Quartz-based surfaces

Made of: Crushed quartz crystals, polymers, and pigments.

Quartz is found in great abundance in the earth, it is second only to water as the most common mineral-based form on our planet. It is naturally hard and scratch resistant. Quartz even ranks a 7.0 on Moh's Hardness Scale, which is used to measure the scratch-resistance of a material. Only diamonds, ranking 10, topaz, and sapphire are harder than quartz.

Quartz counters are really rock with an attitude, they are manufactured with nearly 100 percent quartz. In contrast, granite may contain only 50 percent quartz. The other minerals found in granite leave it soft, porous, and vulnerable to scratches and stains. Industry-wide, all quartz countertops are made with 93 percent quartz and 7 percent pigments and resins or they cannot claim the hardness, durability, or impermeability of a true quartz surface. The prescribed mixture results in a product that is non-porous, exceedingly durable, and more than twice as strong as granite.

The engineering and finishing phases of quartz-counter manufacturing are virtually the same throughout the industry and many offer warranties for up to ten years on their products. Also, since these countertops are engineered using a controlled process, quality-control measures exist for quartz that are not possible for natural granite countertops.

Companies say quartz aggregate improves upon granite in a number of ways. For one thing, unlike granite, the product has no fissures. This consistent surface makes it nonporous and less likely to harbor bacteria. Sealing granite guards against absorption, but the material requires periodic resealing to keep it food-safe. Quartz surfacing, in contrast, requires no sealers. Quartz's impenetrable surface also makes it highly resistant to stains and the etching effect of acidic liquids such as wine, lemon juice, and vinegar. In addition to quartz's performance benefits, the manufacturing process enables companies to mimic other, even more troublesome natural countertop materials, such as limestone, which is very soft and prone to scratching, and concrete, which is porous.

Quartz is competitive with the hard, shiny look of granite, but it offers more colors. Quartz is also available in vibrant hues that Mother Nature has neglected to provide, including bold and iridescent reds, yellows, and blues. Quartz is harder than granite, consistent from slab to slab, and do not require special maintenance such as sealing. The surface is very hard to scratch or burn. A quartz surface is solid and remains impervious to water, moisture, or bacteria and won't develop fissures or cracks. With these advantages, it's a solid alternative to granite.

Solid surfaces
Made of: Polymers, acrylics, and resins.
Characteristics: These surfaces are stain resistant and impervious to damage from acidic foods and scratches buff out.

Problems with Granite

Natural, but not Perfect

Granite is crystalline in structure, so it always has tiny pits or spaces between the various mineral crystals.

Appearance Not Uniform
Granite does not have a uniform pattern or color. The appearance can vary widely between slabs, and even within a single slab.

Seams are Visible
It is impossible to hide the seams in granite.

Must be Sealed
Granite has a certain degree of porosity and must be sealed before use with a solvent-based product which leaves only negligible surface residue. The stone must be resealed at least once every three years.

Can Discolor
With granite, some pigments or oils can be absorbed into the surface. This could cause discoloration. The sealer does not prevent this discoloration, but it slows it down to allow more time for clean up.

Durable but not Indestructible
Granite can be chipped and broken and is very difficult to repair.