look carefully at how much the existing countertop is shimmed. This will give you an idea of how far out of plane the countertop is.
About the author: Frederick M. Hueston is a worldwide expert on tone installation, failures, fabrication and restoration. He heads up the leading stone inspection team in the industry at Stone Forensics (www.stoneforensics.com) and is the chief technical director for StonePRO Solutions (www.stoneprosolutions.com and www.stoneandtilepros.com).