Product Review - Using “Counter Balance Plates” to help Prevent Fractures in Stone By Kevin M. Padden – AZ School of Rock / Natural Stone 101

When customers have a project that requires an “Overhang” – one of the things most commonly missed by Fabricators and the end user alike – is to talk about the potential for the unsupported span of stone to crack or fracture after the piece has been set in place and the countertop assembly goes into service. This “potential” is amplified when there are kids (of all ages) that will be in the home, and yield to the temptation of “sitting” on the countertops. I am a firm believer in discussing this aspect of the project – BEFORE – I get the contract. It shows that this “Ain’t my first Rodeo” to the customer, and that I really care about the finished product – past the point where I am paid and moving on to the “next job”. After all – we are in the business of doing – not re-doing countertops.

AZ School of Rock

I have a saying that I tell ALL of my clients when it comes to supported OR unsupported overhangs, and it deals with the urge that many of us have to hoist our big “keesters” up on countertop and sit in the kitchen and enjoy the view from this unusual vantage point. My little saying goes like this:

“Countertops are made for POTS, PANS, PLATES and GLASSES NOT – for FEET and DIRTY ARSSES!”

The counterbalance system is just plain awesome! We have been able to make many

Now, all humor aside – when you stop to think about the meaning of this little rhyme, and it’s very real world implications – the chuckling dies down, and you (and hopefully – your client) start to take my saying very seriously. As Fabricators – I believe that we have a duty to inform and TEACH all consumers about not only the benefits of our products that we provide, but ALSO the LIMITATIONS of those same materials. Natural Stone definitely has it’s own set of unique limitations – and flexion is one of them. God did NOT make stone to bend – he has a sense of humor that way – and Fabricators have been finding out this little fact for millennia.

customers happy by installing these systems instead of a wooden corbel when extra support is needed. Our customers love that you can’t see the supports like a wooden® corbel.They’re easy to install™and are very well made.

When a consumer comes to you with a drawing of their kitchen that they want you to bid on, and the plan calls for a raised bar or single level island extension with no support under the overhang – this should be a big RED FLAG in the estimating process, and should ALWAYS warrant a “word” with your client. NEVER presume that your client “already knows” that they’re NOT SUPPOSED TO sit on the countertops that will be made of Granite – that does not flex as well as Solid Surface or Laminate (what your client may be used to). Remember that many of our clients in the Natural Stone Industry are first time buyers of Granite, Marble, Limestone or any other Natural Stone, and may be TOTALLY CLUELESS as to how to take care of their new Granite Countertops.

*Important*You Should not extend the countertop more than 6 inches past the metal.

With this in mind, there’s a couple of “cardinal steps” you should be doing – as a matter of “SOP” (Standard Operating Procedure) when the “overhang” scenario rears its ugly head and wants to devour all of your profits on the job – presuming you don’t take these simple steps to educate and prevent fractures from occurring. --Franks Marble & Granite, LLC.

Step One: Identify the areas in the countertops that may or will NOT have adequate support of the stone. Make sure that your client KNOWS that this is a potential for fracture, and go on to step two.

Step Two: Initiate my “Rule of 6 & 10” and how it applies to Overhangs that have inadequate or no support under them. This parallels the current MIA guidelines, and here’s how it works:

The “RULE OF 6 & 10”

The “6” part: ANY 2CM thick Stone Assembly that has an UNSUPPORTED SPAN of 6 inches or more MUST have corbels or some kind of solid mechanical support. Additionally, a subtop layer of PLYWOOD – preferable 5/8” thick – ACX Grade or better – MUST BE INCLUDED IN THE ASSEMBLY. (The MIA calls for “Marine Grade” Plywood subtops, and although I personally agree with the “plywood”portion, I think (and again, in MY opinion) the “marine” part is a little on the overkill side – but then – that’s just MY opnion)

Example Scenario: Your customer has an overhang (using 2CM thick stone) that they want to measure 15 inches deep from the cabinet – out to the finished edge. In THIS case – the corbel or supports under the assembly need to measure AT LEAST 9 inches deep – in order to have NO MORE THAN 6 inches of unsupported span of stone and subtop. SUBTOPS ALONE WILL NOT BE SUFFICIENT!!!!

The “10” part:ANY 3CM thick Stone Assembly that has an UNSUPPORTED SPAN of 10 inches or more MUST have corbels or some other kind of solid mechanical support. 3CM stone is NOT required to have subtops, and can be adhered directly to the cabinet assembly.

