Kitchen Confidential: The Case for Quartz
If you want durability, consistent colouring and a low environmental impact, quartz might be the right material for you
If you’re caught up in the quartz craze, join the club. Once a well-kept European secret, quartz is now challenging granite, laminate and other age-old materials for the king of the countertop. It’s easy to see why: Durability, low maintenance and style are this surface’s calling cards. Here’s why you might want to give the countertop industry’s latest darling a chance.
What is quartz? Before we start, let’s define what quartz is. It’s often referred to as a natural stone, but it’s actually an engineered product. It’s largely composed of quartzite (hence the name), but the kicker is that it’s also manufactured with resins, polymers and pigments, all fused together under intense heat and pressure. In this sense, it’s man-made. Don’t get quartz confused with quartzite counters. They’re an all-natural product and are mined and manufactured in ways similar to granite.
It’s durable. It’s no myth that quartz is strong. The bonds between the quartz and resins make the surface hard to penetrate. As a result, it’s highly scratch- and stain-resistant, which is just about every homeowner’s dream. It isn’t brittle, either. It can usually withstand anything from red wine to cutting knives. (But it’s still a good idea to keep your cutting board handy so you can preserve your counters.)
Quartz does have its kryptonite, though. Oddly enough, it can’t withstand extreme heat. A hot pan or exposure to sunlight can cause the surface to warp, split or discolour over time. Certain substances such as battery acid and oil soaps also can damage quartz.
It’s low maintenance. Unlike natural stones such as granite and marble, quartz isn’t porous. It won’t absorb moisture, so you never have to seal it. It’s also a cinch to clean. Soap, water and a rag will take care of most spills, grease and food remnants.
You should avoid oil soaps, harsh chemicals and scouring pads when cleaning your quartz. They can harm the surface and leave it vulnerable to future stains.
It has a clean look. The biggest advantage quartz has over natural stone is solid colouring. Not all homeowners want their countertops to have dramatic movement and veining, especially if they’re looking for a more modern finish. Sometimes they may want their backsplash or cabinets to get the lion’s share of attention. Either way, quartz can provide simple yet stylish choices for homeowners.
It’s evolving. Quartz hasn’t always looked like the real deal. In fact, it used to be easy to spot the difference between quartz and natural stone. But manufacturers have changed that. They’re perfecting how to re-create the movements and patterns of stone, and it’s getting harder to tell the two apart. They’re even engineering patterns that mimic natural landscapes. This allows homeowners to opt for lower maintenance but still get the beauty of natural finishes.
It’s flexible. As strong as it is, natural stone is surprisingly brittle. It can break during installation at times. Quartz, not so much. It’s much easier to cut and install. If you have unique or dramatic angles in your kitchen, quartz will withstand the pressure with relative ease.
It has consistent colouring. You know what you’re getting with quartz. There won’t be any surprises with patterns and movements, which makes designing the rest of your kitchen’s finishes a tad easier. Consistent colouring also better hides seams. It’s easier to align predictable patterns than the unpredictable movements you see in natural stone.
It has a relatively low environmental impact. Few, if any, products are totally green, but quartz has plenty of environmentally friendly qualities. Many popular brands are Greenguard Certified, which means that their quartz is a low-emissions product. Quartzite is one of the most abundant minerals on earth, so it isn’t incredibly taxing on environmental resources. It also lasts forever.
Mining is necessary to produce the product’s petroleum-based resins, but it isn’t as extensive as it is with granite. When you compare it with a product such as laminate, which has higher levels of volatile organic compounds, or concrete, in which the cement emits a higher percentage of carbon dioxide gases, its overall impact is on the lower side.
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