Quartz countertops have become an incredibly popular option for kitchen and bathroom remodeling projects in recent years. Their durability, low maintenance, and stylish appearance make them a top choice for many homeowners. But one common question that arises is, are all quartz countertops man-made? The short answer is yes.
What Is Quartz?
Quartz is a mineral that is found abundantly in nature. It is composed of silicon and oxygen atoms and is the second most abundant mineral in the Earth’s continental crust, after feldspar. Natural quartz is crystalline in structure and is very hard and scratch-resistant.
Some natural quartz varieties include:
- Rock crystal – Clear and colorless
- Amethyst – Purple variety
- Citrine – Yellow variety
- Rose quartz – Pink variety
How Are Quartz Countertops Made?
While natural quartz exists, the material used to create quartz countertops is an engineered composite. It is made from crushed quartz crystals combined with resins and pigments.
Here is an overview of the manufacturing process:
- Quartz crystals – Mined natural quartz is crushed into a fine powder. This provides the strength, durability and scratch-resistance.
- Polymers/resins – Resins like polyester or epoxy are added to bind the crushed quartz together into a slab.
- Pigments – Pigments are added to the mixture to create the desired colors and patterns.
- Vibration and compression – The mixture is vibrated and compressed under heat and pressure to form slabs.
- Finishing – The slabs are polished and finished to create the desired surface texture.
So while the main ingredient is natural quartz crystals, the manufacturing process involves man-made components as well. The resins and pigments combine with the crushed quartz to create the engineered slabs.
Benefits of Engineered Quartz Countertops
The engineered composition of quartz countertops is what provides many of their beneficial properties:
- Durability – Quartz has high hardness and density to resist scratches, chips and cracks.
- Low maintenance – Requires no sealing and easily resists stains.
- Heat resistance – Can withstand heat up to 212°F. Better than granite.
- Non-porous – Doesn’t need to be sealed since it won’t absorb liquids.
- Color/pattern consistency – The manufacturing process ensures reliable, consistent color and patterns.
- Customizable aesthetic – Available in a wide array of colors and patterns to suit any style.
Are There Any Natural Quartz Countertops?
Given the engineered nature of quartz countertops, truly “natural” quartz countertops do not exist. However, there are some options that come close:
- Quartzite – A natural metamorphic rock that contains 90% or more quartz. It must be sealed and is more prone to etching than engineered quartz.
- Soapstone – Made of natural talc and quartz. Softer than engineered quartz but also must be sealed.
- Marble – A natural stone that contains quartz crystals combined with other minerals. Less durable than engineered quartz.
While these options contain natural quartz, they lack the fragility resistance, customization, and consistency of engineered quartz countertops.
All quartz countertops are man-made composites, containing a mixture of crushed quartz, polymers, and pigments. This engineered composition gives quartz countertops their many benefits like durability, low maintenance, and customization. While natural stone containing quartz does exist, it lacks many of the desirable qualities that make engineered quartz a top choice for countertops. So if you want the high-performance capabilities of quartz, an engineered slab is the way to go.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are quartz countertops completely natural?
No, quartz countertops are an engineered product made from crushed quartz combined with resins and pigments. There are no natural quartz countertop options since natural quartz alone would be too fragile.
What percentage of quartz countertops are natural?
Quartz countertops contain around 90-95% crushed natural quartz. The remaining 5-10% consists of polymers and pigments.
Can you get 100% natural quartz countertops?
No, there is no such thing as 100% natural quartz countertops. Some natural stone like quartzite contains up to 98% quartz, but requires sealing and is prone to etching. Engineered quartz countertops contain polymers and resins that are essential for the desired performance.
Are quartz countertops healthier than granite?
Quartz is generally considered healthier than granite since it doesn’t require chemical sealants and resists bacteria and stains better. Granite is more porous and can absorb liquids if not properly sealed. However, both materials are considered food-safe options.
Is engineered quartz better than natural stone?
Engineered quartz is better than natural stone in many ways. It offers greater durability, more customization options, better stain and scratch resistance, and a lower maintenance surface. Natural stones like marble and soapstone can stain, etch and require frequent sealing.
While quartz is a natural mineral, the engineered countertops we know contain crushed quartz blended with polymers and resins. This man-made composition gives quartz countertops their highly desirable qualities that make them one of the most popular options for kitchen and bath remodeling. If considering a quartz countertop, you can be assured you’re getting an engineered product that offers performance capabilities far superior to fragile natural stones.