Quartz countertops have become an increasingly popular option for kitchen and bathroom remodeling projects in recent years. But is quartz really the best material for countertops? In this comprehensive guide, we’ll examine the pros and cons of quartz countertops to help you decide if they are the right choice for your home.
What is Quartz?
Before we dive into the specifics of quartz countertops, let’s start with a quick overview of what exactly quartz is. Quartz is a man-made material engineered from roughly 90% ground natural quartz crystals and 10% polymer resins and pigments.
The quartz crystals come from quartz slabs that are mined and then crushed into a fine powder. That powder is then combined with resins, pigments, and other compounds to create an engineered slab. The resin binds the quartz crystals together, while the pigments introduce color and pattern.
So while quartz contains abundant natural quartz crystals, the material itself is engineered and manufactured. This gives quartz some advantages over natural stone materials like granite or marble when it comes to countertops.
The Pros of Quartz Countertops
Now that we understand the basics of what quartz countertops are made of, let’s look at some of the key benefits and advantages of quartz:
Extremely Durable and Low Maintenance
One of the biggest pros of quartz countertops is their outstanding durability. The resins that bind the quartz crystals together create a very hard, non-porous surface that stands up excellently to daily wear and tear.
Quartz countertops are almost impervious to scratches, etching, heat, and stains. You can place hot pans directly on quartz surfaces without worry. The material is not prone to chipping or cracking either. This makes quartz an ideal choice for busy kitchens and bathrooms.
The non-porous nature of quartz also makes it a very low maintenance material. It does not require regular sealing like natural stone. Simple wiping with a damp cloth easily keeps quartz clean.
Greater Flexibility in Colors and Patterns
Natural stone countertops like granite and marble are limited to the natural color variations and patterns found in the quarried stone slabs. But in quartz manufacturing, pigments are added to create all sorts of unique colors and patterns. This gives you far more flexibility when selecting your countertop aesthetic.
From solid colors to dramatic patterns that mimic natural stone and concrete, the options are nearly endless with quartz. And improvements in quartz manufacturing have resulted in very natural looking stone-like patterns. If you want rich blues, greens, or reds, quartz can provide them when natural stone cannot.
Resistance to Stains, Bacteria, and Microbes
The non-porous nature of quartz counters not only makes them durable – it also makes them highly resistant to stains from food, liquids, ink, and other common household substances. Microbes, bacteria, and molds also have a very difficult time growing on quartz surfaces.
This natural resistance to stains and microbes makes quartz an excellent choice for kitchens and bathrooms. You won’t have to worry about chicken juices or bath products discoloring your counters.
Consistent Quality with Less Variation
Since quartz slabs are engineered under highly controlled factory conditions, you get very consistent quality and appearance. This differs from natural stone where each quarried slab will have some unique patterning and imperfections.
With quartz, every slab will have the same consistent coloring, flecks, and veining. So if your counters need multiple slabs, you won’t have to worry about noticeable differences between them. It provides a clean, uniform look.
Greater Flexibility During Installation
Natural stone slabs must be carefully inspected and bookmatched to account for variations between slabs during installation. But with quartz you don’t have to go through this tedious process since each slab has the same uniform patterning.
Quartz gives installers more leeway when cutting and fitting pieces together from multiple slabs, which can significantly reduce installation time and cost.
Does Not Need Regular Sealing
As mentioned earlier, the non-porous nature of quartz means it does not require regular sealing like natural stone countertops. Granite, for example, needs to be sealed every 1-2 years to prevent staining and discoloration. Avoiding this maintenance is a significant advantage of quartz.
Slabs are Less Prone to Cracking and Chipping
Quartz slabs are extremely hard and less brittle than natural stone slabs. This makes them much less prone to cracking and chipping during transportation and installation compared to materials like granite or marble. Cracked slabs can delay projects and result in costly replacements, so quartz’s enhanced durability is a major advantage.
Greater Long-Term Value
With their extreme durability and resistance to everyday wear, quartz counters will retain their beauty and function for years longer than most other options. This gives them an excellent return on investment. While quartz may cost more upfront than materials like laminate, properly cared for quartz counters will last decades and provide great long-term value.
Large Island and Overhang Capability
Engineered quartz slabs are made thinner than natural stone slabs, but maintain their strength and durability. A 2-cm thick quartz slab can span a large kitchen island with overhangs on each side with proper support. This can give you greater flexibility when designing kitchens. Trying to achieve the same large spans with natural stone would require thicker, heavier slabs.
Environmentally Friendlier Manufacturing
Quartz surfaces are made from upwards of 90% ground quartz crystals, a naturally abundant material. The resins and pigments take up far less of the material makeup. Compared to other engineered surfaces like solid surface acrylics, quartz counters are generally considered a “greener” and more environmentally friendly option.
The Cons of Quartz Countertops
Now that we’ve gone through the many positives of quartz counters, let’s examine a few potential downsides and disadvantages to consider:
More Expensive than Some Options
Quartz countertops are durable and provide excellent value over their lifespan. However, they are more expensive than some other countertop options like laminate or tile upfront. Natural stone materials like granite can also come in at a lower starting price point in some cases.
The average total installed cost for quartz counters falls between $80-$100 per square foot. So they can represent a significant initial investment, especially for larger kitchens. If your budget is tight, you may want to consider lower cost options.
Limited to Pre-Fabricated Slabs
Since quartz counters are engineered under highly controlled factory conditions, they only come in pre-fabricated slab options. This limits your flexibility when designing customized edges and shapes compared to materials you can craft on-site like concrete. If you desire a uniquely shaped peninsula, for example, quartz may not be the best fit.
