Quartz countertops have become an increasingly popular option for kitchen and bathroom remodels in recent years. But many homeowners find themselves wondering, “Is quartz countertops real stone?” The short answer is yes, quartz countertops are made from real stone. However, they are an engineered stone rather than a natural stone.
What is Quartz?
Quartz is a mineral that is found abundantly in nature. It is composed of silicon and oxygen atoms and is the second most common mineral found in the Earth’s continental crust, behind feldspar. Natural quartz is very durable and heat resistant. These characteristics make it an ideal material for countertops.
Quartz used for countertops is ground down into a fine powder. The quartz powder is then combined with pigments for coloring and a resin binder. The mixture is poured into molds and allowed to harden under intense heat and pressure. This process allows manufacturers to engineer slabs of quartz with consistent colors and patterns.
Is Engineered Quartz Considered Real Stone?
While engineered quartz slabs are man-made in a factory setting, they contain a high percentage of real natural stone. The exact composition varies by brand, but quartz slabs typically contain over 90% ground quartz particles combined with the resin binder that makes up less than 10% of the material.
Since engineered quartz contains such a high concentration of real stone, it is generally considered a “real stone” product. It may not form entirely naturally like granite or marble, but the high quartz content means it offers the look and feel of real stone. The addition of the polymer resins gives quartz extra durability and strength compared to natural stone alternatives.
Quartz vs. Other Natural Stones
It’s clear that quartz contains real stone, but how does it compare to natural stone countertops like granite and marble? Here’s a quick rundown:
- Granite – Granite slabs are 100% natural stone formed from mineral deposits over millions of years. Granite is very hard and heat resistant but can be susceptible to staining. It has a unique and varied appearance.
- Marble – Marble is a metamorphic stone created under heat and pressure. It has an elegant appearance but is softer and more prone to etching, staining, and cracking than other natural stones and quartz.
- Quartz – As an engineered stone, quartz offers more consistency in color and pattern. It is non-porous so it resists staining and is harder and more durable than granite or marble. The resin binders make it extra tough. Quartz requires less maintenance than natural stone.
The bottom line is that quartz contains real stone material while offering extra benefits like consistent coloring, durability, and low maintenance needs. For many homeowners, this combination of natural stone look and engineered performance provides the best of both worlds.
Is All Quartz Created Equal?
While all quartz contains high percentages of real quartz stone material, not all quartz is created totally equal. The exact blend of minerals, coloring, and resin can vary slightly between different manufacturers. Higher-end quartz tends to have a higher ratio of crushed quartz to polymers.
Additionally, different brands use different manufacturing processes that can impact the look and performance of the final product. Some brands use vibration and vacuum processes to minimize air pockets and create more dense slabs. The quality of engineering contributes to how durable, stain-resistant, and colorfast each quartz brand will be.
This means it’s important to choose your quartz supplier carefully based on factors like their reputation, warranty, and whether their product has been tested to meet industry standards. Do your homework to find the highest performing and best looking quartz option for your space and needs.
The Pros and Cons of Quartz Countertops
Now that we’ve established that quartz countertops do contain real stone, let’s examine some of the key benefits and potential drawbacks of quartz:
Pros of Quartz Countertops
- Appearance – Quartz offers the look of natural stone but with more reliable coloring and patterns. There are many color options including realistic granite and marble looks.
- Durability – Quartz is harder and less prone to damage than granite or marble. The resin makes it extra tough.
- Stain resistance – Quartz is non-porous so it will not absorb stains from spills.
- Low maintenance – Quartz requires very little maintenance compared to natural stone.
- Heat resistance – Quartz can withstand heat up to 212°F before potential damage occurs.
- Non-toxic – Quartet does not emit radon gas like some natural stones.
Cons of Quartz Countertops
- Price – Quartz is more expensive than materials like laminate. Higher-end quartz can have a similar price tag to natural stone.
- Repairs – Seam lines are more visible and quartz is hard to repair seamlessly.
- Resilience – Quartz can crack or chip if subjected to blunt force or impact. Granite may better resist heavy impacts.
- Heat damage – While quartz handles moderate heat, extreme temperatures from hot pans can cause minor damage.
- Appearance – The consistent speckled look lacks the true depth and variation of natural stone.
The Takeaway: An Attractive, Durable Option
While not a natural stone, quartz is an engineered stone product composed almost entirely of real quartz particles. This mineral content provides the aesthetic of natural stone coupled with enhanced durability, stain protection, and low maintenance needs. For homeowners seeking the look of stone with excellent performance, quartz offers an appealing combination of beauty and practicality. With proper care, a quartz countertop can remain in great condition for many years of daily use. For many, quartz offers the perfect marriage of natural stone aesthetics and engineered strength.
