All About Quartz Countertops




 

Easy-Care Kitchen Surface

black and gray quartz kitchen countertop on island with blue kitchen cabinets in background


Granite-like movement in black and gray gives this quartz countertop a bold, traditional look.

Made from one of the hardest minerals on earth, quartz countertops are arguably the most durable option for kitchens. They're also some of the most eye-catching. They come in a wide variety of colors, including fire-engine red and apple green, as well as earthy browns, blacks, and creams, with sparkles and veining for the look of granite or marble. But unlike natural-stone slabs, which are mined, these slabs are engineered in a factory. Their primary ingredient is ground quartz (about 94 percent), combined with polyester resins to bind it and pigments to give it color. For some designs, small amounts of recycled glass or metallic flecks are added to the mix. The resins also help make these counters stain and scratch resistant—and nonporous, so they never need to be sealed. Compare that with granite, the reigning king of high-end countertops, which typically requires a new protective top coat at least once a year.

In the past, the biggest knock against quartz was that it lacked the patterns and color variations you get with natural stone. But that's a moot point now, with all the manufacturers offering multihued slabs with enough flecks, swirls, and random patterning to make them almost indistinguishable from the real thing. They were once available only with a polished finish; now you can get one with a honed, sandblasted, or embossed treatment. So if it's the look of matte limestone, textured slate, or glossy granite that you want, there's a quartz countertop for you. Read on for help picking one to match your budget, your cooking and cleaning needs, and your style.

 

How They're Made

natural quartz crystals used in the production of factory-made quartz kitchen countertops



Natural-quartz crystals are mined, then ground into a dust or an aggregate that's fused with resin binders under intense heat and pressure to form a solid slab. Pigments added during the process impart color to the countertop.

 

 

Vitals

installing a quartz countertop around a kitchen sink


How much do they cost?

Expect to pay about the same as you would for natural stone, around $60 to $90 per square foot, including installation.
DIY or hire a pro?
Like natural stone, quartz slabs are very heavy. And though the added resins make them more flexible, they, too, can crack if not properly handled. Work only with certified installers.
Where to buy?
Order through kitchen-design showrooms or from home centers and big-box stores, such as The Home Depot, IKEA, and Lowe's.
How long do they last?
For as long as you have your kitchen. Quartz countertop manufacturers provide warranties ranging from 10 or 15 years to lifetime, depending on the company.

 

 

Is a Quartz Counter Right for You: Pros

country style kitchen with black quartz kitchen countertops on white base bar with seats


It's low-maintenance.
Unlike natural stone or wood, it never needs to be sealed. Just wipe with soapy water for daily upkeep. Surface stains can be removed with a gentle cleansing scrub. Avoid scouring pads, which can dull the surface, and harsh chemicals that could break down the bonds between the quartz and resins.
It's antimicrobial.
Resin binders make quartz counters nonporous, so stain- and odor-causing bacteria, mold, and mildew can't penetrate the surface.
It's design-friendly.
Some makers offer jumbo slabs for uninterrupted runs of countertop. But even with standard slabs, typically 60 by 120 inches, the seams can be almost imperceptible; added resins allow cleaner cuts without chipping as stone does. The resins also make quartz more flexible than natural stone, allowing fabricators to bend and shape it into sinks or the sides of a curved island. And it's versatile enough to be used on floors and walls—fabricators can even cut the slabs into standard tile sizes.


Is a Quartz Counter Right for You: Cons

light green kitchen with white quartz kitchen countertops


It's pricey.
Compared with DIY options, such as wood, laminate, and concrete, which can cost less than $10 per square foot, quartz, like granite, is expensive—about $60 to $90 per square foot, including installation. Acrylic solid surfacing, another competing option, costs about $40 to $80 per square foot installed.
It can't take extreme heat.
Quartz counters are heat and scorch resistant, but only up to a point. Most manufacturers say their products can handle up to 400 degrees F, but a sudden change in temperature or sustained heat from a pan left on the counter may cause the surface to crack. To be safe, always use a trivet or a hot pad.
It can't weather outdoor use.
Install it outdoors in an uncovered area, and you'll void the warranty. Direct sun beating down on it day after day can cause colors to fade or the countertop to warp or split over time. Currently, none of the major manufacturers offers an outdoor-approved quartz counter.

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