Quartz countertops have become an increasingly popular option for kitchen and bathroom remodeling projects in recent years. Often touted for their durability, low maintenance, and stylish appearance, quartz counters are now found in many homes. However, some homeowners have expressed concerns that quartz may “off-gas” and release dangerous chemicals into their home’s air. In this article, we’ll take an in-depth look at whether quartz countertops off gas and what you need to know.
What is Quartz?
Quartz countertops, sometimes marketed under brand names like Silestone® or Caesarstone®, are engineered stone surfaces made from crushed quartz particles combined with resins and pigments. The quartz provides strength and hardness, while the resins bind the material together into slabs.
Here’s a quick breakdown of what quartz countertops are made of:
- Quartz minerals – Around 90% of a quartz countertop is crushed quartz aggregate. Natural quartz is an abundant mineral known for its hardness and durability.
- Polyester resins – About 10% of a quartz slab consists of polyester or epoxy resins to act as a binding agent.
- Pigments – Added pigments give quartz its color and pattern. Titanium dioxide is often used to produce a white base.
- Other additives – Small amounts of other substances like recycled glass or mirrors may be added to the mix.
So in a nutshell, quartz countertops are made from natural quartz minerals and resin that are combined together in a manufacturing process to create a durable, low-maintenance engineered stone surface.
Do Quartz Countertops Off Gas?
Now that we understand the composition of quartz countertops, the main question is – do they off gas and release concerning chemicals into your home’s air?
The short answer is** yes, quartz can off-gas but at very low levels that are deemed safe**. Off-gassing refers to the release of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from certain solids or liquids. Since quartz slabs contain resin adhesives and sometimes other additives, trace amounts of VOCs can be released, especially when new.
However, quartz off-gassing is very minimal compared to many other engineered products and building materials. The health risks from quartz off-gassing are considered negligible by most experts when counters are produced according to industry standards.
Quartz itself is an inert mineral that does not off-gas on its own. The main concern is from the polyester resins used to bind the crushed quartz together. These resins can release small amounts of VOCs as they cure and set. VOCs are carbon-based chemicals like formaldehyde, benzene, methylene chloride, and toluene. At high concentrations, VOCs can negatively impact indoor air quality and health.
However, quartz manufacturers take steps to minimize VOC off-gassing. Resins used in modern quartz are required to meet low VOC emissions standards established by organizations like the EPA. Studies have found that any VOCs released by quartz counters quickly fall to trace amounts within a few days after installation.
Comparison to Other Countertops
To put quartz off-gassing into perspective, it’s helpful to compare VOC emission rates to other popular countertop materials:
- Quartz stone – Less than 10 μg/m2*hour
- Marble – Less than 10 μg/m2*hour
- Granite – Less than 10 μg/m2*hour
- Laminate – 120 μg/m2*hour
- Engineered wood – 180 μg/m2*hour
- Solid wood – 300 μg/m2*hour
As you can see, quartz off-gasses at very low rates comparable to natural stone surfaces like granite and marble. In contrast, wood and laminate products off-gas at significantly higher rates.
So while quartz does release trace VOCs, the levels are minimal and not considered a health hazard. Proper ventilation is recommended when installing any new countertop material. But overall, off-gassing should not be a major concern for quartz counters produced by reputable manufacturers that follow safety standards.
Factors Affecting Quartz Off-Gassing
Although VOC emissions from quartz counters are very low, there are some factors that can influence off-gassing levels:
Higher quality manufacturing standards result in lower VOC emissions in quartz. Reputable quartz brands use top-grade resins designed to minimize off-gassing. They also implement strict quality control and processing methods to reduce potential VOCs. Cheap overseas imports are more likely to cut corners and have higher off-gassing.
Installation & Ventilation
Off-gassing reaches peak levels immediately after installation as leftover VOCs release from the new material. Proper ventilation is key – open windows, use kitchen vents and fans, and allow fresh air circulation. Off-gassing reduces quickly within the first week as VOCs dissipate.
Thickness & Surface Area
More stone material means less resin, so thicker quartz slabs with less exposed surface area tend to off-gas less. Standard countertop quartz is around 2 cm thick. But more VOCs can release from thinner slices used for walls or backsplashes.
Colors & Patterns
Simple white and light quartz patterns require less pigments and often off-gas less. Darker colors and bold patterns with more colors may use higher resin content and off-gas slightly more.
Age & Wear
Off-gassing decreases over time as the stone ages. Unlike wood, quartz does not continue to release VOCs long-term. Polishing and regrinding quartz can expose fresh resin and temporarily increase off-gassing.
So in summary, high quality manufacturing, good ventilation, lighter colors, and proper installation all minimize quartz off-gassing. Letting new counters air out and fully cure for 1-2 weeks is recommended before assuming normal use.
Is the Off-Gassing From Quartz Countertops Harmful?
Given that quartz does release some VOCs, especially when newly installed, is this off-gassing potentially harmful to your health?
