Buying Slabs vs. Paying for the Square Footage You Use | A Little Insight

About 32 years ago, in the fall of 1986 to be exact, Rocky Mountain Stone cut our first granite countertop project.  It was for a well-known local car dealer who lived in the Albuquerque Country Club area and they had seen stone counters during their travels earlier that year.  At the time, most of the slab material on the market was either marble or travertine, and the few types of granite that were available were the typical speckled pattern stones that many people still visualize when they think of granite.  We had a bridge saw that we cut the slabs with and all of the edge finishing was done with carbide bricks and oxalic acid (for polishing), completely with hand tools and manual labor.  Needless to say it was very arduous work!

Slab SmithEarly on we realized that the waste factors, for converting slabs into countertops, was pretty dramatic.  Most good fabricators track their waste and over a period of about 3 years we realized that overall we were incurring an average of about 30% waste, which is the industry standard.  We have tracked waste factors every month for 30 years and we still see about the same waste numbers, though it has improved ever so slightly with the advent of digital layouts and CNC cutting capabilities.  Here are a couple of simple examples of how waste is generated in our business.

#1 – Mrs. Jones goes to the local slab yard, looking for a dramatic “centerpiece” for her island top and falls in love with an exotic quartzite that has the exact colors needed to match the new flooring, cabinets, and backsplash of the solid grey quartz counters selected for the perimeter of the kitchen.  Her island is HUGE (108” X 48”) and she’s picked a large slab that’s big enough to get the island from (122” X 68”).  Let’s run the math…..the fabricator (some markets have more than one qualified shop!) needs to buy 57.6 sq.ft. of material (122X68=8296/144=57.6) and he’s going to sell 36 sq.ft. (same math here)for the island.  If you take 57.6 and subtract 36, you end up with 21.6 sq.ft. of waste, or 37.5% of what was purchased for the job.  The pieces left over, even if the top was cut from one corner, would not be wide enough to make a vanity top….and so they go out to the remnant rack with the hopes that someone will one day need a 20” X 122” wall cap or hearth….in the exact same color that worked for Mrs. Jones.

#2 – Mrs. Jones does such a fabulous job on her first house that she sells it in 3 days, gets her asking price (undoubtedly because of the fabulous new RMS counters) and she’s back to do a new kitchen in her new house.  She has decided that she needs more counter space but the island is going to be a live edge wood slab, so the stone will only go on the perimeter counters.  She has two long runs of 108” each and will need another piece for an 84” long desk.  She loved the backsplash in her other house so much that she’s going to use that tile again and she found two more slabs of the exotic stone she used in her last island to use on her new kitchen counters.  The two slabs measure 122X68 for a total of 115.2 sq.ft. that the we need to buy because the two 108” X 25-1/2” countertop runs coming out of one slab will not leave enough space to get the 84” desk top.  The kitchen counters AND the desk only work out to 53.125 sq.ft……which leaves you with a waste factor of….you’re not going to believe it…..53.9% waste!  Even if we talked her into doing a 120” long lower counter for her island with a live edge slab for an eating bar (which by the way is a pretty incredible look), the waste factor would still be over 35%.

RemnantsOur philosophy and business model has always been that we would stock the most popular colors and only charge our customers for the square footage that they were using in their job.  Any remnant pieces that are big enough for countertops go back into the rack for the next job.  For special order slabs we build in the waste factors and include that cost in the price per square foot that we’re charging for the stone portion of the job.

Lately we are beginning to see some fabricators who are simply passing along the cost of the entire slab material to their customer and charging more for their cutting, edge finishing and installation services.  There are a few downside items to consider if your fabricator presents this situation to you:


  • To begin with, who keeps or disposes of the remnant material?It’s heavy and can be very dangerous to handle if the right equipment is not available to move the pieces. Most people who keep remnants have them leaning against a wall in their garage or side yard for the next 15 years.  Eventually the black widows invade that space….but that’s an entirely different article.
  • If the layout requires another slab, who’s buying it?
  • If the fabricator miss-cuts or breaks a piece and needs a new slab, who’s buying it?
  • If the overhang isn’t correct…..
  • If the edge detail isn’t right….
  • If the holes for the faucet get drilled in the wrong place….
  • If the finish on the surface has a blemish that can’t be repaired…….

You get the idea.  Our belief is that you probably don’t want to get into the granite business…that you simply want the highest quality stone work available so that you can enjoy worry free counters and entertain friends and family for as long as you own your home.  That’s our goal as well and we’d love to help you realize that dream.  And as a bonus, by using an environmentally responsible company, we’ll utilize every remnant for future jobs where we can, or stamp pieces into small pavers or dispose of the natural stone back into the earth.

Which brings us to this last item!

WE’RE HAVING A SALE!  We’ve accumulated over 1000 slabs of stone in the last few years and it’s time to clean out the yard.  Most of the slabs on the attached list are at or below cost.  We need to get rid of them all.  If you have a fabricator or want to cut up stone yourself, we’ll sell you the entire slab….cash and carry style.  If you’d like us to fabricate something for you to install, bring us your dimensions and we can do that as well.  And if you’d like us to handle the whole project from start to finish, which is the easiest route to go, we’ll certainly get to work for you.  Please visit our website to see each of these colors or stop by our yard at 4741 Pan American Frwy., NE in Albuquerque. More Information

Those who contemplate the beauty of the Earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts.

About the Author

Leave a Reply