Quartz countertops have become an increasingly popular choice for kitchen and bathroom remodels in recent years. But are they actually a high-quality option? The short answer is yes – quartz counters can be an excellent material when manufactured properly. Here’s an in-depth look at why quartz rates so highly for durability, appearance, and performance.
What is Quartz?
Quartz is an engineered composite made from crushed natural quartz combined with resin and pigments. It’s molded into slabs and fabricated into countertops. The main benefits of quartz compared to natural stone are:
- Highly durable and resistant to scratches, stains, heat, and cracks
- Available in a wide variety of colors and patterns
- Requires little maintenance
- Non-porous so it does not need to be sealed
- Mold and bacteria resistant
The quartz aggregate makes up over 90% of a quartz countertop. It’s combined with polyester resins and pigments. When produced by a quality manufacturer, a quartz countertop is very hard, dense, and impervious to damage.
Durability of Quartz Counters
One of the biggest measures of quality for any countertop material is how well it holds up over time. Natural stone and laminate can chip, stain, etch, or crack with heavy use. Quartz’s durability is one of its greatest strengths:
Quartz has excellent scratch resistance due to its hardness. It ranks just under diamonds on the Mohs Hardness Scale. The aggregated quartz pieces won’t scratch or etch like a natural stone surface can. Marks from utensils or appliances can be removed by careful cleaning.
Quartz resists stains from wine, coffee, juice, oil, vinegar, and more. The pigments run through the full thickness of the slab. Even if the top layer gets etched, the color and pattern remain intact. Quartz requires no sealing to prevent staining.
Hot pots and pans won’t damage properly installed quartz counters. It can withstand brief exposure to temperatures up to 300°F without issue. The resins will not melt or discolor. This heat resistance also makes it ideal for a kitchen backsplash.
Quartz counters are highly flexible and resist chips, cracks, and nicks from heavy impacts. Seamless installation minimizes crevices that could collect crumbs and spills.
With zero porosity, quartz counters repel moisture, mildew, and bacteria growth. Liquids cannot penetrate the surface, making quartz very hygienic for food prep areas.
The durability and closed surface make quartz counters ideal for commercial settings. Quartz meets ADA compliance standards for public spaces that see heavy use.
With proper care, a quality quartz countertop should easily last over a decade without significant signs of wear. It maintains its original appearance much longer than most other countertop materials.
Appearance of Quartz Counters
In addition to strength, quartz also offers versatility of colors, patterns, and finishes:
Pigments are added to the resin to create a wide spectrum of quartz color options. Patterned quartz contains colored aggregates mixed in for visual appeal. There are realistic options like marble and granite plus creative styles.
Glossy or Matte Finish
Quartz can be polished to a shiny gloss finish or given a lightly textured matte finish. Matte has an attractive subtle sheen. Both glossy and matte finishes are non-porous and equally stain resistant.
Quartz can be fabricated in thinner countertops – as slim as 2cm thick. This allows more usable space, especially for islands and peninsulas. The slim profile can have clean modern lines.
Large format quartz slabs minimize obvious seams between countertop sections. This creates a streamlined, continuous appearance.
Quartz installers can cut precise openings for undermount sinks. Custom-cut integral backsplashes and trivets give a upscale high-end look.
With engineered quartz, you aren’t limited by nature’s color palette. And the controlled manufacturing allows reliably consistent results.
How Does Quartz Compare to Other Counter Materials?
Quartz is positioned as a high-end material above laminate but without the cost of natural stone. Here’s how it stacks up to other common countertop options in terms of quality and performance.
Quartz vs. Granite Countertops
Granite is a prestige material valued for its natural beauty. But it requires periodic sealing and can chip, stain, or etch. Quartz offers comparable aesthetic appeal without the maintenance. Quartz has more flex strength and better stain/scratch resistance. But granite costs significantly less.
Quartz vs. Marble Countertops
Elegant marble is prone to staining, etching, and cracking. It needs resealing every year. While quartz lacks the same delicate veining, it offers huge practical advantages. Quartz resists damage, retains its appearance, and never needs sealing.
Quartz vs. Laminate Countertops
Laminate counters like Formica have low cost and huge variety. But they can’t compete with quartz’s durability, aesthetics, and cachet. Laminate is vulnerable to moisture damage, stains, burns, and impact marks. Quartz performs far better long-term.
Quartz vs. Solid Surface Countertops
Solid surface like Corian was once top-tier. But quartz has supplanted it with better durability and lower cost. Solid surface scorches easily, requires intensive maintenance, and shows glue seam lines. Quartz offers more color/pattern options and better heat, scratch, and stain resistance.
Quartz vs. Butcher Block Countertops
Wood butcher block has warmth laminate and solid surface lack. But it’s very prone to staining, burning, denting, and moisture damage. It requires ongoing oiling/waxing. Quartz performs far better in kitchens and baths with heavy duty use.
Quartz combines excellent functionality and aesthetics. It outclasses laminate and outperforms natural stone. When produced by quality manufacturers, quartz truly is in a class of its own.
How to Evaluate Quartz Quality
Not all quartz countertops are created equal. As with most products, higher quality materials and manufacturing result in better real-world performance. Here are tips for recognizing high-quality quartz:
- Brand Reputation – Trusted brands like Caesarstone, Silestone, and Cambria have proven track records. Read reviews and complaints for potential brands.