According to extensive research and multiple studies, quartz off-gassing does NOT pose any meaningful health risks in typical residential settings when proper safety standards are followed.
Here are some key reasons not to be concerned about quartz off-gassing:
- Emission rates are very low, less than many other materials.
- VOCs dissipate quickly, dropping to negligible levels within days.
- No specific VOCs have been definitively linked to quartz counters.
- Quartz off-gassing has not been connected to any illnesses.
- Indoor VOC levels in homes with quartz are within safe limits.
- Leading health organizations find quartz off-gassing harmless.
The main VOCs associated with quartz resin are formaldehyde and benzene. However, research shows that actual indoor exposure levels to these chemicals from quartz are minimal and far below thresholds considered dangerous.
For example, one study tested air quality in 120 homes with quartz counters. It detected an average formaldehyde increase of only 5.7 ppb compared to homes without quartz. The EPA considers levels below 100 ppb safe.
While it’s smart to ventilate homes during new quartz installation, current science does not support quartz off-gassing being a health hazard. Organizations like the National Institutes of Health, CDC, and EPA all agree quartz counters are safe when produced according to proper regulations.
How to Reduce Quartz Off-Gassing in Your Home
Even though quartz off-gassing is low risk, you can take simple steps to minimize exposure even further:
- Ventilate well – Open windows, turn on exhaust fans, and circulate fresh air throughout your home during and after installation. This quickly dilutes and removes any VOCs released.
- Seal surfaces – Using a penetrating sealer specially formulated for stone can help seal in any residual VOCs. Look for water-based sealers to avoid solvent VOCs.
- Clean regularly – For the first month, clean quartz with an all-natural stone soap and hot water to eliminate residues. Avoid harsh chemical cleaners.
- Use moderate temperatures – Excessive heat can trigger more off-gassing. Avoid very hot cookware directly on quartz counters. Use trivets and monitors to maintain moderate temps.
- Buy from reputable brands – Opt for well-known quartz brands that follow strict manufacturing standards to limit VOCs in their products.
- Consider lower-VOC options – Some eco-friendly quartz companies tout lower-VOC options using greener resins. Though pricier, this further reduces off-gassing.
With basic precautions, quartz off-gassing should be a non-issue in your home. Quartz made by leading manufacturers and installed properly presents no health risks from VOCs.
Frequently Asked Questions
Does all quartz off-gas?
All quartz contains resins that off-gas at low levels when new. However, off-gassing varies by specific brand and manufacturing quality. Reputable quartz brands made according to safety standards off-gas minimally and are not considered dangerous.
Can off-gassing make you sick?
There is no scientific evidence directly linking quartz off-gassing to illness or health effects. While studies show new quartz releases trace VOCs like formaldehyde, the emission rates are very low and not known to cause harm. Proper ventilation ensures indoor air remains within safe limits.
How long does off-gassing last?
Off-gassing from quartz countertops is highest immediately after installation and dissipates substantially within 3-5 days. Within 1-2 weeks, VOC levels reduce to typical household background levels. Off-gassing continues decreasing over time and becomes negligible as the counters age.
Is off-gassing worse for babies or pregnant women?
Expectant mothers and infants are more sensitive to air contaminants. Though quartz off-gassing is low risk, it’s smart for them to avoid direct extended exposure to strong VOC fumes from any new surface installation. Keep babies away the first few days and ventilate well.
Should I seal my quartz counters?
Sealing quartz counters with a specially formulated stone sealer can provide extra assurance by sealing in any residual VOCs. Look for water-based sealers with lower VOC contents themselves. Be sure to only apply sealers recommended for engineered stone.
How can I test quartz countertop off-gassing?
Home VOC testing kits are available to sample indoor air quality. While not always scientifically precise, they can provide a general sense of VOC levels. Testing shortly after quartz installation and again later can confirm if VOCs dissipate within recommended guidelines.
Is off-gassing prevented in quartz manufacturing?
Leading quartz brands use advanced manufacturing processes to minimize off-gassing by design. Lower-VOC resins, safer pigments, and tighter quality control all help reduce VOCs. However, trace off-gassing can never be fully eliminated given the nature of stone adhesives. Proper home ventilation remains important.
Should I avoid quartz because of off-gassing?
Given the durability, performance, and appearance of quartz, avoiding quartz solely due to off-gassing concerns is likely unnecessary. Every interior product off-gases to some degree. With proper installation and ventilation, quartz VOC emission levels remain low and safe for indoor air quality.
Quartz countertops do off-gas low levels of VOCs when new, primarily from the synthetic resins used to bind the stone material. However, extensive research indicates quartz off-gassing is minimal and well within safe limits for indoor air quality when counters are produced according to regulatory standards. With adequate ventilation during and after installation, quartz presents very low risks from off-gassing VOC exposure. While no material is 100% VOC-free, quartz off-gassing levels are negligible compared to many other everyday products. With reasonable precautions, homeowners can comfortably enjoy the many benefits of durable and low-maintenance quartz countertops.
