Granite—a natural stone—is indeed 100% natural as it is quarried directly from the earth in large blocks. These blocks are then sliced into slabs and polished on one side at the quarry before being shipped to the broker or fabricator. Fabricators cut shapes from the slabs according to your countertop specifications. They then profile and polish the edges.
Quartz, on the other hand, is an “engineered” stone, meaning a manufacturing plant uses various grades and sizes of quartz crystals and mixes them with resin and pigment (for color) in a ratio of 93% quartz to 7% resin(yes, we’ll still refer to quartz as natural stone, but it’s not as natural as granite). Fabricators create quartz countertops in much the same way as they do granite countertops: by cutting the shapes from the slab and then profiling and polishing the edges.
How different can they be?
Here’s a comparison of the two products on five key points, with a summary recommendation at the end.
1. Which One Is More “Natural”?
Both countertop materials are overwhelmingly made of a natural product, but one comes out slightly ahead:
Granite: 100% natural. Slab granite counters are sliced from quarries, cut to size, and honed down until they are smooth.
Quartz: 97% natural. Prominent quartz countertop makers note that 93% natural quartz aggregates are mixed with the remaining 7% of color pigments and polymer resins. The resins bind the particles together.
Quartz used to be more expensive than granite, but things have changed somewhat recently. With advances in technology and production methods, both quartz and granite are now closely priced. Granted, you may come across some rare exotic slab of granite that was unearthed in a remote Brazilian jungle during a lunar eclipse, but for the most part, the cost is a non-factor.
Radon is a radioactive gas that has been linked to lung cancer. Radon can be found in granite and quartz. Radon in countertops is a contentious issue. Homeowners have little to fear about radon in counters, as it appears to have been an overwrought media scare that began around 2008.
Granite: The magazine Consumer Reports indicates that a scientist found “almost no radon” coming from the granite.
Quartz: The same publication found “very little” radon in engineered stones.
Stone, whether natural or engineered, seems like it should be maintenance-free. Not so. Both materials require maintenance, with granite requiring more than quartz:
Quartz: Quartz does not need initial or continued sealing.
Granite: Granite needs to be sealed upon installation, and then again on a regular basis.
Quartz: Engineered stone has the flaws engineered out. You will not find invisible striations just waiting to crack open someday, as you will find with slab granite. Due to the presence of the resins, quartz counters are less prone to staining.
Granite: Natural slab granite, for all its beauty, has flaws and imperfections that homeowners either love, accept, or hate. Granite stains if subjected to red wine.
Quartz. This material is designed primarily for severe kitchen conditions. Also, it uses waste materials rather than quarrying new materials.
Quartz countertops are fabricated from natural quartz, one of the hardest minerals found in the Earth, and small amounts of glass or metallic flecks are added to create variety, resulting in beautiful countertops. Another advantage of quartz is that it is a non-porous material, its texture does not allow bacteria to grow and resists against stains, protecting your family and making kitchen clean-up easy. For this reason, quartz countertops never need to be sealed.
Aside from the durability that quartz provides, this material is beautiful, and its wide variety of color options are sure to catch your eye. Your possibilities are nearly endless as quartz ranges from natural colors such as whites, blacks, and browns to other colors such as golds or blues. The design of a quartz countertop not only brings character to your kitchen but offers performance advantages that exceed other traditional materials.
Another one of the most commonly used materials for countertops is granite. Like quartz, this material is also very resilient. Granite is a natural rock that is cut in its natural state and is then polished for use in homes. Maintenance after each use is suggested to prevent staining with granite. To clean granite, use warm water and soap to help keep its shine.
Such a durable material is difficult to scratch and can resist temperature changes. Because it is natural stone, granite doesn’t provide as full of a range of color options and each piece is different, therefore, often kitchens need to be planned around the slab that is chosen. That being said, designing a kitchen around a granite countertop is not always a simple task.
Q. Which is stronger?
Quartz is one of the most durable materials on the planet; significantly stronger than granite. However, just because granite isn’t as durable doesn’t mean it’s a wimpy choice either.
Q. Which stone looks better?
A. Well. We are back to red wine vs. white wine. Quartz looks simpler and has excellent color choices, but every granite countertop is one of a kind. Granite slabs are known for having a lot of “movement” and variations in its natural color, while quartz tends to be less dramatic in its colorization. If you are a minimalist that prefers a monochromatic kitchen, go with quartz. If you want a counter with a character that is unique as you are, go with granite, especially if you enjoy a sunlit kitchen.
Q. Which stone is easier to maintain?
Quartz wins this one, hands down. Not to say that granite is a nightmare – you need to seal it once a year – but quartz requires zero maintenance. Keep your counters clean, and they will take care of you.