Quartz countertops have become an increasingly popular option for kitchen and bathroom remodels in recent years. Often referred to as “engineered stone”, quartz countertops are made from ground natural quartz crystals combined with resins and pigments. This manufacturing process allows quartz to be molded into countertops with an appearance similar to natural stone, but with higher durability.
But are quartz countertops really worth the investment? In this in-depth article, we’ll examine the pros and cons, costs, maintenance, and styles of quartz countertops to help you decide if they are the right choice for your home remodel.
What is Quartz?
Before diving into the specifics of quartz countertops, it’s helpful to understand exactly what quartz is.
Quartz is a mineral that is found abundantly in nature. It is made up of molecules of silicon and oxygen that form into crystals. Natural quartz is very hard and scratch-resistant.
For countertops, quartz crystals are ground up into a powder and then combined with resins and pigments. The resins bind the quartz particles together to form a solid slab. Pigments are added to achieve different colors and patterns.
This blend of approximately 90% ground quartz and 10% polymers and pigments allows manufacturers to create countertop slabs that maintain the look and feel of natural stone, while gaining added durability.
Pros of Quartz Countertops
Now that we’ve covered the basics of what quartz countertops are made of, let’s look at some of the key advantages that they offer over natural stone and other countertop materials:
One of the standout features of quartz is its incredible durability. The resin binds the quartz particles into an extremely hard, non-porous surface that can withstand years of heavy use without scratching or staining.
Quartz rates around a 7 on the Mohs hardness scale, compared to a 4 for marble. This makes it much more scratch resistant than natural stone. It also does not require periodic resealing like granite or marble.
The material is engineered to be resistant to chips, cracks, and scratches that can occur over time with natural stone countertops. This makes quartz an ideal choice for busy kitchens and bathrooms.
Along with the heightened durability, quartz requires very little maintenance compared to other natural stone countertops.
Since it is non-porous, quartz does not need to be sealed. Spills and messes can simply be wiped away without worrying about stains setting in.
You also don’t have to worry about polishing or re-sanding quartz countertops to keep them looking like new. Simple cleaning with soap and water is all that is required.
For most homeowners, the ease of caring for quartz is a major selling point. Maintaining the look of your counters is effortless.
Quartz offers an enormous range of colors, patterns, and finishes that emulate the look of natural stone. From white marbling to dark granites, you can find a quartz material that fits your aesthetic preferences.
The appearance can also be incredibly consistent. Natural stone has natural variances that can make matching slabs tricky. With engineered quartz, you can select a precise color and pattern that remains uniform across all countertops.
The variety in appearances combined with uniformity within a selected pattern makes it easy to customize your space.
Unlike granite and marble, quartz does not have microscopic pores that can harbor bacteria and allow stains to set in. The tight molecular structure makes it non-porous and more hygienic.
For kitchen countertops in particular, the non-porous nature inhibits bacterial growth and prevents possible health hazards. It also means food prep areas stay cleaner for longer.
Heat and Scratch Resistant
Thanks to the durable resins used in the manufacturing process, quartz counters are extremely resistant to heat and scratches.
Hot pots and pans can be placed directly on the surface without damage. You don’t have to worry about scratches from cutting or chopping either.
This allows you to use your counters without having to be overly cautious about damaging them. For busy kitchens, this is a major perk.
Cons of Quartz Countertops
Although quartz offers many benefits, there are some potential drawbacks to weigh as well:
Quartz is priced as a premium countertop material, ranging from $80-150 per square foot installed. This is more expensive than laminate or tile, and similar in cost to many granite options.
However, unlike granite, there is less opportunity to find deals on quartz. The manufacturing process makes discounted slabs rare. For homeowners on tight budgets, the cost may be prohibitive.
One downside of engineered quartz compared to natural stone is less opportunity for customization.
The set patterns and colors offered by manufacturers can be limiting compared to the unique markings and veining found in granite and marble. If you want a truly one-of-a-kind look, quartz may underwhelm.
The size of quartz slabs is also restricted to what manufacturers produce. For larger surfaces, seams between slabs become necessary and can be more apparent.
Requires Professional Installation
Large slabs of quartz require specialty tools and experience to install. Trying DIY installation of quartz is not advisable.
You must hire professional countertop installers to cut and mount the slabs properly, adding to your total project investment.
Can Stain from Prolonged Exposure
Although quartz has excellent stain resistance, prolonged exposure to certain products can cause discoloration. Oils, dyes, and waxes left on the surface for extended time periods may absorb and stain the material.
Stains are still unlikely with proper cleaning, but quartz can be more prone to stubborn discoloration issues than some materials like granite.
The resins used to make quartz counters limit its ability to be recycled. Most quartz countertops are sent to landfills at the end of their lifespan.
For homeowners looking for eco-friendly options, this could be a deterrent. However, some quartz manufacturers are now offering recycling programs to combat this issue.
Cost of Quartz Countertops
One of the biggest factors in deciding whether to choose quartz is cost. Let’s take a closer look at the price range you can expect:
- Quartz Slab Prices: The slabs themselves will cost $40-100 per square foot. Low-end options start around $40. Most mid-range styles run $55-75. High-end, designer patterns can reach $100 per square foot.
- Installation Cost: Professional installation will add $35-75 on average per square foot for a typical kitchen or bathroom. Complex layouts or lightweight materials may cost slightly more.
