Quartz countertops are currently one of the most popular choices for kitchens and baths. With its durability, low maintenance, and wide array of options, it’s easy to see why it’s so popular. Not sure what all the hoopla is about? This quick guide will have you up to speed in no time.
The Basics of Quartz Countertops
Unlike stone countertops, such as granite or soapstone, quartz countertops are a man-made or engineered product. Quartz, a mineral found in just about every kind of rock, is ground into chips and mixed with resin to create an extremely hard and durable material. The usual ratio is 95% quartz chips mixed with 5% resin. Because it is man-made, the colors and patterns are pretty much limitless (although you are limited to what manufacturers actually offer).
Here’s a video of the manufacturing process.
Engineered quartz counters are non-porous and anti-microbial, which is super helpful in #2020! They are harder than granite and more durable. However, like anything, they are not indestructible!
A counter’s durability will be somewhat dependent on the manufacturer’s quality, the grade of the slab (Second Choice, Commercial Grade, or First Choice), and the slab’s country of origin. Many quartz slabs are manufactured overseas, and consumers have seen quality issues.
One of the biggest drawbacks to quartz countertops is the health issues to workers in fabrication shops. The grinding and cutting of quartz slabs releases silica dust which has caused irreparable lung damage to workers. Steps have been taken to improve worker safety in many cases. While the countertops are perfectly safe once they are installed, worker safety is a valid concern.
Finally, many people confuse quartz countertops with quartzite countertops. While both contain the mineral quartz, quartzite is a natural product, and not man-made. Check out our Pinterest board for some really stunning examples of quartzite.
Design Details with Quartz Countertops
Before I jump into places to use quartz, let’s dig a little deeper into some of the details.
Slab Size & Thickness
Quartz slabs come in two sizes: standard and jumbo. Actual dimensions will vary somewhat by manufacturer, but most standard size slabs are about 55″ x 120″. Jumbo slabs are 63″ x 128″.
The two most common thicknesses of quartz countertops are 2cm (3/4″) and 3cm (1 1/4″). The most popular thickness is 3cm, although there are regions that prefer the 2cm.
Edges can be built up to make the slab look much thicker than it actually is. A mitered built up edge can make the countertop look like it is 2.5″ – 3″ thick.
Most kitchens, no matter the countertop material, will require seams where countertop slabs meet. While not invisible, their appearance can be minimized.
Quartz countertops are available in several finishes: natural, polished, honed, concrete, and rough.
There are all kinds of edge profiles available. Standard edges include straight edge, bevel edge, rounded, and bullnose. Premium edges require more work, and as a result cost more. Profiles include ogee, cove, double bullnose, chiseled, and broken or live edge.
Laminated edges allow the edge to be built up to a greater thickness, and the counter will look more substantial. These multiple edge profiles can then be used to create a more ornate profile.
Designing with Quartz Countertops
Quartz is a great choice for a kitchen remodel. It has the durability and low maintenance of plastic laminate, but looks like a high end material. That durability makes it one of the best kitchen countertops for families. It can withstand pretty much anything your family dishes out.
Like many natural stone countertops, quartz can really shine as a kitchen island countertop. There are several Fantasy Brown look a-likes made from quartz that would look stunning on an island. Quartz looks especially great with a waterfall edge finish.
When designing a kitchen island, you’ll want to keep some important kitchen island dimensions in mind. Don’t design an island bigger than the maximum countertop slab size you are going to use. Otherwise, you’ll end up with a seam where two slabs meet. A single, continuous slab is the goal.
Quartz can also look fabulous as a full height kitchen backsplash. It can be a really dramatic look when the countertop and backsplash become a single design element.
Bathrooms are another great place to use quartz. Not only as a vanity, but shower walls, bathtub surrounds, seating, backsplashes, and the top cap of a pony wall that has a glass shower enclosure above.
Prefab vanity tops are a good economical choice for a bathroom remodel, as long as the existing vanity is a standard size.
Have a fancy dressing room with a closet island in the middle? Several manufacturers offer quartz countertops with chips of mirrors that will take a dressing room over the top. Our Best Countertops for a Closet Island has some great recommendations.
