How to Find and Hire a Natural Stone Fabricator
Installing natural stone in your home is an investment you’ll enjoy for years to come. While it’s important to choose the right material, you also need to find the right stone fabricator. A fabricator is the craftsman who turns a rough slab into a finished product. The best way to find a good fabricator is by visiting the Natural Stone Institute’s website, which offers a list of accredited fabricators, says Mark Meriaux, Accreditation & Technical Manager for the Natural Stone Institute.
“Being accredited means the company has been third-party verified and is an established, reliable company with the proper equipment as well as customer satisfaction processes,” he says.
If an accredited fabricator isn’t available in your area, the next step should be to get referrals from friends or family. Try to get three names, suggests Laura Grandlienard, principal of ROCKin’teriors in Raleigh, North Carolina.
“All three will likely have different business models,” she says. “By interviewing more than one you can get a sense as to what is the best fit for you.”
You can also get referrals from stone yards, says Jon Lancto, a fabrication and installation consultant. “Typically they’re prequalified to some extent,” he says.
Be sure to hire the fabricator directly, says Dave Paxton, president and CEO of Paxton Countertops in Lansing, Michigan. “Don’t go through a second party,” he says. “You want a good relationship with the person who’ll be providing the service.”
Once you’ve found your list of fabricators, ask them these six questions:
- How long have you been in business? Everyone has to start somewhere, but a company that’s been in business for years is a sign that they have good practices. Confirm this by checking for reviews on sites like Yelp or the Better Business Bureau.
“You can typically read between lines,” says Paxton. “Look for the number of reviews. If somebody has two five-star reviews, maybe it was their wife and son. Forty reviews with a four-star rating would be better.”
- Do you have a physical facility or showroom? A showroom or workshop will allow you to see samples of their work. If someone says they fabricate the material on site, that’s a big red flag, says Lancto.
Use caution when choosing someone with a small pickup truck and minimal tools, adds Meriaux. “It’s not that they can’t be skilled,” he says. “In this case, you need referrals and recommendations, and to see examples of their work.”
When examining samples, look at seaming, which is an indicator of quality fabrication, says Lancto. “They won’t be inconspicuous or invisible; natural stone has some variations,” he says. “But you want to make sure they’re practicing the best techniques.”
Grandlienard agrees: “Verify that the fabricator attempts to match the grain of stone at the seam so it appears as one piece,” she says.
- What type of equipment do you use? Some fabricators do a physical layout on a slab while others use high-end software that provides a 3D visualization of the finished project.
“If it’s a complicated design or the material has a lot of veining, you want to be assured that they have the right technology,” says Lancto. “You’ll be able to see photos the layout ahead of time. The more complex the installation, the more technology you’d want that fabricator to use.”
- What licenses and insurance do you carry? It’s rare that problems happen, but you want to make sure a contractor is covered when they’re working on your property, says Meriaux.
“Ask ‘what if’ questions,” says Meriaux. “Everything from personal property damage during installation or stone not matching up. Asking upfront is easier than duking it out after the fact.”
Grandlienard recommends establishing that the fabricator offers a warranty policy, both on the stone and fabrication.
- Are you a member of an industry association? Memberships show that the fabricator makes an effort to participate in the industry. Members of the Natural Stone Institute, for example, agree to abide by a code of ethics that includes treating customers and employees fairly and acting with honesty, integrity, quality, and professionalism.
- How much do you charge? This question is last for a reason. “The worst way to make a decision is by price alone,” says Lancto. “You get what you pay for and if someone is super cheap, they’re probably doing something not as high quality or they’re not taking time to do a quality fabrication.”
After selecting your fabricator, Meriaux recommends getting all communication in writing and making sure you have a written contract and drawings to eliminate miscommunication and confusion.
“Natural stone is a lifetime investment for homeowners; it’s a luxury item,” says Grandlienard. “It behooves you to do the legwork to find the right company.”