Solid surface countertops have been in high demand for years and it’s a safe bet that they are here to stay. When they first came on the scene as a mainstream choice for consumers almost 20 years ago, they were hailed for their beauty and durability. However, they were regarded as pricey, which caused more than a few builders and home buyers to opt for less expensive choices, like laminates and tile. In the long run, it appears that granite and quartz countertops are the winners – mainly due to their extreme permanence.
Professional organizations such as the National Association of Home Builders, the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors, and the National Association of Realtors, concur on these points:
- Granite is the most popular countertop choice, followed by quartz
- In terms of longevity, both have been given the “Lifetime” rating
- They are the preferred option whether it is for new construction, upgrades for the purpose of selling, and for remodeling projects
- Granite and quartz countertops are suitable for both kitchen and bath installations
What are the differences between quartz and granite?
Establishing granite and quartz as the frontrunners is easy, but what are the key distinguishing features between the two?
Researching how this 100 percent natural building component is obtained will help the consumer understand its high price tag. Large pieces of granite are quarried, sliced, cut to size and polished. It is an arduous process involving many steps and expensive equipment.
Granite is obtained from sources around the globe. Although the U.S. has its fair share of granite quarries, a large percentage of granite slabs also come from other countries. The cost of overseas shipping is based on fuel prices, which fluctuate and also affect the cost of granite. According to the experts at HGTV, granite countertop prices can range “between $45 and $200 per square foot, including installation.”
Because it comes from deep within the earth and not from a factory, no two slabs are identical. There will be flaws and color variations. These are aspects some consumers embrace and others may reject, especially if they have their heart set on a specific look.
After it is installed, granite will need to be sealed and then, depending on the amount of use, at least once a year from then on. Granite is extremely hard and scratch resistant. However, abusing it with rough bottomed earthenware may mar its beauty. Sealing granite protects it and makes it more stain resistant – yes, granite can hold stains. Because it is porous, some spills are tough to remove, such as red wine, some oils, and fats. That’s why it is important to keep it sealed regularly.
Although it is technically a mineral, when used for countertops, a combination of 93 percent natural quartz aggregates are mixed with color pigments and polymer resins. The process involves mining the quartz, grinding it into a fine powder and fusing it with the other ingredients, and placing it under extreme heat and pressure to from a solid piece. Like granite, it is sourced from around the world, but since it is ground down, shipping it is much less costly.
While quartz never needs sealing and is regarded as stronger and harder than natural granite, one drawback is that it cannot be used outside. Ultraviolet (UV) rays can change its color. Granite can be installed outdoors, in areas where the freeze and thaw cycle is not an issue.
Because of the way quartz resin is created, countertop materials are available in a wide variety of colors. It is more of an exact science and variations to the customer’s choice are usually minimal. Another plus is that the mixing process makes quartz extremely user-friendly. According to an article from This Old House, “Resin binders make quartz counters nonporous, so stain- and odor-causing bacteria, mold, and mildew can’t penetrate the surface.”
However, according to LivingStone, an Austin-based countertop company, “Quartz is durable, but not indestructible.”
Both granite and quartz countertops have seams because they are cut to fit instead of molded. While they are both very tough, strong chemicals, bleach, and solvents should not be used on either material.
Regardless of which countertop material you’re considering, one thing everyone agrees on is that their longevity depends on you and how well you plan to maintain them.
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