Quartz countertops have become an increasingly popular option for kitchen and bathroom remodeling projects in recent years. Often marketed as an affordable and stylish alternative to natural stone, quartz combines ground quartz crystals with resins and pigments to create a durable, low-maintenance surface. But are quartz countertops really all they’re cracked up to be? In this detailed article, we’ll examine the pros and cons of quartz countertops to help you decide if they’re the right choice for your home renovation.
An Introduction to Quartz Countertops
Before diving into the specifics, let’s start with a quick overview of what exactly quartz countertops are and what makes them different from other countertop materials.
What is Quartz?
Quartz is a mineral found abundantly in nature. It’s extremely hard and durable. When ground into a fine powder, quartz crystals are combined with resins, polymers, and pigments to create an engineered stone slab. Slab sizes, thicknesses, and finishes vary by brand.
How Quartz Countertops Are Made
The manufacturing process for quartz slabs involves blending approximately 90% ground quartz with 10% polyresin binders and pigments. The mixture is compacted under intense pressure and vibration to remove air pockets and cure the material. This results in a non-porous, solid surface. Slabs are then polished to the desired finish.
Pros of Quartz Countertops
- Extremely durable and scratch-resistant surface
- Stain, heat, and water resistant
- Available in a wide range of colors and patterns
- Requires very little maintenance
- Non-porous so doesn’t require sealing
- More affordable than natural stone
- Consistent color and patterning throughout the slab
Cons of Quartz Countertops
- Not heat, stain, or scratch proof
- Visible seams on countertops
- Limited number of suppliers
- Requires professional fabrication and installation
- Can be damaged by heavy impacts
- Pattern and finish options less unique than natural stone
- Resins make it susceptible to strong chemicals
Now that we’ve covered the basics of what quartz countertops are, let’s take a more in-depth look at their advantages and disadvantages compared to other popular countertop materials.
The Pros of Quartz Countertops
There are many benefits to choosing quartz for kitchen countertops or bathroom vanities. Here are some of the top advantages:
Quartz is one of the most durable countertop materials available today. The quartz crystals make it extremely scratch resistant, while the resin binders provide stain and water resistance. This makes it a great choice for busy kitchens prone to spills, scratches, and heavy use. The durability also makes quartz a smart choice for bathroom vanities.
Once installed, quartz requires very little maintenance compared to many other options. Unlike granite or marble, quartz does not need periodic sealing to prevent staining and water damage. Simple cleaning with soap and water is enough to keep quartz looking like new for many years. This makes it very convenient for homeowners who want a fuss-free countertop.
Resistance to Heat, Stains, and Water
In addition to being scratch resistant, quartz stands up well against moderate heat, stains from food and beverages, and water exposure. While not completely impervious, quartz is more resistant compared to surfaces like laminate or wood. This makes quartz an ideal option for kitchens and baths prone to spills, hot pans from the stove, and steam from dishwashers.
Wide Range of Styles and Colors
From subtle whites and neutrals to bold, vibrant hues, quartz comes in a vast array of color options. Different patterns like marblelook and concrete are also available to fit any style. Mixing and matching colored slabs can create unique designs. Unlike natural stone, the patterns and colors run uniformly throughout the slabs.
More Affordable Than Natural Stone
Quartz typically costs less than premium natural stone like granite or marble. The price can vary based on the brand and specific color or pattern, but quartz generally starts around $50 per square foot installed. This puts it in reach of more budgets compared to $100 per square foot or more for many granite and marble options.
Consistent Throughout the Slab
Since the resins and quartz crystals are blended uniformly before being compacted into slabs, the color and pattern consistency is even throughout the thickness of the slab. This gives quartz a smooth, uniform appearance once installed, unlike natural stone that can vary slab to slab.
The Cons of Quartz Countertops
However, quartz does come with some downsides to consider before choosing it for your home. Here are the most common disadvantages:
Not Completely Stain or Scratch Proof
While quartz resists scratches, stains, and burns better than many alternatives, it is not completely impervious. Heavy impacts can damage quartz, so care should be taken to avoid direct blows from heavy pots or objects. Some stains from oils, dyes, or certain foods and beverages can also seep into the surface over time, especially if not cleaned promptly.
