Who to call: Most stone yards and home centers offer one-stop shopping: You choose a stone, they take care of fabrication—
cutting holes for the sink and faucet and shaping the edges—and installation. Or you can buy your slab from a retailer who just sells stone and find your own fabricator.
What they do: A crew makes templates of the tops of your base cabinets. (For retrofit jobs, the crew may have to remove your old counter.) You provide dimensions for the faucet and sink cutouts.
How long it takes: The lead time is about one to three weeks to cut the slab to your specs and rub in an extra-tough high-tech sealer that lasts longer than ones you can apply at home.
How it goes down: For 1-inch slabs, installers lay plywood over the cabinets (no underlayment required for thicker slabs, as long as cabinet tops are flat and level) and squeeze beads of silicone caulk. They lay the new counter and fill any joints between slabs with a color-matched resin. They then mount the sink and faucet, though a plumber may need to make the final connections.
What can go wrong: Contracts are rare, but a reputable installer should make good if the counter cracks, chips, or scratches while going in, or if there are uneven overhangs or gaps at the wall—a sign of slipshod templating. If your walls get dinged, expect him to pick up the tab for the painter you hire.