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Quartz Countertops

Determining If They're The Right Choice

Quartz countertops get high marks for both beauty and durability. As a form of engineered stone this type of surfacing combines both the attractiveness and robustness of stone with the benefits that modern technology can bring.

That technology, which includes a resin binder and added colors, gives quartz surfacing benefits that some natural stones don't have. In some ways, it's like getting the best of both worlds.

Determining whether it's a good choice for you depends on your style preferences, cost sensitivity and how you balance it's pros and cons.

It's a great product but it's not bullet-proof, just as real stone has its hangups. If you like the natural, varied look of stone today's quartz products do a great job at doing just that -- looking like real stone.

Quartz countertops aren't just stone imitators. There are colors and patterns that don't look anything like stone but provide a beautiful surface that can add 'wow' to any kitchen or bathroom.

Take a stroll down this page and discover what there is to know about quartz surfacing and whether it's something that might work in your home.

What Exactly Are Quartz Countertops?

Before we even begin talking about countertops let's first talk about quartz itself.

Quartz is a mineral and one of the most abundant on our planet. It's not a "stone" by itself but one of the ingredients that makes up stone. For example, granite is one form of stone that's made up of several minerals, primarily quartz and feldspar.

So when it comes to countertops the quartz variety isn't "solid quartz", but rather, a combination of the quartz mineral and several other additives. Their makeup is about 93% quartz, with the remainder made up by a resin binder and color additives.

In other words, it's a human-made product. Quartz counters aren't quarried out of the earth and cut into slabs like granite and other stones that are used as kitchen and bath counters. Quartz countertops are one form of engineered stone countertops (which is probably a misnomer in this case since we just established that quartz isn't a 'stone').

Good Ingredients Make For Good Countertops

Quartz is a very hard material, second only to diamond. The resin binds the quartz minerals together and the combination is "baked" under heat and pressure.

quartz countertops

The resin binder makes the whole recipe non-porous. It does this by filling in all the cracks and crevasses between the quartz crystals. What you end up with is a very hard, durable and non-porous work surface. Not to mention the fact that they look real nice too.

Some manufacturers advertise their products as "natural quartz"; well, yes, it's natural. But remember that it's natural quartz that's combined with other materials that make up those "natural quartz" countertops. In other words, don't be confused into thinking that it's a slab of quartz that's been taken out of the ground and cut and polished like granite.

The main message you should walk away with here is that quartz countertops are man-made but they're also durable, clean (they don't harbor any evil-doing bacteria) and attractive. All great attributes for any countertop surface.

Which Is Cheaper - Granite Or Quartz?

This is a question that's commonly asked when homeowners are considering quartz or granite for their next countertop surface. The answer to this question is as variable as the types of stone and quartz you can choose from, and it all depends on the particular type of granite or quartz that you select.

For example, granite countertops can range anywhere from $30 per square foot to over $100 per square foot. Even lower prices are possible with promotions and sales associated with limited color selections.

Quartz countertops are no different, with costs stretching across a similar range depending on the particular product you choose.

Choose a $35-per-square-foot granite and you'll be paying less than some quartz countertops. On the other hand, choose a $50-per-square-foot quartz product and you'll still pay less than some premium granite colors.

The key is to find what combination of decision factors works best for you; looks/style, cost (including installation) and durability, to determine if granite or quartz is the better choice.

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Pros & Cons Of Quartz Countertops

Okay, so we just established that quartz counters are really nice. Does that mean that they don't have any warts? Not exactly. Just about any product you choose for your home comes with an upside and a downside. It's all a matter of weighing the highs and lows and how they appeal to you.

So let's take a look:

The Pros....

  • Non-Porous
    Because it's non-porous you don't have to worry about any bacteria, germs and other undesirable vermin setting up home on your countertop. It's also much less likely to stain since there are really no "pores" for spills to accumulate in. That doesn't mean you want to leave ketchup on the surface for a week but you'll have less likelihood of any of these issues occurring compared to some natural stones.
  • No Ongoing Maintenance Required
    As a result of being non-porous, quartz countertops don't need to be sealed like a natural stone counter does. That means you won't have to clear your counters every one or two years to seal them.
  • Consistency In Color Patterns
    This is a matter of taste but quartz countertop color patterns have a more uniform look than some natural stones. When you buy a slab of granite or soapstone (particularly if you buy the slab 'sight unseen' from a sample only) there may be large variations in the color pattern from one end to the other. Some like this, others don't. With quartz counters you're assured of getting a consistent color pattern throughout.
  • No Health Concerns
    Many brands of quartz countertops are NSF-certified meaning they're safe and won't harbor harmful bacteria (NSF is a non-governmental, non-profit organization advocating healthy standards for foods, water and associated products). Quartz counters also don't have any radioactivity and pose no potential health threats like those associated with radon in granite countertops.
  • Wide Color Pallette
    Since quartz countertops are man-made there there are color options you can choose that aren't available in natural materials. If you like the crystalline look that comes with the quartz-based products but also want it in a bright red or deep blue, it's available.
  • Beautiful
    Last but certainly not least, quartz countertops are beautiful and can be finished with a shiny surface or the muted satin look of a honed finish.

