All You Need to Know About Quartz Countertops
Beautiful, durable, easy-care quartz is among the most popular countertop materials available—but it is pricey. If you’re considering quartz for your kitchen or bathroom, first get the 411 on this trendy topper before you buy. This complete countertop primer will set you up all of the necessary information on selecting and caring for quartz countertops, so you can make a smart decision and enjoy your work surface for years to come.
A visit to a kitchen showroom nowadays will show you a dazzling array of quartz countertop designs and patterns that remarkably mimic real marble and other natural stone. But quartz has come a long way! First appearing in Italy in the 1960s, these countertops were developed—by combining ground quartz particles with resins into a slab—as an alternative to stone that wouldn’t easily crack or break. While the resins added just enough flexibility to do the trick, early quartz countertops were a dull-looking cream and tan. Cutting-edge improvements in solid-surface technology have pure color quartz stone slab from functional to fabulous. With an abundance of finish choices and endless combinations of color and edge styles, you’ll likely find something stunning that suits your home.
Not only will you appreciate the look of quartz, you’ll find it remarkably easy to maintain—unlike marble and natural stone, which require a special sealant and can be finicky to care for. Quartz contains 90 to 94 percent ground quartz and 6 to 10 percent polymer resins and pigments, combined to produce a granite-hard slab that can duplicate the look of mesmerizing marble swirls or earthy natural stone, without the maintenance. Quartz also resists scratching and cracking to a greater degree than many natural countertops, ranking a “7” in hardness on the Moh’s scale (developed in 1822 by Friedrich Moh to rate mineral hardness). Marble, in comparison, ranks only a “3.”
A note to homeowners in the market to remodel: When exploring countertop options, make sure not to confuse quartz with quartzite. Quartz is engineered with pigments and resins, while quartzite is actually sandstone that, through natural metamorphosis, was exposed to intense heat, which caused it to solidify. Mined from large stone quarries and cut into solid slabs, quartzite is also available for countertops—but, unlike quartz, it must be sealed before use and again once or twice a year thereafter.
Thanks to its non-porous nature, quartz is mold-, stain-, and mildew-resistant, making it a breeze to keep not merely clean but also germ- and bacteria-free. Quartz also resists heat damage—up to a point. Manufacturers market quartz as able to withstand temperatures up to 400 degrees Fahrenheit (one reason it works well as fireplace surrounds). But “thermal shock” can result from placing a hot pan straight from the oven or stovetop onto a cold quartz countertop, which can lead to cracking or discoloring. And while quartz does resist staining because liquids can’t penetrate its surface, it’s not 100 percent stain-proof. Messes should be cleaned up quickly to best preserve quartz countertops’ original color.
The biggest downside to quartz, however, is cost. While a preformed or laminate countertop will set you back a few hundred dollars, quartz countertops cost between $70 to $100 per sq. ft., installed, comparable to the price of natural stone countertops. For a mid-size kitchen, you can easily spend a few thousand dollars for quartz.
If you’re planning a backyard kitchen, steer clear of quartz altogether. It’s not suitable for outdoor installation, as the sun’s UV rays can break down the resin binders and degrade the countertop, leading to fading and eventual warping.
With such a vast selection, making up your mind can be a challenge! So bring home a few quartz samples from a kitchen showroom before settling on a specific color or design. Under your own lighting, and against the backdrop of your cabinets and walls, you’ll be better able to choose a pattern and design that complements your kitchen décor. It helps to have a good idea of what you want your finished kitchen to look like before you buy. You can browse through design books at any kitchen center, or get ideas from show homes and home-design magazines and websites. As you plan, keep these points in mind: