Quartz countertops have become an increasingly popular option for kitchen and bathroom remodels in recent years. With their stylish appearance and durability, it’s no wonder why many homeowners are drawn to quartz. But despite their natural stone-like look, quartz countertops are actually engineered stone made from a combination of natural and synthetic materials.
What is Quartz Countertop?
Quartz countertops, often referred to as engineered stone countertops, are made from ground natural quartz crystals combined with polyester resins and pigments. The quartz provides strength and hardness while the resins act as a binder. Other materials like recycled glass or mirror chips may also be added for sparkle.
The exact ratio of quartz to resin varies by brand and product line, but quality quartz countertops contain at least 90% ground quartz. The resins make up the remaining percentage. When combined and formed into slabs under heat and pressure, these materials create a durable, non-porous surface that mimics the look of natural stone.
Unlike natural stone countertops like granite, marble, and soapstone which are cut directly from quarried stone slabs, quartz countertops are fabricated in factories. This allows for more consistency and control over the final product’s appearance and performance.
Some key properties and characteristics of quartz countertops:
- Made from 90-95% ground quartz aggregate combined with resins and pigments
- Resins bind the quartz particles together into a hard, non-porous surface
- Consistent in color and patterning since it’s engineered, not natural stone
- Resists stains, scratches, heat, and chips better than natural stone
- Non-porous so doesn’t need periodic sealing like natural stone
- Available in wide range of colors and patterns
- Easy to maintain and clean
So in summary, quartz countertops are an engineered or “man-made” product created from natural quartz and resins versus being cut directly from solid quartz slabs like natural stone counters. The manufacturing process allows quartz counters to be made into almost any color and style.
How Quartz Countertops Are Made
The process of manufacturing quartz slabs is an advanced blending of technology and craftsmanship. Here is a basic overview of how quartz countertops are made:
1. Mining and Processing the Quartz
- Natural quartz crystals are mined from the earth, usually from granite deposits. Mined quartz may be in large blocks that need to be crushed.
- Quartz goes through various processing like washing, screening, filtering, and crushing into smaller particles.
- This processed quartz powder provides the strength, hardness, and durability for the finished countertops.
2. Mixing in Resins and Pigments
- The quartz powder is combined with polyester or epoxy resins and coloring agents like pigments or dye.
- Resins make up around 7-15% of the material and act as the adhesive binder.
- Pigments added determine the color and pattern of the final slab. Different levels and types of pigment create the unique color varieties.
3. Pressing into Slabs
- The quartz resin mixture gets pressed into molds under high pressure and vibration. This compacts the materials into a solid slab form.
- The slabs are then moved to a curing oven and baked at high temperatures which hardens the resins.
- Resulting slabs come out with a polished finish on one side. Thickness is usually 1.2 to 2 cm.
4. Finishing and Fabrication
- Once cured, the slabs may go through additional finishing steps like calibration for thickness and extra polishing.
- Slabs get cut to size for specific countertop projects. Edges can be finished in different styles.
- Installation involves seamlessly joining cut quartz pieces on the countertop base.
So quartz countertop slabs go through a detailed manufacturing process to transform raw quartz crystals into beautiful engineered stone slabs. The making and handling is done by skilled technicians overseeing state-of-the-art machinery.
Quartz Brands and Manufacturers
There are several major brands that dominate the engineered quartz countertop market. Here are some of the leading manufacturers and their popular quartz product lines:
- Caesarstone – One of the pioneers of engineered quartz surfaces founded in 1987. Their Caesarstone and Concetto lines come in a wide selection of colors and finishes.
- Cambria – American company that makes premium natural quartz surfaces. Their Cambria line is known for beauty and durability.
- Silestone – Owned by Spanish company Cosentino. Offers popular Silestone series engineered quartz.
- LG Viatera – High-end quartz from electronics maker LG. Features unique polished, matte, and textured finishes.
- QuartzMaster – Budget-friendly quartz line carried by home improvement stores. Known for lower price points.
- Hanstone – Subsidiary of Hyundai that manufacturers Hanstone quartz countertops. Has extensive color offerings.
- Polycor – Canadian based company producing Polycor quartz made from natural quartzite.
- Samsung Radianz – Part of Samsung’s construction materials division. Markets Radianz quartz line.
Many quartz suppliers offer tiered good-better-best product lines catering to different budgets and looks. Even entry level store brands utilize much of the same quartz materials and manufacturing techniques as the premium brands.
