Granite and quartz are two of the most popular countertop materials used in kitchens and bathrooms today. Though they share some similar characteristics, there are key differences between quartz and granite that impact appearance, performance, maintenance, and cost. Understanding these differences can help you decide which material is the best choice for your home.
When researching countertops for kitchen or bathroom renovations, two options consistently rise to the top: granite and quartz. Both offer durability, style, and design flexibility. However, granite and quartz are made of different materials and have unique qualities.
Granite is a natural stone that is mined from quarries around the world. It comes in a wide variety of colors and patterns, ranging from solid to highly speckled. Quartz countertops are engineered stone made from roughly 90% ground quartz combined with polymers and pigments. This allows quartz to be manufactured in consistent colors and patterns.
There is an ongoing debate over which material reigns supreme. To help make the decision easier, here is an in-depth look at how to tell quartz and granite countertops apart based on appearance, performance, maintenance, and cost considerations.
Appearance Differences Between Granite and Quartz
One of the biggest differences between granite and quartz is appearance. Granite is available in a vast array of natural color variations. Quartz has a more uniform look since colors and patterns are added during manufacturing.
As a natural stone, no two granite slabs are exactly alike. Granite forms deep within the earth as magma cools and solidifies into crystals. It is an igneous rock that contains varying concentrations of quartz, feldspar, mica, and other minerals. These mineral deposits give granite its signature speckled appearance in colors like black, white, gray, pink, blue, gold, brown, reddish brown, and beige.
With granite, expect to see unique veining, spots, and patterns in every slab. While this natural beauty is part of granite’s appeal, it can make it harder to find continuous matching patterns when you need multiple slabs for a large project. The appearance can also vary depending on the specific granite variety. Some of the most popular granite types include:
- Black granite – Deep black base with white, gray, or gold speckles
- White granite – Bright white base with black, gray, or gold flecks
- Gray granite – Neutral base with black, white, or brown spots
- Brown granite – Rich brown base with black, white, or gold accents
- Beige Granite – Tan or light brown base with various colored speckles
Quartz countertops deliver more uniformity than granite. The manufacturing process allows quartz to be engineered in a vast array of patterns and colors.
While natural quartz crystals are colorless or white, quartz countertops get their hue from added pigments. The colored quartz pieces are then combined with clear or white quartz and resin to create the slabs. This gives quartz a more consistent look across all surface areas and from slab to slab.
Quartz can mimic natural stone with speckled patterns. But it also comes in solid colors and bold patterns like swirling veins or aggregates inspired by materials like marble or concrete. Some popular quartz color varieties include:
- White quartz – Pure bright white solid color
- Gray quartz – Solid light to dark gray tones
- Black quartz – Deep, uniform black color
- Beige quartz – Solid light brown color
- Multi-colored quartz – Speckled blends of whites, grays, tans, browns
Along with appearance, granite and quartz offer performance differences in areas like hardness, heat resistance, staining, and porosity. Understanding these distinctions can help match the right material to your household needs.
One of the biggest performance differences between natural stone granite and engineered quartz is hardness. On the Mohs scale of mineral hardness, granite rates from 6 to 8 out of 10. Quartz register higher at 7 to 8 on the scale.
Thanks to its density and durability, quartz offers better scratch and chip resistance in heavy use zones. But granite can still hold up well, especially darker varieties. Both materials add beauty that can last for decades with proper care.
Quartz also bests granite when it comes to resisting heat. Granite can crack or chip under extreme hot temperatures. Always use trivets and hot pads when placing hot pots, pans, or other objects on granite.
Quartz is more heat resistant. But it’s still smart to use hot pads to prevent damage by super-heated items that exceed the material’s heat tolerance.
When it comes to staining, quartz generally offers better resistance. The resins used in manufacturing create an impervious surface that prevents most liquids from penetrating into the material.
Granite is more porous, so oils, grease, and acidic liquids can potentially soak in and stain the surface. Proper sealing is key for preventing stubborn stains on granite countertops.
Both materials can develop some surface stains that require special cleaners to remove. But quartz offers more stain protection overall, especially once granite sealers wear off over time.
