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Stone countertops have been in vogue in the 21st century, becoming the standard in the modern kitchen. Their durability and sophisticated look make them highly sought after when customers are thinking of new kitchen designs. Quartz is one stone that has become more desirable in the remodeling process, even contending with granite as the new king of the countertop.
All the details of choosing the right stone and design for your counter can be so overwhelming that you may think any pretty slab of rock will be fine. However, quartz provides great benefits to homeowners that marble and granite do not. To prevent any further stress, let’s take a more granular look (no pun intended) at quartz and why it has received so much deserved popularity amongst homeowners.
Quartz and Quartzite
Before we go any further, let’s differentiate between quartz and quartzite which are often mistaken as the same thing, even by retailers of countertops. “Homeowners deciding between the two for a new countertop should know that the materials vary in composition, looks, maintenance, and durability” Manasa Reddigari, Bob Villa™. Unlike quartz, quartzite is a natural rock, meaning it is mined from the earth, cut into a desired shape, polished and sold, whereas quartz countertops are created through a man-made process. Quartz counters are composed of around 90% actual ground quartz rock and 10% resin and polymers which help the slab adhere together in the baking process.
Both of these rocks are the sturdiest and most durable options you can have for your counters but they do have some notable differences. The organic nature of quartzite will be visible in your home as it will have inconsistent patterns that were created in its natural formation. It will have a rougher and more granular texture that you won’t find in slabs that have been man-made. Natural quartzite is one of the hardest counter options you can find, making it more resistant to scratching or damage from high heat. Quartzite will also offer high durability but it is still, like granite, a porous natural stone.
On the other hand with quartz, the resins included in the manufacturing process sacrifice a little hardness and durability but they do provide a number of benefits. Resins, which are synthetic viscous materials, not only bind quartz but they can add unique colorations and designs to your slab. Their composition also gives the countertop more flexibility, making it less prone to chipping. Most importantly, they provide a smooth and artificial surface that is non-porous, therefore requiring less work in maintenance and treating the counter.
Making your Quartz Counter
This next section is for those of you who may be more detail inclined. You have a rough idea of the benefits of quartz countertops and what exactly they are but how does this rock in the ground become the ideal countertop in your kitchens and bathrooms. Quartz is a widely distributed mineral that can be found throughout the earth’s crust in many parts of the world. It has a wide variety of applications in electronics, glass making and of course, countertops!
Once it is mined, the quartz mineral is ground and sometimes mixed with other materials like natural stones and colored glass to give it an added aesthetic and design. All materials will then go through an industrial mixer to ensure a uniform consistency in the final slab. If additional elements are added like glass, the ingredients will go through multiple mixing cycles. In this stage the acrylic resins, which are petroleum by-products, are added to bind the materials together. After all the mixing has been completed, the mixture will then be poured into a mold that suits the exact specifications of your countertop. The mold is then pressurized and vacuum sealed to compact the ground quartz, added glass or stones and resins to ensure that no air gets baked into your countertop. Then, the compacted mixture goes through the baking process which combines high heat and pressure to make a stylish and elegant end product. Lastly, the counter is polished and edges are customized to your specifications. Types of edges include: straight, rounded, bevels, bullnose and more intricate designs like ogee, coves and waterfalls.
Image via Avanti Kitchens and Granite
Comparing Quartz to Other Alternatives
The main reason for quartz’s soaring popularity amongst homeowners is due to its durability and low-maintenance. Unlike granite and marble, the man-made process behind quartz produces a smooth, compact and non-porous surface. Granite and marble are cut from a rock face and polished. They are bound to form pores during natural rock formation processes. These pores can collect bacteria from cooking and mildew from exposure to water, creating less healthy dining surfaces than what you would get with quartz. Their ability to reject bacteria and mildew also make them ideal counters for bathrooms while also adding a chic focal point as a vanity countertop.
To combat this with granite, marble and even quartzite counters; it is recommended homeowners seal their countertops. This process involves using chemical mixtures which keep moisture from sinking into your counter and kill bacteria that is nested within. It is recommended that counters are sealed annually and in some cases semiannually. However, sealing can be fairly labor intensive and there are an overwhelming amount of sealants to chose from but many end up exposing the rock to harsh chemicals. Many sealants require significant time to prep the counter, sometimes requiring cleaning up to 24 hours before application of the sealant. With all of these factors, many homeowners neglect the sealing process and opt for soap and water which may clean the surface but it doesn’t eliminate all the bacteria within the rock and only further exposes the granite to water penetration.
Quartz counters can be cleaned with something as easy as a wet cloth and no harsh cleaning products are needed.
The Downside of Quartz
Quartz comes with only a few downsides. Most notably, is that the counters are extremely heavy and require professional installation. Quartz is also pretty sensitive to high temperature so you will need to be careful of where you put things while cooking in the kitchen as temperatures of 300 degrees have been known to do damage to counters. Lastly, the price for quartz countertops will be on the high-end although it is fairly similar to granite. “The cost of engineered quartz countertops appears to be dropping as they grow in popularity and as more manufacturers make them available. In general, however, they are more expensive than laminate and comparable in price to granite, ranging from $100 to $200 per square foot” Katie Granju, HGTV.
Its is understandable to see why there has been an influx of quartz counters in today’s homes. It is low-maintenance and non-porous, which makes quartz a healthy option in the kitchen. It is extremely durable so homeowners don’t need to worry about staining, scratching or chipping. Quartz countertops check a lot of boxes for homeowners and deliver great returns on your investment with customizable and sophisticated looks that can’t be replicated with 100% natural stone slabs. If you’re looking to update your kitchen surfaces, quartz is a high-quality material that is priced similarly to granite. Furthermore, it comes with an array of added benefits that you don’t get in natural stone countertops. If you’re looking to install stone countertops, quartz has rapidly become the go-to for many homeowners today, especially those who have kids. The surface will hold up against spills, scratches and chipping, and retain the same elegant look that it had on the day you installed it.