Granite countertops remain in high demand for their beauty and durability. Quartz countertops, often called engineered stone countertops, are similar in appearance and performance, yet quite different in their makeup.
Is there a clear-cut choice between the two? Both types have their enthusiasts. The key is to understand them more fully, and when you do, you’ll know which type suits your purposes the best.
Solid Stone vs. Engineered Stone
Granite counters are mined from pure stone. The stone is sawed into slabs or made into tiles and then polished for installation. Quartz countertops are manufactured from crushed quartz that is mixed with pigment for coloration and resin as a binder. The quartz content is typically 92% to 94%.
If you want authentic stone countertops, then granite is your only choice here.
The Appearance of Granite and Quartz
Both types have their strong point. Granite shows slight, natural variations in the hue of the stone. Colors ranges from earth tones to blues, greens and roses. The coloration of quartz is more consistent, and it is available in a wider array of colors since they are produced with pigments added to the quartz.
The Issue of Durability
While natural granite is strikingly beautiful, it does have its weaknesses. The stone needs to be sealed at installation and resealed on a regular basis. Quartz doesn’t require this level of care. In addition, natural stone countertops including granite, slate and sandstone stain quite easily. Granite that has been sealed with a resin-based product during manufacturing will be more resistant to trouble than standard granite, but still not as resistant as quartz.
Finally, granite can crack and chip more readily than engineered stone. Both have a lifespan of 25-50 years depending on the level of care they are given and how they are used. In the area of durability, engineered stone – quartz – has the advantage over granite.
The Cost of Granite vs. Quartz Countertops
It’s really about a toss-up in this category. The cost of quartz ranges from $80-$140 per square foot installed and granite starts at about $80 and can go to $175 or slightly higher for high-end material.
The Greener Building Material
Natural granite countertops produce fewer carbon emissions during production than quartz countertops. Neither one emits significant amounts of radon or volatile organic compounds. Granite has the slight edge as an ecofriendly building material.
More Reasons to Consider Granite
Are you still undecided about which is the best choice for your home, granite countertops or engineered quartz countertops?
If so, here are some of the additional reasons given by homeowners who chose natural granite over quartz.
Nothing Beats the Real Thing: This is the approach of homeowners who really enjoy having natural materials in their home. They choose solid wood flooring instead of laminate or engineered wood. They prefer wool areas rugs to nylon. Their home’s siding is wood, not vinyl. Their upholsteries are natural materials. If that sounds like you, you’ll appreciate the natural beauty of granite and see its potential flaws as character.
This really is the chief reason to select granite, slate, limestone or other natural stone over quartz. Some say that quartz is up to 94% natural because of the content of crushed quartz. That’s true, but it’s like saying concrete is natural because its ingredients are found in nature. Like concrete, the quartz is heavily processed, and that takes away the natural feel and turns off some homeowners.
When you look at natural stone, you see the striations and slight color changes that make the stone unique. The color and design is real. Quartz countertops feature designs that were engineered into them. Fans of natural materials would rather have a chunk of stone mined from the earth adorning their cabinets and not something whipped up in a factory and artificially colored.
The Bottom Line: If you ultimately decide on natural stone, make the commitment to seal it yourself or have it sealed by a professional on a regular basis. Keep a dishrag handy to clean stains immediately. Pour wine and juice into glasses while holding them over the sink or a table, not the countertop. Don’t leave wet or dirty dishes on them. Taking the extra care required will maintain the natural beauty you want for your home.
More Reasons to Consider Engineered Stone
Let’s give equal time to engineered quartz countertops. Here are more benefits of quartz countertops to people who’ve selected them for their homes.
Quartz Is Easier to Keep Germ-Free: Because quartz is an engineered product, it is non-porous. Granite, slate and other natural stones do have pores and tiny capillaries within the minerals. Those natural structures wick up liquid, and as we’ve mentioned, staining can be the result. There’s more: those pores and capillaries also harbor germs such as bacteria and viruses.
The non-porous surface of engineered quartz won’t collect these contaminants, so quartz is a better choice for cleanliness. Properly sealed natural stone does a decent job keeping out germs, but if the sealant breaks down, there can be issues.
It’s worth noting that a few of the quartz countertop manufacturers like Silestone and HanStone treat their countertops with a germ-fighting coating that enhances hygiene. Plus, germs can be washed off of quartz with milder cleansers; some recommend using harsher cleansers on granite and other natural stone.
The ease in maintaining the cleanliness of quartz countertops is one of the primary reasons that they are preferred by parents with young children and also make more sense for elderly who may be susceptible to viruses and bacteria.
Some Granite is Dyed: Always ask whether or not the granite you’re considering is dyed. This is most common with black granite samples. Stay away from dyed granite because, over time, its color may fade or become blotchy, especially in areas that get wet more often or that you clean more often such as food preparation areas. Quartz, because the pigmentation is consistent throughout the material, will remain very colorfast.
The Bottom Line: If engineered works just as well for you as natural stone, and you want something that offers more color options and requires less maintenance, then engineered quartz countertops are a durable, stain-resistant and good-looking choice. Clean-up is easy, and you’ll be confident you’re getting the dirt and germs.