If you're in the process of choosing countertop materials for your kitchen or bathroom, you already know two of the most popular options are quartz and granite countertops.
On the surface (pun intended), these two materials look extremely similar, but there are key differences when it comes to quartz vs. granite countertops. While both countertop materials are beautiful and long-lasting, they differ in terms of their origins, composition, weight, necessary care and other factors.
Natural Stone vs. Engineered Stone Countertops
One of the most fundamental distinctions between quartz and granite countertops is their manufacturing process. In the context of countertops, you can call granite a natural stone surface and quartz an engineered stone surface.
Both quartz and granite countertops have their origins in genuine natural materials. Quartz is a crystalline mineral consisting mainly of silica. Meanwhile, granite is an igneous rock composed of various minerals, such as feldspar, mica, and quartz.
Both can be different colors, like black, brown, red, blue or green, depending on what other elements are present.
However, manufacturers use these resources in different ways when making countertops. They craft granite surfaces by taking pieces from large granite slabs and cutting them to the desired specifications.
In contrast, producers combine crushed quartz crystals with resins and other minerals to create what they call "engineered quartz" or "engineered stone" before turning it into a quartz countertop.
This non-porous surface has a uniform appearance and texture that resembles real stone even though it's the manmade result of a carefully honed manufacturing process.
Appearance and Uniqueness
Once you know what you're looking for, it can be easy to differentiate between granite's unpredictable swirls and quartz's more uniform appearance.
Granite countertops offer a more natural and varied look, showcasing unique patterns and colors that come from the specific minerals present in each slab. If you appreciate the authenticity and individuality of natural stone, granite countertops might be the right choice for you.
Quartz countertops, being an engineered product, mimic the look of natural stone but can offer a more consistent appearance. Like granite ones, they feature different colors and patterns but lack the one-of-a-kind variations.
If you prefer the predictability and contemporary aesthetic of an engineered stone, quartz might be the better material to complement your interior style.
Ease of Installation
The weight of the countertop material can also be a crucial consideration during installation, and quartz and granite stack up a little differently, with quartz being the lighter, more manageable of the two.
Granite countertops are extremely heavy due to their solid stone composition. Installing them requires extra care and may even necessitate additional structural support. Moreover, transporting and handling granite slabs can be labor-intensive and may involve higher installation costs if the company has to use specialized equipment.
Quartz countertops, in comparison, are lighter than granite. Fabricators craft engineered quartz slabs to be uniform in thickness, making them easier to handle and install.
This could potentially mean a cost savings for you. Or, if you're the DIY home improvement type, you might even feel confident taking on quartz countertops yourself.
Differences in Durability and Resistance
You usually find stone countertops in high-traffic areas like kitchens and bathrooms, so their resistance to heat, minor scratches, and other wear and tear is an important quality to consider. While quartz countertops and granite countertops are both extremely durable, granite does better against heat, while quartz does better against spills.
A granite countertop is solid and extremely heavy, making it highly resistant to scratches and heat. For example, you can place hot pots and pans directly on granite counters without worrying about causing any heat damage or thermal shock. Quartz countertops, while still durable, are not as heat resistant. Placing a hot pan directly on a quartz countertop could potentially lead to cracks.
A downside to granite is that it's a porous material, which means it will absorb liquids and stains if you don't seal it properly. Quartz countertops are more stain-resistant, thanks to their non-porous surface. This means that with quartz you can worry a little less about spills from common household items like wine, oil, or acidic substances.
Maintenance and Everyday Care
Quartz countertops are generally lower-maintenance than granite ones.
Granite countertops require sealing to prevent stains and maintain their "like new" appearance. You have to repeat this sealing process periodically, which is more maintenance than some homeowners prefer.
Quartz countertops, on the other hand, do not require sealing, which might appeal to you if you prefer a more simplified upkeep.
Fortunately, cleaning both countertops is relatively straightforward. A solution of mild soap and warm water will effectively remove dirt and grime, but you should avoid using abrasive cleaners or acidic substances since they'll damage the polished surface.
Keep in mind, the nonporous surface of quartz makes it especially stain-resistant and less prone to bacterial growth, making it the better germ-free option for kitchen countertops if that's something that's important to you.
Quartz vs. Granite: Environmental Impact
In today's world, environmental considerations might play a significant role in your decision-making process. When comparing quartz and granite countertops, it's worth noting both materials have their pros and cons, although people usually consider quartz to be the more eco-friendly option.
Those who criticize the impact of using granite and other natural stone materials point to the destruction involved in mining it from Earth's crust. Additionally, the transportation of granite slabs can have a negative impact, particularly when it involves long-distance shipping.
However, others argue granite is a long-lasting material that doesn't need frequent replacing and this durability offsets some of its initial environmental costs. Quarries and mines that have implemented responsible practices might mitigate any environmental harm, too.
In contrast, the manufacturing process for engineered quartz countertops allows for the use of recycled materials, reducing waste. Proponents also argue quartz is longer-lasting than granite since it's nonporous. Critics, however, point out the resin that factories use to produce quartz countertops is not biodegradable.
As with most things, the overall environmental impact of a countertop will depend on the resource's extraction process and the company's combined manufacturing practices.
Health Concerns Surrounding Quartz
If you're worried about contributing to dangerous conditions for workers in the countertop manufacturing industry, then granite is a better choice.
A major point against quartz is its connection to negative health consequences. In December 2023, Australia announced a ban on the manufacturing and importation of engineered stone due to a rising number of silicosis cases.
Silicosis is a harmful condition that results when a person breathes in the dust of silica-containing stone while processing an engineered stone product, such as a quartz countertop. While granite can also contain silica, engineered stones generally contain much more, making working on them highly dangerous.
In the United States, as of July 2023, at least 10 people had died and nearly 80 workers had become ill in California as a result of silicosis, causing the state to consider a ban similar to Australia's. Other states — including Texas, Florida and Washington — have reported cases, too.
While the federal government does regulate airborne silica exposure levels for workers, it's possible many factories are not meeting the recommended standards or are out of compliance completely.
This article was created in conjunction with AI technology, then was fact-checked and edited by a HowStuffWorks editor.
Original article: Quartz vs. Granite: Which Countertops Are More Durable?
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