Quartz countertops, sometimes referred to as engineered stone, have become an increasingly popular option for kitchen and bathroom remodeling projects in recent years. But is quartz really the best choice for your home? In this comprehensive guide, we’ll examine the pros and cons of quartz countertops to help you decide if they are the right material for your needs.
What is Quartz?
Quartz countertops are made from ground natural quartz crystals combined with polyester resins and pigments. The quartz makes up over 90% of the material, while the resins act as a binding agent. The manufacturing process allows quartz to be molded into customized slabs or fabricated into a variety of shapes and colors.
Unlike natural stone, quartz is non-porous, so it does not need to be sealed. The resins make quartz more flexible and resistant to cracks and chips. Quartz counters can be fabricated to have the look of natural stone or more modern, solid colors. Brands like Caesarstone, Cambria, and Silestone each offer unique quartz varieties.
Benefits of Quartz Countertops
Durability – Quartz is extremely strong and scratch-resistant. It can withstand heavy usage in busy kitchens. The material is unaffected by acids and heat.
Low Maintenance – Since it is non-porous, quartz repels stains and needs little ongoing maintenance. Simple cleaning with soap and water keeps counters looking like new.
Hygienic – The non-porous surface makes quartz resistant to bacteria growth, an advantage for food prep areas.
Stylish – From natural stone looks to bold, modern colors, quartz can be fabricated in countless custom styles. The material can be molded into unique edge profiles.
Consistency – While natural stones vary significantly, quartz has uniform patterning and color throughout the slab.
Potential Drawbacks of Quartz
Upfront Cost – Natural stone is generally cheaper upfront, though quartz may offset this over time through lower maintenance needs.
Limited Heat Resistance – While resistant to normal food prep, very hot pans can damage quartz and cause discoloration. Trivets or hot pads should be used.
Seams – For larger installations, seams between quartz slabs may be more apparent than with natural stone.
Repair Limitations – Severe damage to quartz can be difficult or impossible to repair, usually necessitating replacement.
Neutral Appeal – Some buyers feel quartz lacks the natural beauty and appeal of materials like granite. Busy patterns can seem artificial.
Is Quartz Better Than Granite?
Granite and quartz each have advantages that will appeal to different buyers. Key comparisons:
- Maintenance – Quartz is more stain and scratch resistant. Granite requires periodic sealing to prevent staining.
- Durability – Quartz is less prone to chips and cracks. Over time, granite can develop small fractures.
- Bacteria Resistance – Quartz resists bacterial growth better than natural stone.
- Patterns – Granite offers a wider range of natural patterns. Quartz patterns tend to be more uniform.
- Cost – Granite is generally cheaper upfront, though quartz may pay off long-term through lower maintenance.
- Heat Tolerance – Granite better tolerates hot pans. Quartz can be damaged by extreme heat.
There is no definitively “better” option. Consider your budget, use cases, and aesthetic preferences. For busy kitchens and baths, quartz makes an excellent practical choice.
What Thickness of Quartz Counter Should I Get?
Quartz thickness is available in:
- 3/4 inch (2 cm)
- 1 1/4 inches (3 cm)
- 1 1/2 inches (4 cm)
- 2 inches (5 cm)
3/4 inch is best suited for vertical applications like bathroom shower walls. For horizontal installation as countertops, a minimum thickness of 1 1/4 inches is recommended, especially for heavily used kitchen counters supporting appliances. This prevents sagging or structural issues over time.
Most quartz counters are either 1 1/4 inch or 1 1/2 inch thick. The slightly thicker 1 1/2 inch option adds more visual mass and depth. For an upcharge, 2 inch thick quartz can be used to achieve a substantial solid slab look.
Does Quartz Need to be Sealed?
Unlike natural stone, quartz does not require regular sealing. The resins used in manufacturing quartz make it non-porous and prevent moisture absorption or staining. In fact, sealing quartz is not recommended and can void warranties. The material repels liquids naturally. Simply clean quartz with mild soap and water as needed to maintain its pristine condition.
Does Quartz Stain Easily?
One of quartz’s biggest advantages over natural stone is its resistance to stains. Everyday food and beverages like coffee, wine, and cooking oils have little effect on quartz surfaces. Aggressive pigments like dyes or colored cosmetics can stain if left for prolonged time, but these stains are often removable with hydrogen peroxide or a specialized poultice. With prompt cleanup of spills, quartz counters should remain stain-free.
Is Quartz Prone to Scratching and Chipping?
Quartz has excellent scratch resistance qualities. Cutlery and dishes will not scratch a quartz counter under normal daily use. Even exposure to sharp objects like utility knives causes little noticeable damage. However, quartz can be scratched by objects of equal or harder material. Never cut or chop directly on the counter.
