Granite and quartz are both popular choices for kitchen and bathroom countertops. While they share some similarities, there are key differences between granite and quartz that impact appearance, durability, maintenance, and cost. Understanding these differences can help homeowners decide which material is the best fit for their needs and budget when choosing new countertops.
What is Granite?
Granite is a natural stone that is mined from quarries around the world. It is an igneous rock that forms when magma cools and solidifies. Granite contains crystals of quartz, mica, and feldspar that give it its signature speckled appearance. No two granite slabs are exactly alike due to the natural variations in the stone.
Granite Countertop Pros:
- Unique natural patterns and colors
- Heat resistance
- Scratch resistance
- Stain resistance with proper sealing
- Durable and long-lasting
Granite Countertop Cons:
- Needs frequent resealing
- Can stain or etch without proper care
- Some porous varieties may harbor bacteria
- Can crack or chip if impact is significant
What is Quartz?
Quartz countertops are engineered stone made from crushed quartz crystals combined with resin and pigments. The quartz content typically ranges from 90-94%. Unlike natural stone, the manufacturing process allows quartz to be molded into consistent colors and patterns.
Quartz Countertop Pros:
- Consistent color and pattern
- Stain, scratch, and heat resistant
- Non-porous – does not require sealing
- Mold and mildew resistant
- Easy maintenance
Quartz Countertop Cons:
- Limited colors and patterns
- Visible seams
- Can be damaged by significant impacts
- Resins may yellow over time
The main distinction in appearance between granite and quartz is that granite has natural variations while quartz has uniform patterns and speckles.
Granite’s colors and patterns are unique to each slab. Movement of minerals and heat when the stone was formed give granite its one-of-a-kind look.
Quartz has a more consistent appearance since it is engineered. While patterns can vary slightly between slabs, quartz offers limited colors and styles compared to the limitless natural variation of granite.
If having an exotic, unique look is important, granite is often the better choice. If a uniform, neater look is preferred, quartz has the advantage.
Granite and quartz are both extremely durable countertop materials, but quartz is harder and less prone to damage.
Granite is generally durable, but areas of high quartz content are more resistant than more porous feldspar areas. Cracks and chips are possible, especially on thinner granite slabs.
Quartz’s consistent hardness makes it able to withstand cracks and chips from daily use. But hairline cracks are possible on quartz countertops during installation or if the surface experiences a significant impact.
Both materials are resistant to scratches, but quartz’s superior hardness gives it better scratch protection over time.
The need for sealing is the biggest differentiation when it comes to maintaining granite and quartz countertops.
Granite is porous and requires sealing every 6 months to 1 year to prevent stains and bacteria buildup. It also needs to be cleaned cautiously with non-abrasive cleaners to avoid dulling the surface.
Quartz is non-porous so it never needs sealing. Simple cleaning with soap and water is all it requires to keep it clean and hygienic.
While granite is heat resistant, extreme heat can damage the sealant or cause cracks or chips. Quartz is unaffected by heat and typically needs less careful handling.
Quartz countertops are generally more expensive than granite. The price for installed counters typically ranges from $80-140 per square foot for quartz and $40-100 per square foot for granite.
However, granite has a wider range of prices due to variations in stone quality. A higher-end granite may be more expensive than an entry-level quartz. Exotic granite varieties can also drive up the cost.
The consistency of quartz leads to fairly stable pricing, while availability and popularity of some granite colors may increase costs. Overall, quartz delivers better value for homeowners that want low maintenance and high durability.
Are My Countertops Granite or Quartz?
If you are unsure whether your existing countertops are granite or quartz, here are some tips:
- Check for visible seams – Quartz will have seams where separate slabs meet, granite seams are less noticeable.
- Look for natural variations – Granite has flecks of color and uneven patterns that differentiate it from uniform quartz.
- Test absorbency – Drip some water on the surface, if it beads up and doesn’t absorb, it is likely quartz. If it darkens the surface, granite is more probable.
- Consider when your home was built – Quartz only gained popularity in the last couple decades. If your home is older, there’s a good chance you have granite.
- Ask your countertop company – The fabricator or installer should have records for the material used if your counters were professionally installed.
Knowing your existing countertop material will help inform future care and decisions about replacing or updating your countertops. Keeping good records during initial installation is wise.
Is granite or quartz better for kitchen countertops?
This depends on your priorities. Granite offers unique natural beauty unrivaled by man-made quartz. Quartz provides superior stain protection and hardness. Overall, quartz requires less maintenance making it better for busy kitchens prone to spills and heavy use.
Does quartz stain like granite?
No. Because quartz is non-porous, it resists staining far better than porous granite. Granite requires regular sealing to minimize staining while quartz rarely needs more than soap and water to clean.
Is quartz healthier than granite?
Yes. Granite can harbor bacteria in porous areas if not properly sealed. Quartz’s non-porous surface makes it inherently more sanitary with minimal care needed. However, both materials are safe and hygienic when properly maintained.
Does quartz have radon like granite?
Natural stone like granite may sometimes release small amounts of radon gas. However, quartz is engineered and does not contain radioactive elements so radon is not a concern.
Is quartz cheaper than granite?
In most cases, no. On average, installed quartz countertops range from $80-140 per square foot while granite ranges from $40-100 per square foot. Exotic granite can push costs higher than entry-level quartz. Regional pricing also impacts costs.
Granite and quartz both make excellent choices for countertops with minor differences separating them. If wanting a naturally unique look at a potentially lower cost, granite counters could be ideal. For those seeking a low maintenance, extremely durable surface quartz has the advantage. Carefully considering the pros and cons of each material will ensure homeowners get the best countertop to match their kitchen or bath design and lifestyle.