Quartz countertops have become increasingly popular in recent years as a stylish, durable, and low-maintenance option for kitchens and bathrooms. But many homeowners wonder – are quartz countertops man-made? The short answer is yes, quartz countertops are a engineered stone created in factories. However, the manufacturing process combines natural quartz crystals with resins and pigments to create a very convincing imitation of a natural stone surface. Understanding the production of quartz countertops can help homeowners decide if this material is right for their space.
What is Quartz?
Quartz is a naturally occurring mineral found abundantly in the earth’s crust. In nature, quartz crystals form over millions of years under extreme heat and pressure. Quartz is comprised of silicon and oxygen atoms that link together in a continuous framework to create a crystalline structure. Pure quartz is colorless and transparent. Various impurities provide the many different colors found in natural quartz.
Quartz is one of the hardest minerals, ranking 7 out of 10 on the Mohs hardness scale. Only diamonds, sapphires and rubies are harder than quartz. This extreme hardness makes natural quartz an excellent material for countertops, since it is very scratch and stain resistant.
Natural quartz crystals are mined and then processed into an engineered slab material for countertops. So while the main ingredient – quartz – is natural, the finished product is man-made.
Production Process for Quartz Countertops
Here is an overview of how quartz countertops are manufactured:
1. Sourcing the Quartz
Pure quartz crystals are mined from quarries, mainly in Brazil, India, Turkey, and Israel. Quartz comprises about 12% of the earth’s crust, so it is highly abundant.
Other natural stones like granite are also mined from limited geographic sources. But quartz can be sourced more widely across the globe, making it more affordable.
2. Crushing the Quartz into Powder
Mined quartz crystals are washed, crushed with crushers, and then ground into a fine powder. The particle size is carefully controlled to achieve the desired properties in the finished material.
3. Adding Color and Resin
The quartz powder is combined with coloring agents and plastic resin in precise ratios. Common resins used are polyester, epoxy, and acrylic. Dyes are added to achieve the natural-looking veining and patterns. Up to 90% of engineered quartz is ground quartz aggregate.
4. Mixing and Molding
The quartz-resin mixture is blended into a homogeneous slurry and poured into molds. It is compacted under vacuum conditions to remove air pockets and pressed into slabs. The slabs are heated to cure the resins and harden the material.
5. Polishing and Finishing
Once cured, the quartz slabs are polished to achieve the desired finish – either glossy or matte. Holes are cut for sinks and the slabs are shipped to fabricators for final cutting and installation.
So while the main component of quartz countertops originates from a natural stone, the manufacturing process combines it with polymers and pigments. The quartz crystals provide the hardness, while the resins bind the material together into a durable, non-porous surface. The result is a man-made engineered stone that imitates the beauty of natural quartzite or marble.
Benefits of Quartz Being Man-Made
There are several advantages to quartz surfaces being engineered in a factory, rather than purely natural:
- Consistent quality – Since quartz slabs are made under controlled conditions, the end product is highly consistent. Natural stones vary greatly between slabs.
- Wide range of colors and patterns – Manufacturers can create unlimited options by adjusting the pigments and resins used. Natural stones are limited by their mineral makeup.
- Resists stains and scratches – The resin binds the quartz particles into a hard, non-porous surface that resists damage. Some natural stones are quite porous.
- Low maintenance – Engineered quartz requires very little maintenance compared to natural stone surfaces. No sealing is required.
- Hygienic – The nonporous surface inhibits germ growth. Quartz has a low concentration of dangerous silica dust when fabricated.
- Sustainable manufacturing – Quartz uses abundant natural quartz crystals. Production creates uniform slabs with almost no waste.
So while man-made, quartz offers performance advantages over natural stone. For many homeowners, the trade-off of perfect consistency over natural uniqueness is worthwhile.
Comparison to Other Kitchen Countertops
How does engineered quartz compare to other common countertop materials in terms of being man-made versus natural? Here is a brief overview:
- Granite – Completely natural quarried stone. Available in limited colors and patterns based on mineral composition. Can be porous. Requires periodic sealing.
- Marble – A natural quarried stone. Softer and more prone to etching than granite. Needs frequent sealing and can stain easily. Unique veining patterning.
- Quartzite – A naturally metamorphic stone. Very hard and scratch resistant. Porous like granite so needs occasional sealing. Limited color range.
- Solid surfaces (Corian) – Completely man-made from acrylic resin and natural minerals for color. Seamless appearance but can scratch and scorch.
- Laminate – Man-made from plastic laminated onto particle board or MDF. Most affordable option but can delaminate over time.
Quartz strikes a nice balance of being mainly composed of a natural material while having color/pattern consistency of an engineered product. For many homeowners, this combination of natural quartz and high-performance resins offers the best of both worlds!
FAQs about Manufactured Quartz Countertops
Is all quartz man-made?
The engineered material branded as “quartz countertops” or “quartz surfaces” is man-made in factories. But natural stone slabs mined directly from quartzite rock deposits are also available. These are 100% natural unlike engineered quartz.
Does quartz have real stone in it?
Yes, engineered quartz surfaces contain 90-95% ground quartz particles mixed with the binding plastic resin. So it contains a high concentration of real stone, versus solid surfaces which have minimal stone.
Is quartz healthier than granite?
Quartz is considered healthier than granite or marble mainly due to being non-porous. The tight surface resists bacteria growth and does not harbour mould or mildew. Granite can stain if not sealed properly. Quartz also has minimal silica dust when cut.
How long do quartz countertops last?
The average lifespan of quartz countertops is over 15 years with proper care. Some warranties cover 15-20 years of use. The resin binders prevent the erosion that occurs in natural stone, allowing quartz to last longer than granite or marble.
Is quartz sustainable?
While man-made, quartz uses abundant natural quartz crystals and engineered stone minimizes offcuts. Large pieces can be cut requiring less energy and water than quarrying granite. Quartz has received certification from environmental organizations.
In summary, quartz kitchen countertops are an engineered, manufactured product created in factories – so they are not purely natural stone. However, they consist mainly of finely ground quartz crystals abundantly mined from the earth. Advanced manufacturing combines the natural beauty of quartz with polymer resins to create a man-made material that outperforms natural stone. With attractive colors, patterns and superior durability, it is easy to see why so many homeowners opt for quartz over granite, marble or concrete. While manufactured, quartz successfully mimics the appearance of high-end stones while minimizing the downsides like etching, cracking and staining. So quality quartz countertops represent an ideal fusion of natural beauty and man-made performance.