Quartz countertops are extremely popular for kitchen and bathroom remodeling projects due to their durability, ease of maintenance, and wide variety of colors and patterns. But where does this versatile material actually come from? Is quartz mined or manufactured? The answer is a bit of both.
How Natural Quartz is Mined
Quartz is a naturally occurring mineral that is mined from the earth. It is comprised of silicon dioxide and is found in abundance around the world. Natural quartz crystals come in a variety of colors including purple, grey, yellow, pink, white, and colorless.
Quartz deposits are mined from open-pit quarries, which are essentially giant holes dug into the earth to reach the quartz veins. Explosives are often used to break up large volumes of rock that contain quartz deposits. Mine workers then extract the smaller quartz-rich rocks using machinery and hand tools. These rocks are crushed into smaller pieces and sorted based on color and quality.
Manufacturing Process of Engineered Quartz
While natural quartz is mined, the quartz used for countertops is actually engineered quartz. Engineered or manufactured quartz countertops contain roughly 90% ground natural quartz combined with resins, polymers, and pigments that bind the material together.
The manufacturing process starts with inspecting, cleaning, and preparing natural quartz crystals at the factory. The crystals are then ground into a fine powder. This powder is blended with pigments and adhesives such as resins and polymers to form slabs. The mixture is compacted into molds under vacuum pressure and vibration which fuses the materials together.
The engineered quartz slabs are molded into large blocks which are cooled, hardened, and polished to achieve the desired finish. Slabs are trimmed to standard countertop dimensions, gauges, and edge profiles. Some quartz brands created patterns like veining by manipulating the coloring and distribution of quartz grains when the slabs are molded. This gives engineered quartz the look and feel of natural stone.
Benefits of Engineered Quartz
The manufacturing process allows engineers to manipulate the properties of the material. While natural quartz is prone to flaws and cracks, engineered quartz is designed to be:
- Extremely hard and durable
- Resistant to stains, scratches, heat, and moisture
- Available in a wide array of colors and patterns
- Non-porous so less prone to bacteria and microorganisms
- Consistent in color and pattern throughout the slab
These advantages make engineered quartz an ideal surface for busy kitchens and baths. It offers the beauty of natural stone with enhanced durability and lower maintenance needs.
Is Quartz Sustainable?
While not inherently sustainable, quartz countertop manufacturers have taken steps to reduce environmental impact:
- Using recycled materials – Some quartz contains recycled glass, mirrors, or porcelain.
- Manufacturing efficiencies – Advanced techniques reduce wasted raw materials.
- Neutral resins – Bio-based resins are used instead of petroleum-based.
- Reduced emissions – New technologies cut greenhouse gas emissions in production.
- LEED certification – Many factories have achieved sustainability benchmarks.
So in summary, the quartz used for today’s countertops originates from natural quartz crystals that are mined and then engineered into durable slabs through an advanced manufacturing process. With increased eco-conscious practices, quartz can be a sustainable option for green home renovations.
FAQ About Quartz Countertops
Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about quartz countertops:
Is quartz healthier than granite?
Yes, quartz is generally regarded as a healthier option compared to granite. Quartz is non-porous so it does not require sealing. This prevents bacteria and microorganisms from accumulating in pores. Granite requires periodic sealing to reduce risk of germs and staining.
How is quartz different from solid surface countertops?
Solid surfaces like Corian are made from acrylic resins and minerals while quartz contains high percentages of ground natural quartz crystals. Quartz is harder, more durable, and heat resistant compared to solid surface. Quartz also has natural beauty from its stone-like patterns.
How thick should a quartz countertop be?
The standard thickness for a quartz countertop is 1.25 inches which provides an ideal balance of durability and weight. Thicker slabs of 2, 3, or 4 cm may be used for more heavily used commercial projects. Quartz can span gaps up to 2 feet with proper support.
What are the best quartz brands?
Leading brands include Cambria, Caesarstone, Silestone, MSI QPremium, Vicostone, Viatera, and DuPont Zodiaq. Look for reputable quartz suppliers that provide professional installation and warranties.
Does quartz stain easily?
No, quartz has excellent stain resistance and is unlikely to stain under normal conditions. However, prolonged exposure to strong chemicals and solvents can damage the surface. Quartz requires minimal maintenance to keep it looking like new.
Is quartz cheaper than granite?
In general, quartz countertops range from $80 to $140 per square foot installed. Granite slabs run from $60 to $120 per square foot installed. The materials cost for quartz is often marginally higher than granite, but long-term maintenance is lower.
Engineered quartz delivers the elegance and luxury of natural stone with added durability. By manipulating the properties of natural quartz in a manufacturing environment, countertop designers have created a material that can withstand the rigors of busy kitchens. While not the most eco-friendly product, enhancements in manufacturing and recycled content have made today’s quartz a viable option for sustainable homes. With routine care, quartz countertops will retain their like-new beauty for many years.