Quartz Countertops a Durable, Easy Care Alternative

If you’re looking for beautiful, durable countertops, Quartz might be a good choice. In fact, it is becoming the hot choice to add style to a kitchen. These countertops can look like natural stone but offer some benefits that stone cannot. That said, they do not have to resemble stone. Because the material is “engineered,” it’s available in all sorts of colors that nature cannot provide. If you’re shopping for countertops, you’ll want to consider not just the costs, but also the pros and cons of quartz countertops.

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What is a Quartz Countertop?

Both quartz and quartzite are popular countertop materials that come from the same mineral: quartz. While both look the same, quartzite is a natural stone material and needs to be treated like other stone surfaces. What we are discussing here is engineered quartz.

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It’s a bit of a misnomer to call engineered quartz countertops stone, because they really are not. The material is not cut from a quarry like natural countertop materials. Quartz is one of the most abundant minerals on earth that is a component of stone. If you’ve shopped for granite countertops, you will have noted mineral patterns in the stone, and one of those minerals is quartz. You might see some products touted as “natural” quartz. While the mineral is natural, don’t think that the entire countertop is natural.

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Actually, a quartz countertop is not going to be 100 percent quartz. The material is man-made, combining quartz with other materials. It is actually 90% ground with 8-10% resins, polymers, and pigments. The quartz minerals are mixed with the resin and then treated with pressure and heat to form the countertop material, which very hard and granite-like. How finely the quartz is ground will determine the appearance. Coarsely ground quartz produces a flecked appearance and finely ground quartz gives a smoother look. Countertop thickness ranges from ½ inch to 1-¼ inches, depending on style, brand, and size.

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A quartz countertop in quartz blanco.

Six Benefits of Quartz Countertops

Exceptionally Durability

Diamonds are known for their hardness and so is quartz.

Nonporous

Because the resin binds all the quartz crystals together, the end product is nonporous, making it exceptionally sanitary. There are no cracks or crevices for bacteria and germs to settle in and it serves as a perfect work surface. You can even purchase quartz countertops that are certified as food safe. It’s also waterproof so it can be used with an under-mounted sink.

Maintenance Free

Unlike natural stone countertops, quartz counters do not need to be sealed. Nonporous surfaces like quartz also help resist stains. They are easy to clean using mild soap, water, and a soft cloth.

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Uniform Color Patterns

When buying natural stone, you have to choose the specific slab you want to use thanks to the variations in color and pattern that Mother Nature provides in a single slab of stone. This is not the case with quartz countertops. Because they are manufactured, you won’t have wide variations in color and pattern and can have a more consistent look.

A Rainbow of Hues

The benefit of being manufactured means that you have a full range of colors to choose from and aren’t limited to the typical hues of natural stone. You can choose countertops in bright colors to match your decors if you wish.

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Choice of Finish

Quartz countertops can be ordered with a shiny or a matte finish, depending on your personal preference.

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A Few Drawbacks of Quartz

Not indestructible

Yes, we noted that quartz countertops are hard and durable but they can still be damaged. They stand up very well the regular, everyday usage, but can chip if you hit them very hard. Moreover, once damaged, they can be extremely difficult to repair, reports SF Gate Home Guide. Also, Udemy points out that while your coffee, tea or wine might not stain the countertop, long-term exposure to UV sunlight can cause discoloration. “If your countertops are in front of large windows, you might think twice before spending thousands of dollars on a quartz countertop,” they note. They also cannot be used outdoors.

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Can’t Take the Heat

As with other man-made countertops materials like solid surface choices, you can’t plop a hot pot directly on quartz countertops and expect it to be undamaged. Master builder Bob Vila cautions that a sudden change in temperature or leaving a hot pan the countertop may even cause it quartz to crack. It can also melt in heat above 300 degrees Fahrenheit. Trivets or pads are necessary to keep quartz countertops in tip-top shape and looking good.

Limited in Size

Quartz countertops are manufactured in sheets that are generally about 4.5 feet wide by 10 feet long. If your kitchen plan calls for very large expanses of countertop, you will likely need more than one piece and will have seams. Generally, seams are less noticeable on dark-colored quartz but can be very obvious on light-colored or multicolor countertops with obvious marbling patterns.

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Clean With Caution

Choose you cleaning products carefully when caring for quartz countertops. Products that are acidic or alkaline can damage the surface of the material. The chemical in rust removers, heavy duty cleaners, bleach and other compounds can be harmful. Make sure you read the care literature your manufacturer provides.

