Quartz countertops are manufactured from one of the hardest minerals on earth and are an excellent choice for kitchens and bathrooms. But there is often confusion around whether quartz countertops are considered “stone” countertops. Here is a detailed look at what quartz countertops are made of and whether they qualify as stone.
What is Quartz?
Quartz is a mineral that is found naturally in the earth’s crust. It is incredibly hard and durable, ranking at 7 on the Mohs hardness scale. Quartz is composed of silicon and oxygen atoms and is the second most abundant mineral in the earth’s continental crust, behind feldspar.
Natural quartz is found in a variety of colors, including purple, grey, and yellow. When mined and processed, natural quartz can be used for commercial and industrial applications.
How are Quartz Countertops Made?
While natural quartz is solid mineral, quartz countertops are made from an engineered material. Manufacturers start by mining natural quartz crystals, which are then crushed into a fine powder. This powdered quartz is then combined with pigments for coloration and resins that act as a binder.
The exact ratio varies by brand and application, but quartz countertops contain around 90-95% ground quartz combined with 7-10% polymer resins and pigments. The mixture creates a durable, non-porous material that retains the look and feel of natural stone, but requires less maintenance.
Why are Quartz Countertops So Popular?
Engineered quartz has risen in popularity in recent years as a countertop material due to the following factors:
- Extreme durability – Quartz has incredible hardness and strength, making it resistant to scratches, chips, cracks, and heat.
- Low maintenance – Quartz is non-porous so it does not need to be regularly sealed like natural stone. It is also stain resistant.
- Consistent patterning – The manufacturing process creates uniform speckled patterns not found in natural stone.
- Wide range of colors – From creamy whites to bold blacks, quartz offers immense design flexibility.
- Mimics high-end stone – With veining and patterns, quartz convincingly looks like expensive natural stone such as marble or granite.
Is Quartz Considered a Stone?
Given that it is made from one of nature’s hardest minerals, quartz countertops are often grouped under the category of “stone countertops.” But quartz does not fit the geological definition of stone which refers to rocks or aggregates formed entirely of minerals.
Because engineered quartz contains resins and polymers, it is not considered a true stone by geologists. Quartz countertops are instead referred to as “engineered stone.” This means that while quartz mimics the look of natural stone, it is technically an engineered composite material.
How Does Quartz Compare to Granite Countertops?
Granite countertops remain popular as a high-end natural stone option. But quartz offers some advantages over traditional granite:
- More consistent patterning – Natural granite has random veining that makes each slab unique. Engineered quartz delivers uniform speckling.
- Wider array of colors – Granite is limited to natural variations in feldspar minerals. But quartz can be pigmented.
- Less maintenance – Granite is somewhat porous and needs periodic sealing. Quartz rarely needs sealing.
- Greater durability – Granite will chip and stain if not properly sealed. Quartz is harder and more scratch resistant.
However, granite remains popular due to its stunning natural beauty and prestige. No two granite slabs are the same due to natural variations. Quartz offers an affordable alternative with added practicality.
Are Quartz Countertops Stone? The Bottom Line
While quartz countertops contain up to 95% crushed natural quartz, the resins and polymers added mean quartz countertops are technically classified as “engineered stone.”
However, quartz remains a top choice for its strength, aesthetics, and practical benefits. So while not a true stone by definition, quartz countertops offer the luxurious look and feel of natural stone with added durability. For most buyers, quartz delivers the best qualities of stone in a low-maintenance, engineered product.
Common Types of Quartz Countertops
With quartz rising in popularity for countertops, manufacturers now offer an extensive range of colors and patterns to choose from. Here are some of the most common types of quartz countertops:
Crisp whites remain one of the most popular choices for quartz countertops. White quartz options include:
- Carrara – Mimics the veining of classic white Carrara marble from Italy for an elegant aesthetic.
- Blizzard – A bright white with faint gray marbling that evokes freshly fallen snow.
- Coastal – Subtle blue and gray veining on a clean white background for a beachy vibe.
- Ice White – A super clean, pure white quartz option perfect for modern spaces.
From light gray to charcoal, gray quartz brings a moody and stylish look to kitchens and baths. Some top gray quartz choices include:
- Thunderstorm – Gray base with darker gray swirls and splatters resembling an intense storm.
- London Fog – Faint hints of lavender mixed with threads of silver and gray make a unique neutral.
- Sterling – A medium gray with delicate white marbling for a refined yet cozy look.
- Urban – True, deep charcoal gray quartz countertops make a bold statement.
Black countertops make kitchen elements like stainless steel appliances really pop. Dark quartz options include:
- Midnight – A rich, jet-black quartz countertop color accented with thin white spider vein patterns.