Small seams between quartz countertop slabs are inevitable after installation. These are more noticeable than with some materials like granite. Careful alignment and polishing by the installer can minimize the seams, but they remain an aesthetic downside for some.
Limited Number of Suppliers
Unlike granite and marble that come from abundant natural quarries, quartz is manufactured by a handful of companies. Options are far more limited compared to the vast array of granite and marble available worldwide. However, quartz suppliers do offer a diverse range of styles.
Professional Installation Required
Quartz slabs are heavy, slippery, and fragile, so DIY installation is not realistic for most homeowners. Professional fabrication and installation is required, making the total project cost for quartz higher compared to DIY-friendly options like wood or laminate. Factor this labor cost into your budget.
Can Be Damaged by Impacts
While resistant compared to other materials, quartz can potentially chip or crack if subjected to a heavy direct blow from an object. Homeowners should take care to avoid hitting quartz countertops with heavy cast iron cookware or appliances to prevent damage.
Less Unique Than Natural Stone
The range of colors and patterns available in quartz, while diverse, remains more uniform than the unique variations found in natural stone. If you desire the one-of-a-kind aesthetic of granite or marble, quartz may underwhelm.
Potential Chemical Sensitivity
The resin binders in quartz can become damaged or stained when exposed to very strong chemicals and solvents like paint removers, drain cleaners, nail polish remover, etc. Homeowners should avoid letting these chemicals come in contact with quartz.
Popular Brands of Quartz Countertops
If you’ve started shopping for quartz, you’ve probably noticed there are many brands available. Here’s a quick overview of some of the most popular quartz countertop manufacturers:
Known for its striking designs and variety of colors and finishes, Cambria is a leading American quartz brand. They offer a lifetime warranty. Cambria is mid-range in terms of price.
One of the first engineered quartz companies, Caesarstone remains popular for its bright whites and neutrals. Durable yet prone to noticeable seams on larger installations. Caesarstone is affordably priced.
Silestone offers over 90 colors and variety of stone-look finishes. Owned by parent company Cosentino. Branded as anti-bacterial quartz. Silestone is considered a premium brand with higher prices.
MSI Q Premium Natural Quartz
Budget-friendly quartz available at home improvement stores like Lowes and Home Depot. Limited color options but good value. Lower priced.
Pacific Northwest-based company offering mid-range priced quartz in styles from modern to stone-like. Known for good customer service.
How to Choose the Best Quartz Countertops
Choosing the right quartz countertops for your kitchen or bath renovation goes beyond just picking an attractive color. Follow these tips to select the best quartz for your home:
Visit Showrooms to See Slabs In-Person
Quartz, like natural stone, can look different in person than it does in small samples. Visit distributor or manufacturer showrooms in your area to view full slabs under natural light. This gives you a better sense of the overall look.
Evaluate Quartz Samples in Your Space
Most companies provide free sample chips, squares, or remnant pieces so you can see quartz against your cabinetry and flooring. Examine how different colors look under both natural and artificial light.
Consider Your Usage and Lifestyle
Think about how your space will be used. Opt for darker, more patterned quartz for high-traffic spots that can hide wear. Lighter quartz requires gentler use but brightens the space.
Choose Non-Glossy Finishes If Desired
Many brands offer quartz in matte, honed, concrete, and leathered finishes instead of high-gloss. This hides fingerprints and scratches better. Specify your preferred finish.
Ask About Warranties
Quartz warranties vary widely by brand, some lasting only a few years while high-end companies offer limited lifetime warranties. Understand what defects or damage is covered by the warranty.
Get Professional Installation
Don’t try tackling quartz yourself. Hire an experienced and insured contractor for flawless fabrication and installation. Ask to see past work and check reviews.
Caring for Your Quartz Countertops
To keep your quartz counters looking like new long-term, be sure to follow these care and cleaning guidelines:
- For everyday cleaning, use a mild soap and water. Avoid abrasive cleaners.
