Solid Surface, Quartz, and Granite Countertop Comparison Chart

Kitchen countertop
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Are you confused about kitchen countertops? If so, you're not alone. Three of the most popular types of kitchen counter materials—solid surface, quartz, and slab granite—look alike, at least at first glance. In fact, this confusion is engineered into two of those materials. Amazingly stone-like looks are engineered into solid surface and quartz and are naturally found in slab granite.

Only when you get close to the material, feel it, and start to use it do you begin to learn the differences. Each countertop material has qualities that may work better or less well for your own situation.

Note

"Homogeneous" is used to indicate a material in which elements are mixed to form a consistent, even substance, much like through-body tile.

Basics

  Solid Surface Quartz Slab Granite
What Is It? Solid surface is the term for a type of heavy polymer-laden countertop material. Due to brand competition, it is a lower-priced and popular material. Quartz is the marketing term for what is more widely known as engineered stone, itself a term for a slurry of natural minerals combined with resins to create a hard, rock-like surface for countertops.  Real 100-percent granite quarried directly from the earth and sliced into slabs. Nothing is added, nothing is taken out.
Brand Names Corian, Formica Solid Surface, Avonite, Staron, Swanstone, Wilsonart Solid Surfaces. Caesarstone, Cambria, Silestone Slab granite is not associated with brand names, at least on the consumer level.
Composition 33-percent manmade (polymers); 66-percent natural minerals. 10-percent binders; 90-percent stone-like materials, such as crushed or waste granite, marble and natural stone or recycled industrial wastes like ceramic, silica, glass, mirrors, etc. 100-percent natural
Quick History Developed by Dupont under the Corian brand name as a more solid alternative to the then-popular laminate countertop material. Other companies flooded into the market after Dupont's patent expired. First developed by Italian company Bretonstone in 1963, the Bretonstone quartz counter technology is now licensed to 52 companies that use the original brevetto, or patent. Slab granite is quarried primarily from India, China, and Brazil and shipped to the U.S. for fabrication. Once found only in mansions, slab granite can now be found in homes of all demographics.
Popularity Cresting in popularity in the 1980s, if only because there were few alternatives, solid surface still enjoys well-deserved popularity as a functional, reasonably priced material. Quartz has surged ahead of solid surface and natural stone and is now installed in more homes than ever. Slab granite remains a quality, if finicky, counter material. Still, for homeowners who want a unique look, natural stone is best.

Appearance and Feel

  Solid Surface Quartz Slab Granite
Appearance Uniform, with a matte-like look. Solid surface can be buffed to a glossy sheen but manufacturers do not recommend this as it shows scratches immediately. Lustrous, deep, three-dimensional. The surface can be honed to a gloss, if desired. Homogeneous appearance. Lustrous, rich, and crystalline. Can be honed to a gloss. Attractively chaotic appearance, in sharp contrast to quartz countertop's homogeneous look.
How It Feels To The Touch Matte-like and soft, like touching a bar of soap. Eventually, scratches will develop and this contributes to an increased matte-like feeling. Smooth and glossy, quartz feels like honed natural stone. Smooth and glossy, all natural stone counters will be honed or polished.
Visibility of Seams Least visible seams of all products because seaming caulk is perfectly keyed to the solid surface material. Visible, though a good installer can hide seams well. Same as quartz—visible, though a good installer can hide seams well.

Installation and Cost

  Solid Surface Quartz Slab Granite
Must Be Sealed? No. Solid surface never needs to be sealed. No. Quartz does not need to be sealed. Yes. Slab granite, being porous, will stain if not regularly sealed.
Requires Pro Installation? Highly recommended. Of the three materials listed here, solid surface is the only one that do-it-yourselfers might conceivably cut and install themselves, at least on a small scale. Yes Yes
Durability Solid surface can scratch and scorch (though scratches can be sanded out). Hard, but can scorch. Hard, but can crack. Will absorb stains if not sealed properly.
Cost (Installed) $35 and up. $50 and up. $60 and up.

Which One Should You Buy?

Solid Surface Quartz Slab Granite
Buy solid surface when you want a simple, no-nonsense countertop with a homogeneous look and with competitive pricing. Buy quartz countertops when you want a solid, stone-like countertop with a homogeneous look that requires virtually zero maintenance. Buy slab granite when you want a stone countertop that has a one-of-a-kind appearance and you do not mind occasional maintenance duties.