Quartz countertops have become an increasingly popular option for kitchen and bathroom remodeling projects over the past couple of decades. But what exactly is quartz, and what makes it a good choice for countertops? This comprehensive guide will explain everything you need to know about quartz countertops.
What is Quartz?
Quartz is a man-made material that is composed of ground natural quartz crystals combined with resins and pigments. The exact ratio can vary between brands, but a typical quartz slab contains over 90% ground quartz mixed with about 10% polymer resins and pigments.
The resins act as a binder to hold the quartz particles together, while the pigments introduce color and pattern. By altering the ratio of quartz to resins and changing the pigments, manufacturers are able to create an enormous variety of styles, colors, and patterns for quartz slabs.
So in summary:
- Quartz is an engineered stone made from ground quartz crystals combined with resins and pigments.
- It typically contains over 90% natural quartz.
- The resins bind the quartz particles together.
- Pigments introduce color and pattern.
- The ratio of ingredients can be varied to create different styles.
How is Quartz Made?
The process of manufacturing quartz slabs involves several steps:
1. Sourcing the Raw Materials
- Quartz crystals are mined and then finely ground into a powder. This provides the main raw material.
- Pigments are added to introduce color. Titanium dioxide is commonly used for white slabs.
- Resins and polymers like polyester are mixed in as bonding agents.
2. Mixing the Compounds
The quartz powder, pigments, and resins are thoroughly blended together in precise ratios using mixing equipment.
Different mix designs are used to achieve various styles. The ratio of resin to quartz content affects the hardness and appearance.
3. Molding the Slabs
The quartz mixture is poured into molds and compacted under vibration and pressure to remove air pockets and evenly distribute the materials.
This compaction process forms uniform slabs which are then moved onto curing ovens.
4. Curing the Material
The pressed slabs are cured at high temperatures which cause the resins to solidify and firmly bind the quartz particles.
Curing times and temperatures vary by manufacturer. The process can take over an hour to produce slabs ready for finishing.
5. Finishing the Surface
Once cured, the slabs are finished by polishing to achieve the desired smoothness and shine. Some textures also incorporate the look of natural stone finishes.
Advanced techniques like digital printing may be used to create patterns mimicking stone and other designs. The slabs are inspected for quality before shipment.
The Pros and Cons of Quartz Countertops
Now that you understand the composition and manufacturing process of quartz, let’s examine some of its key advantages and disadvantages as a countertop material.
Pros of Quartz Countertops:
- Extremely durable and resilient – Quartz has high hardness and strength, making it very scratch and chip resistant compared to other stone or solid surface options. Properly installed quartz countertops can last for decades.
- Low maintenance – Requires only occasional cleaning with soap and water. No need for regular sealing or polishing. Resists stains, etching from acids, burns, and abrasions better than natural stone.
- Non-porous surface – With only a small amount of resins, quartz does not have the small pores found in materials like granite, so it won’t harbour bacteria or need periodic sealing.
- Heat resistance – Can withstand placement of hot pots and pans without damage.
- Wide range of colors and styles – Manufacturers offer hundreds of color, pattern, and texture options from minimalist solid slabs to bold, realistic stone looks. Custom digital printing expands the design possibilities even further.
- Consistent patterning – Engineered process allows reliable repeatability in the veining and patterns through the slab thickness. No variations or unexpected fossils/crystals as can happen with natural stone slabs.
- Neutral background – The fine particles create a smooth, uniform background that allows bold veining and patterns to really stand out compared to the busier and more varied patterning of natural stones.
- Eco-friendly – Contains high amounts of natural quartz material. Does not require quarrying and transportation of large natural stone blocks.
Cons of Quartz Countertops
- Higher cost than some alternatives – Natural stone or tile can be cheaper, though lower quality. Quartz costs more than solid surfaces like Corian® or cultured marble. Higher-end quartz costs over $100 per square foot installed.
- Limited custom fabrication – Seams and edge profiles are generally straight. Curved shapes or intricate inlays are not typically offered.
