Quartz countertops are popular choices for kitchens and bathrooms due to their durability, aesthetics, and low maintenance. However, some homeowners wonder if quartz countertops expand and contract like natural stone and other materials. Here is a detailed look at whether quartz countertops expand and contract.
What is Quartz?
Quartz is an engineered stone made from crushed quartz crystals combined with resin and pigments. The quartz content typically ranges from 90-94%, while resins make up the remaining 6-10%.
The resins bind the crushed quartz particles together to form a durable, non-porous material. Quartz slabs are manufactured under intense heat and pressure to create a solid surface.
Do Quartz Countertops Expand and Contract?
Unlike natural stone, quartz countertops do not significantly expand or contract with temperature changes. Here’s why:
Minimal Moisture Absorption
Natural stone like granite, soapstone, and marble are porous and absorb moisture. Absorbed moisture causes the material to expand slightly. As the stone dries and releases this moisture, it contracts.
Quartz is non-porous, so it does not absorb appreciable moisture. Without moisture absorption, expansion and contraction are negligible.
Quartz is engineered to withstand temperature fluctuations. It can tolerate heat up to 212°F without damage. Natural stone is more prone to thermal expansion and stress fractures under heat.
While all materials expand and contract slightly with temperature swings, quartz’s thermal stability keeps this expansion and contraction minimal.
The manufacturing process creates an even, stable product. The crushed quartz particles and resins are combined in precise ratios and molded under pressure. This consistent production yields uniform slabs that behave predictably through seasons and temperature changes.
Comparison to Other Countertop Materials
Here is how the thermal expansion and contraction of quartz compares to other common countertop materials:
- Granite: More prone to expansion and contraction issues due to moisture absorption.
- Marble: Very porous and susceptible to cracking from expansion and contraction.
- Soapstone: Can gradually expand and contract after installation. Requires seasonal sealing.
- Slate: Comparable to quartz. Very low expansion and contraction.
- Engineered wood: Swelling and shrinkage issues from moisture exposure.
- Stainless steel: Minimal expansion and contraction.
- Concrete: Can gradually expand and contract due to moisture exposure over time.
- Laminate: Swelling from moisture absorption is possible.
Quartz’s thermal stability makes it one of the most dimensionally stable countertop materials available.
Does Heat Damage Quartz?
While quartz withstands temperatures up to 212°F with minimal impact, extreme heat can damage the solid surface. Quartz manufacturers recommend using trivets or hot pads under crockpots, pans, and other very hot cookware. High heat can potentially:
- Singe the surface, causing discoloration
- Cause small cracks
- Weaken joints if the slab has seams
The resins in quartz lose strength at temperatures exceeding 300°F. Cracks become more likely above this threshold. Damaging a quartz countertop with heat does not typically impact function, but it can detract from the appearance.
Factors that Contribute to Cracking
Though quartz itself is dimensionally stable, other factors can lead to cracks in a quartz countertop installation:
Improper Support: Quartz slabs require very sturdy cabinetry support. Any flexing or movement places stress on the rigid quartz.
Poor Seams: Seamed quartz countertops rely on precise fabrication for crack-free performance. Minor seam separation allows movement that can fracture quartz.
Impact Damage: A heavy impact, such as a dropped pan, can potentially crack quartz. Cracks are more likely if the underlying support is inadequate.
Tension: Pulling, prying or applying uneven lateral force on an overhang or thin section can bend quartz past its structural limits.
With proper installation, support, and care, quartz countertops should provide years of crack-free performance. But extreme heat or impact should be avoided.
FAQs About Quartz Expansion and Contraction
Does quartz expand or contract with humidity changes?
No. Quartz is non-porous and does not absorb humidity or moisture. This prevents expansion and contraction issues from humidity changes.
Do quartz countertops crack from normal use?
No. Properly installed quartz countertops should not crack under normal use. Cracking would indicate inadequate structural support, damage from impact, or fabrication errors.
Should I expect sealing, repolishing, or maintenance due to expansion/contraction?
No. Quartz requires no sealing, polishing, or periodic maintenance related to dimensional changes. Its stability means countertops maintain their original finish long-term.
Willquartz crack if it is installed outdoors?
Possibly. Large temperature swings outdoors may exert enough force to overcome quartz’s dimensional stability and cause cracking. Quartz is best suited for indoor installation.
Do I need to allow gaps during quartz installation for expansion and contraction?
Usually not. Quartz has minimal movement, so very little gap allowance is needed during fabrication and installation.
Quartz countertops offer homeowners an extremely durable and visually appealing option. A key benefit is quartz’s dimensional stability. Unlike natural stone, quartz does not readily absorb moisture or react to temperature changes. This prevents the expansion and contraction that can potentially lead to cracking and maintenance issues. With proper installation and reasonable care, quartz countertops provide stable, resilient performance for many years. Their minimal thermal expansion makes quartz a smart choice for kitchens and baths.