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I was told that this is a normal variation in quartz counter materials, because the lighter piece is from an island slab and the darker is regular countertop. Is this really true?

Update: After a lot of back and forth, the GC has agreed to change the darker (counter sized) slab. I will post pics when it happens. Thanks again for the input- it was very helpful. The GC was so adamant that this was normal that I thought i was going loopy!

On another, related note, he says the installer has never replaced one part of a counter before, and is worried about the seam and even destroying the other slab. Surely it can't be that hard?

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    I would understand a shade mismatch in a natural product, but quartz counter-tops are manufactured products. I'd think that if the untrained guy at the paint shop down the road can do a color match on the 10-year old faded paint on my house then the factory manufacturing this "quartz" could do better than what we see in these images ... – brhans Oct 11 '16 at 11:19
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    No, there's no such thing as "island slab" vs "countertop slab." You may be able to negotiate a better match, and certainly that's a dang sloppy job by the supplier. I strongly advise all folks planning any kind of stone (quartz, marble, granite) installation to visit the cutter and specify not only the source slab(s) but the exact placement on the slab of each piece. – Carl Witthoft Oct 11 '16 at 15:10
  • If whoever signed off on this was hopping you wouldn't notice, or they didn't themselves, yes. Most stone outfits have a zero return policy and explicitly ask you to inspect the product upon delivery or leaving the store with it. Once you sign for it, it's your problem. It also probably says in the fine print stuff about variation. You must have been pretty adamant about this and still owe your GC a bunch of money. Well played ;) – Mazura Oct 12 '16 at 21:36
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Every slab is bound to have variations. One slab could even have variation from one end to the other.

If your top supplier got two slabs that were cut off a block right next to each other it should be common to create joints that butt the two ends of the pieces that came from the same end of the block. On the other hand if making two pieces from the same slab then the butt joint should be made near the end to end cut of the larger piece.

However that said there are likely to be many reasons as to what should be have been done was not done. Could be less skilled cutters/installers. Could be one of minimize cutoff waste to reduce cost. Plus others...

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