Quartz countertops have become an increasingly popular choice for kitchen and bathroom renovation projects in recent years. Often referred to as “engineered stone”, quartz countertops are made from a combination of ground natural quartz crystals and polymer resins. But how exactly are these countertops manufactured? In this article, we’ll take an in-depth look at the quartz countertop manufacturing process from start to finish.
How Are Quartz Countertops Made?
The manufacturing process for quartz countertops involves several key steps:
1. Sourcing the Raw Materials
- Quartz crystals – Mined from quarries, then crushed into a fine powder. Provides strength and hardness.
- Polymer resins – Act as a binder to hold the quartz particles together. Provides flexibility.
- Pigments – Added to achieve different colors and patterns.
2. Mixing the Materials
- The quartz powder, resins, and pigments are combined and mixed together.
- Exact ratios vary between manufacturers, but typically 90-95% ground quartz is used.
- Mixing creates a dough-like material ready for molding.
3. Molding the Slabs
- The material is fed into a vacuum press mold to form a slab.
- Hydraulic pressure compacts and presses the material into a solid, uniform slab.
- Slabs are made in sizes up to 60 inches wide and 120 inches long.
4. Curing the Slabs
- The pressed slabs are then cured in a curing oven.
- This hardens the resins to their permanent solid form.
- Curing can take 15-20 minutes at high temperatures.
5. Finishing the Slabs
- Once cured, the slabs are polished on both sides to achieve a smooth, glossy finish.
- A variety of polishing and grinding techniques are used.
- The edges are also finished for an attractive look.
6. Inspecting and Packaging
- Finished slabs are inspected for any defects or irregularities.
- Approved slabs are packaged and shipped to fabricators and installers.
- Some manufacturers keep an inventory; others produce as orders are received.
The Benefits of Manufactured Quartz Countertops
The meticulous manufacturing process used to produce quartz slabs results in some key benefits that have made it a top choice for countertops:
- Consistency – The engineered process ensures reliable uniformity and minimizes natural stone flaws.
- Durability – Quartz resists stains, scratches, heat damage better than natural stone.
- Low maintenance – Doesn’t require regular sealing or polishing. Easy to clean.
- Color and pattern versatility – Available in a vast array of colors/patterns.
- Appearance – Mimics look of natural stone but with fewer imperfections.
Quartz vs. Solid Surface Countertops
While also man-made, quartz differs from solid surface countertop materials like Corian in a few ways:
- Raw materials – Solid surfaces use acrylic/polyester resins while quartz uses natural quartz crystals.
- Hardness – Quartz rates around 7 on Mohs scale; solid surface is 2-3, so quartz is harder.
- Heat resistance – Quartz is more resistant to heat damage from hot pans.
- Look – Quartz looks more like natural stone; solid surface has a more uniform look.
- Cost – Quartz is generally more expensive than solid surface countertops.
The Quartz Countertop Fabrication Process
After the slabs are manufactured, they are shipped to fabricators to be custom cut and installed in homes. The fabrication process includes:
- Digital template of the space needed
- Using waterjets or CNC machines to cut the slabs to precise specifications
- Shaping edges and cutouts for sinks/faucets
- Polishing cut edges
- Installing countertops securely in homes
- Quality inspection to ensure excellent fit and finish
Proper fabrication and installation are key to getting beautiful, long-lasting quartz countertops. Going with experienced, specialized quartz fabricators is advised.
FAQs About Manufactured Quartz Countertops
Are quartz countertops really fully manufactured?
Yes, quartz countertops are engineered in a factory setting using over 90% ground quartz along with polymer resins that bind the quartz particles together. The complete manufacturing process takes place before slabs are sent out.
What makes quartz slabs so consistent?
The engineered process allows manufacturers to carefully control the ratio of materials and achieve reliable uniformity. This minimizes natural stone’s potential flaws and inconsistencies.
Are there different grades/qualities of quartz?
There can be some variance between budget and premium quartz options. Higher-end quartz tends to use more quartz content for greater durability. But even low-end quartz is very durable.
Does quartz get manufactured to order?
Some manufacturers keep an inventory of popular colors/patterns. But quartz can also be made to order based on specific color and sizing needs. This does require some lead time.
What determines the pattern look of quartz?
The pigments added during manufacturing give quartz its color patterns. More pigment results in bolder, busier patterns. Minimal pigment creates a more uniform, toned down look.
Is quartz cheaper than natural stone surfaces?
Quartz is generally pricier than laminate but less expensive than most natural stone. However, prices fluctuate, so always compare quotes for your specific project.
Quartz countertops provide the look and feel of natural stone with added consistency and practical benefits. With engineered quartz, homeowners can enjoy worry-free, low-maintenance surfaces that hold up beautifully for years. The combination of ground quartz crystals and polymer resins makes quartz an ideal choice for today’s kitchens and bathrooms. By understanding the manufacturing process, you can see how quartz gets its durability and resistance to damage. If durability and low maintenance are priorities for your next countertop project, be sure to consider quartz among your options.