Quartz countertops are engineered stone surfaces made from naturally occurring quartz crystals combined with resins and pigments. They are an increasingly popular choice for home kitchen and bathroom countertops due to their durability, aesthetics, and ease of maintenance.
What is Quartz Made Of?
Quartz countertops consist of about 90-94% ground natural quartz crystals combined with 6-10% resins, polymers, and pigments. The quartz crystals come from abundant sources like granite, sandstone, and quartzite. They provide strength, hardness, and sparkle to the material.
The resins act as a binder to hold the quartz particles together. Polymers provide additional durability and flexibility. Pigments introduce color and pattern. Common resin binders used include polyester, epoxy, and acrylic.
So in summary, quartz countertops contain:
- 90-94% crushed quartz
- 6-10% polyester or epoxy resins
- Polymers for enhanced durability
- Pigments for color and pattern
This combination results in a man-made engineered slab that retains the look of natural stone but with added benefits.
How Are Quartz Countertops Made?
Quartz slabs are made in factories under tightly controlled conditions for consistent quality. Here is an overview of the quartz fabrication process:
1. Sourcing the Raw Materials
The quartz manufacturer sources quartz crystals and aggregates from quarries along with the resin, pigments, and other additives.
2. Crushing the Quartz
The quartz chunks are crushed into smaller pieces and grains to achieve a fine consistency.
3. Mixing the Ingredients
The crushed quartz granules are combined with the resins, polymers, and color pigments and mixed thoroughly.
4. Molding the Slabs
The quartz mixture is molded into slabs using a vibrating vacuum press. This removes air pockets and compacts the material under pressure.
5. Curing the Material
The pressed slabs are cured at high temperatures to harden the resins and achieve the desired finish.
6. Finishing and Polishing
Once cured, the slabs are calibrated to a uniform thickness, polished, and given the final surface treatments.
7. Quality Control
Throughout the process, the slabs are examined to ensure they meet quality standards before being packaged and shipped.
So quartz countertops go through a meticulous engineered process to create the finished kitchen and bathroom countertops.
The Pros and Cons of Quartz Countertops
Quartz offers many benefits as a countertop material but also has some downsides to consider.
Pros of Quartz Countertops
- Extremely durable and scratch-resistant. Quartz rates 7-8 on Moh’s Scale of Hardness compared to granite’s 6-7 rating. This makes it very resilient to scratches, chips, and cracks.
- Low maintenance. Quartz resists staining, etching, and heat damage. It requires little daily upkeep compared to natural stone.
- Non-porous. With zero porosity, quartz does not need periodic sealing like granite. Liquids and oils don’t penetrate the surface.
- Appealing aesthetics. Quartz comes in attractive colors, patterns, and realistic stone looks. The polished surface adds shine.
- Easy to clean. Simple soap and water is all that is needed to keep quartz clean. You can also use a stone cleaner.
- Mold and bacteria resistant. The non-porous surface does not allow contaminants to penetrate and breed.
- More affordable than natural stone. As an engineered product, quartz costs 20-50% less than granite or marble.
Cons of Quartz Countertops
- Limited color and pattern options. There are fewer unique designs compared to natural stone’s vast diversity.
- Prone to impact damage. Dropping heavy objects on quartz can chip or crack the material.
- Can stain from prolonged exposure. Highly pigmented spills may stain if left overnight. But these are rare occurrences.
- Seams are more noticeable. The uniform patterns and colors make seams between slabs more visible.
- Professional installation required. Quartz requires specialty tools and techniques to fabricate and install.
- Cannot be restored or polished. Unlike granite, you cannot enhance quartz by re-polishing or refinishing its surface over time.
So while not flawless, quartz offers significant advantages that make it a smart choice for most homes.
The Many Styles of Quartz Countertops
From elegant marbles to modern concretes, quartz comes in a diverse array of colors, finishes, and patterns. Here is an overview of the many quartz styles available:
These mimic exotic natural granite with realistic swirls, speckles, and veining in shades like Ubatuba, Taj Mahal, and New Caledonia. Popular brands include Silestone Lyra, Cambria Brittanicca, and Viatera Arenal.
Recreating the beauty of marble, these have delicate gray/white veining and soft patterns. Top options include Caesarstone Statuario Nuvo and Hanstone Bianco Carrara.
