Buying stone for your home should be fun, creative and exciting. And it can be all those things if you are an educated buyer.

If not, what you are actually getting – and not getting – might surprise you. There are several variables that can greatly affect your final product and price.

First and foremost, when comparing stone from several sources, be sure you are comparing the same quality material. Stone from different quarries can vary greatly. There are many degrees of quality that affect the appearance and durability of your stone.

You’ll want to see sizeable samples to ensure that the look and touch of the stone is what you want. What is the thickness of the stone? Has your stone been discontinued? Are you looking at a stone that might be considered “lesser quality” or “inferior”?

Be sure you know exactly what your stone selection is, and then shop several resources to compare prices.

Next, visit the stone yard to personally select your slab. Colors and veining vary greatly on natural stone, and slabs of the same stone can look different.

The only way to know exactly what you are getting is to select the slab yourself.

Fabrication is also important. Will your stone be precision-machine cut? Manual cutting can affect the final product. The same holds for the edging.

Plus, you’ll want cutouts for the sink, faucets, cook tops to be as precise as possible. Are there additional fees for the cutouts, edge treatment, backsplashes and finishes?

Installation should include removal of old countertops. Any additional costs here?

Be sure you know exactly what is included in your quote – and are aware of any possible additional costs.

There are a few ways to make your stone purchase more affordable. Consider using a more exotic stone in the prominent areas like kitchen islands and less expensive stone around the perimeter. Remnants are great for smaller applications and can even be mixed and matched for larger areas.

Being an educated buyer will get you the stone and look you want for your home.

Andrea Antunes McGilton is project manager at Distinctive Granite and Marble, with showrooms in Okatie; Lady’s Island; Pooler, Ga., and on Hilton Head Island.