Quartz countertops have become an increasingly popular option for home kitchens and bathrooms in recent years. But what exactly is a quartz countertop? In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore everything you need to know about quartz countertops, including what they are, their benefits and drawbacks compared to other materials, how they are made, how to choose the right one, and proper care and maintenance.
What is Quartz?
Quartz is a man-made material engineered from natural quartz crystals combined with resins and pigments. Natural quartz is an abundant mineral found all over the world. It is extremely hard and durable. When pulverized into a fine powder and combined with chemicals and resins under heat and pressure, this material forms an engineered stone product with the look and feel of natural stone.
What Sets Quartz Apart From Other Countertop Materials?
Quartz vs. Granite
Granite is mined from quarries as large natural stone slabs. It has a classic, elegant look but requires periodic sealing to prevent stains. Granite is more porous than quartz. Quartz has a similar aesthetic to granite but has superior durability and doesn’t need regular sealing.
Quartz vs. Marble
Marble is a softer metamorphic stone often used for sculptures and countertops. It stains and etches easily, requiring frequent repolishing. It has a high-end, luxurious appeal but requires more maintenance than quartz. Quartz offers more consistent patterning and better scratch resistance than natural marble.
Quartz vs. Laminate
Laminate countertops are made by gluing plastic resin onto a plywood or composite wood base. A photographic applique layer creates a faux look. Laminate is affordable but can bubble, burn, scratch, and stain easily. Quartz is non-porous, making it more stain, scratch, and heat-resistant than laminate.
Quartz vs. Solid Surface
Solid surface countertops are made of acrylic or polyester resins and binders. Popular brands include Corian and Avonite. Solid surface is prone to cuts, scratches and heat damage without proper care. It can be repaired seamlessly but requires more maintenance than quartz.
Quartz vs. Tile
Tile countertops offer design flexibility using various materials like ceramic, porcelain or stone tiles. Grout lines can trap bacteria though, requiring thorough cleaning. Quartz has seamless installation and doesn’t need grout lines that can crack and stain over time.
Quartz vs. Butcher Block
Butcher block wooden countertops provide a timeless, rustic look that fits many kitchen styles. However, they can warp from moisture and require diligent oiling to prevent cracking, mold, and bacteria. Quartz resists stains, doesn’t harbor bacteria, and maintains its shape over time.
Quartz vs. Soapstone
Soapstone is a naturally gentle, soft stone often carved into vessels and countertops. It is heat tolerant but scratches and stains easily. Special oils provide waterproofing. Low-maintenance quartz provides better durability than porous soapstone.
Benefits of Quartz Countertops
- Available in a vast array of colors and patterns mimicking looks of natural stone and other materials
- Minimal maintenance of seams; uniformity between slabs
- Non-porous so minimal spotting, etching and staining
- Stylish modern appearance; vintage patinas and concrete effects also available
- Glossy or matte finishes
- Extremely hard and scratch resistant; keeps looking new for years
- Impact and chip resistant; can withstand heavy usage
- Resists water, mold/mildew, bacteria, and household chemicals
- Heat tolerant up to 212 degrees Fahrenheit temporarily and 150 degrees long-term
Ease of Maintenance
- Never needs sealing or polishing
- Easily cleaned with soap and water or household cleaners
- Resists permanent staining and etching from acids like wine, juice, tomatoes
- Shiny finish won’t fade or degrade from cleaning
- Can be gently renewed with abrasive pads to remove superficial scratches
Customization and Installation
- Manufactured in uniform slabs allowing seamless looks
- Can be fabricated into virtually any size and shape
- Undermount sinks and backsplashes available
- Professional measuring and installation typically included
Disadvantages of Quartz Countertops
- Higher cost than laminate; on par with higher-end granite, marble and solid surface options
- Limited number of suppliers compared to abundance of granite sources
- Joints may be visible on intricate installations requiring multiple slabs
- Not fully heat, scratch or stain proof; some care is still required
- Non-porous so stains may sit on surface rather than absorbing into material
- Can appear too uniform or manufactured for those desiring natural stone look
How are Quartz Countertops Made?
Quartz countertops are made by blending roughly 90% ground natural quartz with about 10% polyester resins, pigments, and other compounds. This mixture forms a moldable material that is pressed into slabs under tremendous heat and pressure.
The manufacturing process involves:
- Crushing quartz crystals mined from the earth into a fine powder
- Mixing the crushed quartz with resin binders, pigments and filler
- Pouring this blend into molds and compacting at high pressures
- Baking at high temperatures to cure and harden the slabs
- polishing and finishing the slabs to achieve the desired surfaces
- Cutting the slabs into various sizes using diamond-tipped saws
- Fabricating countertops according to exact specifications for installation
Reputable quartz manufacturers carefully control the engineering process to produce slabs with optimal durability, beauty, and consistency. Their formulations and techniques vary to achieve unique styles. Different particle sizes, patterns, pigments, and finishes create the amazing array of quartz products on the market.