Quartz’s non-porous nature gives it advantages for resisting stains and germs. Liquids and bacteria have a tougher time penetrating the dense surface.
Granite is naturally porous, so sealing is recommended every 1-2 years to prevent stains and bacteria from accumulating in tiny pores. But properly sealed granite resists moisture and germs surprisingly well for a natural stone.
To keep either material looking beautiful, some routine care and maintenance is required. Granite and quartz have some differing needs when it comes to upkeep.
- Sealing – Requires reapplying a stone sealer every 1-2 years to fill pores and prevent stains.
- Cleaning – For everyday cleaning, mild soap and water is fine. Occasionally use stone-safe cleaners to remove stuck-on grime.
- Disinfecting – Can use most disinfectants, but avoid bleach-based products to prevent discoloration.
- Scratches – Minor scratches can be buffed out. Deeper scratches may require professional polishing.
- Sealing – Does not require sealing due to non-porous surface.
- Cleaning – For routine cleaning, mild soap and water works well. Occasional use of stone-safe cleaners can remove stuck-on messes.
- Disinfecting – Quartz can tolerate most disinfectants, including bleach-based ones.
- Scratches – Minor scratches can often be sanded out. No polishing is required.
Quartz’s lower maintenance needs give it an advantage for busy kitchens. But proper granite sealing also prevents many issues during use.
Budget is often a key factor when selecting countertop materials. Cost differences exist between granite and quartz:
- Material cost starts around $40 per square foot installed.
- Higher-end granite can range from $80-150 per square foot installed.
- Requires periodic sealing which adds to long-term costs.
- Material cost is $80-120 per square foot installed.
- More consistent pricing since it is engineered.
- Lower maintenance costs without regular sealing required.
Granite can achieve a lower initial price point. But budget at least $80 per square foot installed for an attractive, high-quality granite surface. Quartz delivers premium performance, beauty, and durability at a higher overall cost.
Choosing Between Granite and Quartz
With this overview of distinctions in appearance, performance, maintenance, and cost, you can weigh the pros and cons of granite versus quartz countertops:
Consider Granite For:
- Stunning natural appearance with depth, dimension, and unique patterns
- Timeless, classic aesthetic perfect for traditional or modern designs
- Lower cost material that still offers durability
Consider Quartz For:
- Consistent color and speckling across slabs for seamless look
- Superior stain, scratch, and heat resistance
- Less maintenance without regular sealing required
- More extensive color and pattern options
There is no universally superior choice between granite and quartz. The right material comes down to your priorities in terms of budget, style, usage, and maintenance. Gather quotes, examine material samples in person, and thoroughly research your options. Consider consulting a kitchen designer for help deciding between granite and quartz countertops to find your perfect fit.
Frequently Asked Questions
How thick are granite and quartz countertops?
Standard thickness for both granite and quartz countertops is 3 cm or 1.25 inches. Thicker options like 3.5 cm and 5 cm are available for a higher cost. Thinner 2 cm slabs can also be special ordered.
Can you repair chips and cracks in granite and quartz?
Minor chips in granite and quartz can often be repaired using coloring agents and epoxy resins. However, extensive cracks or damage may require a professional replacement of that section of countertop.
Can quartz have a granite-like flecked appearance?
Yes, many modern quartz materials are engineered to mimic the look of natural granite with realistic speckled patterns and veining. However, quartz lacks the depth and dimension of real granite.
Is quartz more environmentally friendly than granite?
Granite is generally considered a greener choice as a natural material without man-made resins. But quartz uses a high percentage of recycled content. Both have advantages and disadvantages for sustainability.
Does quartz require any sealing or treatment?
Quartz does not require sealing, conditioning, or topcoat treatments due to its non-porous nature. Simple cleaning with soap and water is all that is needed.
Granite and quartz each have their advantages that make them desirable choices for today’s countertops. Key distinctions come down to appearance, performance, maintenance demands, and cost. For natural beauty and lower cost, granite counters can be an excellent choice with proper sealing. For advanced features and more hassle-free care, engineered quartz offers expanded options. Considering your unique needs and priorities will determine whether durable granite or high-tech quartz is the best fit for your next kitchen or bath remodel.