The urban chic concrete visual has gained popularity with smooth solid grays, beiges, and whites. Leading concrete quartzes are Cambria Brittanica and Silestone Blanco Zeus.
Shimmering metallic quartzes like quartzite and onyx inject glamour with glistening mica flecks and bright shimmery backgrounds. See Viatera Champagne Onyx and Silestone Eternal Calacatta Gold.
Vibrant solid quartzes in bold colors like cherry red, cobalt blue, vibrant green and sunny yellow provide modern pop. Caesarstone offers colorful choices like Raven, Soho, and Lagos Blue.
Other Unique Styles
You can also find distinctive quartzes like vivid multi-colored blends, large-scale graphics, and quartzites emulating natural stone. The options are diverse.
So whether you seek classic marble beauty, cool modern concretes, exotic granites or vibrant solids, there is a quartz to match your style.
How to Choose the Best Quartz Countertop
With so many options, selecting your ideal quartz countertop requires careful consideration. Follow these tips:
- Samples – Order free manufacturer samples to view colors and patterns in person before deciding. Colors online can be misleading.
- Your Style – Choose a quartz style that fits your home’s decor – modern, rustic, minimalist, traditional etc.
- Intended Use – Consider the wear and tear the area will see. Opt for darker quartzes for heavier use. Lighter ones show more dirt.
- Color Tolerance – Understand that no two slabs are identical. There will be natural variations. Inspect the actual slabs before committing.
- Granite vs. Quartz – Quartz offers more consistency but granite provides unique one-of-a-kind looks. Decide which you prefer.
- See It Installed – Look at quartz displays in showrooms, open houses or filmed installs online to envision it in a real space.
- Durability Needs – Quartz is harder than granite but granite can be re-polished indefinitely. Determine which suits your needs.
- Budget – Quartz costs less than natural stone but prices still range widely from $40-$120 per square foot installed. Set realistic budget expectations.
Doing your homework before selecting the perfect quartz ensures you get the right surface to match both your lifestyle and design needs.
How Much Do Quartz Countertops Cost?
Quartz offers an attractive balance of beauty, durability, and affordability. But how much will you actually pay to install quartz countertops in your kitchen or bath? Here are the main factors impacting installed costs:
- Quartz Slab Prices – The base material cost ranges $40-$120 per square foot. Lower-end quartzes cost $40-$65 per square foot. Mid-range options run $65-$90 per square foot. Luxury designer quartzes exceed $100 per square foot.
- Edge Profiles – Edges add $5-$15 linear foot. More lavish edges like triple pencil edge or bevel raise costs. Simple eased or square edges are most affordable.
- Thickness – Standard 3 cm slabs suffice for most. Going to a thicker 3.8 cm slab increases cost 15-20% but provides heft.
- Cutouts and special fabrication – Expect to pay extra for specialty fabrication like cutouts for sinks and cooktops, laminated edges, and backsplashes.
- Professional Installation – This averages $40-$75 per hour. A typical 30 square foot kitchen may take 16-24 hours.
- Other Ancillary Costs – Miscellaneous supplies, sink/faucet installation, removal of old countertop, and local taxes add to the total price.
Given all these factors, you can expect to pay $80 – $140 per square foot for installed quartz countertops, with the national average around $105 per square foot installed.
Luxury quartz can exceed $200 per square foot installed. Always get an itemized quote tailored to your specific project. Beware very low bids that suggest cutting corners.
Quartz vs. Granite Countertops
Granite and quartz are two of the most popular natural stone countertop options. How do they compare in terms of aesthetics, durability, maintenance, and cost? Here is an overview:
- Granite – Available in stunning one-of-a-kind exotic patterns like swirling greys, bold blues, and vivid greens. No two slabs are alike.
- Quartz – Offers consistent speckled patterns and veining in natural or vivid colors. More limited diversity but exact matches between slabs.
- Granite – Very durable but softer than quartz. Resilient against scratches but can chip or crack if hit forcefully.
- Quartz – Extremely durable and scratch-resistant. Unaffected by most impacts. Highly resilience overall.
- Granite – Requires periodic sealing to prevent staining. Avoid harsh cleaners that can strip granite’s sealant.
- Quartz – Non-porous so does not need regular sealing. Easy cleanup with just soap and water.
