Quartz countertops have become incredibly popular in recent years for use in kitchens and bathrooms. But what exactly are quartz countertops made out of? Here’s a detailed look at the composition and manufacturing process of quartz countertops.
What is Quartz?
Quartz is a mineral that is found naturally in the earth’s crust. It is incredibly hard and durable, ranking around 7 on the Mohs hardness scale. Quartz is made up of silicon dioxide (SiO2) and is formed underground through a geologic process.
There are different varieties of natural quartz, including:
- Rock crystal – Colorless and transparent quartz
- Amethyst – Purple variety of quartz
- Citrine – Yellow variety of quartz
- Smoky quartz – Gray/brown quartz due to natural irradiation
While natural quartz is used for some countertops, engineered quartz has become the most popular type used for countertops today.
What is Engineered Quartz?
Engineered, or synthetic, quartz is made from crushed quartz minerals combined with resin, pigments, and other materials. It is approximately 93% ground quartz minerals and 7% polymer resins and pigments.
The exact ratios and compounds used will vary between different quartz manufacturers and determine the look, quality, and price of the engineered stone.
Here is a breakdown of the basic manufacturing process:
- Step 1: Natural quartz crystals are mined, then cleaned and crushed into a fine powder. This provides the primary material for the engineered quartz slabs.
- Step 2: The quartz powder is combined with coloring pigments and synthetic resins. These act as binding agents to form the mixture into a solid slab.
- Step 3: The mixture is compacted into a slab mold under vacuum conditions. This compacting process removes air pockets and excess moisture.
- Step 4: The slabs are further hardened through vibration and vacuum pressure.
- Step 5: The solid slabs are molded into polished countertops of various thicknesses. Many quartz slabs are prefabricated into standard countertop sizes.
- Step 6: Slabs can be cut-to-size for custom installations and finished edges can be fabricated as needed.
So in summary, engineered quartz countertops consist mainly of crushed quartz aggregate held together by resins and polymers. The manufacturing process allows the creation of durable, custom sized slabs.
Benefits of Quartz Countertops
Now that we’ve looked at how quartz countertops are made, what are the benefits that make them so popular?
- Extremely durable – Quartz has very high strength and hardness, making it resistant to scratches, stains, and heat. It can withstand heavy daily use.
- Low maintenance – Engineered quartz resists staining and etching better than natural stone. It rarely needs resealing or special cleaners.
- Hygienic – The nonporous surface inhibits bacterial growth and makes cleaning easy.
- Stylish options – Quartz comes in a wide array of colors, patterns, and realistic stone looks. The pigments create consistent color and patterns throughout the slabs.
- Customizable – Quartz can be fabricated into custom sizes and edge profiles. Seamless designs are possible.
- Non-toxic – Quartz does not emit radon gas like some natural stones. The engineered material is considered environmentally friendly.
Thanks to these outstanding traits, quartz has surpassed granite as the most popular material for kitchen and bathroom countertops. It offers unbeatable durability with stylish options.
FAQs about Quartz Countertops
Is quartz healthier than granite?
Yes, quartz is generally regarded as a healthier option compared to granite. Quartz does not contain radioactive elements like some granites, so does not emit radon gas. It also resists bacteria growth better than natural stone.
How thick should a quartz countertop be?
The standard thickness for quartz countertops is 3 cm (1.2 inches). Thicker options of 2 cm (0.8 in) or 4 cm (1.6 in) are also available. 3 cm offers the best balance of durability and cost.
Can you repair chips in a quartz countertop?
You can repair minor chips and scratches in quartz using coloring compounds and epoxy resin fillers. But extensive damage may require a professional fabricator. Prevention is key – always use a cutting board.
Does quartz need to be sealed?
No, quartz countertops do not require regular sealing like granite or marble. The resin binders make quartz non-porous so it does not absorb stains. But occasional sealing can add extra protection.
Is quartz expensive?
Quartz is priced similarly to natural stone, ranging from $50-$100 per square foot installed. It offers better durability than granite or marble for the cost. High-end designer quartz can cost over $100 per square foot.
Quartz has rapidly grown as a premier countertop choice thanks to its sleek appearance, extreme durability, and easy maintenance. By understanding what quartz countertops are made of, it’s clear why this engineered stone has surged in popularity for busy kitchens and baths. Comprised mainly of natural quartz minerals bound with resins, quartz offers flexible customization, attractive styling, and stain/scratch resistance making it an ideal surface for countertops in the home.