Quartz vs. Granite Countertops: A Comparison

Granite countertop kitchen
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In your eagerness to choose a countertop for your kitchen or bath, you have narrowed it down to two materials: quartz (engineered stone) vs. granite (natural stone). This is not an easy decision because the distinction between the two countertop materials isn't apparent. After all, quartz and granite are each loudly touted by their respective manufacturers as being purely natural, straight from the earth, hard as stone. How different can they be?​

Composition

Granite is a purely natural stone that comes directly from stone quarries and is then cut into thin slabs, polished, and fabricated into countertops.

So-called quartz countertops are actually engineered stone products that may contain a large percentage of natural quartz but may also include other minerals. But these are not slabs of quarried stone at all, but are instead formed from stone byproducts that are ground up and formed into slabs for countertops and other products.

Appearance

The one advantage that granite has over engineered stone is that every granite slab is slightly different in mineral pattern and color, meaning that your countertop will be entirely unique. Quartz countertops, as an engineered product, are more uniform in appearance, though many colors and unique patterns are available, including forms that do not resemble granite at all.

The choice here is a matter of personal preference. If you truly want the look of natural stone, then choose the truly natural product—granite. But many people find that quartz countertops offer looks that are different and better than natural stone.

Cost

No question about it: both granite and quartz are premium, high-dollar countertop materials. If you are on a budget, these are not the countertop materials for you.

Granite countertops cost $80 to $175 per square foot, installed. The price differences depend on the style chosen, as well as on the type of edging treatments requested. Quartz countertops range from about $80 to $140 per square foot, installed. As quartz has become more popular and more widely available, costs of basic countertops have fallen, with unique designer styles and colors commanding upper-end pricing.

Pricing for both types of countertop varies because both are sourced overseas. All of these products are container-shipped across oceans, and this is dependent on petroleum prices. Tariffs and other factors can also affect pricing.

quartz and granite
 Illustration: © The Spruce, 2018

DIY Suitability

These are not products that lend themselves to do-it-yourself installation, except for small bathroom vanity countertops. Granite and quartz are very heavy materials, and even a relatively small 36-inch countertop weighs close to 100 pounds. It is best to have a pro fabricate and install your countertop. If you do choose to do it yourself, granite and quartz countertops are installed in exactly the same fashion. If you are spending the money for either costly material, it does not make sense to take risks on DIY installation.

Maintenance and Durability

There is a decided advantage here to quartz over granite, though both materials are very durable. Granite is a relatively porous stone that requires sealing upon installation, then period sealing on an ongoing basis. And granite slabs may have inherent flaws that make them prone to cracking. Quartz on the other hand, does not require sealing, thanks to the resins used in the fabrication of the slabs; and the material is uniform throughout, which means it almost never cracks.

The resins in quartz countertops make them considerably more resistant to staining than granite. By some reports, quartz is also less susceptible to harboring bacteria, again thanks to the resins that make the surface less porous.

Real Estate Value

These are both high-end building materials that will impress prospective buyers. When compared to laminate or ceramic tile countertops, both granite and quartz may slightly improve the real estate value of your home. There may be some buyers who give a slight advantage to granite since it is the more natural material.

Environmental Issues

Both countertop materials are overwhelmingly made of natural materials, but granite countertops come out slightly ahead, since they are made from 100 percent stone, while quartz is roughly 93 percent natural materials, with the remainder comprised of color pigments and polymer resins that bond the materials together. And the production process for natural granite produces fewer carbon emissions than quartz.

On the other hand, granite countertops require quarrying out of the earth, while quartz countertops are effectively made from left-over stone byproducts, with no quarrying required.

For a time, beginning around 2008, there was some media-induced fear regarding radon emissions from granite countertops, but recent studies report that there is little or no radon coming from either granite or engineered stone countertops. In the words of the EPA:

It is extremely unlikely that radiation from granite countertops would increase annual radiation doses above normal, natural background levels.

Bottom Line

Both granite and quartz (engineered stone) are premium countertop materials that add real estate value to a home. Granite appeals to people who like all-natural materials, while quartz offers easier maintenance and slightly better durability.