Quartz countertops have become an increasingly popular option for kitchen and bathroom remodeling projects in recent years. But how good are quartz countertops really? Here is an in-depth look at the pros and cons of quartz countertops to help you decide if they are the right choice for your home.
What is Quartz?
Quartz countertops, sometimes referred to as engineered stone countertops, are made from ground natural quartz crystals combined with resins and pigments. The quartz content typically makes up 90-94% of the material, while the rest is polymer resins that bind the quartz particles together and pigments that determine the color and pattern.
The resins make quartz more flexible and workable than pure natural stone. But unlike solid surface materials such as Corian, quartz countertops contain a high percentage of natural stone, making them very durable and heat-resistant. The result is a manufactured product that maintains the beauty of natural stone without some of the maintenance issues.
Pros of Quartz Countertops
Extremely Durable and Low Maintenance
One of the biggest advantages of quartz countertops is their exceptional durability. They are resistant to scratches, stains, burns, and damage from daily wear and tear. Unlike natural stone, quartz does not require periodic sealing to prevent staining. Simple cleaning with mild soap and water is all that is required to keep quartz counters looking like new for years.
Quartz’s non-porous surface makes it highly resistant to staining from spills like wine, coffee, and juices that can easily stain natural stone counters. Quartz countertops are also unaffected by exposure to acidic foods like tomatoes or citrus. Etching and erosion from acidic substances is not a concern.
In addition, quartz counters stand up well to accidental impacts. A glancing blow that would gouge wood or natural stone barely leaves a mark on a quartz surface. These countertops are made to handle the demands of busy kitchens.
One of the most appealing aspects of quartz is the wide variety of colors, patterns, and textures available. From subtle solid hues to bold granite-like patterns, quartz offers endless design possibilities to fit any style. The pigments blended into the material during manufacturing allow the creation of unique colors and patterns not found in natural stone.
The appearance can range from a smooth, solid surface to rough, speckled stone textures. With different edge profiles and thickness options, quartz provides all the visual interest of natural stone but with more color consistency. Since slabs are man-made, the pattern and tone match across pieces precisely.
Resists Heat Damage
Quartz is impressively resistant to heat damage. According to manufacturer warranties, it can withstand brief exposure to temperatures up to 300 degrees Fahrenheit without any problems. This means quartz counters can handle hot pans, baking sheets fresh from the oven, and other cooking tasks that might damage other surfaces.
The heat tolerance makes quartz an ideal choice for avid home cooks and bakers who want both beauty and utility in their kitchen. However, it is still important to use trivets and hot pads with extremely hot cookware to prevent possible damage over time. The resins in quartz can lose integrity when exposed to sustained high heat.
The dense, non-porous nature of quartz makes it impervious to moisture. Liquids will bead up on the surface rather than soak in. This prevents the growth of mold and mildew that can occur with porous natural stone. Cracks and crevices that can trap debris are non-existent with quartz.
The solid structure throughout means quartz counters will not harbor bacteria or microorganisms. For those concerned about hygiene and food safety, quartz offers a clean, germ-free surface for food prep.
One of the best aspects of engineered quartz is the ability to customize the size, shape, and design. Professional installers can form pieces to precisely fit the space, including curving countertops, integrating sinks, creating counters of any length, and fabricating seamless joints.
The installation process is also less messy than working with natural stone slabs. There is no need for heavy stone cutting and shaping machinery in your home. Installers make precision cuts and edges in the workshop to create pieces that fit perfectly.
Cons of Quartz Countertops
Although quartz has many advantages over natural stone and other countertop materials, there are a few potential drawbacks to consider:
Requires Professional Installation
While DIY-inclined homeowners can install some countertop materials like granite tiles or butcher block themselves, quartz countertops require professional fabrication and installation. The material is too dense and unforgiving to cut without specialized tools.
This means you must factor the cost of professional installation by an experienced countertop company into your budget. However, the end result of perfectly custom-fit counters can be worth the investment.
Seams May Be Visible
Due to the precise fabrication process, quartz countertop seams are barely noticeable on a newly installed counter. However, the seams can become more visible over time as the material’s polish wears and countertops get dirty.
With natural stones like granite, the variation in the material helps hide seams. But with uniform engineered quartz, seams are often highlighted as the counters age. Keeping quartz counters spotlessly clean and occasionally re-polishing can help minimize the appearance of seams.
Sustainability is a concern often raised regarding engineered stone products like quartz. Since quartz counters are a composite of natural stone and plastic resins, they are challenging to recycle or repurpose once removed.
If replacing quartz counters, the old countertops will likely end up in landfills. However, advancements are being made in developing ways to recycle engineered stone. Some quartz manufacturers are also looking for ways to increase the recycled content used in their products.
