Quartz countertops have become an increasingly popular option for kitchen and bathroom remodels in recent years. But there is often some confusion around whether quartz countertops are actually a natural stone product. Here is a detailed look at what quartz countertops are made of and whether they can be considered a natural stone.
What is Quartz?
Quartz is a mineral that is found naturally in the earth’s crust. It is one of the most abundant minerals on the planet. Pure quartz is made up entirely of silicon dioxide and has a crystal-like appearance. Natural quartz surfaces can be polished to make decorative and functional objects like countertops.
However, pure natural quartz is relatively soft. So quartz countertops are made by combining ground natural quartz with resins, polymers, and pigments. This combination creates a durable, non-porous surface that is stain, scratch, and heat resistant.
Are Quartz Countertops Considered a Natural Stone?
While natural quartz is used in the production of quartz countertops, the final product cannot be considered a 100% natural stone. The addition of resins, polymers, and other materials makes quartz countertops an engineered stone rather than a pure natural stone.
However, quartz countertops contain a very high percentage of natural quartz – usually over 90%. This high natural quartz content gives quartz countertops the look and feel of natural stone. The resins and polymers provide extra durability and performance that natural stone lacks.
So while not a true natural stone, quartz countertops have more in common with natural stone countertops than solid surface materials like Corian. The high natural quartz content provides the natural beauty of stone, while the polymers give increased resistance to stains, scratches and heat.
Quartz Countertop Manufacturing Process
To understand why quartz countertops cannot be considered purely natural stone, it is helpful to look at how they are made:
- Quartz crushing – Natural quartz is mined and then crushed into a fine powder. This provides the basic material that gives quartz countertops their stone-like qualities.
- Pigments added – Color pigments are added to the quartz powder to achieve the desired color and pattern for the countertop. Without these pigments, quartz would be plain white or gray.
- Resins blended – Polyester, epoxy, and acrylic resins are blended with the quartz and pigments. These resins act as a binder to hold the material together. They also improve water and stain resistance.
- Molding & vibrocompaction – The quartz material is poured into molds and compacted under vibration and pressure to remove air pockets and create a dense, non-porous slab.
- Polishing and finishing – The quartz slabs are polished to achieve the desired finish – ranging from a matte look to a glossy polished finish. Edges can also be finished in different styles.
- Fabrication – The slabs are cut to size, edges finished, holes cut for sinks etc. This transforms the raw slabs into custom quartz countertops.
So while natural quartz is a key ingredient, the manufacturing process involves adding non-natural ingredients and artificial processes to create the engineered stone used for countertops. This prevents quartz countertops from being considered a truly natural product.
Pros and Cons vs. Natural Stone
Understanding that quartz countertops are an engineered product helps clarify the pros and cons compared to natural stone like granite:
- Much more stain, scratch and chip resistant than natural stone
- Heat resistant
- Consistent color and patterning throughout the slab
- Requires very little maintenance
- Less variety in colors and patterns compared to natural stone
- Visible seams in some designs
- Not considered a high-end luxury material
So quartz provides exceptional durability and practicality but lacks the prestige, exclusivity and diversity of natural stone. It offers a great combination of form and function for most home kitchens and baths. Just don’t expect the uniqueness and wow factor of granite and other natural stones.
Is the High Natural Quartz Content Important?
Given that quartz countertops are an engineered product, does the high natural quartz content really matter? There are a few reasons why the high quartz composition makes a significant difference:
- Provides hardness and scratch resistance closest to natural stone
- Gives an authentic natural stone appearance
- Allows for natural quartz patterns and flecks in the surface
- Offers a more natural material compared to Solid Surface
- Determines durability and longevity of the countertop
Higher natural quartz percentages generally indicate a higher quality and performance. Many low-cost quartz options use quartz particles in the 80-85% range blended with more resins and polymers. The best quartz countertops use over 90% natural quartz. This high mineral content gives a more natural look and feel.
Is Quartz Worth the Investment?
For most homeowners, quartz countertops offer an ideal balance of beauty, practicality and value. The man-made enhancements make quartz a far more durable and low-maintenance option compared to natural stone. The resins fill cracks and pores to inhibit staining, etching and harboring of bacteria.
This makes quartz a wise investment for busy kitchens prone to spills, stains and heavy usage. The slick non-porous surface also requires no sealing. The enhanced durability means quartz countertops will last for many years with proper care.
Quartz is generally cheaper than natural stone, with installed costs ranging from $80-150 per square foot. While not cheap, this puts quartz in reach of most kitchen remodeling budgets. Durability, low maintenance and resistance to staining and etching make quartz a cost-effective choice in the long run.
For homeowners that want natural beauty with minimal maintenance, quartz offers an excellent combination of form and function. The high natural quartz content provides the look of stone, while polymers enhance durability and stain resistance beyond natural options. This gives quartz widespread appeal among homeowners, builders and designers.
FAQs About Quartz Countertops
Are quartz countertops completely stain proof?
While highly stain resistant, quartz is not 100% impervious to stains. Prolonged exposure to strongly pigmented substances like oil, wine and coffee can stain the surface. But these stains are often easily removed with gentle cleaning.
Can you cut directly on quartz countertops?
Yes, the durable surface of quartz countertops allows cutting directly on the surface without damage. Use a cutting board to protect knives from becoming dull.
Do quartz countertops need to be sealed?
No. Since quartz is non-porous, it never needs sealing. This makes maintenance easy.
Can quartz countertops chip or crack?
Quartz is highly resistant to chips and cracks thanks to its durability. But excessive force, impact or misuse can damage the surface. Take care to avoid hard impacts to minimize risk of damage. Small chips can often be repaired by a pro.
Are quartz countertops environmentally friendly?
Quartz uses a high percentage of natural stone and can be recycled. But the resins and polymers make it less environmentally friendly than some natural surface options. Look for low-VOC quartz when possible.
Can quartz countertops increase home value?
Yes, quartz and other engineered stone countertops are attractive upgrades that can increase home resale value. Their durability and low maintenance are valued by home buyers.
While not a 100% natural stone, quartz countertops provide a great balance of natural stone beauty and engineered durability. Their resistance to staining, etching and heat damage makes them ideal for busy kitchens. Easy care and lower cost than natural stone also add to quartz’s widespread appeal. For homeowners that want the look of stone with enhanced practicality, quartz makes an excellent countertop choice.