How It’s Made: Quartz Countertops

Quartz countertops have become an increasingly popular option for kitchen and bathroom remodeling projects over the past couple of decades. But what exactly are quartz countertops, and how are these beautiful and functional surfaces made? In this in-depth guide, we’ll explore the manufacturing process behind quartz countertops to give you an inside look at how these engineered stone slabs are created.

What is Quartz?

Before we dive into countertop production, it helps to understand what quartz is. Quartz is a mineral that is found abundantly in nature. It’s composed of silicon and oxygen, which form into colorless crystals. Quartz is the second most common mineral on Earth after feldspar.

Pure quartz is extracted from quarries and then crushed and processed to make an engineered material for countertops. By itself, natural quartz crystals are very hard, but they have ragged edges that make them unsuitable for use in countertops. That’s where the engineering process comes in.

From Natural Stone to Engineered Material

To transform raw quartz crystals into slabs suitable for kitchen counters, manufacturers use industrial processes to refine, compound, and strengthen the material. Here are the basic steps:

1. Sourcing and Crushing Quartz

  • Quartz is mined from quarries across the globe, including in Brazil, India, and the United States. Mined quartz contains impurities that must be removed.
  • The raw quartz is crushed into smaller pieces and fragments to make processing easier.

2. Adding Resin and Pigments

  • After initial crushing, small quartz particles are combined with a polymer resin binder, usually polyester or epoxy.
  • Color pigments are added to the quartz/resin mixture to produce different colors and patterns. Common pigments include iron oxide for red tones and carbon for blacks.

3. Mixing the Material

  • The quartz, resin, and pigments are blended together in large mixing machines to evenly distribute the materials.
  • Mixing continues for several hours until the resin fully coats the quartz particles.

4. Pressing into Slabs

  • The engineered material is pressed into thick slabs using huge hydraulic presses applying tons of pressure.
  • Slabs are generally made in dimensions like 115″ x 55″ x 1.25″ to fit common countertop sizes once fabricated.
  • Extreme heat and pressure cause the resin to permanently harden, binding the quartz particles together.

5. Curing the Material

  • After initial pressing, the slabs move to curing ovens. Temperatures reach over 300°F to cure the resin completely.
  • Curing can take several hours for full heat transfer through the thick slabs. This ensures durability.
  • The cured slabs exit the ovens fully hardened and ready for final polishing and fabrication.

How Slabs Are Polished

Freshly pressed slabs look like unfinished concrete before polishing. A smooth glossy surface is achieved through a multi-step grinding and polishing process:

1. Initial Grinding

  • The first step uses coarse diamond grinding pads to level the surface and remove any pressing defects.
  • Progressively finer grit diamond pads are used to prepare the surface for polishing.

2. First Polishing Stage

  • The slab surface is polished with finer grit pads to achieve a preliminary shine.
  • Silicon carbide abrasive pads remove scratches from initial grinding.

3. Final High-Gloss Polishing

  • In the final stage, very fine diamond pads polish the slabs to a smooth, light-reflective glossiness.
  • This mirror-like polish makes the quartz gleam and shimmer.
  • Slabs also pass through special polishers to remove any remaining cloudiness.
  • The polished slabs are then ready for inspection, packaging, and distribution.

How Slabs Are Inspected and Packaged

Before leaving the manufacturing facility, every slab undergoes thorough examination and testing:

  • Visual inspection – Each slab is scanned for aesthetic flaws that would affect appearance. Any cracks, pits, or coloring issues will disqualify the slab.
  • Dimension checks – Slabs are carefully measured to verify they meet specifications for thickness, width, and length.
  • Strength tests – Sample slabs undergo stress tests by applying extreme bending force. This confirms the structural integrity.
  • Quality assurance – Random batches are pulled for destructive testing to check for proper resin curing, hardness, and durability.

Once approved, slabs are packaged vertically on A-frames with protective foam in between each slab. Packages are shipped on trucks to distribution warehouses. Each slab is barcode-labeled for tracking.

From Manufacturing to Installation

After the manufacturing process is complete, slabs make their final journey from factories to kitchen countertops using the following steps:

Distribution to Stone Yards

  • Packaged slabs are trucked to stone yards and distributors across the country where most fabricators purchase their material.

Digital Template of Counter Space

  • The installer makes a digital 3D scan of the kitchen or bathroom to get precise measurements.