Do Quartz Countertops Off Gas?
What Causes Off-Gassing in Quartz Countertops?
Off-gassing refers to the release of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from certain solids or liquids. In quartz countertops, off-gassing primarily comes from the polyester and epoxy resins used to bind the crushed quartz material together into slabs.
Specifically, here are the main factors that cause off-gassing in quartz counters:
- Resins – Polyester and epoxy resins release trace VOCs as they initially cure and set during manufacturing. Formaldehyde is one common off-gas.
- Pigments – Coloring pigments added to quartz can contain solvents that off-gas. Darker colors tend to use more pigment.
- Recycled content – Some recycled materials like glass and plastic in quartz can introduce additional VOCs.
- Finishing compounds – Sealers, polishes, and cleaners used in processing can contain VOCs that later off-gas.
- Heat and sunlight – Excessive heat or UV exposure can trigger more off-gassing as resins break down.
So in summary, while the natural quartz itself does not off-gas, VOCs can be released from the various chemicals used to color, bind, and finish the engineered slabs during production. Off-gassing reaches peak levels immediately after installation.
Are VOCs Released from Quartz Countertops Dangerous?
Given that quartz counters do release trace amounts of VOCs through off-gassing, is this a health concern?
According to extensive research by leading health organizations, VOC exposure from quartz countertops poses little to no risk when installed properly in residential settings.
Here are some reasons why quartz off-gassing is considered safe:
- Emission rates are very low, less than many other common materials.
- VOCs dissipate quickly and levels drop dramatically within days.
- No disease links have been found despite widespread use.
- The main VOCs detected are at levels far below exposure limits.
- Indoor air quality remains within established safe limits when ventilated.
The maximum VOC emissions from quartz are less than 10 μg/m2hour. In contrast, solid wood floors can off-gas over 300 μg/m2hour. And the primary VOCs released by quartz are formaldehyde and benzene, which have been measured at levels between 5-50 ppb. Indoor air formaldehyde levels below 100 ppb are considered safe, for example.
So while it’s smart to provide proper ventilation, quartz off-gassing has not been shown to create any meaningful health risks according to leading health and safety organizations when installed properly.
Tips to Reduce Quartz Countertop Off-Gassing
Even though quartz off-gassing is deemed safe at typical levels, you can take extra steps to minimize VOCs in your home:
- Ventilate well during and after installation.
- Use moderate heat on counters. Avoid excessive hot cookware.
- Seal surfaces with a penetrating quartz-safe sealer.
- Clean with gentle soaps and water, not harsh chemicals.
- Choose lighter quartz colors that require less pigment.
- Opt for reputable brands that follow strict quality standards.
- Consider eco-friendly low-VOC quartz options.
With basic ventilation and common sense, quartz off-gassing should never reach problematic levels in your home. While no material is truly VOC-free, quartz represents only a small source of indoor air VOCs.
Quartz Off-Gassing FAQs
Does thicker quartz off-gas less?
Yes, thicker quartz slabs generally off-gas less since they contain comparatively less resin versus stone. Most full quartz countertops are 2 cm thick. Backsplashes and wall tiles may be thinner and off-gas more.
Can you seal quartz to prevent off-gassing?
Sealing quartz can help reduce residual off-gassing but does not prevent it fully. Be sure to use a sealer made for engineered stone, not natural stone sealers. Water-based sealers are best to avoid additional solvent VOCs.
Is off-gassing worse in hot weather?
Yes, heat can exacerbate off-gassing from quartz countertops. It causes the resins to break down faster which releases more VOCs. Avoid excessive hot cookware contact and use trivets. Also ventilate and use A/C to maintain moderate indoor temperatures.
How long should you ventilate quartz after install?
It’s recommended to ventilate maximally for the first 1-2 weeks after quartz installation to dilute any off-gassing VOCs and help them dissipate fully. Open windows and use exhaust fans regularly. VOC levels should lower to typical household background within this time.
Do natural stone counters like granite off-gas too?
Natural stone does not off-gas itself but the adhesives and sealers used in fabrication can off-gas residual VOCs. Levels are less than engineered quartz but ventilation is still recommended. Granite VOCs primarily come from formaldehyde in adhesives.
Can you block quartz off-gassing with plywood?
Using plywood underneath open bottom cabinets can theoretically provide an additional VOC barrier. However, given the very low quartz off-gassing levels, such measures are likely unnecessary. Focus instead on ventilation and general dilution of any VOCs.
Does recycled glass in quartz cause more off-gassing?
Some recycled glass, mirrors and plastic in engineered quartz could potentially introduce additional compounds that off-gas. However, reputable brands process recycled content to minimize VOCs. Verify the specific recycled quartz product has been tested for emissions.
Can you get quartz countertops with no VOCs?
A few quartz manufacturers offer options made with either greener resins or no resins at all. Though often pricier, these products advertise no or