- Lacks uniqueness of natural stone – While patterns aim to mimic stone, the uniformity and consistency have an engineered appearance up close that some may consider less authentic looking.
- Repairing damage not possible – No way to polish out scratches or impacts that penetrate the surface. Replacement of the damaged section is the only option.
- Not stain proof – Highly stain resistant with proper sealing but may still stain under extreme conditions (prolonged exposure to strong chemicals, dyes).
- Can chip if subjected to impact – Tough but not actually damage proof. Dropping heavy objects on corners/edges can cause chips, though unlikely in normal use.
Popular Brands of Quartz Countertops
The quartz countertop market is dominated by a handful of major manufacturers:
- Caesarstone – One of the earliest quartz brands, founded in 1987. Known for diverse styles and inventing quartz surfaces.
- Cambria – Major U.S. brand, part of the larger Cambria Company. Focused on natural stone looks.
- Silestone – Made by Cosentino, the Spain-based global leader. Offers many bold patterns.
- LG Viatera – High-end premium brand made by LG. Emphasizes large veining and realistic stone resemblance.
- Quartz Master – Budget-friendly brand sold through home improvement stores. Good value.
- PentalQuartz – Pacific Northwest brand rapidly growing in popularity for unique styles.
- MSI – Massive manufacturer with many quartz lines at varied price points.
When shopping, pay attention to the brand and specific collection within the brand to get the look you want. Each line will have distinct styles, colors, and pricing.
How to Choose the Best Quartz Countertops
Selecting the perfect quartz countertops requires considering your budget, kitchen style, and personal preferences. Follow this process for the best results:
Determine Your Budget
Quartz pricing can range from $50 per square foot on the very low end to $150+ per square foot for premium designer brands. Most quality quartz will cost $80-$120 per square foot installed.
Measure your existing countertops to estimate the total cost and set a realistic budget. Be sure to account for professional installation too.
Pick a Color Theme
Browse quartz colors online or in store displays to identify desired shades for your kitchen or bath. White, light grey, and tan are perennial favorites.
Consider if you want a uniform solid color or a bold multiple color pattern. This will help narrow the options.
Select a Surface Finish
Quartz comes in polished, matte, or lightly textured finishes. Sleek polished quartz works great for modern designs, while textured finishes can provide more grip and hide smudges in busy kitchens.
Choose a Design Style
Traditional styles mimic marble and other classic natural stones with softer veining and background. Modern options offer bolder patterns and colors.
Look for collections that align with your decor – traditional, contemporary, industrial, coastal, etc. This ensures the quartz will complement your overall kitchen design.
View Slabs In Person
Once you’ve narrowed down brands and styles, visit a stone supplier or quartz fabricator to view slabs in person. This allows you to see the color variations and finishes realistically.
Be sure to view multiple slabs as each one will be slightly unique. Examine seams and edges to ensure acceptable consistency and fit for your space.
Consider Maintenance Needs
Lighter quartz will show stains and marks more. Busy patterns can hide imperfections better. If maintaining spotless appearance is important, this may affect your preferences.
Make the Final Selection
With your initial research complete, you can now confidently choose the perfect quartz color, style, and brand that aligns with your budget, kitchen design, and lifestyle needs.
Order the slabs through your fabricator, double-check measurements, and you’ll be ready for seamless quartz countertop installation. Enjoy your beautiful new countertops!
How Much Do Quartz Countertops Cost?
The cost of quartz countertops depends primarily on 4 factors:
Higher-end luxury brands cost more than value/budget options. Expect to pay:
- Economy brands like Quartz Master – $40-$70 per sq. ft.
- Standard mid-range brands – $70-$100 per sq. ft.
- Premium designer brands – $100-$150+ per sq. ft.
2. Color and Style
Simple solid colors and minimal patterns and textures are most affordable. Unique styles with elaborate details cost more.
Standard thickness is 3 cm (1.2 inches). Thicker options of 2 or 3 cm are 10-30% more. Thinner 2 cm slabs can also save on cost but may not be adequate for all uses.
Fabrication (cutting, edging, seaming, sink cuts, etc) and professional installation typically adds $40-$100 per sq. ft. to the base material cost, even more for intricate jobs.
