Quartz countertops are an extremely durable and popular option for kitchen and bathroom remodels. However, there may come a time when you need to remove or replace your quartz countertop. Breaking a quartz countertop takes time, patience and the right tools, but it can be done with some strategic planning.
Understanding the Material
Before attempting to break a quartz countertop, it’s important to understand what it’s made of. Quartz countertops are engineered stone, made from approximately 90% ground natural quartz combined with about 10% polymer resins and pigments. This combination makes the material resistant to stains, scratches and heat. The resins act as a binder to hold the quartz grains together in a hard, non-porous surface.
The durability and strength of quartz makes it more difficult to break than other natural stone materials like granite or marble. But with persistence and the right approach, quartz can be broken.
Why You May Need to Break It
There are a few reasons you may need or want to break a quartz countertop:
- Remodeling – If you’re doing a kitchen or bathroom remodel, you may want to remove the existing quartz countertop to replace it with a new one. Breaking it into smaller pieces makes removal much easier.
- Damage – Although rare, quartz can become damaged beyond repair, like from a very heavy impact. In cases of severe damage, replacement is the best option, requiring breaking up the existing countertop.
- Access – Sometimes access is needed behind or underneath the countertop for repairs or to add new plumbing/electrical. Breaking through the quartz may be the only way to gain access.
- Resizing – If you need to resize your countertop for any reason, breaking it first is necessary before attempting to cut it to a new size.
Whatever the reason, breaking a quartz countertop takes strategic planning and labor, but can be done.
Gather the Right Tools
Breaking up a quartz countertop requires using force on a very hard material. Specialized tools are necessary to break it without injuring yourself or damaging the surrounding cabinets, walls, etc.
Here are the recommended tools:
- Safety gear – This includes goggles, ear protection, gloves and a face mask. Sharp quartz shards and loud hammering noises warrant protecting yourself fully.
- Hammer drill – A hammer drill combines hammering force with a rotating drill bit to break through tough materials. Use a heavy duty model with at least 800W of power.
- Masonry drill bits – Special carbide drill bits are required for drilling into quartz. Standard drill bits won’t cut it.
- Demolition hammer – A demolition hammer delivers targeted, powerful blows, similar to a jackhammer. Use a large model, at least 15 amps.
- Masonry chisel – A masonry chisel helps direct force into small areas after initial holes are drilled. This divides the slab into smaller pieces.
- Pry bar – After cracking the quartz with a chisel, use a pry bar to separate and lift the broken pieces off the counter.
- Dust collector – A shop vac helps manage all the Quartz dust produced when breaking the slab. Quartz dust can irritate eyes and lungs without proper protection and clean up.
Protect Surrounding Areas
Before starting demolition, carefully protect areas surrounding the quartz countertop to prevent damage:
- Use painter’s tape and plastic sheeting to cover walls, backsplashes, floors and cabinets near the countertop.
- Clear everything off the countertop and remove drawers/doors of cabinets below.
- Turn off electricity and water supply to the area to prevent accidental damage to plumbing or wiring.
Take your time securing the space – once you start breaking the quartz, stopping isn’t easy.
Outline Cut Lines
Plan where you need to break the slab and use a pencil to lightly draw cut lines where you’ll be drilling and chiseling. This might be:
- Outlining the section of counter that needs removal.
- Marking where you need access underneath the slab.
- Dividing a long countertop into manageable pieces for breaking up and disposal.
Having a cut plan keeps the breaking process controlled and the pieces sized for easier removal.
With your safety gear on and space protected, you’re ready to start breaking the quartz:
- Use the hammer drill with a carbide masonry bit to drill a line of evenly spaced holes along the marked cut lines – start holes about 2 inches apart. Drill down at least 1 inch deep into the slab.
- Space the holes closer together (1 inch or less) in sections where you need to achieve a cleaner break.
- Make perpendicular holes across the line of holes previously drilled. This helps prevent cracking from spreading across the surface.
- Drill very carefully along edges near cabinets, walls, etc. to avoid damaging adjacent surfaces. Let the drill do the work without forcing pressure.
