Each year, it seems design trends for both residential and commercial projects continue to evolve. While the beauty of natural stone is always an allure, over time, competitive materials continue to surface – providing more options for architects, designers and homeowners. First came engineered stone, and in more recent years, ultra-compact sintered stone products such as Dekton, Lapitec and Neolith. With the introduction of new materials comes a whole host of issues for fabricators. Everything from handling the material to how to cut and price it has to be researched and addressed. And now, the latest product to rise among the ranks is porcelain. While the material itself has been around for a long time, it is the large formats that are now being manufactured – enabling it to be used for countertops, shower walls and floor-to-ceiling fireplaces — that make it so enticing to those creating a design.
So what do fabricators need to know before embarking on this new trend? Industry veteran Ron Hannah of Cadenza Granite and Marble in Concord, NC, recently spoke to a group of fabricators attending an open house at Intermac’s Charlotte, NC-based facility this past fall. In his session entitled “What are ‘Large Format Porcelain Slabs’ and Why are they Suddenly the Talk of the Town?,” Hannah covered several key points that fabricators should consider before making the decision to offer porcelain slabs to their customers.
“You have to change your mindset if you are going to work with porcelain,” said Hannah. “Material handling, feed rate and blade selection are all different. There are many methods to working with porcelain.
“You can’t fabricate porcelain like granite,” he went on to tell the audience. “Precision is vitally important. The most important thing you need is common sense and to slow down and focus. It’s all about patience and focusing on the details. Digital templating is a must. Working with porcelain also changes how we transport material.”
When touching on why there is a rise in interest of porcelain slabs, Hannah shared his thoughts. “North America is finally embracing porcelain,” said Hannah. “North American customers like everything to look brand new forever. It’s a premium product.”
Hannah mentioned to the audience that he was surprised with the durability of porcelain slabs, although he also pointed out there are precautions that should be taken. “But you have to be careful when polishing porcelain because the ‘picture’ can go away,” he said.
Hannah also told the audience that he had participated in a seminar given by master technician Roberto Colonetti, which provided tremendous insight into working with porcelain slabs. Colonetti covered topics such as using proper material substrates, best material thickness applications and different types of joints. He also demonstrated his preferred method of fabrication and discussed when and why he prefers a grout joint for many applications. Hannah encouraged participants that if they are serious about cutting porcelain, it is worth attending one of Colonetti’s sessions.
“Porcelain isn’t for everyone,” said Hannah, in closing. “It’s a luxury material. If you are a shop that tracks based on production numbers, you won’t like porcelain. But if you track based on revenue, you will love porcelain. Designers love to specify things that are new and trendy. If you have an interest in it, get good at it and be the person in your city who does it.”