- Blot spills quickly to prevent possible staining. Acidic substances like wine or tomato sauce should be wiped up ASAP.
- Avoid leaving liquids sitting for prolonged periods. Don’t use quartz as a cutting board.
- Quartz can withstand moderate heat, but use trivets for very hot pots and pans. Never place extremely hot items like pans straight from the oven or burner directly on the quartz.
- Don’t stand or sit on your counters. The solid surface can potentially crack under significant impact or weight.
- Reseal any caulking and follow the manufacturer’s care guidelines to uphold the warranty protections.
- Check the warranty terms. Damage caused by chemical exposure or excess force may not be covered.
Quartz vs. Granite: How Do They Compare?
Granite remains the most popular natural stone countertop option. But how does it stack up against quartz? Here’s a brief quartz vs. granite comparison:
Granite offers a true stone look with exotic natural patterns. Quartz delivers a uniform appearance with less variation. Granite comes in more unique colors from around the world.
Quartz is slightly harder than granite on the Mohs scale. Both resist scratches and heat. But quartz is less prone to chipping from impacts. Neither material is completely damage-proof.
Quartz never needs sealing. Granite requires sealing every 1-2 years to prevent staining. Quartz needs less frequent polishing. Granite needs annual polishing.
Entry-level granite and quartz cost about the same. But high-end exotic granite can cost up to $200 per square foot installed, significantly pricier than high-end quartz.
Quartz comes from a handful of manufacturers, so inventory is limited compared to the vast global granite market. But enough styles exist to suit most homeowners’ needs.
For a lower maintenance alternative to classic granite, quartz makes an attractive and durable option. It resists damage while offering variety in colors and patterns. But granite remains unparalleled in natural beauty.
FAQs about Quartz Countertops
Many homeowners have additional questions about quartz. Here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions:
Does quartz stain easily?
Quartz is resistant, but not immune to staining. Spills, especially oils and acidic substances, should be wiped up promptly. With proper care, staining should not be a major concern for most homeowners.
Is quartz expensive to install?
Quartz is only available installed by professionals, unlike DIY options like laminate. Installation averages $40-$100 per square foot. The total cost is comparable to granite.
Can you cut on quartz countertops?
It’s best to avoid using quartz as a cutting board. While durable, directly cutting on the surface can damage a knife’s sharp edge. Use a separate cutting board placed on top instead.
Does quartz come in different thicknesses?
Yes, quartz slabs come in thicknesses of 2cm, 3cm, and sometimes 4cm. 3cm is recommended for counters, while 2cm can be used for walls or backsplashes. Thicker quartz costs more.
Can quartz counters have seams?
Seams are typically required, especially on larger counters, due to the size of quartz slabs. Experienced installers can tightly seal and polish the seams to minimize visibility.
Is quartz porous?
No, unlike granite and marble, quartz does not absorb liquids because of its non-porous nature. This eliminates the need for periodic sealing to prevent staining and damage.
Does quartz get hot from the sun?
Quartz does not get as hot from direct sunlight as darker natural stones. But some warming can occur. Lighter colors and quartz varieties absorb less heat.
Can you repair quartz countertops?
Minor damage like superficial scratches can often be buffed out through polishing. But deeper damage requires full replacement. Repairs are limited, so be cautious about impacts.
By now, you should have a clearer understanding of quartz countertops, including their advantages and disadvantages compared to other material options. While no material is perfect, quartz makes an excellent choice in many homes due to its durable yet low-maintenance nature. If you opt for quartz, choose an experienced professional for flawless installation, follow care guidelines to prevent damage, and thoroughly research brands and colors to find the perfect quartz countertops for your space. With its versatile styling and resilient qualities, quartz offers beauty and functionality.
With its resilient qualities and versatile styling, quartz offers beauty and functionality that makes it an attractive choice for many kitchens and bathrooms. While no material is perfect, understanding the pros and cons allows homeowners to make the most informed decision when selecting new countertops. With proper professional installation and care, quartz countertops can provide long-lasting durability, ease of maintenance, and stylish design. For homeowners searching for an appealing balance of good looks and resilience, quartz often proves itself a smart investment.