- Total Installed Cost: When combined, most homeowners spend $80-150 per square foot for quartz countertops fully installed. Total costs for a medium or large kitchen often end up in the $3,000-$5,000 range.
As you budget for your project, keep in mind that thicker slabs, intricate edge profiles, special backsplashes, and additional finishing pieces will increase the final price. There can be a wide range based on your specific kitchen or bath layout.
Quartz maintains its resale value well, allowing you to recoup much of your investment should you sell your home. And money saved from lack of maintenance can make quartz even more economical long-term.
How to Maintain Quartz Countertops
Caring for quartz surfaces is refreshingly simple:
- Daily Cleaning: Use a soft sponge or cloth with warm water and mild soap. Avoid abrasive cleansers. Blot spills promptly to prevent possible staining.
- Monthly Deep Cleaning: Once a month, give counters a thorough cleaning using a quartz-specific cleaner or a mix of warm water and clear ammonia. This will remove any residual buildup.
- Reapply Sealant: Unlike natural stone, quartz counters never need to be sealed. The material is non-porous.
- Avoid Harsh Chemicals: Do not use products with bleach, alkaline, or acidic compounds. Stick to gentler cleansers designed for engineered stone.
- Inspect for Damage: Periodically inspect countertops for any chips or cracks needing repair. Gently sand out light scratches. Refrain from excessive pressure in any one area to prevent damage.
By following these simple maintenance practices, your quartz counters will stay looking like new for decades. No intensive polishing or sealing needed!
Popular Quartz Brands
If you decide that quartz is the right material for your kitchen or bath remodel, there are many excellent brands to choose from:
Made in the USA, Cambria offers a wide variety of stylish designs from marble-looks to modern concrete. Durability and low maintenance are hallmarks of their quartz products.
This pioneering quartz company based in Israel has been producing quality engineered stone since 1987. Their extensive catalog of patterns includes popular whites, grays, and dark granites.
Part of the Cosentino Group, Silestone is popular for vivid colors and bold patterns like their unique Eternal Calacatta Gold. They utilize recycled materials in their manufacturing process.
Under their Q Premium Natural Quartz brand, MSI offers budget-friendly options that mimic natural stone at lower price points. Their products carry a limited lifetime warranty.
Viatera’s specialty is creating unique quartz slabs made from semi-precious gemstones like amethyst, citrine, and agate. They combine natural beauty and quartz durability.
Should You Choose Quartz Countertops?
So should you choose quartz for your next kitchen or bathroom remodel? Here are some key questions to help decide:
- How heavily will it be used? If your space will see tons of daily use, quartz is a smart pick. It will stay looking pristine despite busy kitchens or bathrooms.
- What is your budget? Quartz is premium priced but competitive with granite or marble when professionally installed. If cost is not as much of a concern, quartz delivers major durability.
- Do you like matte or glossy finishes? Quartz can be polished to a gleaming high-gloss or have a natural concrete-like matte finish. This versatility makes it suitable for all types of decor styles.
- Are you looking for low maintenance? One of quartz’s biggest perks is minimal upkeep. No sealing or frequent polishing needed.Easy cleaning keeps quartz counters tidy.
- How important is appearance? With so many patterns available, quartz provides plenty of appealing aesthetics that mimic marble, granite, and more. Less customization is available compared to natural stone though.
Taking these factors into account can help determine if investment in a quartz countertop is the right move for creating your dream kitchen or bathroom. Carefully weighing the pros and cons allows you to make the most informed choice.
Frequently Asked Questions About Quartz Countertops
Many homeowners have additional questions about quartz when considering it as a countertop material. Here are concise answers to some of the most common queries:
Is quartz healthier than granite?
Quartz has a non-porous surface resistant to bacteria growth, making it generally healthier than porous granite. However, both materials are safe and hygienic when cleaned properly.
How thick should a quartz countertop be?
Quartz countertops should be a minimum of 2 cm (3/4″) thick. 3 cm (1 1/4″) provides even more durability. Go thicker if you plan for overhangs or unsupported spans.
Can you cut on a quartz countertop?
Yes, quartz stands up well to cutting with sharp knife blades. Use a cutting board to protect the surface and avoid excessive pressure in one spot.
Does quartz need to be sealed?
No. Unlike natural stone, quartz does not require periodic sealing to prevent stains from being absorbed.
Is quartz scratch resistant?
Quartz has excellent scratch resistance, rated 7 out of 10 on the Mohs hardness scale. Only extremely sharp objects under heavy pressure could potentially scratch quartz.
Can you etch designs into quartz?
No. Etching quartz is not recommended as it damages the structural integrity of the material. Consider choosing a patterned style instead.
Can quartz counters be refinished?
No. Unlike solid surface materials, it’s impossible to sand down or refinish quartz. Replacements are needed for heavily damaged slabs.
Quartz offers distinct advantages that make it a top choice for today’s kitchens and bathrooms. Extreme durability, low maintenance requirements, appealing aesthetics, and pathogen resistance provide practical benefits under heavy use. Easy cleaning keeps quartz counters tidy.
But no material is perfect for every situation. The higher cost of quartz along with some limitations in customization and recyclability should also be carefully weighed. Homeowners looking for a seamless, contemporary look will find quartz counters hard to beat. For those desiring a more unique, traditional style, natural stone may be preferable.
By realistically assessing your budget, style preferences, and how the space will be utilized, you can determine if quartz is the right material choice to create your dream kitchen or bathroom. With proper installation and care, quartz countertops offer lasting beauty and performance for decades to come.