Popular Brands of Quartz Countertops
Although all quartz contains high percentages of real quartz stone, different manufacturers use their own distinct processes. The leading quartz countertop brands each offer unique colors, patterns, and benefits. Here is an overview of some of the top brands of quartz countertops:
One of the first engineered quartz manufacturers, Caesarstone remains an industry leader. They use a proprietary manufacturing process to create slabs that contain up to 93% quartz. Caesarstone quartz is known for its durability, scratch resistance and heat resistance up to 350°F. A wide variety of natural looking colors and finishes are available.
Made in the United States, Cambria quartz contains about 93% natural quartz stone. Their manufacturing process creates a non-porous product that resists staining, scratching and heat up to 450°F. Cambria offers a lifetime limited warranty. They are known for stylish designs and variety of colors.
Silestone uses a vibration and vacuum process that gives it a hardness and density ratings similar to granite while maintaining the non-porous qualities of quartz. This brand is highly scratch, stain, and acid resistant. Silestone has a diverse collection of unique colors and patterns.
Viatera is the premium quartz brand from LG. It contains 93% natural quartz and high-quality polymer resins. Viatera quartz has excellent durability and heat resistance up to 212°F. The product has a glossy shine and stylish custom designs. Viatera offers one of the best warranties in the industry.
HanStone Quartz utilizes the latest Breton Stone technology for an extremely durable and resilient product. Up to 93% natural quartz provides strength while the coloring process allows for uniform specks and veining. HanStone has beautiful designs that mimic granite and marble looks.
Compac Quartz features a granite-look design with delicate veining and speckles. Their True-to-Nature technology allows the achieved patterns to appear authentic. Compac quartz contains 94% crushed quartz stone mixed with high-performance resins. The brand is known for affordability and quality.
How Quartz Countertops Are Made
Now that we’ve covered the basics of what quartz countertops are and looked at popular brands, let’s examine the manufacturing process that turns raw quartz stone into beautiful countertops:
1. Quartz is Mined and Crushed
Natural quartz slabs are mined from the earth. These slabs are crushed into a fine gravel-like material using heavy machinery. An average quartz slab contains about 93% crushed natural quartz.
2. Pigments Are Added for Color
Pigments are added to the crushed quartz to achieve the desired colors and patterns. Different pigments create the wide range of color options. Additional specks and veining can be added during this step as well.
3. The Mixture is Combined with Resin
The colored quartz material is then mixed with a polymer resin binder. The resin typically makes up around 7% of the final product. It binds the quartz particles together and hardens into a durable surface.
4. The Material is Poured into Molds
The quartz and resin mixture gets poured into molds and compacted to remove air pockets. Vibration and vacuum technologies help achieve a denser end product.
5. Slabs Are Cured with Heat and Pressure
The filled molds pass through a high-pressure chamber. Intense heat and pressure cause the resin binder to solidify into extremely hard slabs.
6. Slabs Are Polished into Finished Countertops
Finally, the cured slabs are polished to achieve the desired finish. Most quartz has a gleaming, glossy polish but different finishes like matte are also available. The slabs are cut to size for installation.
The Result: Beautiful, Durable Countertops
The combination of natural quartz particles and polymer resins results in a countertop that has the beauty of natural stone coupled with enhanced durability. Quartz manufacturing techniques give homeowners the ability to choose from many rich colors and patterns. With proper care, quartz countertops will maintain their good looks for many years.
How Durable Are Quartz Countertops?
Quartz countertops are engineered for maximum toughness and durability. Here is an overview of why quartz countertops are so durable and resistant to damage:
Hardness and Scratch Resistance
Quartz countertops rate around a 7 on the Mohs hardness scale. For comparison, diamond rates a 10 and granite rates from 6 to 8. This makes quartz harder than many natural stones. The resin binder helps quartz better resist scratches, etching and abrasions from knifes, pots/pans, and more.
Unlike granite and marble, quartz is non-porous so liquids cannot penetrate the surface. Spills and stains remain on the surface and can be wiped away instead of soaking in. However, some staining may occur after prolonged exposure.
Quartz can withstand brief exposure to heat up to around 212°F before potential damage occurs. The resin makes it more heat resistant than many natural stone options. However, hot pans should not be placed directly on quartz.
Quartz is resilient against chips and cracks, but solid objects and heavy impact can cause damage. Because it is brittle,quartz may crack if subjected to blunt force.
With the proper sealant applied, quartz resists damage from exposure to acidic substances like lemon juice, vinegar and wine. However, acidic chemicals could potentially etch quartz surfaces.
Durability Over Time
Unlike some natural stones that can crack, stain or dull over time, quartz maintains its durability and good looks for many years. With proper care and maintenance, quartz countertops will stay in excellent shape.
