Compare Countertop Materials: Solid Surface, Quartz, and Granite

Solid surface, quartz and granite countertop

The Spruce / Kevin Norris

If you're confused about kitchen countertops, you're not alone. Three of the most popular types of kitchen counter materials—solid surface, quartz, and slab granite—look alike and have many of the same properties.

The stone-like appearance and homogeneous composition found in granite are engineered into solid surface and quartz countertops. All of these materials are attractive to homebuyers, and any of them can contribute to the resale value of your home.

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.

Homogeneous Materials

Homogeneous is used to indicate a material in which elements are mixed to form a consistent, even substance, much like through-body tile. The opposite of a homogenous countertop would be a layered countertop, like laminate.

Countertop Material Basics

  Solid Surface Quartz Slab Granite
What Is It? Synthetic countertop Minerals and resins All stone
Brand Names Corian, Formica Solid Surface, Avonite Caesarstone, Cambria, Silestone None
Composition 33-percent synthetic, 66-percent natural 10-percent synthetic, 90-percent natural 100-percent natural
Quick History Developed from DuPont's Corian Developed from Bretonstone From India, China, and Brazil
Popularity 1980s and 1990s, though still popular 2000s and still very popular 1990s and 2000s; popularity has waned

Solid Surface Countertops

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.

Popular brand names of solid surface counters include Corian, Formica Solid Surface, Avonite, Staron, Swanstone, and Wilsonart Solid Surfaces.

Solid surface countertops are 33-percent synthetic (polymers) and 66-percent natural minerals.

Solid surface was first 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.

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 Countertops

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. 

Representative brand names of quartz countertops include Caesarstone, Cambria, Silestone.

Quartz counters are 10-percent binders and 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.

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.

Quartz has surged ahead of solid surface and natural stone and is now installed in more homes than ever.

Slab Granite Countertops

Slab granite is real 100-percent granite quarried directly from the earth and sliced into slabs. Nothing is added, nothing is taken out.

Slab granite is not associated with brand names, at least on the consumer level.

Slab granite is 100-percent natural, with no additives.

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.

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 Lustrous, 3D Lustrous, rich, and crystalline
Touch Matte-like and soft Smooth and glossy Smooth and glossy when honed
Visibility of Seams Least visible Visible Visible

Solid Surface Countertops

Solid surface has a uniform look. Solid surface can be buffed to a glossy sheen but manufacturers do not recommend this as it shows scratches immediately.

Solid surface has a matte-like and soft feeling, much like touching a bar of soap. Eventually, scratches will develop and this contributes to an increased matte-like feeling.

Solid surface has the least visible seams of all products because seaming caulk is perfectly keyed to the solid surface material.

Quartz Countertops

Quartz counters have a lustrous, deep, three-dimensional. The surface can be honed to a gloss, if desired.

Quartz counters are smooth and glossy, and quartz feels like honed natural stone.

Seams in quartz countertops are visible, though a good installer can hide seams well.

Slab Granite Countertops

Lustrous, rich, and crystalline, slab granite has an attractively chaotic appearance, in sharp contrast to quartz countertop's homogeneous look.

Slab granite is smooth and glossy, as these all natural stone counters will be honed or polished.

In terms of seams, slab granite is the same as quartz—visible, though a good installer can hide seams well.


  Solid Surface Quartz Slab Granite
Must Be Sealed? No No Yes
Requires Pro Installation? Yes Yes Yes
Durability Can scratch, but scratches can be sanded Hard, but can scorch. Hard, but can crack.

Solid Surface Countertops

Solid surface counters are non-porous and never need to be sealed.

Professional installation is highly recommended. But 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.

Solid surface can scratch and scorch, but scratches are easily sanded out. Even the homeowner can manually sand out scratches.

Quartz Countertops

Like solid surface counters, quartz counters are non-porous and never need to be sealed.

Professional installation is always required for quartz countertops.

Quartz countertops are hard and difficult to crack. But they can scorch, so precautions must be taken to use trivets.

Slab Granite Countertops

Slab granite, being porous, will stain if not regularly sealed.

Slab granite fabrication and installation cannot be handled by a do-it-yourselfer. Professional installation is required.

Slab granite can crack, plus it will absorb stains if not sealed properly.

Which One Should You Buy?

Solid Surface Countertops

Buy solid surface countertops when you want a simple, no-nonsense countertop with a homogeneous look and with competitive pricing.

Quartz Countertops

Buy quartz countertops when you want a premium solid, stone-like countertop with a homogeneous composition that requires virtually zero maintenance.

Slab Granite Countertops

Buy slab granite when you want a high-end stone countertop that has a one-of-a-kind appearance and you do not mind occasional maintenance duties.