Example Scenario: Your customer has the same overhang (but this time they’re using 3CM thick stone) that they want to measure the same 15 inches deep from the cabinet – out to the finished edge. In THIS case – the corbel or supports under the assembly need to measure AT LEAST 5 inches deep – in order to have NO MORE THAN 10 inches of unsupported span of stone. Remember that with 3CM stone – subtops are not required. If you want to add them in anyways – God Bless Ya – but DO NOT add subtops in lieu of corbels or solid mechanical supports.

IF you use the “Rule of 6 & 10” and your customer manages to find a way to fracture the stone in spite of everything you’ve done to prevent it – YOU are NOT going to be liable IF a fracture occurs. You will prevail – all the way to a court hearing if that is how far your customer wants to take it. Civil cases rely on “established current industry standard criteria” (like the MIA’s Design Manual) in determining who’s at fault when a failure occurs – like the stone cracking at the overhang after “little Timmy” (who’s not so “little” anymore – you know the type – a 295 pound linebacker for Arizona State University – who “just happened to be home on spring break and sat on the stone tops without thinking”) – yeah…. Right!!! As long as you perform the work according to “established current industry standards” (basically doing things “by the book”) you as a contractor will be “in the clear”.

But what about the customer that totally appreciates what you are saying about the corbel thingy, but just can’t stand the “look” of any kind of corbels under their bar top? Additionally, they reason that people will be “knocking their knees” into those big corbels, and isn’t there SOMETHING ELSE that will still provide support, but not be SO NOTICEABLE? Well, now YES - there IS something that you as a Fabricator can use to help prevent fractures in every stone assembly you do – AND have a very low profile – to the point where it’s hardly noticed – if at all.

This takes us to Step Three: Use Chemical Concept’s “Counter Balance Plates”

This a product that has been on the market for a relatively short period of time, and can be THE answer to your needs for a reliable and cost effective means of supporting an overhang, AND being very hard to notice that it’s even there – AND ultimately helping to prevent the stone from fracturing – all at the same time.

The “Counter Plates” as they are known – come in two lengths – 9 ¾” and 11 ¾” long and are made of powder coated high strength steel. Both sizes are 3/8” thick. Either sized length plate is 3 ¾” wide – each with 3 holes that are pre-drilled AND countersunk – so you can screw either sized plate onto a wood stud pony wall, and set your stone assembly on top of the plates. Because they are powder coated – there’s virtually no chance for rusting to occur, and because they are black in color - they’ll be easier to blend in with the background of the stone that’s being supported.

With the sizes that the “Counter Plates” currently come in, you can use the standard Counter Plate in the 9 ¾” length for 2CM overhangs up to 15 ¾” deep finished size, and 19 ¾” deep finished size for 3CM applications.

The Counter Plate “XL” in the 11 ¾” length - will give you the ability to extend your customer’s overall overhang depths to 17 ¾” for a 2CM application, and go up to 21 ¾” for a 3CM application – well within the average overhang sizes that today’s customers are asking us for. As far as spacing or how far apart you should place each plate that you install – I personally prefer to have no more than 12 to 16 inches of space on center - between each Counter Balance plate. This will insure that you’re putting adequate support under the stone. Craig Zelle at Chemical Concepts can clue you in on their recommended spacing – but in my opinion – more is ALWAYS better than less.

From a cost standpoint – the Chemical Concepts “Counter Balance Plates” are money WELL SPENT – and basically can be considered an “extra insurance” policy that you’re taking out – every time you use them. But remember – just because you decide to include the Counter Balance Plates in your finished “package” does NOT absolve you from educating your customer on the “Rule of 6 & 10” or from using my little rhyme about “feet and arsses”! You STILL need to enforce the “no keesters on the countertops” rule for your customers regardless of how you support the stone you’re installing.

From a business standpoint – In My Humble Opinion - the folks at Chemical Concepts have got a “real winner” in their Counter Balance Plates – and it will pay for itself in the long run when you start to include these in EVERY overhang application that you do. If I were to grade this product – I’d be giving it an “A+” along WITH Smiley Faces and LOTS of Gold Stars!!! You can get more information of how to order your Counter Plates by calling Chemical Concepts at 800-220-1966 or by going online and visiting their website at www.chemical-concepts.com

Until next month………….. Best Regards & Happy Fabricating!!! kevin

Using Chemical Concept’s “Counter Balance Plates” is a subject taught every month by AZ School of Rock. For more information, contact Kevin M. Padden at www.azschoolofrock.com, by phone at 480.309.9422 or via e-mail at info@azschoolofrock.com

Carmine Pantano