I'm looking to have some stone paving laid at my home, but wonder whether I should choose a well-known brand name or a cheaper supplier from the internet? Are the brands really worth the extra money?
In general, brand names tend to have the first pick of available stone, so they do have access to the best, but then they may charge a considerable premium for it. Other suppliers, particularly the cheaper suppliers, tend to go for second pick, which they can buy for less and sell at a lower price. The quality, the finish and the dimensional accuracy is usually not as good as the first pick material.
However, sometimes the difference between 1st and 2nd is minimal or only noticeable by someone such as meself, and there are plenty of cheaper suppliers, providing perfectly satisfactory, if not quite perfect, 2nd pick stone. Sadly, there are also plenty of cheaper suppliers selling shite (technical term), especially some of the online auction site crowd, those who have no premises to visit where you could see the stone, andf therefore much lower overheads (if any!)
It becomes a difficult decision. You can pay top dollar for one of the brands but you get the reassurance that it is more likely to be the best stone. Even more importantly, if there was to be any problems, they will usually do their best to resolve the issue, even if it means replacing the stone. Their reputation is immensely valuable to them.
Alternatively, do you go with a cheaper supplier, hope that what you get is OK, and accept that, if you end up with a bad batch, you may well get no satisfactory support or even a response?
The big brands charge more not just because they have better quality materials, but because they have to cover the cost of a technical services team, staff out in the field in India, China, Turkey or wherever they are sourcing the stone, as well as covering costs associated with replacing any faulty products.
This website can't tell you what is best for your project or your pocket. You pays your money: you takes your choice. Only you can decide whether the peace-of-mind that is supposed to come with the premium brands is worth paying for, or whether you're prepared to take a bit of a risk.
If you are looking for problem-free installation on a project that you intend to keep for a decade or longer, then a branded supplier is probably a better option, but for a cheap job that will tie you over for a few years then the un-branded, off-the-net supplies will probably suit your pocket that much better.
Very generally speaking, when it comes to quality paving, you do tend to get what you pay for.