The Pros of Quartz Countertops
There are many advantages that make quartz an appealing choice for kitchen and bath countertops. Here are some of the top benefits and pros of quartz:
- Extremely hard and scratch resistant surface. Quartz scores 7 on the Mohs hardness scale compared to diamonds which are a 10.
-Won’t chip or crack like natural stone. Flexible resins help prevent brittle fractures.
-Stands up well to heavy everyday use without significant signs of wear.
- Non-porous so resists staining from spills and liquids. Does not need periodic sealing.
- Easy to keep clean. Simple soap and water is usually enough.
- Resists mold, mildew, and bacteria growth.
- Engineered process allows reliable, uniform patterning and color tones.
- Minimal variation between slabs means easier installation with tight seams.
- Repairs and replacements can match existing quartz closely.
- Available in wide array of colors from elegant whites to bold dark hues.
- Can mimic looks of natural stone like marble along with unique modern styles.
- Takes on a polished, matte, or textured finish.
- Does not give off hazardous radon gas like some natural stone. Safe for indoor use.
- No need for sealing means less exposure to chemical sealants.
- Non-porous surface limits bacterial growth.
So quartz offers homeowners an ideal balance of beauty, durability, and practicality that enhances kitchen and bath spaces for many years.
The Cons of Quartz Countertops
Despite the many pluses, quartz countertops also come with a few drawbacks and disadvantages to consider:
- Higher cost than laminate or tile. Price per square foot is typically $40-100.
- More expensive than some natural stone depending on the variety. Granite can be lower cost.
- Premium quartz brands are priced at the higher end of the range. Budget options available.
- Color and finish options depend on manufacturer’s offerings. Less variety than natural stone.
- Veining and patterns are preset and consistent on all slabs.
- Edge profiles often limited to standard choices.
- Small seams between slab pieces are often noticeable, especially on lighter colors.
- Requires meticulous installation to minimize seam appearance.
- Not as seamless as poured concrete counters.
- Extreme heat can damage resin binders causing discoloration or cracks.
- Requires trivets for hot pots and pans. Boiling water can mar surface.
- Not ideal for rolling dough or sugary confections that bake onto the surface.
- Very difficult to do spot repairs on quartz. Entire slab sections need replacement.
- Chips, cracks, and damage stand out visually unless whole sections are swapped.
- Can’t buff out marks left by sharp knives or heavy impacts.
For some homeowners, the downsides of quartz may outweigh the positives when selecting a countertop material. Much depends on budget, cooking habits, and expectations.
Types of Quartz Countertops
Quartz manufacturers offer an extensive selection when it comes to colors, patterns, and surface finishes. Here are some of the popular styles and varieties seen with quartz countertops:
Solid Color Quartz
- Single consistent color throughout the slab.
- Options range from bright white to exotic dark hues.
- No variation or movement. Uniform look.
- Easy to match within kitchen or bath design.
- Multi-colored flecks and veining added by pigments.
- Can mimic granite, marble, and other natural stones.
- Provides visual interest beyond solid color.
- Well suited to traditional kitchen aesthetics.
- Glossy shine with reflective surface.
- Enhances the color and makes the countertop pop.
- Most popular finish and works with any style.
- Needs occasional re-polishing to maintain luster.
- A flatter, honed type of surface.
- More muted and earthy look versus high-gloss.
- Hides fingerprints, watermarks, and scratches better.
- Adds unique texture contrast to kitchens and baths.
- Adds dimensional interest to the surface.
- Variations can include waves, striations, or peaks.
- Provides tactile experience beyond flat and smooth.
- Works with contemporary and transitional spaces.
With so many options, quartz can complement any design aesthetic from sleek modern spaces to ornate old-world style kitchens. Homeowners can find the ideal colors, patterns, and textures in quartz to realize their vision.
How to Choose Quartz Colors
Selecting a quartz color for your kitchen or bath countertop is an important decision that impacts the whole design of the space. Here are some tips on choosing quartz colors:
- Base it off your cabinetry – Match lighter quartz to light cabinets or darker quartz to wood or black cabinets for cohesion.
- Consider the room size – Bold darker quartz works better in smaller spaces while larger rooms can accommodate lighter colors.
- Factor in the overall style – Clean white or grey quartz fits modern decor while patterned quartz suits traditional kitchens.
- Look at flooring and backsplashes – Contrasting quartz from the floors and walls makes it stand out.
- Focus on functional areas first – Opt for resilient neutral quartz on kitchen work zones.
- See quartz in person – Slabs can look different in real life under natural light compared to small samples.
