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How to Reinforce Stone Countertops

During the countertop fabrication process, situations arise when some aspect of the project requires the stone to be reinforced. After all, you want the hard work you put into the surface to remain intact. A crack in the slab, a chip or break near a seam, or some other mar caused by a weakness in the material can quickly undo all the work you put into the project. In this post, we will explore some specific info regarding how to reinforce stone countertops. We'll also mention some details about why it is needed in various situations.

Stones That Benefit From Reinforcement

In stone farication and working with kitchen countertops in general, reinforcing the coutnertop material is a practice used to ensure the material is resistant to cracking that may arise from the house settling. Additionally, support brackets are used to reinforce overhangs so that weight on an edge does not break the stone. Here is a list of materials that can be used for kitchen coutnertop surfaces and which might benefit from reinforcement techniques:

Why Reinforcing Stone Countertops Is Needed

If stone countertops are fashioned from solid rock, why do they need to be reinforced? Stone slabs are durable aren't they? The answer is yes. Natural stone is very durable. When you think about it, these materials have held up for millennia. However there are a few things to keep in mind about stone surfaces and how they go from solid rock to becoming a countertop.

The first thing to remember is that the slabs are "sliced" off a block of solid rock, so the slab is not as thick as a solid chunk of stone. As a result, the slab is somewhat more vulnerable to its own weight.

Another Thing to remember is that every time a section of material is removed from the slab (e.g. sink cutouts), the narrow strips around the cutout are weaker since the slab on either side of the cutout is just as heavy as it was before the hole was cut, but afterward there is less material to support it.

Finally, when laying out the countertop, you may need to cut the slab into multiple pieces to get the stone in the proper shape so it will line up correctly with the cabinetry in the kitchen. These seams can put stress on stone's edge along the seam.

Techniques for Reinforcing Stone Countertops

Now that we have considered why countertops need reinforced, we can delve into the various methods for adding strength to potentially volatile portions of a countertop.

Fiberglass Mesh for Stone

Some natural stone slabs may have internal impurities that may result in the stone cracking. To reduce the risk of this happening, fiber mesh is used to reinforce them.

Fiberglass mesh is used to reinforce stone slabs by applying the mesh evenly across the back (or underside) of the stone and affixing it with an epoxy product. The fiberglass mesh strengthens the stone and makes it more resistant to cracking from the impurities that might be inside the stone.

Rodding Stone Countertops

As mentioned earlier in the article, sink cutouts result in narrow strips of stone that border the opening. These areas often times require a significant amount of reinforcing. However, these are not the only areas where reinforcing may be beneficial. Depending on the slab, there may be other areas of the stone that could benefit from substantial reinforcement. Using rodding to reinforce the slab

Steel Rodding

The first rodding option is steel rodding. Reinforcing stone using steel rodding is straightforward. Simply cut a slot in the underside of the stone slab where you want to reinforce it. Then place the strip of steel rodding in the slot and completely cover rodding with epoxy. It is important to completely encase the steel rodding in epoxy to prevent oxide jacking. Oxide jacking is a chemical reaction that can result in the stone breaking from pressure build up due to the reaction occurring in a very tight space. One way to protect your slabs from oxide jacking is to use a material that is rust proof. Another option is to use a steel rodding that protects from oxide jacking that is already encased in a rust free material.

Fiber Rodding

Fiber rodding is used in the same way as steel rodding. However, it will not rust. Since oxide jacking is the result of a chemical reaction that occurs when rusting takes place, using fiber rodding made from rust-free material serves as a protection against breakage from oxide jacking. There is more than one kind of fiber rodding including:

So, there are a number of choices when it comes to rodding. If you use steel rodding, be sure to use rodding that has no rust, it is free of moisture, and it is completely encsed in epoxy when it is used. Or, use a rodding made of rust-proof material such as the ones mentioned above.

Splines

Seams are unavoidable in some projects. Additionally, there are occasions where strengthening them is important and recommended by some fabricators. Using splines is another way of reinforcing stone. Using a "spline key" that is installed according to the rust protection methods described above strengthens the seam by reinforcing the stone.

Spline keys are commonly in the form of a large washer. The washer is inserted into a slot that is cut in the ends of the two stone pieces that join to make the seam. The slots are cut at the midway point measuring from the top of the slab. The spline key is encased in epoxy and reinforces the seam. If the washer used as the key is made from steel, it is important that the techniques mentioned above for the steel rodding are used for steel spline keys as well.

Liner Blocks

The last reinforcement technique that we will briefly mention is the use of linear blocks to reinforce stone. This technique for stone reinforcement is not used often but it is one that is used.

Bonding a linear block of stone (matching or non-matching) to the underneath part of the stone to support the seam is how this technique is used. This is done when no sub-top is used.

The reinforcement techniques we have mentioned in this article are used either alone or in tandem to strengthen the stone countertop. Why? Because natural stone is well, natural. Therefore, each slab will vary in strength, and the properties of two stones will behave differently from one another. Also, removing sections of the stone causes areas to be weaker and need reinforcing. So, knowing about these reinforcement techniques is essential for anyone fabricating with these materials.

In the end, you will find that there are a variety of ways to apply these techniques and that fabricators will use one or more of them depending on the situation, the stone, and even specific design techniques and elements in the project. So, gain knowledge and experience if you are new to the craft. And if you are the one with the experience, share your knowledge and wisdom with others. By doing so, you will contribute to the overall good reputation of the natural stone industry through the high quality workmanship that will result!

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