Solid Surface Countertops vs. Quartz Countertops

  • 01 of 09

    Comparing Two Popular Types of Counter Materials

    Solid surface vs quartz countertop

     Illustration: © The Spruce, 2018

    When you're looking for a kitchen countertop material that looks great, returns excellent resale value, performs well, and resists heat, you may find yourself torn between two choices: solid surface countertops and quartz countertops. Often, it can be hard to distinguish one from the other. From a distance, both look remarkably similar. Yet if you drill down, you might find that the gap between solid surface and quartz countertops widens, and you might just find that one material works better for you than the other one.

    Solid Surface Countertops

    Solid-surface countertops consist of mineral dust (mostly marble) mixed with a variety of plastic resins and pigments. Solid surface's main appeal is that it is easy to fabricate and can create invisibly seamed countertops.

    Solid surface material 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. Solid surface is a decided improvement over laminate countertops since it is homogeneous: What you see on the top of the counter continues all the way down. Laminate, by contrast, is layered. If the top layer of laminate fails, the entire countertop fails.

    While solid surface materials mimic the look of stone, no one is likely to mistake it for solid granite on close examination. For many people, the look of slab granite for a countertop simply cannot be duplicated. If that describes you, then you may wish to look for natural stone countertops.

    Quartz Countertops

    Quartz countertops are a newer entrant to the kitchen countertop world than solid surface materials. These engineered stone products consist of about 95-percent ground natural quartz and other materials with 5-percent binding resins.

    Both solid surface and quartz compete for a type of middle ground of kitchen countertops: a bit manmade and a bit natural at the same time. Neither are considered to be as premium as natural stone, yet both are considered to be higher-end countertop products than laminate, wood, and tile.

  • 02 of 09

    Composition

    Domestic kitchen with quartz countertops and chestnut cabinets
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    Neither solid surface or quartz countertop choices are single-substance; all are a combination of many materials. Neither are all-natural. Both are aggregates of polymers and minerals. If a purely natural product is important to you, then natural stone slabs are your only option.

    Solid Surface Countertops

    Corian, the original solid surface counter, is made of about 33-percent acrylic resin (PMMA) and about 66-percent 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, this is not it. 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 Countertops

    Quartz countertops include 5- to 10-percent binding resins, either polymeric or cement-based. The other 90- to 95-percent is composed of hard, stone-like industrial waste products, such as marble, quartz, glass, and mirrors. Some companies have even begun to use nonfood-quality vegetable oils as one ingredient in the resins.

  • 03 of 09

    Do-It-Yourself Installation

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    Both solid surface and quartz countertops are difficult for the do-it-yourselfer to obtain source materials because they are generally locked down in a distribution/installation system of retailers, fabricators, and installers.

    Solid Surface Countertops

    In the case of solid surface materials, the materials can be cut by ordinary power saws and routers, and the seaming kits used to join pieces are not hard to use. Do-it-yourselfers who manage to purchase the materials can be successful with solid surface materials.

    Quartz Countertops

    Quartz, on the other hand, requires special tools that most do-it-yourselfers do not have. Even if you could obtain the sheets, it would be difficult to work with them. One option for homeowner installation is incidental pieces, such as ready-made, one-piece vanity unit tops.

  • 04 of 09

    Heat Resistance

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    Solid Surface Countertops

    If you want to honor your end of the solid surface countertop 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 Countertops

    Quartz countertops have a higher heat resistance than solid surface materials. In theory, quartz countertops could catch fire if subjected to high enough temperatures. But such temperatures are almost impossible to achieve in a kitchen environment.

    Continue to 5 of 9 below.
  • 05 of 09

    Seam Visibility

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    With both solid surface and quartz countertops, diagonal seams are usually necessary at L-shaped turns.

    Solid Surface Countertops

    Seams are created with a bonding adhesive that creates such a tight seam that it is nearly invisible to the naked eye. 

    Quartz Countertops

    With quartz countertops, seams are covered and visible but not highly visible.

  • 06 of 09

    Scratch Resistance

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    Solid Surface Countertops

    Cutting on solid surface countertops is not recommended. It is guaranteed that if you cut on solid surface materials, scratches will result. The good news is that solid surface materials can be easily sanded and buffed smooth again. It's also a procedure that homeowners can easily do by themselves.

    Quartz Countertops

    While it is recommended that you not cut on quartz/engineered stone surfaces, in reality, they are difficult to scratch with normal use. Quartz countertops tend to be more scratch resistant than solid surface materials.

  • 07 of 09

    Sealing Needs

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    One of the realities of owning a natural stone countertop is that it needs to be sealed. Porous stone requires sealing before the first use.

    But for solid surface and quartz countertops, both are completely non-porous surfaces, so sealing is never required. The amount of resins in the mix ensures non-porosity.  

  • 08 of 09

    Cost

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    Prices of solid surface and quartz countertops 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 purchase the source materials alone. Most suppliers will sell only to licensed fabricators or contractors. 

    Continue to 9 of 9 below.
  • 09 of 09

    Additional Factors

    Counter top samples

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    If a stone-like look and feel is your intention, quartz/engineered counters would have an advantage over solid surface counters.

    If you want a super-contemporary look, then solid surface is the way to go. Solid surface can even be thermoformed or worked by hand into curvy, flowing shapes, something you cannot do with quartz counter 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 33-percent heavier than Corian, which translates to a slightly more solid feeling when installed.