Home remodeling and renovation is a big business in America. And it is no wonder. Census data shows that more than 50% of the nation’s homes were built before 1980. Of those renovations, bathroom and kitchen remodeling stands at the forefront, totaling $92 billion in 2017 alone – a large chunk of the outlay going to luxury surfaces, especially countertops.
As a material for these countertops, natural stone is held in high esteem, and for good reason. Not only are surfaces made from stone durable and easy to clean, they are beautiful, each one unique and characterful. For eons, marble and granite have sat at the top of this list, both in new and remodeled statement kitchens.
However, in recent years quartz, an engineered stone, has taken its place at the counter alongside these two traditional, elite solid-stone surfaces, in both status and functionality. What you choose (including semi-precious stones and other solid stones) comes down to a checklist of preferences. What are engineered quartz countertops, then, and how do they compare?
Marble and Granite 101
Before answering this question, consider the glories of marble and granite. They are both porous. They come in a variety of colors and patterns, can be custom-cut, and are heat resistant. Both fall into categories ranging from beautiful to stunning, and both embrace elegance – though marble may look a bit more stately, while granite could be viewed as more natural.
Other differences are these: Granite is more resistant to chipping. Marble is cooler to the touch. Granite might keep the appearance of newness longer, while marble can take on a beautiful patina over many years.
Both will last indefinitely with proper care and maintenance. Most important, place coasters, mats, and other barriers under hard objects and containers of acidic foods and drinks. As well, avoid using acidic solutions for cleaning, and wipe dry after cleaning or when spotting spills.
You can minimize these risks by continually sealing the counters – maintenance must do – as recommended by the installer.
Engineered Quartz Countertops Behind the Scenes
Strictly speaking, a specialist can mount a slab of solid-stone quartz on a cabinet base. However, engineered quartz countertops, with few exceptions, are actually a manufactured product; they are made up of a high percentage of pure quartz (or, occasionally, other stones), and a small number of polymer resins and pigments. The combination is heated and formed to shape the countertop. The resulting slab has the appearance and bearing of natural stone, but it comes, for the most part, with install-and-forget practicality.
A Tough Customer
This low-maintenance benefit primarily derives from the make-up of quartz: It is non-porous. As a result, it is a relatively sanitary surface, one that does not provide an appealing environment for bacteria; it resists stains and burn marks, and it is very durable, not easily chipped and scratched.
Engineered Quartz Countertops Offer a Range of Options
Because quartz is formulated, it can be highly individualized. First, because pigments are added during manufacturing, quartz can be created in an endless variety of colors. Second, because the stone can be ground to different levels of coarseness, the finished product can be made to look identical to natural stone or created to exude a modern, uniform appeal. Finally, in recent years engineered quartz countertops have begun to appear readily in a variety of textures, whereas in the past artificially-smooth samples predominated.
Engineered quartz countertops will evolve as a product. After all, humans continually strive to make progress in design and manufacturing. In contrast, granite and marble, formed over millions of years, are a consequence of nature, with the aesthetic beauty that such entails.
In the end, your choice in countertops comes down to both the heart and head. Do bear in mind one other option: It is acceptable to mix-and-and match, and working with a trusted provider and installer outfit ensures the best outcome.