Chips are uncommon with quartz but can occur if subjected to standing heavy impact. Take care not to drop cookware or other solid objects on counters. Overall quartz is far more chip and scratch resistant than natural materials.
Does Quartz Need to be Resealed Over Time?
No, quartz never requires resealing. The resin used to make quartz non-porous will maintain its waterproofing abilities for the lifetime of the product. This gives quartz a maintenance advantage over natural stone, which requires periodic resealing of the surface. One of the major benefits of quartz is that it retains its integrity without ongoing maintenance.
Is There Any Maintenance Needed for Quartz?
Maintenance requirements for quartz are minimal:
- Clean spills promptly – While quartz resists stains, prompt cleanup of spills prevents any possibility of discoloration. Use a damp cloth and mild soap; avoid abrasive cleaners.
- Avoid exposing to extreme heat – Use trivets for hot pans to prevent thermal shock.
- Reseal if needed – Though not required, resealing quartz every 2-3 years can help freshen the appearance.
- Avoid cutting on surface – Use a cutting board to protect from knicks and scratches.
With just simple cleaning and care, quartz should stay looking like new for many years. It’s perfect for busy areas that will get daily use.
What are Quartz Countertop Prices?
As a price guideline, expect installed quartz counters to cost $40-100 per square foot. This compares to granite at $35-75 per square foot. Key variables:
- Brand – Premium designers like Caesarstone are pricier than value brands.
- Thickness – Thicker slabs and edges cost more.
- Color/Pattern – More elaborate designs can increase cost.
- Fabrication – Complex designs, intricate edges and cutouts add cost.
- Installation – Prices vary by location; approx $35-100 per hour.
With different quartz tiers and fabricators, you can usually find options in your budget. Balance cost with visual appeal and quality.
What are Popular Quartz Brands?
Some top quartz manufacturers include:
- Caesarstone – One of the first quartz brands. Known for nature-inspired patterns. Prices start around $57/sq. ft.
- Cambria – Offers wide array of polished modern designs. Ranges from $55-100/sq. ft.
- Silestone – Popular for vivid solid colors and accent options. Starts around $60/sq. ft.
- LG Viatera – High-end designer with large polished stone look slabs. Around $100/sq. ft.
- Quartz Master – Budget minded brand with smaller color selection. Approx $40-50/sq. ft.
Be sure to view current models of any brand in person before purchase to evaluate workmanship.
Can You Repair Damage to Quartz?
Minor chips, cracks, and scratches in quartz can often be repaired using color-matched filler products. However, repair success depends on the severity and nature of the damage. Flaws along seams or edges are especially difficult to fix seamlessly.
For smaller scratches less than 3 inches, use a rubbing compound first and follow with a color-matched putty stick if needed. Hairline cracks under 1 mm can be filled. For anything larger it is best to hire a pro. Make sure to get guarantees on any professional repair work.
Extensive damage may not be cost-effective to repair. Full quartz piece replacement may be needed. Avoid excessive heat and impact to minimize damage.
Can You Cut on a Quartz Countertop?
It’s best practice to avoid cutting or chopping directly on quartz counters, even though the material is incredibly durable. Using a cutting board preserves the flawless appearance and avoids accidental scratches or nicks to the surface. Over time, cutting can erode the finish.
In a pinch, quartz can withstand exposure to sharp knives with minimal marking. But continual cutting without a board is not recommended and could potentially void warranties against scratching. Treat quartz well and your counters will stay looking pristine for decades.
Is Quartz Eco-Friendly?
Quartz has moderate eco-friendly credentials:
- Natural Content – Made mostly of natural quartz aggregates. Avoid brands using high resin content.
- Recycled Materials – Some brands use recycled glass, mirrors, and plastic in manufacturing.
- Recyclable – Quartz counters can be crushed and recycled at end of life. Avoid landfill disposal.
- Low Maintenance – Reduced need for sealants and cleaning aids benefits environment.
- Durable – Long lifespan means fewer replacements over time.
Quartz is not as green as some natural stones, but produces relatively low emissions given proper installation. If sustainability is important, look for recycled quartz varieties.
The Bottom Line – Is Quartz Worth it?
For most buyers, quartz is absolutely worth the investment. The superior durability, low maintenance, and hygiene will justify the cost over the lifespan of your counters. Quartz offers peace of mind against cracking, etching and staining issues prevalent with natural stone. With styles ranging from stone replicas to futuristic solid colors, quartz brings designer looks with everyday practicality. Give quartz counters consideration for your next kitchen or bath remodeling project.