...and the Cons...

  • Not Immune To Damage
    Quartz is a hard material but these countertops are an engineered substance and they aren't immune to chipping. They'll take the everyday normal use but they're not indestructible and can chip or crack if hit hard enough.
  • Not Heat Tolerant
    Although it's hard and feels like stone, quartz countertops aren't tolerant to a lot of heat. In other words, don't expect to put that hot pot or pan down on your quartz countertop without the possibility of some damage occurring. You'll need to use trivets and hot pads to protect the surface.
  • Not Seamless
    Quartz slab manufacturers make their products in uniform sizes, typically about 4.5 feet wide by 10 feet long. Large or expansive countertop designs will require multiple slabs and resulting seams.
  • Sensitive To Some Household Products
    Quartz counters can also be damaged from exposure to chemicals that have high or low pH (highly acidic or alkaline) like rust removers, aluminum brightening compounds, heavy duty cleaner, bleach and others. The manufacturer's "care and maintenance" literature should spell out what to watch out for.
  • Not Scratch Proof
    Aside from diamond quartz is the hardest material around. But that doesn't mean your quartz countertop will never scratch under any circumstances. Remember, it's made up of a small percentage of resin material that binds the quartz crystals together. Certain manufacturers will advertise that you can cut right on the surface. You might be able to chop a bit on the surface but any habit of cutting has a good chance of damaging your surface over time.

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Differences Among Brands & How To Choose

There are close to a dozen different brands of quartz surfacing so the natural question that arises often involves how and if they're different from one another. In other words, does it matter which brand you choose?

quartz countertops

The short answer to that is "not really." The process used to make quartz surfacing and the materials and machinery used is virtually the same across the various brands. The majority, save for Cambria products, are made outside the U.S. and are manufactured using similar kinds of equipment.

The makeup of the material itself is the same across brands, about 93% of it made up of crushed quartz with the remainder being a combination of a resin binder and pigment.

What sets the quartz countertop manufacturers apart is the quantity and selection of colors and patterns. However, even in that sense, there are still many similarities among the different makers.

How To Choose

All that said, it makes sense to browse through the various offerings of at least several manufacturers to get a feel for what they have to offer. While most have a range of similar-looking patterns and colors, there are some unique differences too.

The beauty of having several quartz countertop makers is the competition it breeds. The drive to develop new patterns and color or new textures is what makes for more and different style choices.

For example, Seieffe makes OKITE (pronounced "oh-KEE-tay"), a brand of quartz surfacing. One of the unique offerings in their lineup is a product that mimics the variable veined look of marble, something that's not found in other brands. In fact, the process to make it is patented.

quartz countertopsOKITE Arabescato Verde

Vibrant colors like those in the Silestone Life! series offer a completely different style direction to a kitchen or bathroom. It's a departure from the stone-look countertop styles that characterize many kitchens and bathrooms.

quartz countertopsSilestone Life! Series in "Green Fun" Color
Photo Courtesy Of Cosentino

The way to choose which brand of quartz to go with starts with finding the color and pattern you like. That means checking out what's available from the various manufacturers. Once you've chosen what you like, check its availability in your local area. You can usually find local dealers through the manufacturer's website.

If you'd like to find a supplier and installer of countertops in your local area, check out the form below. HomeStyleChoices.com partners with Reliable Remodeler to help homeowners find local contractors and sources of products.

When you use this form you'll be contacted at your convenience by several countertop professionals that can provide free estimates for your project. Just click the appropriate radio buttons on the form and then input your zip code (click "stone" if you're interested in quartz). There's no obligation and it's a convenient way to make contact with countertop sources that may be able to assist you.

Remember to keep in mind the installation costs and to go with a reputable and experienced fabricator. If a certain brand of quartz surfacing isn't available in your local area, there's a good chance that you can find a similar pattern from a different brand that is available in your area.

For your reference, here are the quartz countertop brands:

Avanza Caesarstone
Cambria Definiti
Legacy LG Viatera
OKITE Silestone
Technistone Zodiaq

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Here's More Related Info That Might Be Helpful...

Engineered Stone Countertops - Learn about other types of engineered stone countertops in addition to quartz.

Stone Countertops - Granite, soapstone and others.

Laminate Countertops - There's still a lot to like about them such as durability and low cost.

Solid Surface Countertops - For a seamless look there's no match for solid surface counters.

Wood Countertops - Determining if these warm and beautiful counters are right for you.

Metal Countertops - Stainless steel, copper or pewter.

Composite & Recycled Countertops - Whether recycled paper or glass these countertops are eco-friendly.

Choosing Kitchen Countertops - Find out what choices you have and their pros and cons.

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