- Starry Night – Polished black quartz with metallic silver flecks resembling an evening sky.
- Onyx – Whites swirls on solid black recreate the look of prized onyx stone.
- Galaxy – Black quartz with small white and silver speckles evokes the vast night sky.
Don’t think quartz only comes in neutral shades! Vibrant quartz options include:
- Mint – Cool green quartz for a refreshing pop of color.
- Ruby – Deep red quartz countertops with white marbling for drama.
- Azul – Blue and gray swirls on a crisp white background resemble ocean waves.
- Sunset – Warm peach and brown tones resemble a desert sunset.
Pros & Cons of Quartz Countertops
If you are weighing up countertop options, understanding the pros and cons of quartz can help inform your decision. Here is an overview of the key benefits and drawbacks of quartz countertops.
Pros of Quartz Countertops
Durability – Made from one of nature’s hardest minerals, quartz stands up to scratches, stains, chips, and heat.
Low Maintenance – Quartz requires very little regular care. It does not need frequent sealing or polishing.
Hygienic – The non-porous surface inhibits bacterial growth, helpful for food prep areas.
Stain Resistant – The resins make quartz extremely stain proof compared to softer stones.
Consistency – Engineered quartz offers uniform patterning and minimal variation between slabs.
Variety of Colors – Quartz comes in virtually any color thanks to dyeing capabilities.
Mimics High-End Stone – Quartz realistically emulates luxury stones like marble and granite.
More Affordable – Quartz costs less than many premium natural stone options.
Cons of Quartz Countertops
Not Heat Proof – While resistant, extreme direct heat can damage quartz surfaces over time.
Somewhat Prone to Scratches – Quartz is scratch-resistant but not scratch-proof. Heavy use can lead to faint marks over time.
Seams Visible – The manufacturing process means seams between slabs are more apparent than natural stone.
Lacks Uniqueness – The consistency means quartz lacks the true one-of-a-kind look of natural stone slabs.
Requires Professional Installation – Special equipment is needed to cut and install quartz countertops.
Higher Cost than Laminate – Quartz is more affordable than stone but still costs more than options like laminate.
Should You Choose Quartz or Granite Countertops?
Granite and quartz are two of the most popular countertop choices. But should you opt for traditional granite or engineered quartz? Here is a look at how granite and quartz countertops compare.
While granite is incredibly hard, quartz’s engineered composition makes it even more scratch and chip resistant. Quartz also better resists heat damage from hot pots and pans.
With endless natural patterning, granite offers a true one-of-a-kind look. But quartz provides immense color diversity with uniform speckling. Either option provides attractiveness and luxury.
Winner: Personal Preference
Due to being somewhat porous, granite requires periodic sealing to prevent staining. Quartz rarely needs sealing thanks to its non-porous resins.
Quartz pricing has come down but still sits 10-20% above basic level granite, making it a significant investment. Granite wins on lower cost.
Which is Better Overall?
For those wanting the prestige of natural stone with less maintenance, quartz makes an excellent choice. Granite remains ideal for buyers wanting a truly unique look at a lower price point.
Both offer durability and an upscale appearance. But quartz delivers added practicality. Quartz strikes an ideal balance that appeals to most homeowners.
How Much Do Quartz Countertops Cost?
One of the biggest considerations when choosing new countertops is cost and budget. Here is an overview of what to expect when it comes to quartz countertop pricing.
Factors Affecting Quartz Countertop Cost
Several key factors impact the total installation cost of quartz countertops:
- Color and Style – More complex patterns and premium colors cost more than basic options.
- Thickness – Standard thickness is 3 cm. Thicker options (up to 4 cm) increase cost.
- Number of Seams – More seams means more fabrication time which adds cost.
- Edge Profiles – Decorative edge designs cost more than standard squared-off edges.
- Backsplashes – Integrated backsplashes or accent strips add expense compared to no backsplash.
- Size and Layout – More surface area equals higher material costs. Angles, curves and cutouts also add cost.
Quartz Countertop Cost Per Square Foot
On average, installed quartz countertops range from $60 – $100 per square foot. Basic white or light gray quartz options start around $60 per square foot. Premium quartz costs $80 – $100 per square foot on average.
Total Installed Costs
Here are some examples of total estimated costs for installed quartz countertops:
- Small Kitchen (30 sq ft): $2,100
- Large Kitchen (50 sq ft): $3,500
- Master Bath (25 sq ft): $1,750
Always get detailed quotes from countertop fabricators based on your specific project. But in general, expect to pay $3,000 to $5,000 for a full set of quartz countertops in the average home kitchen.
