Quartz Countertops Are Engineered Stone
Quartz countertops are a type of engineered stone. Engineered stone is made from crushed natural quartz combined with resin binders and pigments. The quartz provides strength and durability, while the resins bind the material together. Pigments add color and pattern.
Other names used for engineered quartz include quartz surfacing or engineered quartz. While natural stone is mined and cut, engineered quartz slabs are manufactured in factories under precise conditions. This allows the material to be made with consistency in mind.
Natural Quartz Provides Hardness and Strength
Natural quartz makes up over 90% of a quartz countertop by volume. Quartz is one of the hardest minerals found in nature, rating 7 out of 10 on the Mohs hardness scale. This hardness makes it very resistant to scratches, chips and cracks.
Quartz crystals come in a variety of colors including white, grey, pink and purple. When crushed into a fine powder, quartz provides the strength, durability and scratch-resistance that makes quartz countertops ideal for heavy use in kitchens and baths.
Resins Act as a Binder
To transform crushed quartz into a countertop material, it needs a binder to hold the quartz particles together. The most commonly used binder is polyester resin. Some manufacturers may also use epoxy resin.
Resin makes up around 7% to 15% of a quartz countertop. The resin binds the quartz particles, allowing the countertop to be molded into solid slabs. Resin also provides some flexibility and resistance to impacts.
Pigments Add Color and Pattern
Color and patterns are added to quartz countertops with pigments which make up between 2% to 8% of the material. These pigments can create a wide spectrum of colors from light to dark. Different pigments are blended to achieve patterns like speckles, swirls or veining.
Pigments provide the aesthetic options that make quartz an appealing countertop choice. Without pigments, quartz slabs would be plain white or gray. Pigments allow quartz to mimic natural stone patterns and colors.
Other Minor Additives
Small amounts of other additives may be used in quartz countertop manufacturing including:
- Silica – Adds durability and sheen
- Mirror chips – For glittery surfaces
- Semi-precious stones – Can provide reflective specks
- Bacterial growth inhibitors – Reduces microbes on the surface
- Fillers like glass or shells – Affects strength and workability
These minor ingredients each play a small role in the performance or appearance of the finished product. The exact formula varies between quartz manufacturers and specific product lines.
How Quartz Countertops Are Made
Quartz countertops are made in large factories under closely monitored conditions for optimal quality control. Here is a basic overview of the manufacturing process:
- Raw materials are precisely measured by computers including quartz, resins, pigments and other additives.
- Ingredients are combined and mixed thoroughly to achieve an even distribution.
- The mixture is fed into a press where intense vibration compacts it into a solid slab.
- The slab is cured at a specific temperature to harden the resin binder.
- Computer-controlled cutters shape the slab into standard countertop dimensions.
- Finishing steps can include polishing to a glossy sheen.
- Slabs are shipped to distributors and fabricators for installation.
Benefits of a Highly Engineered Material
The engineered nature of quartz allows countertops to be fabricated with very controlled properties. Benefits include:
- Consistent hardness and density
- Built-in resistance to stains, scratches and heat
- Flexibility to create vivid colors and patterns
- Greater durability than natural stone
- Less maintenance required than other surfaces
By combining natural quartz with polymers and pigments, manufacturers can produce an ideal countertop material with enhanced performance capabilities. The result is beautiful, durable and easy-to-maintain quartz countertops.
While quartz countertops may seem like a solid surface, they are actually carefully engineered composites. Natural quartz provides strength. Resins bind the material. Pigments add aesthetic options. Combined in precise ratios, these ingredients create an ideal balance of beauty, durability and practicality that makes quartz one of the most popular countertop choices today. Understanding what quartz countertops are made of helps appreciate why this material has become a go-to surface for kitchens and bathrooms.