Can Chip if Subjected to Impact
While quartz counters are highly impact-resistant for normal daily use, they can chip if subjected to a heavy impact or blunt force. Dropping a heavy object on a quartz countertop from a height may cause chips or cracks. Quartz lacks the resiliency of materials like solid surface that “self-heal” minor damages.
However, chips can often be smoothed and polished out by a pro. Cracks may require a replacement piece if severe. Avoiding excessive impact is important to maintain the appearance of quartz counters.
Initial Cost is Higher than Other Options
Quartz countertops are on the higher end of pricing for countertop materials. Expect to pay $80-150 per square foot installed. While they may cost less than natural stone, quartz counters are pricier than materials like laminate, tile, concrete, or wood.
For buyers on a tight budget, the upfront investment for quartz may be prohibitive. However, fans of quartz argue that the beauty, durability, and longevity make it worth the initial expense over the long run. Weighing total cost against practicality and aesthetic value can make quartz a wise choice.
The Pros and Cons of Popular Quartz Brands
Many companies manufacture quartz slabs and prefabricated countertops. Some of the major brands include Silestone, Caesarstone, Cambria, and Cosentino. Each brand offers unique colors, patterns, and benefits:
Silestone Quartz Countertops
Silestone is known for innovative quartz manufacturing techniques that result in durable, stylish slabs. Pros include exceptional stain, scratch, and scorch resistance. Silestone offers a wide color palette and natural-looking designs. Cons are higher cost and more limited size availability compared to other brands.
Caesarstone Quartz Countertops
Caesarstone quartz provides extensive design choices from traditional to contemporary styles. Pros are great durability, scratch resistance, and a smooth polished finish. Cons are the high price tag and some complaints about customer service.
Cambria Quartz Countertops
Made in the USA, Cambria quartz counters feature unique designs. Pros include stain resistance, durability, and pleasing textures. Cons are the limited color palette and high price. Cambria quartz is only available through authorized dealers.
Cosentino Quartz Countertops
Known for the popular Silestone brand, Cosentino also makes Dekton and Sensa quartz. Pros are innovative style and technology. Cons are primarily higher cost and limited colors compared to competitors.
How Does Quartz Compare to Other Countertop Materials?
Deciding between countertop materials involves weighing factors like cost, durability, appearance, and maintenance. Here is how quartz compares to other popular options:
Granite – Quartz offers more consistency in color and pattern than natural granite. It lacks granite’s heat resistance but needs less sealing. Costs are similar.
Marble – Quartz is much more durable, stain-resistant, and lower maintenance than natural marble. Quartz provides modern colors and patterns not found in marble.
Soapstone – Soapstone is softer and needs frequent sealing. But soapstone is heat-safe. Quartz is more stain-resistant but may scratch from sharp objects. Prices are comparable.
Laminate – Laminate counters scratch easily and lack the stylish appearance of quartz. But laminate costs a fraction of the price. Quartz is viewed as an upgraded material.
Solid Surface – Solid surfaces like Corian are lower cost but lack the beauty of quartz’s natural patterns. Quartz offers greater durability and stain resistance.
Concrete – Poured concrete counters must be sealed and can stain. Quartz needs little maintenance and has a smoother, more refined appearance.
Butcher Block – Wood requires much more maintenance than quartz. Quartz withstands moisture and impact damage better than wood. But wood can be refinished versus replacing quartz.
Tile – Natural stone and ceramic tile countertops require intensive sealing. Grouting also creates grooves that can harbor germs. Quartz offers an elegant, seamless appearance.
How Good is Quartz for Specific Rooms?
Quartz works well in nearly any room as an attractive, functional surface. But it performs exceptionally well for certain applications:
With quartz’s durability, heat-resistance, and stainproof surface, it is perhaps the ideal material for kitchen countertops. Quartz stands up beautifully to the demands of busy kitchens. You never have to worry about hot pots or cutting. And slight messy spills wipe away without leaving a trace.
For those who love to bake and cook, quartz provides an ideal surface that remains in flawless condition for years. The only maintenance needed is cleaning with soap and water.
The water-resistance and non-porous nature of quartz also make it a smart choice for bathroom vanity tops. Its impermeable surface prevents swelling or warping from moisture. Using quartz helps create a hygienic environment by inhibiting mold and mildew growth.
For bathroom applications, a polished surface is recommended to give the counters a glossy glow and facilitate wiping water spots dry. Matte quartz finishes may show water marks over time.
Thanks to its durability and scratch-resistance, quartz is an excellent choice for surfaces that endure heavy daily use. Areas like entryways, laundry rooms, and family spaces with kids and pets are no match for tough quartz counters. You won’t have to worry about constant wear and tear damaging or degrading quartz surfaces.
