The Pros and Cons of Quartz Countertops
Whether you're remodeling your kitchen or starting from scratch, your countertops are the focal point of your kitchen. Every other aesthetic decision you make for your kitchen revolves around your choice of countertop, so we absolutely sympathize with how hard it is to narrow down your options in such a wide market of materials. There are, however, some unique advantages and disadvantages to working with quartz over some natural-stone options like granite or marble -- some aesthetic and some practical. It can never be just a simple answer can it? No, that would clearly make things too easy.
To help you narrow it down, let's get into the pros and cons of quartz countertops when compared to other options on the market.
What Differentiates Quartz From Natural Stone?
While the quartz crystals themselves are naturally found minerals, quartz countertops are what is called an engineered material. Manufacturers take quartz aggregate and combine it with polymers, resins and pigments to form the tough and stylish structures we see adorning kitchens all over the country. This is in contrast to things like granite, marble and quartzite, which are mined out of the earth and cut into form for use as a building material. The end result ends up being about 90% natural quartz with the remaining 10% being those binding agents, pigments for color and sometimes recycled glass and metal flecks, depending on the style of quartz. That last 10% is what lends so much versatility in terms of design.
Pros of Quartz Countertops
Quartz has a lot going for it in terms of durability, stain-resistance and versatility of appearance. Here are a few of the major points:
Durability: Quartz has an advantage over materials like granite and marble in the fact that it is much less likely to chip or crack, and is difficult to scratch. On the Mohs scale of hardness, quartz typically rates at a 7/10 (for reference, a diamond is 10). While most granites sit around 6-7, marble tends to rate in the 3-4 range, leaving it more susceptible to chipping. Also, due to the inherent give of the resins used to make the countertops, quartz countertops can take stresses that would otherwise crack a more rigid natural stone in the same situation. It's not indestructible, but it is seriously tough stuff.
Appearance: Mother Nature certainly seems to have an eye for design, but the beauty of quartz is that we have access to those earth tones as well as just about any others that we could possibly want. With the right mix of natural quartz, various pigments and maybe even some glass thrown in, you can have yourself beautiful greens, reds, tans, browns, golds, greys and just about any other shade you can think of. This opens up a whole world of options for you in terms of matching with your cabinets, backsplashes, flooring and appliances. You can replicate the delicate and high end feel of white marble, accent dark wood cabinets with a gleaming, metallic flecked black or throw all sense of tradition out the window with a striking red. Your imagination is the limit.
Quartz is Non-Porous: Standing in further contrast to natural stone like granite and marble, quartz is not a porous material. That means that you don't have the same risk of fluids penetrating the surface of the material and leaving a deep-set, difficult to remove stain. The other upside of this is that quartz countertops do not need to be sealed like other natural stone. There is some misinformation, however, on the general care and maintenance of quartz. Because it is fabricated with more than 90 percent natural stone particles, it is susceptible to the harsh chemicals found in common household cleaners. They’ll dull the surface over time and wear away the professional finish, leaving the home owner faced with the option of having the manufacturer repair or replace the counter at a hefty price tag. With quartz, deep stains are not as much of a worry, though there is still a potential for damage from chemical etching. For that reason, we recommend that you always wipe away spills when they happen in order to avoid surface damage. When it comes time for cleaning, it’s important to use an effective and streak-free cleaner, such as Granite Gold Quartz Brite® - which has the added bonus of working to polish the surface while you clean.
Cons of Quartz Countertops:
Price: On the lower end of the market, some natural stone can be cheaper than quartz for countertops. Granite can be had for as low as $40-$50 per square foot. Meanwhile, quartz prices seem to sit around $60-$75 a square foot on the lower end. Of course, this all varies by the type of granite/quartz and shop that you're sourcing the stone from, and granite and marble can certainly be more expensive if you go for a more unique look. You can read a more in-depth guide on granite pricing here. These price comparisons can vary greatly by your location as well as the dealers that you're shopping with, so smart shoppers have an advantage in checking around. The point is that while quartz is an engineered material, that does not mean it's necessarily a cost saving option.
Appearance: Yes, this can be both a pro and a con. While quartz can be had in many more interesting and varied shades than natural-stone countertops, a certain level of uniqueness is lost. Higher grades of marble and granite especially can have some very interesting streaking and color accents that are impossible to replicate outside of nature. Part of the fun of shopping granite and marble is in checking out all the one-of-a-kind slabs that were formed over millennia through a very unique set of circumstances in terms of mineral composition. Like the rings of an old tree, these natural variations are like a unique fingerprint that just can't be replicated in manufacturing. It's a different aesthetic element to consider, as some designs and themes lend themselves to uniformity, while others don't.
Susceptibility to Heat and Sun Damage: This one definitely can vary by manufacturer and the specific quartz you choose, but it's not uncommon to see reports of heat damage on quartz countertops. As long as you use a trivet or heat pads, you should be alright, but hot pans and dishes can burn the resin binding agents and leave a mark. Another disadvantage that quartz has in comparison to its natural alternatives is the fact that the pigments used to give your quartz that uniform look can fade in the sun. The natural minerals that give other stone its color do not have this issue, but quartz countertops don’t tend to be the best choice for outdoor applications due to the fact that they have the potential to fade if you're not careful.
So is Quartz Worth it?
That's a difficult one to answer without knowing all of your needs and intentions. In terms of practical every day reliability? Quartz seems to be the easier choice to live with day to day. However, depending on what you're looking to get out of your stone in terms of appearance and function, something like granite might be what your kitchen needs.
Looking to read up on more stone care tips and tricks? Check out all the helpful resources we have available here, or give our stone care experts a call at 1-800-475-STONE. Also, to make sure you get the most out of your investment, be sure to check out our full line of stone care products!