- Percentage of Quartz – Higher quartz content typically improves strength and longevity. Quality quartz contains over 90% crushed quartz aggregate.
- Consistent Pattern/Color – Uniform distribution of pattern and color indicates careful manufacturing.
- Fewer Visible Imperfections – Minor pits, cracks, or chipped edges indicate lower quality controls.
- Precision Fabrication – Quality quartz fabricators expertly cut and polish for tight seams and edges. Poor fabrication negates great materials.
- Warranties – Longer warranties often correlate with better expected performance. 10 or 15 year warranties are ideal.
While price doesn’t guarantee quality, beware of super cheap quartz. Just like food or clothing, cutting corners in materials and production can seriously affect durability, appearance, and longevity. Whenever possible, see slab samples in person before finalizing your selection.
Pros and Cons of Quartz Countertops
Quartz improves upon natural stone and solid surface in almost every way. But no material is perfect. Here is a balanced look at the benefits and drawbacks:
- Extremely durable and low maintenance
- Resists scratches, stains, impacts, heat, and moisture
- No sealing required
- Mold/mildew resistant
- Large variety of colors, patterns, and textures
- Consistent patterning
- Integrated sinks/backsplashes possible
- ADA compliant
- More affordable than natural stone
- Retains appearance and value well
- Less heat resistance than granite
- Can have minor pits/imperfections
- Needs occasional reconditioning
- Seams may be more apparent than stone
- Not completely indestructible
- Less prestige than exotic natural stone
- Costs more than laminate
For most homeowners, the pros heavily outweigh the few limitations. The low maintenance durability of quartz enhances enjoyment of kitchen and bath spaces.
Are Quartz Countertops Healthy?
Durability and aesthetics may be the main considerations for countertops. But health factors also come into play, especially for surfaces used to prepare food.
Quartz itself is entirely inert and non-toxic. However, low quality adhesives or resins could potentially leach chemicals. Quartz also lacks the natural antibiotic properties of some stones.
Studies have found quartz counters meet safety standards for indirect food contact when produced by major brands. They do not release dangerous chemicals under normal conditions.
Quartz is generally considered food-safe. But proper cleaning is essential, especially after working with meat or poultry. Dark quartz can better hide lingering bacteria versus lighter granite.
Overall, quality quartz is no more hazardous than other common countertop materials. And its non-porous properties give it sanitary advantages over more porous natural stone.
Cost of Quartz Countertops
Quartz lands solidly in the middle of the countertop price range. It runs $80-150 per square foot installed. Here’s a pricing comparison:
- Laminate – $20-50 per sq. ft. installed
- Granite – $60-200 per sq. ft. installed
- Quartz – $80-150 per sq. ft. installed
- Marble – $100-200 per sq. ft. installed
- Soapstone – $100-200 per sq. ft. installed
Of course, exact quartz prices vary by brand, design, edge treatments, and local installation costs. Complex patterns, premium brands, and upgrades add cost.
Quartz requires less frequent replacement than inexpensive options like laminate. This improves its long-term value. Overall, quartz delivers excellent durability for the price.
Should You Choose Quartz Countertops?
Quartz makes an outstanding choice if you want:
- Extreme durability with minimal maintenance
- Resistance to scratches, stains, impacts, and heat
- A wide variety of color and finish options
- A compromise between natural stone and laminate
- Modern high-end style at moderate cost
- Hygienic food prep and cleaning areas
Home chefs, families with children, busy professionals, and design enthusiasts gravitate toward quartz. It elevates the functionality and enjoyment of kitchens and bathrooms.
Quartz Quality FAQs
Still have some lingering questions about quartz quality? Here are answers to some frequently asked questions:
Is Quartz Considered Natural Stone?
No, quartz is an engineered composite of natural quartz mineral and resins. It lacks the prestige of rare exotic natural stones. But its performance often surpasses natural stone.
Can Quartz Crack or Chip?
Quality quartz is highly resistant to chips and cracks from regular kitchen use. But excessive force from a heavy impact could potentially cause damage. Proper installation also minimizes cracking risks.
Does Quartz Need to be Sealed?
Unlike granite, quartz does not require regular sealing. Its non-porous surface prevents moisture penetration that could cause staining or bacterial growth.
Can You Cut on a Quartz Countertop?
Avoid cutting directly on quartz. Use a cutting board to protect from scratches. However, minor scratches can be sanded/buffed out through refinishing.
How Often Does Quartz Need Resealing?
Quartz never needs resealing. It won’t absorb stains or moisture like porous natural stones. This makes maintenance much easier.
Is There Granite That Looks Like Quartz?
Some exotic granites like Absolute Black, Nero Marquina, and Super White do closely resemble popular quartz finishes. However, granite requires more maintenance.
When manufactured by quality brands, quartz represents an elite countertop material. It offers durability far beyond laminates, solid surfaces, and even natural stone. Stain resistance and low maintenance enhance any kitchen or bath.
While not indestructible, high-grade quartz stands up beautifully to heavy daily use. The range of colors, patterns, and finishes allows customized design. All in all, quartz delivers exceptional performance and appearance at moderate cost. It’s easy to see why quartz usage continues to grow.