With all the countertop options available these days, you might think that granite has receded into the background in all but high-end kitchens. But many different market influences have placed granite within easier reach of the average homeowner, and consumers who never thought they could afford a granite countertop are taking advantage.

For one thing, there are more granite suppliers. Many overseas producers have set up distributorships in the United States to import their products directly. "Because granite is becoming so much more widely known, a lot of people have moved into this industry," says Donae Cangelosi, president of granite supplier and fabricator Cangelosi Co.

Most of the raw granite slabs sold in the United States are imported from abroad, most notably from China, India, Italy, and Brazil. "Granites from overseas are less expensive, and mostly it's due to the costs of quarrying and working the slabs in those countries," says Canital Granite's vice president, Murray Leighton.

Many homeowners are beginning to see that they can buy some granites for only a slightly higher price than that of solid surfacing or engineered quartz. Granite has been held up as the ultimate in luxury for counter-tops, so homeowners are more apt to take the plunge when they see how comparable the prices can be, according to Joe Henry, national sales account manager for Granite Mountain Stone Design. "Now [the cost] is close enough to other materials – either the same or only slightly more – that homeowners will choose it to add resale value," Henry says.

The cost of a granite countertop depends on a lot of things, most of which are unrelated to the quality or grade of the slab. Certain colors are in greater demand than others, and these will tend to be priced higher than less-sought-after colors. "Color dominates how homeowners choose a granite," Leighton says. A mid-grade slab in a highly desirable color can be more expensive than a high-grade slab in a color that few consumers are interested in.

Fabrication and labor play a part in the cost of a granite countertop, too. The cost of the material generally amounts to only one-third of the cost of a finished and installed granite countertop, Henry says.

When sourcing a granite for a client's countertop, experts advise researching your local fabricators. According to Cangelosi, complaints about granite countertops are generally based on fabrication, not the material.

"The fabricator ... should be reputable enough to fix any problems that occur in the job," Henry says.

For more product information, visit ebuild.com, Hanley Wood's interactive product catalog.