Once reserved for high-end homes, quartz countertops are finding their way into more and more kitchens and bathrooms as brand offerings expand and the material becomes more accessible and affordable. A favorite premium countertop material by kitchen and bathroom designers, quartz is often confused with natural stone and solid surface countertop materials.
What Is a Quartz Countertop?
All quartz countertops, despite the brand, are derived from the Breton company's original Bretonstone technology created over 50 years ago by Marcello Toncelli. Bretonstone technology and machines are licensed to 52 companies around the world.
Like natural stone, quartz possesses a deep, rich appearance and a solid, rock-like feeling. Like solid surface, quartz has man-made additives that stabilize the material and eliminate natural stone's unpredictability. Beyond that, quartz, also called engineered stone, is its own, unique material.
Common Quartz Characteristics
While licensees add their own flair and nuances, they are still working off of Breton's original patent. Despite the brand, several qualities of quartz are the same.
Around 93 percent mineral content. The high degree of mineral content gives quartz its distinctive look and feel. By contrast, solid surface's 66 percent mineral and 33 percent polymer content lends a silky, soapy feeling to the material.
The process of creating quartz countertops saves the hardest mineral (quartz) and eliminates softer minerals and impurities. This means that quartz counters are harder and more durable than natural slab granite.
Water Absorption Rate
Quartz's low water absorption rate of 0.5 percent is on par with another low porosity material—porcelain tile. If the material weighs less than half of 1 percent more as a result of water-absorbing into its surface, it is considered to be nonabsorbent.
Quartz's minerals are impervious to heat, but its synthetic binders are not. As Nancy Dalton of design firm Baywolf Dalton notes, "This material is not heat-resistant. The binding materials will be damaged at high temperatures. Think hot fry pan. Some people think quartz is indestructible and that's just not the case."
Unless the countertop is small enough to be fabricated from a single slab, two slabs often need to be seamed together. Depending on the skill of the installer, this seam can be minimized but it will never be invisible.
Quartz Design Differences
Different quartz brands and product lines offer various features and material properties, from colors and styles to the available sizes of the raw material.
Design and Edges
The range of designs is the single biggest difference among quartz brands. "Designs" is the industry shorthand for several qualities of the slab's visual appearance: overall color, size, and shape of minerals, streaks, and striations. Edge profiles are built into the slab at the factory, not formed by the fabricator.
Due to the need to seam quartz, it is better to use the largest slabs possible to minimize seams. As Dalton notes, "I like quartz and there are several differences beyond color and pattern. When I can specify a jumbo slab and avoid using two slabs for a project, it's a win and cost savings."
All quartz brands come with a warranty. What differs is the length, limitations, and transferability of these warranties.
As can be expected, prices vary among brands. Quartz slab prices are wholesale-only and are confined to the supply chain between manufacturer and approved dealer/installers. Much like purchasing an automobile, consumer quartz prices are negotiated with the dealer and are variable.
Quartz Countertop Manufacturers
There are several different quartz manufacturers to choose from. Listed here are a few of the leading brands.
Cambria is a privately held Minnesota-based company that began as a dairy business in 1936. Having entered the quartz countertop industry in 2000, Cambria is a relative newcomer. Within one year, Cambria had opened a 150,000 square foot factory in Le Sueur, Minnesota, and within five years it had already tripled the size of that plant.
The only American company in the quartz surfaces business, Cambria offers a wide range of designs, colors, edges, and slab sizes. However, Cambria is unusual in that it cannot be purchased at big box home improvement stores. It can only be found at kitchen and bath dealers or purchased through builders, architects, and designers.
Formed in 1987, Caesarstone calls itself "the original quartz surface manufacturer." A publicly-traded company headquartered in Israel, Caesarstone has a factory at the Kibbutz Sdot Yam and another in the Bar-Lev Industrial Zone. Caesarstone was developed by the kibbutz as a way to replace its failing terrazzo tile industry.
Caesarstone is known for pushing the design envelope. Its Concetto Collection includes 10 surfaces that incorporate semi-precious stones such as agate, dumortierite, tiger's eye, and even petrified wood. Its Motivo Collection offers deep embossing in crocodile skin and lace textures.
Based in Almeria, Spain, Silestone is the flagship quartz brand of Italian company Cosentino. If Caesarstone is known for its natural stone-like appearance, Silestone's distinguishing factor is its vibrant solid colors. It's Life!, Stellar, Mythology, and Zen series offer bold, bright oranges, greens, reds, and blues that are not found with other brands.
Silestone is not just limited to countertop and backsplash materials. Matching Silestone designs are available in sinks, vanities, and shower pans. Silestone offers a robust 25-year limited warranty that is transferable to subsequent owners and includes no pro-rata limitations.
|Textures||Fine, Mixed, Heavy||Smooth, Matte, Satin||Smooth, Suede (small pores), and Volcano (large pores)|
|Thicknesses||1 cm, 2 cm and 3 cm||3/4"/2 cm and 1 1/4"/3 cm)||
1.2 cm, 2 cm and 3 cm/1/2, 3/4 and 1 1/14 inches
|Dimensions||Standard-size slabs are 55.5˝ x 122˝. Jumbo-size slabs are 65.5˝ x 132˝.||Slabs are 56.5" x 120".||Standard size slab is 55" x 120". Jumbo: 63" x 128".|
|Warranty||Lifetime limited warranty only to the original owners of the product. The warranty is not transferable.||Lifetime limited warranty for the original owner. Transferable to subsequent owners but only on a 10 year, pro-rata basis and only if the original owner has transferred warranty on behalf of the new owner.||The 25-year limited warranty that is transferable but only if the original owner transfers the warranty to the next owner.|
Smaller Quartz Brands
A number of mid-sized quartz manufacturers have emerged in recent years. Some designers like to use these companies because they offer highly favorable prices for their clients.
Daltile ONE Quartz
Daltile, true to its name, is mostly a ceramic, porcelain, and glass tile company. With a modest roster of 34 designs, Daltile's ONE Quartz line represents cost savings that some of the larger brands do not offer.
Originally a division of South Korean company LG, which produces everything from electronics and chemicals to solar energy equipment, LG Hausys is well-known in the countertop industry for its HI-MACS acrylic solid surface product. LG Viatera has a total of 51 colors among three different collections.
Pental is a Seattle-based distributor that is large enough that it has its own private label quartz line. It is known to be competitively priced and includes four different collections.
The chemical and consumer products giant DuPont (and maker of the popular Corian brand of solid surface countertops) first entered the quartz market with its Zodiaq line. Now called Corian Quartz, the brand offering includes about 48 color options.