Now that so many people are working from home, a home office with a built-in desk can be a necessity. Quartz is a great choice for desktop or homework station countertop.
Finally, everyone’s favorite place to hang out at home: the wet bar. Quartz is definitely the front runner when looking at bar countertops. Easy clean-up and durability make it a winner.
Because quartz countertops are made with resin, they are UV unstable. Which is a fancy way of saying the sun will affect the color of the slab. Discoloration and fading are the most common reactions. As a result, quartz counters should not be used in an outdoor kitchen or outdoor kitchen bar.
Caesarstone has introduced a new line of outdoor quartz surfaces, called Solaris, that is designed to be used in outdoor settings.
Choosing a Quartz Countertop
There are several major manufacturers of quartz countertops including Cambria, Silestone, CaesarStone, VicoStone, MSI, and LG Hausys, to name a few. Each manufacturer has a wide range of color options, finishes and edge profiles.
Quartz countertops are excellent at mimicking many natural stone materials, especially granite and marble. Others, have a more indistinct texture that looks somewhat like colored concrete. Others look like agates.
Choosing a quartz counter can be a daunting process. Start with the overall style of the room – modern, contemporary, traditional, etc. Next, pick the overall color scheme – light, dark, neutral, etc. Using those two decisions, pick out the countertop. Finally, select the cabinet color, backsplash, and then the wall color.
Quartz Countertop Installation
The process of getting new countertops for quartz follows the same steps as any other countertop: measurement, fabrication, installation. It’s pretty simple and straightforward.
Caring for Quartz Countertops
Care is incredibly easy. Aside from plastic laminate, quartz is probably the easiest countertop material to have at home. They are relatively maintenance free, and you do not need to seal them. Daily cleanup is warm, soapy water.
While quartz counters are quite durable, a few basic precautions will keep them looking great. Quartz and heat don’t play well together. Always, always, always, use hot pads or trivets. Never put a hot pan directly onto quartz.
The second rule is to save your knives by using a cutting board. Besides, cutting directly on your counter is just gross.
Is Quartz Better than Granite Countertops?
As with most countertop comparisons, one material is not inherently better than the other. The answer depends on your personal preferences and what you value more.
Quartz is perfect for someone who wants a practically zero maintenance counter that can look like marble or granite. To some, it’s a dream material. To others, it doesn’t have the natural variations and warmth of a natural stone, so it looks fake.
Granite is perfect for someone that wants a low maintenance kitchen counter combined with the natural variations and movement found in real stone. Check out our post, A Quick Guide to Granite Countertops for more information.
Which is Better Corian or Quartz?
Not to be repetitive, but it depends on your personal preferences. Corian is another man-made countertop material, but is made with acrylic polymer, rather than resin. Both materials are similar in performance: strength, durabliliy, and low maintenance. Choosing one over the other really comes down to the visual appeal.
Which is More Expensive Granite or Quartz?
Like previous question, there isn’t a straightforward, single answer to this one. Overall, quartz is more expensive. However, both materials have a wide cost per square foot range. There are granites that cost more than quartz, and vice versa. It all depends on the particular material and its rarity. A granite that is rare is going to cost more, than an engineered stone that is mass produced.
In general, material costs of quartz range from $50-$120 per square foot, and granite prices range from $35-$75. Our Countertop Costs Calculator can help determine preliminary countertop costs for a home improvement project or new build. Simply enter the square footage of countertops, and the calculator will give you a range of prices for eight different materials.
What are the Disadvantages of Quartz Countertops?
There aren’t a whole lot of downsides to using quartz countertops. The biggest disadvantage would be the appearance. If you love the natural movement, randomness, and warmth of a natural stone slab, quartz is going to pale in comparison.
On the other hand, if you’d really love a gorgeous marble countertop and know you can’t deal with life’s patina or the work required to prevent it, then quartz is an excellent alternative.
Can You Repair a Chip or Crack in a Quartz Counter?
It depends on the size and location. There are all kinds of repair kits and how-to videos to help the DIY’er. If the chip is large, or in a conspicuous place, then it’s time to call in a professional.
Selecting a countertop can be daunting. It’s a pricey decision, and you want to get it right. Hopefully, you know a bit more about quartz countertops and your choices are now a little more clear.
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