Can Scratch

Home Style Choices points out that the small percentage of resin material in your countertop means it’s not totally a mineral surface. While some sellers say that you can cut right on the surface, regularly cutting on the surface can lead to scratches.

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How Much Do Quartz Countertops Cost?

These countertops are equally as popular – and expensive – as natural stone options. As with any countertop material, the price of quartz varies according to the style, design and colors you choose. The more sink and appliance cut-outs you need, the more slabs you use and the fancier the edge treatments you choose, the more the cost will go up. Quartz is not a bargain choice. A general range is $60 to $100 a square foot installed. Other sources like Home Advisor cite higher prices, such as $150 to $280 per square foot.

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Caring for Quartz Countertops

For everyday care, a mild dish detergent and soft cloth are really all you need. Glass cleaner, a degreaser, Goo Gone, a nonabrasive sponge and a plastic putty knife are also helpful tools, according to Bob Vila.

Although quartz resists stains from liquids like wine, vinegar, tea, lemon juice, and soda, or fruits and vegetables, it’s still important to wipe spills up right away, before they dry. If you have a dried spill or heavy stain, try using a glass or surface cleaner, a nonabrasive sponge. Keep a plastic putty knife handy to gently scrape off gum, food, nail polish, paint, or other messes that harden as they dry.

For tougher grease clean-up, use a degreaser that will help loosen the grease from the surface. Follow the cleanser manufacturer’s instructions for use. Should your quartz countertop be marred by a permanent marker, use a soft cloth and a product like Goo Gone to safely remove the mark. Rinse well.

Quartz doesn’t need to be sealed, but an overall deep cleaning is also recommended. experts also recommend a periodic overall deeper general cleaning. To do this, spray a a nonabrasive surface cleaner over the entire countertop and let it sit for 10 minutes. Wipe it up with a soft sponge.

Never use abrasive cleansers or scouring pads on a quartz countertop because it can dull the surface. Products that can harm your counter include things like nail polish remover, drain cleaner and dishwasher rinsing agents. Even concentrated bleach and oven cleaners can cause damage. Certain chemicals can disintegrate the bond between the quartz and the resin.

The installation process

The process for installing quartz countertops is much like any other. A professional will need to visit your home to measure the cabinets and create a template. Manufacturing time averages about 2 weeks. Supports may be necessary in areas such as above the dishwasher, where there is no cabinetry. Next, the installers will put the new countertop directly on the base cabinets with adhesive. Home Advisor notes that it takes from a few hours to a full day to install a typical quartz countertop. After they are in place, the plumber can get started.

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Quartz Edge Treatments

Custom edge profiles add to the character of your design and make the countertops extra special. In most cases, an eased edge, which provides a smooth finish, bevel, and bullnose edges are standard and do not cost extra. There are a quite a few edge options to choose form, depending on your taste and budget. These are the most common ones: 

Bevel – A 45-degree cut against the edge that exposes more the pattern of the stone.

Bullnose – Rounded and smooth edge. It’s a classic choice that looks great in most kitchens.

Half Bullnose –a half-round edge that shows off more of the stone.

Bevel Bullnose – a smooth edge with a 45-degree cut for a slight slope.

Double Radius –similar to eased cuts, they have a more pronounced curved profile on the edge.

Ogee –a small “S” shape cut into the front, followed by a straight and flat edge at the bottom.

Double Ogee – The double-ogee treatment features a curved-bullnose edge as well as a decorative inward dip above the curve.

Ogee Bullnose –a more pronounced “S” shape that is slightly elongated.

Triple Pencil – More decorative, these feature three pencil-shaped edges that cascade down the front edge of the countertop.

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Can I DIY a Quartz Countertop?

Granite is heavy and quartz can be even heavier. Professional installation is highly recommended for quartz countertops in kitchens for a long list of reasons that go beyond its weight. They are a big investment and installers should be certified to mount the specific brand of quartz you purchase. Many countertops come with a warranty, but often if installed by a certified professional. Even though some home stores sell the material as a DIY, most experts don’t recommend going it alone – except for those who sell it that way.

Quartz is a wonderful option for those who want the look of stone with less maintenance hassle. Or, if you want the durability of quartz in a brighty hued version, quartz can do that too. Just make sure you budget appropriately for this beautiful and durable kitchen countertop option.