Natural Quartz vs. Engineered Quartz Countertops
When researching quartz countertops, you may come across terms like “natural quartz” and “engineered quartz.” What is the difference, and which is better for countertops?
Natural or raw quartz refers to pure, unprocessed quartz stone. It is mined from the earth and cut into slabs or tiles. Natural quartz is very durable but is prone to cracks and fissures. Without resins to hold it together, natural quartz fractures easily during shaping and fabrication.
Engineered or manufactured quartz combines ground quartz stone particles with polymer resins and pigments. By blending approximately 95% ground quartz with 5% resins, manufacturers create a durable material that retains the beauty of quartz but with enhanced workability for fabrication and installation.
For countertops, engineered quartz is the better choice for several reasons:
- Seamless appearance without natural cracks and pits
- Flexibility to create customized shapes and edges
- Stain and scratch resistance from resin additives
- Easier cleaning without need for frequent sealing
- Consistent colors and patterns across slabs
Unless desiring a raw, rough, natural stone look, engineered quartz makes the most sense for countertops. The manufacturing process optimizes quartz for practical use in the home while retaining its aesthetic appeal.
Should I Choose Quartz Countertops for My Home?
Quartz offers homeowners many great benefits as a countertop material:
Durability – Quartz counters stand up exceptionally well to heavy use, impact, scratches, heat, and stains. They retain their smooth appearance for years with minimal care.
Low Maintenance – Little maintenance is required beyond occasional cleaning. No sealing or polishing is needed like with natural stone counters.
Hygiene – The non-porous surface inhibits bacteria growth and prevents stains from soaking in.
Customization – Quartz can be fabricated into any shape and size. Curving, edges, cutouts, and seamless appearances are possible.
Stylish Options – From sleek solid colors to bold patterns, quartz comes in endless options to fit your style. Consistent color reduces mismatch between pieces.
Value – Although a significant initial investment, quartz counters add value and appeal to a home. Their longevity provides many years of use and enjoyment.
However, there are some considerations before choosing quartz:
- Higher cost – Due to fabrication and custom install, quartz costs more than materials like laminate. Factor this into your budget.
- Professional installation required – DIY quartz counter install is extremely difficult and will likely result in damage.
- Limited recyclability – Consider end-of-life options if sustainability is important to you.
Overall, quartz makes an exceptional choice if you want beautiful, functional countertops with minimal upkeep. For many homeowners, the initial expense is well worth it. Consult with quartz suppliers and fabricators to decide if quartz is right for your next remodeling or new construction project.
Frequently Asked Questions About Quartz Countertops
Does quartz need to be sealed?
Unlike natural stone, quartz does not require regular sealing. The polymer resins make quartz non-porous so liquids do not soak in. Simple soap and water cleaning is all that is needed. This makes maintenance a breeze.
Can you cut on quartz countertops?
Quartz is extremely cut-resistant compared to other countertop options. However, using cutting boards is still recommended to protect the surface. Avoid cutting directly on quartz to prevent dulling knives or potential scratching over time with heavy use.
How durable and heat-resistant is quartz?
Quartz is very resilient against scratches, chips, cracks, and heat. But extremely high temperatures from hot pans or other sources can damage the resin binders. Always use trivets and hot pads. Quick exposure to heat up to 300°F is fine.
Does quartz stain easily?
Due to its non-porous nature, quartz strongly resists stains from spills, oils, juices, wine, coffee, and more. However, prolonged exposure can result in staining. Wipe up spills quickly just to be safe.
Is quartz cheaper than granite?
Quartz is often slightly less expensive than natural granite when considering the overall installed price. But material costs can overlap between granite and high-end quartz. Granite requires more frequent sealing which adds long-term cost.
How thick should quartz counters be?
A thickness of 2 or 3 cm is recommended for sufficient strength. Thinner 1 cm pieces can crack under impact. Thickness does not affect stain or scratch resistance. Thicker 3 cm provides sturdiness for heavier use.
Can you install quartz counters yourself?
DIY installation is extremely difficult and not advisable for quartz. Special tools and techniques are required. Hire professional countertop installers to ensure a damage-free installation and seamless results.
Quartz offers homeowners an exceptionally strong, stylish, and low-maintenance option when choosing countertop surfaces. While quartz costs more upfront than some materials, it pays dividends through many years of durable beauty and hassle-free upkeep with minimal cleaning required. Its stain, scratch, chip, and heat resistance make quartz perfectly suited for heavy-use kitchens. For those seeking upscale countertops with modern colors and patterns, quartz brings aesthetic qualities impossible in natural stone. Consider quartz when investing in new counters to enhance the usefulness and enjoyment of living spaces for long-lasting satisfaction. With routine care, quartz countertops will maintain their like-new shine and appearance for the lifetime of the home.