When choosing kitchen counter tops, it can be easy to get confused by the many different material options that are available.
Stone products like granite and quartz are among the more popular materials used for counter tops due to their strength and durability. By comparing the features and benefits of granite and quartz, you'll be able to select the right material to meet your family's needs.
Granite is a natural product that is formed from minerals and stones. These materials are pressed together at extremely high pressure and temperatures deep within the earth, and eventually form granite stones as we know them. Quartz is a man-made product made from quartz crystals and resin. It is pressed, heated and colored to resemble natural stone, but is actually an engineered product.
Granite tends to have much more variation in its appearance than quartz. Quartz counter tops are fairly uniform in color and pattern, while granite has random markings that are unique to each piece. Some buyers prefer the natural beauty of granite while others prefer the consistency of quartz. When it comes to counter tops, quartz sections are easier to match up at the seams, while granite can show variation due to its natural design.
Granite is naturally hard and strong, and offers a high level of heat resistance. Because quartz is engineered, it tends to be even harder and more durable than granite, though it offers a similar level of heat resistance. Granite is much more porous than quartz, which can trap bacteria within the surface. Quartz is not porous and is much easier to keep free of germs and bacteria. While both materials are strong, quartz cannot be repaired if chipped or scratched. Damaged granite can often be repaired to minimize the appearance of scratches or damage.
The porous nature of granite means that it is more difficult to keep clean, and is also more vulnerable to stains and spills. It must be sealed upon installation and at regular intervals, often once a year. Quartz is non-porous and requires no sealing. It is naturally resistant to moisture and stains and requires no maintenance.
According to the Bob Vila Home Improvement website, both quartz and granite counter tops cost between $50 and $100 per square foot installed. The difference in cost between the two is often a matter of your proximity to natural granite sources or stone yards.
Engineered Stone Countertops
Natural stone is loved by many for its many wonderful qualities. Granite, for example, offers durability, scratch and heat resistance, and beautiful elegance. But of course there is a down side to natural stone as well. Natural stone is very porous which makes it susceptible to stains from oils, acids, wine, soda and some cleaning products. It is very important to periodically seal natural stone to protect it from such damages. As you can see, natural stone isn’t perfect.
Improvements are never ending and a perfect example of improvement comes in the form of engineered stone. This highly recommended countertop material, also called Quartz Surfacing, has been developed to form a material resembling natural stone but with improved qualities. Engineered stone is made by combining 93 percent crushed natural quartz with 7 percent resins and pigments which makes this material much harder, more durable, and easier to care for than any other countertop material. Only the diamond, topaz and sapphire are harder than quartz.
In addition to the durability and ease of maintenance, engineered stone countertops are also available in an array of colors, patterns, and textures. Similar to granite, engineered stone is usually polished to a high gloss shine and installed in solid slabs. However, the colors and patterns are more consistent with engineered stone and the surface does not require sealing either. Check out some of the wonderful benefits of engineered stone below.
Benefits of Engineered Stone countertops:
- - The unique combination of quartz and resins makes engineered stone nonporous and resistant to heat, scratching, stains, chemicals, molds and bacteria.
- - Engineered stone is more flexible, durable and easier to work with than natural granite.
- - Engineered stone will not chip and fracture during everyday use as granite may.
- - It retains its high-polished luster and never requires sealing.
- - It is easily cleaned with warm, pH neutral soapy water.
- - It resembles natural stone, but with a more consistent pattern and color meaning that your countertop will look very much like the sample you pick out.
- - Engineered stone can be made to look like granite, marble, travertine, concrete, and other natural stone.
- - Slabs are fabricated into countertops with edge profiles that range from simple bevels to bull nose and ogee.
- - Engineered stone, made of quartz, resists scratches from objects such as stainless steel knives, ceramic pots, and mugs.
- - Engineered stone counters are resistant to heat from hot plates of up to 350 degrees. However, it is still recommended that you the use trivets or hot pads.
- - It will not stain from oil, fruit juices, acids, liquid food coloring, wine, soda, nail-polish remover, felt-tip markers and most common household cleaners.
- - The colors, patterns and textures available are constantly expanding. Some patterns resemble natural stone and others offer bright variations of orange, red, blue, green, and yellow. Also, some engineered stone manufacturers offer products in a matte or "honed" finish.
- - Unlike natural stone, manufacturers normally offer a 10-year warranty.
Drawbacks of Engineered Stone Countertops:
- - Engineered stone countertops lack the natural and unique color and pattern variations that are loved with natural stone. Some of these variations are called "beauty marks" and flowing veins, known as the "movement" of the stone.
- - Cutting on quartz will dull knives so cutting boards are recommended.
- - There will be visible seams along the front edges and in the deck of the countertop because engineered stone is installed in solid slabs.
Pros & Cons of Quartz Countertops
Quartz is a material used in the manufacturing of countertops. Like any material, quartz comes with advantages and disadvantages.
According to Keidel.com, quartz grows in clusters. After mining and manufacturing, clusters become the slabs---in a variety of colors and patterns---used to make quartz countertops.
Quartz countertops don't require sealant or surface conditioner to prevent staining or premature deterioration. Quartz countertops are stain-resistant and---because they are nonporous---quite resistant to bacteria as well.
One serious drawback to quartz countertops is that they are much heavier than most other countertops, including those made of granite. Safely and properly installing a quartz countertop requires several people---it should be done by trained professionals, urges Keidel.com.
Quartz countertops are more resistant to mold than most other types of countertops. They are also much stronger than most countertops, including granite, says galttech.com.
The overall cost of quartz countertop installation depends on the size of the project. According to December 2009 estimates from galttech.com, installation typically costs between $50 and $90 per square foot, including the cost of materials.