In the war of kitchen materials, quartz countertops have risen up through the ranks, and are now the most popular option out there — beating out granite, marble, solid surfaces and other materials. Just why are quartz countertops so good?
What Is Quartz?
Unlike granite or marble, these kitchen counters aren’t pure natural stone. They’re a special blend of (over 90%) ground up quartz , which is mixed with a binder of resin or polymers. Pigment is added for color and pattern. Once blended, everything is then poured into a mold to form pressed slabs of engineered stone, which are cured before heading off to get cut according to your countertop specifications.
Because this is a man-made product, it is also very predictable. Appearance is uniform throughout each slab, and manufacturers can guarantee quality and predictable performance.
Quartz Countertops Colors
Quartz countertops have come a long way since their early days on the market. While they used to come in only solid colors, or uniformly flecked (depending on how coarsely the quartz was ground during the fabrication process), manufacturers are constantly developing and producing new looks. Although white and grey are probably the most popular, endless colors are available. Pantone matching is even possible.
Beyond color, new patterns also mimic the look of natural substances with subtle veins and striations — which gives the material some movement and makes it feel more real once in the kitchen. This dramatically affects the look and feel of a countertop or island, which is important to customers as they design their dream spaces.
Color and pattern aside, there are also now more finishes to consider. In addition to the smooth and shiny quartz you’re probably familiar with, you can achieve a softer appearance — with honed or suede-like finishes — that have a brushed feel. There’s also “volcano” rock or concrete, which are more pitted and textured. All of these new options are warmer and more inviting than the standard finish, and are a great additional way to customize your kitchen.
How Much Do Quartz Countertops Cost
Unfortunately, quartz countertops aren’t a budget kitchen material, and can be a significant chunk of your remodeling budget. They run between $60-100 per square foot, including installation. Of course, price will also vary depending on where you live, and which brand, quality and options you choose. IKEA even sells Caesarstone quartz countertops, priced between $43 and $90 per square foot. Of course, if you time your purchase with IKEA’s periodic kitchen sales, you’ll also get the 15 – 20% discount — if you spend enough.
Quartz Countertop Brands
You can order quartz countertops from large home improvement stores, such as Home Depot, IKEA, and Lowe’s. However you’ll get probably more variety and choice if you go through design showrooms or through your general contractor. This material is very heavy, and most people hire someone to install them. Before you choose a professional to work with, make sure they are certified for your chosen product and won’t void your countertop warranty.
If you want the look, but not the maintenance, of natural materials like soapstone or marble, quartz countertops are an attractive alternative. Its hardness makes it a good work surface, and one of the most durable and low-maintenance options you can buy. Unlike other materials, it resists etching, stains, cracks and chips. More good news: the resin that binds the quartz during manufacturing already adds protection, so there’s no need to initially seal the surface, or maintain by resealing in the future. It’s good to know, however, that quartz countertops don’t like high heat. You should never put scalding pots and hot pans directly on the countertop: always use a trivet instead. Otherwise, you should be good to go the minute they are installed.
How to Clean Quartz Countertops
Quartz countertops are non-porous, which means they don’t absorb bacteria, mold and mildew — not to mention things like red wine. So spill away! Cleaning is straightforward. Use only soap and water, and maybe some mild detergent. (Always check your manufacturer’s cleaning and maintenance guide before you use different cleaning products, just to make sure the quartz won’t react adversely to a particular chemical.) Also, please note that certain finishes might require more daily maintenance. Caesarstone, for example, says that metal marks and fingerprints will show up more on their honed or concrete finishes — something to be mindful of when choosing your countertop.
Quartz Countertop Pros and Cons
- Technology means that quartz countertops are consistently and uniformly produced, so you know exactly what you are getting when you buy it.
- Quartz’s main selling point is durability. It will last for years without staining or breaking down, and requires little to no maintenance. It’s also very easy to clean.
- Because it’s made from little leftover bits of mineral, versus mined in whole slabs and shipped around the world, quartz countertops are considered a good environmental choice.
- One drawback is the upfront cost: it’s one of the more expensive materials out there. However, quartz is extremely popular these days, which can be a huge selling point when you put your home on the market.
- Current technology limits the quartz countertop slab sizes. If you want an oversized island, for example, you might have to choose a different material. However, seams are less visible on quartz countertops than other materials.
Quartz Countertops vs. Granite
Granite was the go-to countertop for years, but has recently fallen into second place, leaving people to wonder which is better. Granite is an all-natural stone that’s quarried: no two slabs are alike, and there are endless variations for you to choose from. It’s also more affordable than quartz. Like quartz, granite is highly durable, although it is porous and susceptible to stains, and therefore requires periodic sealing and the initial installation.
Still not sure? Here are other countertop materials to consider.