- Granite – Ranges from $60-$150 per square foot installed, averaging around $80-$100 on average. Exotic granites are priciest.
- Quartz – Averages $100-$130 installed but prices range from budget options at $75 per square foot to luxury designer slabs over $200.
Both offer distinct advantages. Granite brings natural beauty while quartz provides durability. Evaluate their unique merits to determine which stone fits your needs.
How to Care for and Clean Quartz Countertops
Caring for quartz requires minimal effort thanks to its durable non-porous composition. Here are the key ways to care for quartz and keep it looking like new:
- Quartz requires only simple soap and water cleaning for daily maintenance.
- Use a soft sponge or microfiber cloth to gently wipe down the surface.
- Avoid abrasive scrubbing pads or scouring powders that can dull the finish.
- For best results, use a specialized stone cleaner and follow manufacturer instructions.
- Completely dry the surface after cleaning to prevent water marks.
- Always use cutting boards and trivets. Never cut directly on quartz.
- Don’t drag heavy pans or appliances across the surface which can scratch.
- Wipe up spills immediately before they have a chance to stain.
- Handle chemicals carefully and rinse any contact off promptly.
- Check bottoms of pots/pans for debris particles that could scratch.
Treating Spills and Stains
- For oily spills, use a degreasing cleaner, soap and water, or baking soda and water paste.
- For stubborn dried-on stains, try a poultice pulls the stain from the quartz.
- For hard water marks, use a scale remover formulated for stone.
- Avoid bleach, alkaline cleaners, and abrasive pads which can damage sealers.
Prevention Better Than Cure
- Quartz is highly stain-resistant but not stain-proof. Prevention is ideal.
- Avoid exposing quartz to strong chemicals like paint removers, oven cleaners etc.
- Rinse off any spills immediately before they have time to penetrate the surface.
With routine cleaning and care, quartz countertops will retain their beauty seamlessly.
FAQs about Quartz Countertops
Is quartz healthier than granite?
Quartz is considered a healthier choice than granite due to being non-porous. Granite can potentially harbor bacteria within its porous surface. Quartz’s density does not allow liquids or contaminants to penetrate. This minimizes any hygiene concerns.
Is quartz stain resistant?
Quartz has excellent stain resistance due to its non-porous composition. Most everyday spills like wine, oil, and juices easily wipe off if cleaned promptly. However, highly pigmented spills like berries, tomatoes, and makeup may stain if left for prolonged periods. Immediate cleanup prevents most staining.
Is quartz scratch resistant?
Quartz rates 7-8 on the Moh’s Hardness Scale making it very scratch resistant. It can withstand regular use including knives and pots without marks. However, quartz can get scratched by exposure to harder materials like diamond or broken ceramics dragged across its surface. Using cutting boards provides protection.
Can you cut on quartz countertops?
It is not recommended to cut directly on quartz countertops despite their hardness. The cutting action of knives can pit and dull the surface over time. Always use a cutting board to prevent damage to quartz countertops.
Does quartz need to be sealed?
Unlike granite, quartz does not require any sealing due to its non-porous composition. Liquids and oils cannot penetrate the dense surface, so sealing is not necessary for protection. However, some homeowners opt to apply sealers for added peace of mind.
How long do quartz countertops last?
When cared for properly, quartz countertops can last many decades. The resins binding the quartz together may eventually degrade over prolonged UV light exposure. But quartz is not prone to etching or scratching that can deteriorate natural stone. Many manufacturers offer 15-year or lifetime limited warranties on quartz countertops.
Can you repair quartz countertops?
Minor damage like superficial scratches may be minimally repaired through sanding and polishing. But more significant damage like chips, cracks, and stains cannot truly be fixed. Unlike natural stone, quartz cannot be restored by re-polishing the entire surface. Severely damaged quartz may need replacement.
With their extreme durability, appealing aesthetics, and easy maintenance, quartz offers an ideal blend of form and function. Composed mainly of natural quartz crystals bound with resins, quartz brings the beauty of stone without some of granite’s drawbacks. Available in styles ranging from exotic marbles to modern concretes, selecting the right quartz requires balancing personal taste, lifestyle needs, and budget. With proper care, quartz countertops provide long-lasting luxury and visual interest to any home’s interior design. Their diverse merits make them a coveted choice to consider for kitchen and bathroom upgrades.