- Pause regularly while drilling to allow heat to dissipate from drill bits. This prevents losing temper of the carbide tips.
- Clean out all dust from drill holes using the vacuum. This allows for more controlled breaks later.
With consistent, careful drilling along all outlined cut lines, you’ll have perforated the quartz slab and be ready to start actually breaking it.
Start Breaking Along Cut Lines
Once the quartz is prepared with rows of drill holes, you can start applying targeted force to break it along the desired lines:
- Position the masonry chisel at one of the drilled holes and use the demolition hammer to strike it forcefully. This will begin a break outward from the hole.
- Continue striking the chisel, spacing blows close together to extend fracturing along the row of holes. Strike hard but be accurate.
- Use a pry bar to check crack propagation and separate pieces as you go. But don’t force separation more than 1/8 inch before resuming with the chisel strikes.
- Apply most force near the edge of pieces you’re trying to remove to break them cleanly away from rest of slab.
- Use light chisel taps in fragile areas near walls or cabinets to control fracturing.
- Frequently stop to vacuum dust and debris so you have a clean workspace.
- Use the chisel to break the quartz into manageable pieces. Don’t attempt to break large sections all at once.
- For sections with very precise cut lines, use an oscillating multi-tool to finish separating pieces after chiseling/prying.
Patience and persistence will pay off as you carefully work along the cut lines. Target corners and edges when possible.
How deep should I drill holes into quartz to break it?
For a standard 2 cm quartz countertop, drill holes at least 1 inch (2.5 cm) deep. Deeper holes, around 1 1/2 inches, provide more precision cracking. But don’t drill completely through a thin quartz slab.
Can I rent tools to break a quartz countertop?
Yes, home improvement rental stores like Home Depot rent heavy duty hammer drills, demolition hammers, pry bars and other tools needed for breaking quartz countertops. Just ensure rented drill bits are carbide tipped for masonry.
What’s the easiest part of a quartz countertop to break?
The easiest sections are near the corners and edges where less surface area connects to the main slab. Apply force at corners first when breaking a countertop into large pieces. Avoid trying to break through the middle of the slab initially.
Is there an easier option than breaking it into pieces?
If you need to fully remove a quartz countertop, breaking into manageable sections is the best approach for DIY removal. The only other option is attempting to lift the entire intact slab, which risks damage and injury.
Can I cut quartz countertops with a circular saw?
It’s not recommended. A circular saw may chip and crack the edges of quartz. Use a diamond blade wet saw specialized for stone cutting to cut quartz cleanly. But breaking is still needed prior to cut-outs.
Disposing of Broken Pieces
Once you successfully break up the old quartz countertop, you’ll be left with a pile of heavy shards and slabs that now need proper disposal. Here are some tips:
- Wear heavy work gloves when handling broken quartz to avoid sharp edges cutting your hands.
- Gather pieces onto a drop cloth or tarp for transporting, to contain dust and debris.
- Load the broken quartz carefully into a truck or trailer to haul to the disposal site. Broken quartz is very heavy, so take your time.
- Most standard landfills accept quartz countertop pieces in the construction waste area. Call ahead to confirm requirements and any fees.
- Alternatively, check for recycling centers that accept quartz/engineered stone. This keeps it out of landfills.
- If you’re replacing the countertop, hire installers to remove the old broken pieces when they install the new countertop.
Proper clean up and disposal completes the quartz countertop breaking process. Exercise caution and patience at every stage for best results and safety.
Breaking a quartz countertop is certainly labor intensive but completely doable with persistence and the right approach. By equipping yourself with specialized tools, creating a plan of attack, carefully drilling, chiseling and prying along outlined cuts, and disposing of the rubble safely, you can take out even the most durable quartz countertops when necessary. Just be sure to protect yourself and your home fully along the way.
With some patience you’ll get that stubborn quartz countertop broken down to size and ready for removal. Just focus on working methodically and letting the tools do the hard work. Before you know it, you’ll have your kitchen or bathroom ready for whatever changes you have planned, thanks to busting up and disposing of that old countertop successfully.