Quartz countertops are engineered stone made from natural materials. While quartz contains a high percentage of ground quartz crystals, other ingredients are added to create these popular countertops. So quartz offers the beauty of natural stone with some extra durability and consistency.
When choosing new countertops, the debate between natural stone vs. engineered quartz comes up often. To decide which material is right for your home, it helps to understand what quartz countertops actually are and how they compare to natural stone like granite and marble. This guide has all the details on the composition, qualities, and costs of quartz.
What Are Quartz Countertops Made Of?
Quartz countertops consist of roughly 90-95% ground quartz combined with polymer resins and pigments. The quartz crystals come from abundant natural sources and pulverize into a fine sand. Polymer resins like epoxy, polyester, and acrylic then bind the quartz particles together. To add color and pattern, pigments get mixed in as well.
So while quartz countertops derive their beauty from natural quartz, other man-made ingredients are used in the fabrication process. This differs from a natural stone like granite that is cut directly from large mineral deposits. The additional resins make quartz more uniform in color and pattern than natural stone.
How Quartz Countertops Are Made
Engineered quartz goes through an advanced manufacturing process to transform raw materials into countertops:
- Quartz crystals are mined from the earth and then crushed into a fine particle blend.
- Liquid polymer resins and color pigments get mixed into the quartz to form a slab.
- The slab gets molded and compacted under heat and pressure.
- Molding and curing can take several hours to harden the engineered stone.
- Finally, cured slabs are polished, cut, and finished into custom countertop sizes.
So quartz countertops start as a natural material but go through substantial industrial processing. The result is a man-made product marketed under various brand names like Silestone®, Caesarstone®, Cambria®, and others. These companies develop their own Quartz slabs and patterns.
Key Differences Between Quartz and Natural Stone
While manufactured from nature, quartz differs from genuine stone like granite or marble:
- Consistent color and patterns: Since quartz slabs get pigments added, the entire surface retains the same uniform look. Natural stones have more variation.
- Less porous: With very low porosity, quartz resists staining and doesn’t need sealing like granite.
- Highly durable: Quartz rates 7-8 on the Mohs hardness scale, making it more scratch and chip resistant than softer natural stones.
- Man-made material: As an engineered product, quartz offers more reliable performance than the unpredictability of natural stone.
- Higher cost: Due to production and manufacturing, quartz runs $80-100 per square foot installed vs. $40-80 for granite.
So in terms of origins, quartz combines nature with science. While not 100% natural stone, ground quartz crystals give it an organic beauty. The end result provides some advantages over natural stone for countertops.
Pros and Cons of Quartz Countertops
Quartz offers excellent qualities that make it one of the most popular countertop options:
- Attractive stone-like aesthetics
- Great durability and stain resistance
- Easy maintenance without sealing
- Antimicrobial properties inhibit bacteria growth
- Consistent color and patterns throughout slabs
- Customizable with wide variety of styles
- Long warranties from major brands
- Higher cost than granite countertops
- Limited heat resistance (use trivets for hot pots)
- Can chip from impacts although repairable
- Fewer unique colors/patterns than natural stone
- Man-made material, not 100% natural
Should I Choose Quartz or Natural Stone Countertops?
The choice between quartz and natural stone countertops depends on your priorities:
- More durable and scratch-resistant surface
- Low-maintenance, doesn’t need regular sealing
- Very consistent colors and patterns
- Excellent stain and water resistance
Natural stone pros:
- Greater variety and uniqueness of patterns
- Can be repaired/re-polished instead of replaced
- Often cheaper cost than quartz
- Perceived as more “natural” material
Quartz makes an excellent choice for busy kitchens prone to spills and stains. For a unique stone look on a budget, granite and marble provide one-of-a-kind patterns. Consider your lifestyle, budget, and style preferences when deciding between these two beautiful options.
FAQs About Quartz Countertops
Here are answers to some common questions about quartz countertops:
Are quartz countertops really better than granite?
Quartz arguably performs better than granite due to higher durability and lower maintenance needs. But granite comes in more unique stone patterns for one-of-a-kind looks. Each material has trade-offs.
Can you repair quartz countertops?
Minor damage like superficial scratches can be buffed and re-polished on quartz. But excessive cracking or chipping will require replacing the entire slab.
Do quartz countertops stain?
Quartz has excellent stain resistance and is less prone to staining than natural stone. But it is still possible for some liquids like oils or dyes to seep into surface scratches and leave a stain if not wiped up quickly.
Is quartz healthier than granite?
Some quartz contains antibacterial properties to inhibit the growth of bacteria. So in terms of food safety, quartz provides slightly better hygiene than more porous granite.
How much do quartz countertops cost?
Installed costs range from $80-150 per square foot for quartz. The exact price depends on the brand, pattern, edge profile, and local labor rates. Expect to pay 10-30% more than granite.
While not entirely natural stone, quartz countertops provide unparalleled performance and style for busy kitchens. Their engineered composition mixes ground quartz with resins to create a durable, consistent, and low-maintenance surface. With proper care, quartz countertops can maintain their beauty for many years of cooking and entertaining. For homeowners seeking both natural elegance and modern convenience, quartz offers the best of both worlds.