Cutting and Fabrication

  • Using the measurements, the slab is cut and fabricated to create finished countertop pieces. Seams and edges are also cut and finished.


  • The fabricator installs the finished quartz countertops in the home, securing them to the cabinetry.

Finishing Touches

  • If needed, any onsite adjustments are made to ensure a perfect fit and professional finish.

And that completes the journey from raw stone to a beautiful engineered countertop surface!

The Benefits of Quartz Countertops

Now that you understand the manufacturing process behind quartz counters, let’s examine some of the benefits that make them a popular choice:

  • Durability – Quartz is harder and more scratch resistant than natural stone. The resin binder creates very durable slabs.
  • Low maintenance – Quartz requires no sealing and little ongoing care. Simple cleaning maintains its beauty.
  • Stain resistance – Quartz has excellent stain resistance due to its nonporous surface. Spills wipe away easily.
  • Color and pattern options – Slabs come in many attractive colors and realistic patterns like marble and granite.
  • Consistent appearance – The manufacturing process ensures consistent color and patterning across the entire slab.
  • Easy installation – Quartz slabs install seamlessly as one piece with no need for grout lines.
  • Hygienic – With no pores or grout lines, quartz counters create a hygienic surface perfect for kitchens.

With this winning combination of features, it’s easy to see why quartz has surged in popularity compared to natural stone alternatives like granite. The controlled manufacturing environment gives quartz an edge.

Frequently Asked Questions About Quartz Countertops

Many homeowners have questions about quartz countertops as they consider options for their kitchen or bath remodeling projects. Here are answers to some of the most common queries:

Is quartz safer and healthier than granite countertops?

Yes, quartz has a nonporous surface that resists bacteria growth much better than natural granite or marble. Granite can absorb bacteria into tiny pores in the stone. With quartz, you don’t have to worry about sealing or harboring germs.

How durable is a quartz countertop?

Quartz has incredible durability thanks to its resin binder. It stands up well to heavy use in busy kitchens. Quartz rates at 7-8 on the Mohs hardness scale, compared to about 4 for marble. Properly cared for, quartz countertops will last for many decades.

Are there any cons to quartz counters?

The only real downside is that quartz lacks the natural uniqueness that many people love about granite and marble. The appearance of quartz is more uniform. Quartz also can’t be refinished like natural stone. But its resilience and low maintenance help offset these factors for most homeowners.

Does quartz come in different thicknesses?

Yes, quartz countertops are fabricated in several standard thicknesses. The most common options are:

  • 3/4 inch – Best for bathroom vanity tops
  • 1 1/4 inches – Standard for kitchen countertops
  • 1 1/2 inches – Provides some extra durability

Thicker slabs are recommended for heavy usage areas or extended countertop runs to prevent any sagging.

How is pricing for quartz counters?

Quartz countertops range from about $60-100 per square foot installed. This compares very favorably to marble or granite. The exact price depends on the brand, color patterns, and thickness. Quartz delivers an affordable low-maintenance solution.

Innovations in Quartz Countertop Manufacturing

The process of engineering quartz slabs continues to evolve through innovation:

  • New patterns – Manufacturers are introducing more mimics of natural marble and granite with nuanced color blending. Slabs with sparkling mica flakes provide a glitzier look.
  • Larger slabs – Factories can now press enormous 125″ x 65″ slabs, allowing for fewer seams in big kitchens. Some modern presses can produce 15-foot-long slab sheets.
  • Thicker options – Extra-thick quartz slabs up to 2 inches provide heavy-duty durability for busy kitchens. The thicker material resists impacts.
  • Special finishes – New polishing techniques create unique matte finishes or weathered, concrete-like looks. These add more diversity to quartz counters.

The Future of Quartz Countertops

Quartz already accounts for over 50% of annual countertop sales in North America, overtaking natural stone surfaces. As manufacturing processes and resin technology continue advancing, the dominance of quartz will likely grow even stronger in the years ahead.

More exotic patterns and colors will emerge to satisfy customer demand for distinctive looks. But the essential enduring benefits of quartz – durability, hygiene, low maintenance, and affordability – will remain the key factors driving growth. Homeowners looking for the optimal functional and aesthetic balance for their kitchens will continue finding quartz countertops hard to beat.

So while innovative new countertop materials may come and go, quartz stands poised to maintain its position as the gold standard surface for both residential and commercial spaces. Thanks to the engineering genius behind these slabs, the crystalline sparkle of quartz seems likely to shine on in kitchens for a long time to come.