Is Quartz Worth the Investment?
Quartz does cost more than options like laminate. But most homeowners find the durability, low maintenance, and aesthetics make it worth the investment.
The resale value and luxury look added by quartz countertops can more than offset the higher initial cost over time. For long-term enjoyment, quartz delivers lasting quality and performance.
Quartz Countertop Colors & Patterns
One of the biggest appeals of quartz is the variety of colors and patterns available. Here is an overview of the range of colors and styles found in quartz slabs.
Crisp whites remain the most popular as they open up smaller spaces. Choices range from bright white to creamy marble-inspired options. Names like Windermere, Furano, and Carrara clue buyers into the look.
Light gray delivers the popular “greige” look. Charcoal and black grays offer upscale elegance. Silver-threaded grays like Eternal give an intriguing metallic sheen. Gray-based quartz provides a versatile neutral backdrop.
Dramatic stripes, bold solid black, or subtle white speckling covers any black quartz option desired, from midnight black to inky noir. Black quartz makes kitchen elements pop.
Warm creamy beiges offer familiar tones found in natural stone. Soft beige with faint gray veining makes a versatile but upscale neutral. Bolder beiges feature swirling brown tones for earthiness.
While less common, striking blue quartz makes a brilliant focal point. Pale sky blue evokes serene water while cobalt options create a dramatic punch. Blue quartz often includes wisps of white for depth.
Subtle pale minty greens provide a tranquil mood. Vivacious emerald options make for an adventurous yet natural look. Green quartz works well for spaces wanting an organic flair.
How to Care for Quartz Countertops
One appeal of quartz countertops is their low maintenance requirements. But some periodic cleaning and care will keep quartz looking like new. Here are top tips for caring for quartz.
- For daily cleaning, use a mild soap and water. Avoid harsh cleansers which can damage the finish.
- Blot spills immediately to prevent stains. Don’t let liquids sit.
- Make a simple cleaning spray of vinegar, water, and mild dish soap to keep quartz sparkling.
- Use a non-abrasive sponge or soft cloth when cleaning. Never use scouring pads.
- Rinse thoroughly after cleaning and towel dry to prevent water marks.
- Always use a cutting board and never slice directly on the counter.
- Don’t place hot pans, skillets, or oven trays directly on the quartz. Use trivets and hot pads.
- Apply sealants around the edges to prevent moisture seeping between quartz and cabinets.
- Avoid harsh chemicals and cleaners like bleach, paint removers, and oven cleaners.
- Immediately wipe up food spills which can lead to staining if left for prolonged periods.
Treating Stains and Marks
- Blot any stains with a damp cloth and mild detergent. Don’t aggressively scrub.
- For dried spills, scrape off any residue and clean with a wet sponge using minimal pressure.
- Use a ceramic cooktop cleaner for stubborn marks. Test cleaners on a small area first.
- Avoid abrasive scrub sponges and products containing acids or ammonia which can etch quartz.
Quartz Countertop FAQs
Still have questions about quartz countertops? Here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about quartz.
Does Quartz Need to be Sealed?
Unlike granite, quartz does not require regular sealing. The resins make quartz non-porous and resistant to stains and damage without sealants. However, sealing is recommended around the edges near the sink and backsplash.
Can You Cut on Quartz Countertops?
Always use a cutting board when slicing, dicing, or chopping on quartz. While durable, direct contact from knives will eventually cause scratches and marks over time.
How Long Do Quartz Countertops Last?
With proper care and maintenance, quartz countertops are expected to last 15 to 25 years or more. The long-term durability and non-porous nature give quartz exceptional longevity compared to other materials.
Does Quartz Stain Easily?
Quartz is considered stain-resistant but not 100% stain-proof. Spills should still be wiped up promptly. With routine care, it is unlikely quartz will stain under normal use. Some darker colors may show marks more noticeably.
Can You Repair Quartz Countertops?
Minor damage like light scratches can often be buffed and polished out of quartz countertops by a pro. But deep cracks, chips or serious impacts usually require full replacement of damaged slabs.
With an attractive stone-like look combined with durability and low maintenance, it is easy to see why quartz has become the trendy countertop material of choice for today’s homes. Its resistance to stains, scratches and heat damage ensures quartz countertops will stay looking like new for many years.
With styles and colors to fit any décor, quartz offers the designer look of natural stone without some of the hassles. While not inexpensive upfront, a quality quartz installation should provide long-lasting performance and enjoyment. Thanks to its practicality and aesthetic appeal, for most homeowners, quartz represents the ideal intersection between style and function.