It’s hard enough to find a good contractor for common jobs, but when you are talking about such a rare and costly item as onyx stone, finding a good place to buy onyx countertops and handle installation gets much, much harder.

What should you do? Talk to your local contractors and suppliers? Or go online to see what you can find?

Shop local

Generally, it’s best to find a local supplier. Most stone suppliers won’t have onyx on hand, but some might. Try to at least see a picture or sample of the onyx before purchasing. Since each onyx slab will be unique, you could be surprised what you end up with.

It’s not enough to find a supplier than can get you onyx, though. You need someone who knows onyx. As I’ve said before, onyx requires careful installation and care. One little mistake could cause big problems.

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Search online

There is a good chance you will have to go online to find a good contractor. Google is a simple way to find stone suppliers and general contractors in your area. You can also look for homeowner forums where people discuss these types of projects. (Sometimes you can get the best advice from an out-of-state onyx supplier who knows you won’t hire him but wants to help anyway.)

If you found someone, great! But don’t get ahead of yourself. You need to check references and any reviews you can find before agreeing to a price with anyone.

This isn’t as simple as reading Yelp reviews to see if Starbucks or Java Hut is better for your morning coffee. You need more detailed reviews from real people.

One site I like is MISTONES.com. It is a contractor database which serves as a great starting point, but it lacks consumer reviews.

That’s why I recommend Angie’s List to read real reviews of contractors. You can use that info to help you decide where to get your stone and who to get to install it. You have to subscribe to the service to see the reviews (similar to Consumer Reports), but they weed out the fake reviews and provide support if your project goes wrong.

Beware of fake onyx countertops

With onyx being rather expensive, it should be no surprise that there are fake onyx substitutes out there.

Now, there are legitimate products, called artificial onyx countertops or faux onyx countertops. These are attempts to provide the look of onyx without the price tag.

What you have to watch for are the providers trying to pass off fake onyx as the real thing.

So make sure you read reviews and find a well-known, legitimate supplier and contractor.

If you’re going to spend the money for onyx, make sure you get what you want!