Quartz Countertops: What’s to Know and What’s to LIKE!

Photo of Zodiaq Terra countertop, courtesy of Dupont.

By Jon Orenstein

I have been involved in residential and commercial construction for over 30 years. My specialty is cabinets and countertops. Currently my focus is specific to cabinet surfacing and tub/shower surfaces for residential applications ranging from kitchens to baths to commercial applications such as restaurants, hospitality and institutional work. As sales manager at Carolina Custom Surfaces I am regularly involved in a wide variety of projects that allow me to constantly learn about the newest products as they hit the market.

Among my favorites – and certainly one of the most durable of these–is engineered quartz. It is a great choice for the busy lifestyle we all seem to have these days. It is a workhorse product that fits well into the most active, and possibly the most abused room in our homes: The kitchen.

The kitchen is often considered to be the heart of the home, the place where family members and friends gather to eat and socialize. In today’s economy, it makes sense to make choices for the kitchen that are not only comfort inducing but also easy to maintain. Quartz is a perfect choice.

Quartz is a natural mineral commonly found in quarries or mines. It is ranked as a 7 on the Mohs scale that is used to determine hardness of a mineral. It may come as a surprise that only diamonds, topaz and sapphires have a higher ranking than quartz.

Until recently, the patent for manufacturing quartz countertops was held by an Italian company that requires the percentage of quartz used to be at least ninety three percent. Most of the manufacturers use between 93 percent to 95 percent quartz. This company manufactured and sold the machines, molds and processes to large companies all over the world to manufacture slabs that were finished and ready to process into countertops slabs. These slabs are produced by companies such as DuPont, maker of a noted Greenspiration Home favorite, Zodiaq® Terra.

How Engineered Quartz Countertops Are Made

Unlike granite, quarts slabs are not cut out from huge chunks of material mined from the earth. Rather, the mined quartz that is used in the manufacture of countertops is first ground to a uniform size before being mixed with the desired pigment and resins to produce a desired color. Next, the mixture is heated and compacted and the air is removed, leaving the quartz to be molded into slab form. This process produces a non-porous surface that is easy-to-clean and resistant to staining, nicking and marring.

 

Quartz and granite both have colors that start out at the same low price and they both go up with quartz usually ranging from a retail level of $50 to $80 per sq. ft. Granite starts out the same but can go much higher. The advantage of Quartz is that it has much higher tensile strength (it won’t break!) than most natural stones. Unlike most granite, quartz never has to be sealed. Furthermore, you can clean it with most any regular household cleaners, whereas granite should be cleaned with products specifically designed for natural stones. It is also easier to hide seams on quartz and pick out material colors because of consistency in the color of quartz. When engineered quartz is used for countertops, the additions of edging, scallops or other decorative accents is not limited to straight lines or gentle curves, and aligning edges is easier than when using other materials like granite.

While a visually seamless installation is less tricky with quartz, it is still wise to use professional installers. Their expertise will help avoid costly mistakes and minimize product waste. A little web research will also help homeowners find the best price and selection of sustainable quartz countertops!

Jon Orenstein is a sales manager at Carolina Custom Surfaces in Greensboro, NC and has over 30 years of experience in residential and commercial construction.

4 Responses »

  1. Great read…..good details and comparisons

  2. There is nothing “GREEN” about using resins and dyes to create a man-made product to place your food on. Resins off-gas toxins and when brought into the home they can agitate and create other problems within the home and your health. Read the Material Safety Data Sheet before you buy synthetic products. Most importantly, how long has the product been on the market. Most of these trendy products make claims which can not be validated by time.

    We as a society rely to heavily on plastics! Quartz is natural, the additives to bind the quartz is not natural and are not “GREEN”!

    If you want “GREEN” you go to a saw mill to purchase your lumber, you hire a plasterer to plaster your walls, you go to a ceramic dealer to install and supply hand crafted tile and or stone, you go to the beach and collect sea shells for decoration, you purchase hardwood floors from reclaimed sources, you purchase furniture from an actual furniture maker who works with real wood, you hire a stone fabricator to make “Granite/Marble” countertops.

    These products are “GREEN”! Mother nature made them! They are tried and proven!

    Unfortunately, this method is not trendy enough! Why? Because people do not value a man’s labor! Priority’s are scrambled because the products need a “Trendy” name brand attached to them. Does this make any sense?

    Something is really wrong with the thought process of buyers in general today.

  3. In general, I agree with R. Beyer. The designer’s enthusiasm for polyester (e.g. engineered quartz) and acrylic, melamine and phenolic resin composites is often their infatuation with the ‘hot’ new look made possible with more creative use of these manmade materials in organic and inorganic composites. What is a truly ‘green’ building product? You need to understand the chemistry, production processes, etc. and look critically ‘under the hood’. Lots of so-called ‘green’ products are simply existing products that have been cleverly ‘repackaged’ and ‘repositioned’ by marketing companies or marketing departments. Today’s wood products have their limitations, too. We harvest trees on shorter and shorter rotations and that requires us to increasingly rely upon preservatives, synthetic surfaces, petrochemical glues, etc. to get them to be as affordable and to look sort-of-like and perform like their real wood predecessors. Forest Stewardship Council-certified products are a step in the right direction but let’s face it- high quality wood grows too slowly to accommodate our desires for cheap. And, with the current explosion in natural gas fracking, petrochemicals (and the products made from them- organic and inorganic) are only going to get cheaper.

    • I think it may be misleading to the average consumer to refer to engineered quartz as a “polyester” product. The resin (“glue”) used to bind the quartz material is about 7% polyester. In my case, my choice to use quartz had nothing to do with it being the hot new look. For one thing engineered quartz — particularly those that were available five years ago were limited to pretty neutral solid colors. There were certainly flashier new products to choose from. Frankly, I didn’t know how well the product would perform, though I was told it was stain and scratch resistant. However, the performance of engineered quartz has exceeded my expectations in every way. I can’t see me ever wanting or needing to change out this product. If the future homeowners are crazy enough to replace it, there are recycling options for the material.

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