The Countertop Investigators Guide To Quartz
Quartz countertops have become very popular among homeowners who are looking for a change in their kitchens. Replacing bland laminate countertops with it can turn a pretty kitchen into a stunning one, but is it right for your home? Here’s everything you ever wanted to know about them so you can make an informed decision.
What They Cost
The first thing most people want to know is how much they cost and how they compare in price to some other popular options. We’ve got a detailed write-up on all those other options here. Fact #1 The cost of quartz varies depending on the quality of the stone and the brand that you buy, but you can expect to pay anywhere from $30 per sq. ft. for low quality options up to $150 per sq. ft. or possibly even more if you go super high end.
Quartz is usually, but not always, a little less expensive than granite, depending on the quality of the stone. It’s much less expensive than marble, but it’s more expensive than laminates or solid surface. The final cost depends on several factors, including the thickness of the slab, how much material you need, the complexity of your design, and the quality of the stone.
Where To Buy Quartz Countertops
Fact #2 You might be tempted to go to one of the big chain home improvement stores to purchase quartz countertops, but if you do, you’ll not only have a much smaller selection to choose from, odds are you will get a less-skilled contractor handling the installation. Instead, take the time and do some legwork checking out local stone yards.
Look for a place that handles the sale, design, fabrication, and installation all in-house. By using a company that handles its own fabrication and installation, you’ll be more likely to have skilled craftsmen handling your countertop renovation. If something goes wrong, you’ll only have one company to deal with, not two or three, and if you use someone who has been in business for years, you can probably even ask to see samples of their work right in your hometown.
Fact #3 Avoid any place that tries to push one brand or style over another. You should feel no pressure to pick any other stone than one that you really want. Also, be sure that you see the actual slab of quartz before you buy it. Some places will show you a small sample, but the actual slab looks much different when you see the larger piece of it.
If you can, use a local company. They’ll be able to show you where their stone comes from, give you examples of their previous work, and they’ll have less distance to travel to bring the finished product to your home, so it could save you some money on the installation costs.
How They Are Made
When you start shopping, you might be confused by its description as a ‘man made’ engineered counter. To create the slabs you see in stoneyards, manufacturers combine roughly 93% ground quartz with 7% resins, polymers, and colors. This combination allows for a huge variety of colors with the look similar to natural stone.
Fact #4 It’s important to note that when manufacturers state their products contain 7% resin that they are talking about by weight. The actual volume of resin is much closer to 35% of the finished product.
Because quartz counters are made with a blend of stone and resin, the resulting surface is very hard, like granite, but also glossy and non-porous. The pattern depends on the texture of the stone used in the process. Coarser pieces of produce a flecked appearance, while smoother, finer pieces produces a more uniform color pattern.
Different colors can be produced by adding different pigments during the manufacturing process. Most people prefer a more natural look, but some have vibrant color options that wouldn’t be found in nature.
Once you pick the slab that you want to use for your countertops, it is cut down to fit your design and fabricated to include details such as edging and cutouts for sinks and appliances. Because it’s such a heavy material, it’s best installed by professionals.
What’s The Difference Between Them And Granite
Quartz is hard–it’s definitely similar to granite in that respect–but it has a few differences as well. Fact #5 While both are stone, only granite is 100% natural. The resins and polymers used to create quartz countertops makes them completely nonporous, which means they should be impervious to stains. Granite is completely natural and can be very porous, meaning that if you don’t seal it properly and regularly you could see stains develop from even small spills.
Quartz is also scratch and chip-resistant, since its polymers and resins give it a little more flexibility than natural stone. However, unlike granite, the resin in engineered counters is not heat resistant, so you can’t take your pans from the stove to the countertop like you can with granite. Both are very hard materials, though granite is easier to chip if you drop a heavy object on it.
As far as being ‘green’ building materials, both are considered to have low carbon emissions during their manufacturing processes. However, granite, being 100% natural, is more environmentally friendly.
If you want to dive deeper into the comparison I have a page dedicated to it here. More than 150 people have contributed their experiences and opinions to the discussion in the comments too.
Meet “Giallo Nova” from Silestone.
When looking at the various brands of quartz sold for use as countertops, you’ll likely come across a few that are more popular than the others. One of these brands you’ll likely see pretty often is the Silestone brand. Silestone offers all the benefits — durability, low maintenance, really hard surface — and comes in a wide variety of colors and finishes. It’s probably the most well-known brand name and is often heavily promoted by retailers.
Fact #6 While Silestone is hugely popular and arguably very attractive, there’s nothing significantly special about the brand when compared to others. It is scratch and acid-resistant, and since it’s non-porous, it is easier to keep clean and bacteria-free.
One appeal of the brand is the selection of colors and patterns that are offered. Homeowners can mix and match the tone, style, and finish of the product to create a completely personalized material to fit their home’s decor.
Although Silestone is pretty low-maintenance, per its website, homeowners should be aware that some harsh household cleaners can damage the surface of the material. Bleach can ruin the shiny surface, and de-greasers can also damage them. Also, the manufacturers recommend avoiding the use of heat on Silestone since, like all quartz countertops, the resin is susceptible to scorching.
This pattern from Cambria is called Roxwell.
Another well-known brand is Cambria. Its biggest selling point for most people is the fact that it is the only brand that is made entirely in the USA. Like Silestone, it comes in a wide variety of color options and can be tailored to suit individual tastes.