- Think about maintenance – Lighter quartz shows more dust and needs frequent cleaning.
- Know the undertones – Gray quartz can read blue, green, taupe, etc. depending on its undertone.
Take time to view various quartz colors and patterns in the space to make the best choice. The right quartz countertop color can elevate the whole look of a newly designed kitchen or bath.
Are Quartz Countertops Better Than Granite?
Granite and quartz are two of the most popular natural stone countertop options. But which one is better? Here is a brief comparison of some of the key differences between granite and quartz:
- Granite has unique natural patterning. No two slabs are the same.
- Quartz has consistent speckling though designs can mimic granite.
- Quartz is harder than granite so better resists scratches.
- Granite can chip on edges and corners if hit. Quartz has flexible resins.
- Non-porous quartz resists stains better than porous granite.
- Granite needs periodic sealing to prevent staining.
- Granite requires frequent sealing to keep surfaces protected.
- Quartz only needs occasional cleaning with soap and water.
- Mid to high-end granite is often less expensive than quartz.
- But inexpensive granite has many more imperfections than budget quartz.
- Granite limited to natural color variations.
- Quartz available in unlimited colors.
So is quartz better than granite? There is no definitive answer since both have pros and cons. Quartz performs better for durability and maintenance but some still prefer granite’s uniqueness. It ultimately comes down to personal preference.
How Much Does Installed Quartz Countertop Cost?
Quartz countertop costs can range significantly based on the quality, thickness, color and edge profiles chosen. Here is an overview of typical installed quartz countertop pricing:
- Quartz slab cost – Ranges from $40-$120 per square foot. Lower end is budget/store brands. High end is premium designer colors and styles.
- Basic Installation – Approximately $40-$100 per square foot for cutouts, fastening, seams and polishing edges. Simple edge profiles like eased or straight cuts are cheapest.
- Complex installation – $100-$200 per square foot range for intricate tile backsplashes, special edge treatments, complex cutouts.
- Average overall cost – For 2cm thickness quartz with a standard eased edge, expect to pay around $75-$150 per square foot installed.
- Total project cost – A 30 square foot quartz countertop would be $2,250-$4,500 installed.
- Upgrades – Special features like thicker slabs, custom edges, unusual colors add $10-$50+ per square foot.
Many factors affect quartz pricing – brand, source, complexity, accessories. Always get an itemized quote accounting for all materials, labor, and options to know the exact installed cost.
Is Quartz Worth the Cost?
With premium quartz costing $80-$250 per square foot installed, is it worth the investment over cheaper options? Here are the key factors to consider:
- Durability – Exceptional hardness and stain resistance means quartz will withstand decades of use without replacement.
- Low maintenance – No sealing required like natural stone translates into minimal upkeep.
- Resale value – Quartz is preferred by many buyers and can increase home value by 4-5%.
- Styling – Sleek polished quartz elevates the aesthetics of kitchens and bathrooms.
- Hygiene – Non-porous and antimicrobial properties promote cleanliness.
- Consistency – Matching repairs, replacements, and expansions is easier with uniform quartz.
- Longevity – Engineered quartz is less likely to crack, chip or deteriorate than many other surfaces.
While quartz does have a higher initial cost, those who value durability, easy upkeep, and stylish appearance often find it a worthwhile investment in the long run. Weigh your budget and needs to decide if quartz’s benefits are worth the extra cost.
Quartz vs Quartzite Countertops
Quartzite is a 100% natural metamorphic stone that is growing in popularity along with engineered quartz for countertops. But what is the difference between quartz and quartzite?
- Quartz is engineered stone made from crushed quartz and resins
- Quartzite is a natural stone formed from heat/pressure on sandstone.
- Quartz has a speckled look with consistent patterns.
- Quartzite has swirls and veining like marble.
- Quartz is harder and more scratch resistant.
- Quartzite can etch from acidic foods/cleaners.
- Quartz needs occasional cleaning with soap and water.
- Quartzite requires monthly sealing for stain prevention.
- Quartz ranges $80-$120 per square foot installed.
- Quartzite runs $70-$150 per square foot installed.
- Quartz available in almost any color.
- Quartzite limited to natural tan, gold, grey, white shades.
Both offer advantages, but quartz performs better for day-to-day durability and maintenance while quartzite provides a unique natural look. Choose based on your priorities.
FAQs About Quartz Countertops
Some common questions that come up about quartz countertops:
Are quartz countertops seamless?
No, quartz countertops have seams where two pieces are joined. But seams can be