Fewer Thickness Options
Quartz slabs primarily come in either 2cm or 3cm thicknesses. Natural stones like granite are often available in wider ranging thicknesses up to 4cm+ based on your preference and budget. The limited quartz thicknesses can constrain some design options. But for most applications, the 2cm or 3cm options provide adequate durability.
Can Chip if Subjected to Hard Impacts
While quartz counters are extremely durable for everyday use, an excessive force like a heavy pot being dropped directly on the surface can potentially chip the material. This is no different than natural stone, but lighter materials like solid surface acrylics are less prone to impact damage. Avoiding direct heavy impacts is important for any stone surface.
Slab Variation Between Different Colors
We mentioned earlier that quartz offers excellent color consistency between different slabs of the same pattern. However, there can be slight variation in background tones and fleck distribution when comparing different color patterns.
If your project requires multiple colors of quartz (for example, separating the kitchen and bar areas), be aware the two colors will not have identical background tones. The overall look will be different despite using the same base material.
Can Be Difficult to Repair Significant Damage
Small nicks and scratches in quartz can often be sanded and polished out professionally. But significant damage like cracking or chipping can be very difficult or even impossible to properly repair. This may require a full slab replacement. Thankfully, serious damage is rare with quartz if cared for properly. But it is more problematic than with materials like concrete or tile that can be spot patched.
Requires Professional Installation
Quartz countertops are not a viable DIY project for amateur installers. The slabs are heavy, fragile, and require special tools. Licensed professionals with experience handling engineered stone are needed to cut and install them properly. This adds to the total project cost compared to DIY-friendly options like wood butcher block.
Can Slightly Dull Cutlery
The small quartz particles that make up quartz counters are abrasive enough that sliding cutlery across the surface over many years can eventually dull the blades. Of course, cutting directly on countertops should always be avoided for sanitary reasons. But it is something to keep in mind.
Needs Replacement Eventually
Quartz counters are extremely durable and can last decades with proper care. However, at some point down the road, they will need replacement like any other material. This can mean a significant new investment when the time comes. Options like concrete counters can potentially be resurfaced instead of fully replaced.
FAQs About Quartz Countertops
Looking into new countertops for your kitchen or bath? Here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about quartz:
Does Quartz Need to be Sealed?
One of the big advantages of quartz is that it does not require regular sealing. The non-porous resin binders eliminate the need for sealing every 1-2 years like natural stone counters. Quartz maintains its resistance to stains and moisture without any additional treatment after installation.
Is Quartz Heat Resistant?
Quartz holds up very well against heat. You can place hot pans, bakeware, and other kitchen tools directly on quartz surfaces without worry of damage. However, prolonged high heat from appliances like crockpots can potentially damage some quartz products over time. Using trivets is still a good practice.
Is Quartz Considered a Green Material?
Compared to other engineered countertop materials, quartz is generally regarded as one of the more environmentally friendly options. A high percentage of quartz is composed of natural quartz crystals, and the resins take up less of the makeup than other engineered surfaces. If eco-friendly design is important for your project, quartz is a good choice.
Does Quartz Need Special Cleaners?
Day to day, quartz counters only need mild dish soap and water for cleaning. No special stone cleaners or procedures are required. For tougher messes, a specialized quartz cleaner can be used. But harsh chemicals and abrasive pads should always be avoided.
Can You Cut on Quartz Countertops?
It’s best practice to always use a cutting board and not cut directly on your counters. However, the occasional slicing on a quartz surface won’t damage the material. Just keep in mind it can gradually dull your knife blades over time.
How Thick are Quartz Slabs Compared to Granite?
Quartz slabs primarily come in 2cm and 3cm thicknesses, compared to natural stones like granite that are quarried in a wider range of thicknesses up to 4cm+. But the slimmer quartz profiles maintain durability for most applications, while being less prone to cracks/chips during handling.
Should Quartz Countertops be Installed by a Professional?
Quartz fabrication and installation is not well suited for DIYers. The heavy slabs require special tools and experience to cut and install properly. Hiring professional fabricators and installers is highly recommended to ensure you receive durable, properly fitted quartz counters.
Is Quartz Good for Outdoors and Wet Areas?
With their waterproof nature and mold/mildew resistance, quartz counters are an excellent choice for outdoor kitchens or wet areas like showers. They stand up well to moisture exposure. Just make sure to use a professional installer experienced with outdoor fabrication.
Does Quartz Need an Undermount Sink?
Quartz looks best aesthetically with an undermount sink that sits below the countertop surface. However, it’s also fine to install a drop-in sink. Undermount just provides a streamlined look compared to rims sitting on the counter. Either sink type works technically.
Should You Choose Quartz Countertops?
So should you consider quartz for your next kitchen or bath remodel? Here are some final recommendations on when quartz makes an excellent choice:
- If durability and low maintenance are top priorities, quartz is hard to beat. The non-porous surfaces resist scratches, stains, and heat very well. No regular sealing is needed either. Quartz offers peace of mind your counters can handle years of household use.
- For those wanting an eye-catching custom color and pattern, quartz provides far more options than natural stone. Dazzling blues, greens, grays, and more are available. The manufacturing process allows very creative designs.
- If you want the visual appeal of natural stone but with more consistency between slabs, quartz beautifully mimics patterns like marble and granite while avoiding noticeable flaws and imperfections.
- For homeowners looking for an investment that will last decades and retain its beauty, properly cared for quartz counters offer fantastic long-term value and ROI.
- In wet areas and outdoor kitchens where mold and water damage are concerns, quartz’s waterproof characteristics make it an ideal choice to stand up to the elements.
As with any material, quartz has some drawbacks to balance against its many benefits. But for most homeowners, quartz offers an outstanding combination of aesthetics, durability, and practicality that makes it a top choice for countertops. If your design vision aligns with the strengths of quartz, it will likely exceed your expectations and be a source of enjoyment for many years to come.