Cambria is also very low maintenance and touted as ‘stronger than granite’ on the company website. Its food-safe surface and stain-resistant finish make it a great choice for busy kitchens or those with children who might tend to spill lots of drinks on the countertop’s surface.
Cambria and Silestone are considered to be two of the more expensive types of quartz, but they are also very high quality brands. Homeowners can view color samples on the company’s website or go directly to their nearest Cambria retailer to view samples up close.
How To Maintain Them
In general, they are pretty low maintenance. In fact, some would say they’re maintenance-free. However, that doesn’t mean you can neglect them completely. Generally, warm, soapy water takes care of cleaning your kitchen work surfaces. Fact #7 Avoid abrasive cleansers and harsh chemicals, and always use a trivet under pans, deep fryers, and crock pots. The resins that are used to create them are not indestructible.
If you spill something, clean it up as soon as you can. Quartz countertops are stain resistant, but that doesn’t mean they can’t develop stains, especially if the spill is very acidic or left to linger.
Avoid cutting foods directly on the surface without a cutting board. Although very hard, the surface can be scratched if enough downward force is asserted. Also, avoid scraping sticky messes off the counters. If you have to remove gum or paint, used a plastic scraper to gently scrape away the mess. If you find oil stains on your counter, use a cleanser with a degreasing agent that is labelled as safe for use on quartz.
Here’s an example of the bright colors that can be achieved.
Thanks to the fact that pigments can be added to the resin and polymer blend during the manufacturing process, your options for color are pretty varied. At one time, color options for quartz countertops were more limited and the resulting slabs lacked the ‘authentic’ look of natural stone. However, modern options can look eerily like granite, limestone, or even dark, glossy slate, depending on how it’s manufactured.
Fact #8 Larger pieces of quartz can produce a mottled look that greatly resembles granite or even marble, while finer blends can create creamier color palettes. The variety of patterns can include tiny flecks on a solid background, a mostly solid coloring, larger lines and flecks against a solid background, and slight variations on all of these. It can look as natural as any other slab, or, with less natural pigment colors, can look bold and festive.
Whether you want a natural look in your home, or something else completely, there’s a good chance you’ll find the color you want.
Which Quartz Colors Look Like Marble
Dubbed Calacatta gold by the Silestone Co. Looks strikingly like marble, doesn’t it?
A common request is a white quartz with the look of marble but without the high maintenance. Fact #9 Several manufacturers have styles that match marble, including Cambria and Silestone. Zodiaq also has several color options that mimic the look of white marble with a hint of grey running throughout.
Caesarstone is another brand that has several marble-like offerings, many of which look more like the real thing than you’d expect. It looks a great deal like a carrara marble, but has the durability of engineered stone, making it a practical choice for someone who wants the cool look of marble in a heavy use kitchen.
Most manufacturers also offer slabs of quartz that are mostly white with just a hint of color, like a subtle marble that looks great with almost any decor style. Of course, you won’t get the same ultra-cool surface that real marble provides, but you do get a much hardier surface that won’t stain or etch nearly as easily as real marble, so it’s a pretty fair trade off.
Can You Use Them In The Bathroom?
Quartz is undeniably great in kitchens, but what about other places in your home? Fact #10 If you had your heart set on using it in an outdoor kitchen, you probably need to think again. Quartz isn’t great with exposure to UV light. The pigments can change drastically over time after exposure to sunlight to the point that even just direct sunlight through a window can fade it.
But what about bathrooms? If you want quartz in your bathroom, it’s a great choice. Not only are there numerous styles to choose from, but it’s naturally water-resistant and never needs to be sealed. It’s also mold-resistant and easy to care for–just wipe it down when it gets wet or looks smudged. Some finishes can show fingerprints and smudges fairly easily, so you may find yourself wiping down your bathroom surfaces more often than you like, but it’s a fairly easy fix to a pretty innocuous problem.
In this bathroom Zodiaq “Coriander” has been used both for the vanity and the tub surround.
For some people, the cost of quartz may not seem like a bargain in the bathroom when compared to granite or marble, particularly if the bathroom is small. Marble and granite do tend to see a slightly higher ROI than quartz, but it’s not likely to be big enough to make a huge difference. At the end of the day, go with what looks good and is practical for your family. It’s super easy to care for and durable, which makes it appealing in both bathrooms and kitchens.
Quartz and Quartzite – Don’t Confuse Them
When shopping around for prices, you might see something called quartzite, which is similar only in name. Bonus Fact #11 Quartzite is a naturally occurring and mined from the earth, cut into slabs, and polished to create a countertop material. It’s a natural stone, not engineered like quartz, but they can look very similar.
Quartzite is not naturally waterproof. In fact, it must be sealed to avoid stains from everyday use. Quartzite also has to be resealed as the sealant wears off, but quartz requires no such maintenance.
Being a natural stone, quartzite does have one advantage over quartz countertops–it’s very heat-resistant. It is also harder, but more prone to chips from dropped pans than its engineered counterpart. Both are durable, but a cutting board should be used with both.
Both have similar prices, so if you’re trying to choose between the two, you’ll just have to decide whether you prefer a natural stone or one that’s mostly natural. Both have their perks, but ultimately your taste and lifestyle will determine which one will work best for you.
If you’re in the market for new countertops, quartz should definitely be on your short list of possibilities for your kitchen or bathroom.