The bottom line is that quartz offers better overall durability than many natural stones. Its engineered composition gives it added toughness and resilience for years of beauty and performance. However, quartz does remain vulnerable to extreme impacts, heat,and chemicals. Reasonable care is still required
How to Care for Quartz Countertops
While durable, quartz countertops do require some periodic care and maintenance. Here are some tips for keeping quartz countertops looking beautiful:
- Clean spills promptly to prevent possible staining. Use a mild non-abrasive cleaner and soft cloth or sponge.
- Avoid using harsh chemicals or abrasive cleaners/pads, as these can dull the surface over time.
- Rinse the surface after cleaning to remove any residue. Thoroughly dry the surface.
- Although quartz resists scratches, avoid cutting directly on the surface to prevent possible damage. Use a cutting board.
- Place hot pots/pans on trivets. Never put extremely hot cookware directly on quartz.
- Re-seal quartz every 1-2 years with a stone sealant to enhance stain protection.
- For stubborn stains, use a non-abrasive pure quartz cleaner formulated for engineered stone.
- Avoid exposing quartz to strong chemicals like paint removers, oven cleaners, etc.
- Quartz requires no regular polishing like natural stone, but an occasional buffing can enhance shine.
- Check manufacturer care guidelines. Not all quartz is identical. Follow their recommendations.
With regular care and by treating it gently, a quartz countertop will maintain its beauty and perform like new for many years before replacement is needed. It’s durable enough for daily use but does require a little TLC.
Should I Choose Quartz or Granite Countertops?
Granite and quartz are two of the most popular countertop materials. Both offer attractive stone looks, but there are differences when it comes to durability, maintenance and cost. Here is a comparison of some pros and cons:
- More consistent coloring and patterns
- Extremely durable and scratch resistant surface
- Resists staining and etching from spills
- Low maintenance requires little regular sealing/polishing
- Heat resistant to 212°F
- Less natural variation in appearance
- Visible seams
- Can crack with heavy impact
- Prone to damage from extreme heat
- Higher cost than alternatives like laminate
- Completely natural stone with depth and variation
- Can develop a patina over time
- Seamless look when installed properly
- Withstands high heat when sealed
- Can cost less than quartz
- Potential for staining, etching and cracking
- Requires periodic sealing to protect surface
- Some granites emit radon gas
- Needs regular polishing to keep up appearance
- Not as scratch resistant as quartz
- Granite is a 100% natural stone, quartz is engineered
- Quartz offers more consistent coloring and patterns
- Quartz is harder, more durable and stain resistant
- Granite can better withstand impact and is more heat tolerant
- Quartz requires less regular maintenance
The choice between granite and quartz countertops depends largely on your priorities. Quartz is ideal if low maintenance, stain protection and consistent appearance are key. Granite offers an authentic stone look and can develop a patina. Weigh the pros and cons to select the best option for your home.
Cost Comparison: Quartz vs. Granite & Other Countertop Materials
One important factor when selecting countertops is cost. Here is an overview comparing the cost of quartz countertops to other popular options:
- Average installed cost: $60-100 per square foot
- More expensive than cheaper options like laminate
- Often pricier than granite but some grades can overlap
- Higher-end brands and exotics can cost over $100/square foot
- Average installed cost: $45-75 per square foot
- Similar overall cost range to quartz but lower on average
- Multi-colored exotic granites can also cost $100+/square foot
- Average installed cost: $40-100 per square foot
- Carrara and white marbles tend to be less expensive
- Rare exotic marbles can cost over $100/square foot
- Average installed cost: $10-35 per square foot
- Most affordable option suitable for countertops
- Limited durability and prone to scratches/damage
- Average installed cost: $10-50 per square foot
- Natural stone tiles cost more than ceramic
- Very durable but grout lines can collect dirt
- Average installed cost: $50-100 per square foot
- Needs regular sealing to prevent stains
- Can develop cracks over time
Quartz occupies an upper mid-range price tier for countertop materials – more affordable than some exotics but pricier than basics like laminate and tile. When factored over the lifespan of a kitchen, the durability and low maintenance needs of quartz make it a cost-effective investment for many homeowners.
How to Clean Quartz Countertops
Regular cleaning is essential for keeping quartz counters looking like new. Here are some best practices for cleaning quartz:
- For everyday cleaning, use a mild soap and warm water. Avoid abrasive cleaners or pads that could dull the surface.
- Rinse thoroughly after cleaning to remove any leftover residue. Make sure to wipe the counters dry.
- For stubborn spots and stains, use a specially formulated quartz cleaner or baking soda/water paste. Apply and scrub gently.
- Avoid vinegar, ammonia, and acidic or alkaline cleaners as these can etch and damage quartz.
- For grease stains, use a degreasing cleaner formulated for stone surfaces.
- Bleach and hydrogen peroxide can discolor quartz. Avoid exposing the surface.
- Use a non-abrasive soft sponge or cloth to clean the countertop. Never use steel wool or scouring pads.
- Minimize spills reaching the counter by wiping up promptly. Don’t let puddles soak in.
- After cleaning, consider