How to Shop for Quartz Countertops
Research Brands and Colors
The first step is exploring the major quartz manufacturing brands like Caesarstone, Cambria, Silestone, Vicostone, Hanstone, Quartzforms, and Viatera. Compare their color palettes and overall aesthetics. Narrow your selection to a few favorite brands and slab styles.
Consider visiting quartz suppliers’ showrooms to view samples in person. Examine the textures and colors closely. Look at how each brand’s products coordinate with your cabinetry, flooring, appliances and decor.
Set a Budget
Once you’ve decided on a few preferred quartz products, look at cost estimates. Measure your space to determine how many square feet you’ll need. Quartz costs $40-125 per square foot including fabrication and installation. More complex projects cost more. Setting a firm budget helps guide your expectations.
Choose a Fabricator
Searching for reputable local countertop fabricators experienced with quartz is key. A skilled fabricator properly templates, cuts, polishes and installs your new counters. Read reviews and check examples of their quartz work. Get 3-4 quotes for your project.
Schedule Template and Install
Paint, lighting, tile, cabinet, and appliance projects should wrap up prior to countertop replacement. The fabricator takes exact measurements and may create a template before final cutting. Discuss timelines for any delays. Professional installers handle seamless quartz countertop placement once your cabinets are ready. Enjoy your stunning new space!
How to Care for Quartz Countertops
Caring for quartz properly keeps surfaces looking pristine for years. Follow these do’s and don’ts:
- Rinse off spills immediately to prevent possible staining
- Use mild soap and water for regular cleaning
- Blot any liquid spills quickly
- Use trivets or hot pads under hot pans or appliances
- Have any stubborn stains professionally removed
- Reseal around sinks every 1-2 years to prevent moisture damage
- Use abrasive cleansers or scrubbing pads which can dull the surface
- Allow spills with staining potential to sit unattended for long
- Place extremely hot items from oven or stove directly on surface
- Use quartz polish, wax or sealants which lead to buildup
- Stand or sit on countertops which can strain seams
- Cut food directly on counters which can scratch surface
- Allow harsh cleaners like oven cleaners to contact quartz
With routine care, quartz countertops will stay looking like new for 15-25 years. Occasional professional quartz renewal treatments can remove etching and light scratches while restoring the glossy finish.
FAQs about Quartz Countertops
Is quartz healthier than granite?
Quartz does not absorb liquids so it resists mold, mildew, and bacteria growth better than porous natural stones. However, both offer inert, non-toxic surfaces suitable for food preparation when properly cleaned.
How long do quartz countertops last compared to other options?
With proper care, expect around 15-25 years of beauty and performance from quartz surfaces. Well-maintained granite may last 50+ years. Porous marble and soapstone require more maintenance. Laminate lasts 5-10 years before needing replacement while quality wood can last 25+ years.
Can you cut on quartz countertops?
It’s best to avoid direct cutting on quartz. Use a cutting board to protect finishes. The occasional slicing won’t damage quartz but repeated cuts in the same spot may eventually leave light marks over time.
Do quartz countertops stain?
Quartz resists staining much better than porous stones. However, highly pigmented spills allowed to sit for prolonged periods can result in stubborn stains that may require professional removal. Prompt clean-up of spills minimizes chances for discoloration.
Is quartz toxic?
Quartz engineered stone is considered non-toxic when manufactured by reputable companies. However, some lower quality products contain harmful levels of crystalline silica. If concerned, contact the manufacturer for safety data sheets before purchasing quartz.
Is quartz cheaper than granite?
Quartz countertops often cost $5-15 less per square foot compared to granite. However, more exotic granite types can be comparably priced to premium quartz. Local material and labor costs factor in too. Get quotes on your exact project to compare.
Can quartz countertops crack?
Quartz slabs are very resilient and unlikely to crack under normal conditions. Excessive force, pressure or shifting foundations may cause stress cracks. Thermal shocks from very hot pans can potentially fissure quartz. Damaged seams or corner joints can also crack if not properly supported.
Can you use bleach on quartz?
It’s best to avoid prolonged exposure to harsh cleaners like bleach that can degrade quartz over time. However, occasional short bleach contact for disinfection won’t likely harm quartz. Rinse surfaces thoroughly after using and never mix bleach with acidic cleaners on quartz.
With the right selection, care, and maintenance, quartz countertops offer unparalleled beauty, durability, and practicality for busy kitchens. Their stain, scratch, and heat resistance minimize maintenance needs for years of flawless performance. For home chefs desiring a low-maintenance surface able to withstand heavy daily use, quartz is an excellent investment. With routine cleaning and careful use, quartz surfaces stay looking like new while enhancing kitchen designs and functions.