The house that I’m flipping is located about 20 miles from Penn State. The town is a former timber baron town and when the timber boom ended in the early 1900’s, the town started a slow ‘drift’ downward. Homes were purchased as investments but the owners never improved the homes (or even kept up with the maintenance). As a result, many properties have been run into the ground.
As the housing recovery has picked up steam, the homes in the town of State College (home of Penn State) have continued on a steep upward trajectory. For example, my wife and I looked to purchase a townhouse in 2005. Most townhouses then listed for between $100k and $110k. Townhouses now won’t list for less than $150k; if they do, they need significant amounts of work. Single family homes don’t list for less than $200k. The $200k will buy a 2/1 in a busy area of town.
I purchased the house to flip in one of the surrounding towns, Philipsburg. Philipsburg is becoming a bedroom community for State College. Homes can still be purchased for sub-$100k, meaning you can own a home and pay $500-$600/month for PITI. As State College becomes more expensive, many people are looking for less expensive housing options, so they are considering Philipsburg. At my day job, I am receiving many more phone calls from Philipsburg for construction estimates. Many of the people calling are Penn State faculty or staff.
There has been a marketplace shift to solid counter tops (granite, quartz, etc). As such, while Philipsburg doesn’t necessarily lend itself to granite counters, I want to attract a buyer that doesn’t want to spend much each month on housing, but has a nice house.
Solid counters can be expensive, sometimes as much as $40 – $60/sf. I didn’t want to spend that kind of money on counter tops but wanted the quality so my business partner and I decided to handle the granite fabrication ourselves. My partner has worked with soapstone in the past, but never granite which is significantly harder. We figured good technique will yield good results.
I located slabs of granite for about $14/sf. These slabs were edged on three sides (one side is against the wall) and had a polished top. Granite is not a light weight material and each slab is about 225lbs or so and measure 26″ x 78″ x 1.25″.
To get familiar with granite, we decided the easiest cuts would be straight cuts for the counter top material around the stove/range:
We built a temporary work space on two wooden pallets. There was a space between the pallets for our straight edge guide for the cuts.
After getting the pallets set and the slab on the pallets, I taped the bottom of my circular saw so the metal plate wouldn’t scratch the granite. We simply used masking tape for this.
My partner then set the a piece of tape on the slab, running approximately where the cut would occur. We did this to reduce tear out from the granite. I’m not sure how much this actually helped, but it probably helped a little.
Once the tape was in place, my partner marked the location of the cut. We then set the guide fence off of the cut line.
Fence in place
Ready to cut
We set the cut depth on the saw almost as shallow as it would go for the first few cuts. We wanted to reduce tear out or chipping of the granite itself. The saw we used is a standard Rigid worm drive saw, which, as my partner pointed out, isn’t grounded. To keep stone cool and reduce dust, we add a little water. Water and electricity don’t mix too well. We didn’t have any problems, but it was something for us to be aware of while we cut.
The slab is 1.25″ thick. To cut through this, we took about 10 progressively deeper cuts through the stone.
Cutting wet stone
We cut from the finished face of the stone. We did this to reduce any potential blow out on the face side. As we finished the second cut of the day, we did experience some blow out of the back side of the stone, which doesn’t matter because no one will ever see that. The cut edge is a little rough and isn’t rounded over like a factory edge, but all in all, our plan worked.
Here is a shot of the partially finished product: