01 of 09
Solid-surface countertops are a man-made material consisting of mineral dust (mostly marble) mixed with a variety of plastic resins and pigments. Its main appeal is that it is easy to fabricate and can create completely seamless countertops, unlike any other countertop surface. It was introduced in 1967 by DuPont under the brand name Corian, though there are now other major brand names offering the material, including Avonite and Swanstone. It is a decided improvement over laminate countertops,... and over the older plastic material commonly called cultured stone.
While solid-surface materials mimic the look of stone--thanks to the fact that includes mineral dust--no one is likely to mistake it for solid granite countertops. For many people, the look of slab granite for a countertop simply can't be duplicated or beat.
But recent years have seen the introduction of quartz countertops. Most of these are engineered stone products, consisting of about 95% ground natural quartz and other materials with 5% binding resins. It's here that there is a serious competition with solid-surface materials. Both materials occupy the middle tier of countertop options, falling between granite at the high end and plastic laminates at the low end.
Following is a comparison between these two excellent countertop choices on seven different criteria:
- DIY Installation
- Heat Resistance
- Seam Visibility
- Scratch Resistance
- Sealing Needs
02 of 09
Neither of these countertop choices is a "single substance" surface and neither are all-natural. Both are aggregates of polymers and minerals. If a purely natural product is somehow important to you, then natural stone slabs are your only option.
Solid Surface: Corian, the original solid surface counter, is made of about 33% acrylic resin (PMMA) and about 66% natural minerals. A bauxite derivative, Aluminium TriHydrate (ATH), is the most common mineral. But if you're imagining... something like that looks like granite particles, you're wrong. ATH is a fine, white powder, much like baking soda. The many different colors and styles are achieved by different mixtures of pigments and mineral dust.
Quartz: These countertops include 5% to 10% binding resins, either polymeric or cement-based. The other 90% to 95% is composed of hard, stone-like industrial waste products, such as marble, quartz, glass, mirrors, etc. Some companies have even begun to use nonfood-quality vegetable oils as one ingredient in the resins.
Winner: If naturalness is the goal, quartz countertops win, but not by much.
03 of 09
Solid Surface and Quartz: Difficult for the DIYer to obtain source materials because they are basically locked down in a distribution/installation system of retailers, fabricators, and installers.
In the case of solid-surface materials, this is unfortunate, as the materials can be cut by ordinary power saws and routers, and the seaming kits used to join pieces are not hard to use. DIYers who managed to purchase the materials can be successful with solid surface materials. Unfortunately, it is... almost impossible for amateurs to obtain sheets of solid-surface material.
Quartz, on the other hand, requires special tools that most DIYers do not have. Even if you could by the sheets, it would be nearly impossible to work with them.
One option for DIY installation is incidental pieces, such as ready-made, one-piece vanity unit tops.
Winner: Draw. Neither are very amenable to DIY installation.
04 of 09
Solid Surface: Generally, the party line is that it doesn't have the best heat resistance in the world. If you want to honor your end of the warranty, then you may want to keep hot items like glowing-hot skillets off of your Corian. In practice, though, solid surface countertops rarely give in to heat. In the rare likelihood of scorching, solid surface materials can be sanded out and repolished to remove the stains.
Quartz: Higher heat resistance than solid-surface materials. In theory,... quartz countertops could actually catch fire if subjected to high enough temperatures, but such temperatures are almost impossible to achieve in a kitchen environment.
Winner: Quartz. But under normal conditions, both surfaces are equally heat resistant.Continue to 5 of 9 below.
05 of 09
Solid Surface: Seams are created with a bonding adhesive that creates such a tight seam that it is nearly invisible to the naked eye.
Quartz: Seams are covered, but visible.
Winner: Solid surface. As large-slab products, though, both solid surface and quartz countertops will have very few seams.
06 of 09
Solid Surface: Cutting on solid surface countertops is not recommended. It is guaranteed that if you cut on Corian, scratches will appear. The good news is that solid-surface materials can be rather easily sanded and buffed smooth again--something you can't say for laminate countertops.
Quartz: While it is recommended that you not cut on quartz/engineered stone surfaces, in reality, they are difficult to scratch with normal use.
Winner: Finally, one clear difference between the two. Quartz... comes out ahead, by far.
07 of 09
Solid Surface: None required.
Quartz: None required.
Winner: Draw. Both are completely non-porous surfaces, so sealing is never required. The amount of resins in the mix ensures non-porosity.
08 of 09
Solid Surface and Quartz: Prices are virtually the same. The prices vary depending on the style and color of the material selected. Prices are difficult to compare because it is difficult-to-impossible purchase the source materials alone. Most suppliers will sell only to licensed fabricators or contractors.
Winner: DrawContinue to 9 of 9 below.
09 of 09
If a stone-like look/feel is your intention, quartz/engineered counters would have some advantage over solid surface.
If you want a super-contemporary look, solid surface is the way to go. Solid surface can even be thermoformed or worked by hand (like wood) into curvy, flowing shapes, something you cannot say for quartz/engineered materials.
Corian weighs about 4.4 pounds per square foot of 12 mm material; quartz weighs about 6.2 pounds for the same size and thickness. Thus, quartz is about... 1/3 heavier than Corian, which translates to a slightly more solid feeling when installed. It is questionable whether cooks would notice, or care about, this difference.
In the final measure, because the two products are so close in appearance and performance (except for scratching), whatever price you can find from local installers should probably be your deciding factor.