Total installed costs for a typical 30 sq. ft. kitchen countertop project will range from about $1,500 on the very low end to $4,500+ on the high end.
Be sure to get an exact installed quote from fabricators before purchasing materials. This helps avoid budget overruns.
How to Clean Quartz Countertops
Thanks to the durability and non-porous nature of quartz, cleaning and care is straightforward:
- For regular cleaning, use a mild soap and water. Avoid abrasive cleaners.
- Rinse and dry thoroughly after cleaning to prevent buildup of mineral deposits.
- For stubborn stains, use a non-abrasive baking soda and water paste and rinse.
- Disinfect occasionally with hydrogen peroxide or rubbing alcohol based cleaner.
- Avoid exposing the surface to strong chemicals like paint removers, oven cleaners, etc. Rinse immediately if exposure occurs.
- Reseal quartz every 1-2 years with a penetrative impregnating sealer to prevent gradual absorption stains over time.
With routine care, quartz countertops will retain their flawless, factory-fresh sheen for decades before needing replacement. Avoid abrasives, use trivets for hot items, and clean up spills promptly to maximize the working life of your quartz.
Quartz Countertops Pros and Cons Summary
| Pros | Cons |
| Extremely durable and scratch/chip resistant | Higher installed cost than some alternatives |
| Low maintenance and easy to clean | Limited custom fabrication possibilities |
| Resists stains, burns, and cracks | Lacks natural uniqueness of genuine stone |
| Non-porous and inhibits bacterial growth | Damage cannot be repaired, only replaced |
| Heat and water resistant | Not completely stain or damage proof |
| Wide range of colors, patterns, and styles | |
| Consistent look throughout the slab | |
| Neutral background highlights bold veining | |
| Eco-friendly composition | |
FAQs about Quartz Countertops
Is quartz better than granite?
Quartz and granite each have their pros and cons. Overall, quartz is more durable, lower maintenance, and has greater design flexibility. Granite offers a more prestigious, timeless look that some still prefer.
How long do quartz countertops last?
With proper care, quartz countertops typically last 20-25 years before needing replacement. Some manufacturers offer warranties up to 15 years.
Can you cut on quartz countertops?
Yes, quartz has exceptional hardness and scratch resistance compared to other natural stone, making it very knife friendly. Use a cutting board to protect the surface and avoid dulling blades.
Are quartz countertops toxic?
Quartz surfaces contain over 90% natural quartz making them non-toxic. Certified food-safe and free of hazardous chemicals like VOCs. Completely safe for food prep when properly sealed.
How thick should quartz countertops be?
3 cm (1.2 inches) is the standard thickness. 2 cm can be used for some applications but may not be rigid enough for overhangs. Thicker 3 or 4 cm options add cost but provide extra durability and easier seaming.
Can quartz countertops be repaired?
No. Unlike natural stone, it’s not possible to polish out damage on quartz surfaces. Damaged sections need replacement, though small chips can usually be filled.
Are quartz countertops expensive to maintain?
No, quartz requires very little maintenance aside from occasional cleaning. No need for regular sealing, polishing, or specialist cleaning that natural stone needs, reducing long term costs.
Do quartz countertops stain?
Quartz has excellent resistance to stains but is not completely stain proof. Prolonged exposure can still result in some absorption staining or damage from strong chemicals.
Quartz offers a winning combination of stylish design, extreme durability, and easy maintenance that makes it an ideal choice for countertops to handle busy kitchen use.
With routine care and proper installation, quartz countertops will provide a flawless surface that looks pristine for decades to come. The engineered composition allows quartz to avoid pitfalls like staining, etching, and cracking that can affect natural stone over time.
Choosing the perfect quartz countertop comes down to identifying colors and patterns that complement your kitchen decor, selecting quality materials, and working with an experienced fabricator to handle the installation.
We hope this comprehensive guide has provided you with all the information needed to confidently choose quartz countertops that match both your functional needs and aesthetic taste. Let us know if you have any other quartz countertop questions!