Quartz countertops are currently the top favorite of homeowners and interior designers, edging out granite and marble even though it is a manmade product. Its original introduction into the market was as a novelty, providing a readily available alternative to natural stones. As such, the first models of quartz stones strove to mimic the look of natural stones, particularly granite, and many current lines still do to this day.
However, it took several decades for homeowners to accept it as a desirable material for kitchen countertops because it was more expensive than either granite or marble per square foot. It is still more expensive today, but it has become more competitive of late. It also helps that many modern kitchens demand kitchen countertops that go beyond what is available with natural stones, such as solid colors or repeatable patterns.
Some people maintain that the only way is the natural way, but a majority of homeowners disagrees. While quartz countertops do not have the uniqueness and depth of natural stones, the many variants and excellent features of different brands of quartz stones more than make up for this.
Basic facts about quartz countertops
Quartz stone is not a natural stone, so they are available as brand name products from different companies. Each manufacturer introduces distinctive features to their products to make them different from other brands. However, they all use the same technology.
The process for making quartz stone originates out of Italy, from Breton S.p.a., with headquarters in Castello di Godego. This is the Bretonstone technology, which encompasses a wide range of engineered stone products. It was the invention of Marcello Toncelli, and involved a patented vacuum vibrocompression process that yielded a dense, durable material. Breton S.p.a. issued licenses to use the Bretonstone process to about 50 quartz companies worldwide, many of which have found their way into US homes.
The process does not specify the materials used in creating the stone, so all quartz slabs are engineered stones, but not all engineered stones are quartz slabs. This is an important distinction, because the presence of quartz minerals is principally the reason for the much-vaunted durability of quartz countertops. Engineered stone made of other materials would not be so durable.
The following are characteristics of all quartz stones:
- At least 90% quartz, which makes quartz slabs its durability and granite-like feel; in comparison, solid surface slabs have only 66% minerals (not necessarily quartz)
- The Bretonstone process ensures the absence of soft minerals and impurities, resulting in higher scratch resistance (higher Mohs rating) compared to granite, which typically contains softer minerals and other impurities
- Same absorption rate for water as porcelain tiles at 0.5%, which essentially makes it non-absorbent and stain resistant
- Polymer resins present in the mix makes quartz stone vulnerable to damage due to direct heat, although the quartz itself can handle heat up to 360°F
- Quartz stone slabs have built-in edge treatments, unlike natural stones where they are fabricated according to the request of the client
With so many quartz stone brands in the market, it is important to differentiate one from the other.
Manufacturers include the following distinctions for their products:
- Design and materials: Manufacturers typically register a combination of colors, streaks, striations, and mineral sizes and shapes to claim it as their own. They may also have some exclusive features, such as non-standard textures, patented finishes, anti-bacterial elements, and even recycled materials.
- Dimensions: Quartz stones are man-made products, so they are infinitely customizable. Each manufacturer may offer different ranges of options when it comes to the size, shape, thickness, and cutouts for each slab. In some cases, a homeowner can order kitchen counters with no seams.
- Warranties: Each manufacturer will have different terms and conditions for their warranties. These include conditions for transfer of ownership, exclusions, limitations, and period covered.
- Cost per square foot: Just like with most manufactured products, the price varies widely according to brand. The most expensive ones are not necessarily the best, however. Most quartz stone brands sell only to wholesalers and retailers. So, the price for the homeowner will depend on the ability of the retailer to negotiate the price.
These general facts should help you understand quartz countertops and their benefits to you as a homeowner. We now look at three of the top brands in quartz countertops in the US that provide the most options for you when it comes to design.
If you only buy US products, you will certainly want to know about Cambria. It is the only 100% US company producing quartz stone and has one of the widest range of designs among the quartz stone brands with 133 models, 19 edge profiles, three textures, and three thicknesses.
An interesting fact about this quartz stone company is that it grew out of the dairy business. The Minnesota-based owners had been selling dairy products since 1936, and for some reason decided to branch out to quartz stone in 2000. Cambria started out in a 150,000 square foot area, but this quickly tripled in the next five years.
Cambria brand quartz countertops are excellent quality and look quite natural. It also has a straightforward price framework, so that makes it easy for contractors to provide a quote.
However, consumers may not purchase Cambria countertops directly from the manufacturer. They have to get it from an authorized dealer or retailer. You also need an authorized company to install it to avoid voiding the warranty. Cambria provides a lifetime warranty, but it is limited and non-transferable, meaning it only applies to the person that bought it originally. That might be a problem if you plan to sell your home in the future.
Caesarstone has the distinction of being the first quartz stone company to go mainstream with their products. However, it is not the “original quartz surface manufacturer” as it claims, as Breton S.p.a. obviously has that honor.
Caesarstone is a company based in Israel, and founded about 32 years ago, effectively overrunning the traditional but failing terrazzo tile businesses. It currently produces quartz stones in its factories located in Kibbutz Sdot Yam and Bar Lev Industrial Zone.
Caesarstone designs tend to be on the unique side. The company may choose to add semi-precious stones or petrified wood in the mix or offer crocodile skin or lace textures for specific lines in their product lineup. Currently, you can choose Caesarstone countertops in 53 designs, 8 edge treatments, 3 standard textures, and 2 thicknesses. You get a lifetime warranty you can transfer pro-rata with a 10-year basis.
Silestone is the most readily recognized quartz stone brand in the US, and possibly beyond. The Italian company Cosentino produces it as one of its brands. Silestone countertops are often bold, vibrant, and solid colors such are orange and green that is unabashedly manmade. This is the main reason Silestone is so recognizable as a quartz stone and not a granite look-alike.
Currently, Silestone offers 142 colors, 15 edge treatments, 3 textures, and 3 thicknesses, with a 25-year limited and transferable warranty. Aside from stone slabs, Silestone also offers sinks, vanities, and shower pans.
Quartz countertops are a great idea if you are planning to upgrade your kitchen. These three brands should be high on your list. However, you do need to find an authorized seller and installer in your area.
KNC Granite carries some of the top brands of engineered stone, including Cambria, Caesarstone, Silestone, and MSI, all of which come with manufacturer warranties. We service Washington DC, many areas in Maryland (Baltimore, Annapolis, Bethesda, Rockville) and Virginia (Alexandria, Arlington).
We also have a large array of granite and marble slabs from which to choose. You can check actual slabs at our showroom in Lanham, Maryland.
We do not only supply top-quality engineered and natural stones, however. We are experts at fabricating and installing kitchen counters or bathroom vanities. Also we specialize in kitchen remodeling and bathroom upgrade projects, delivering on time and on budget.
Give us a call or email us for your free in-home consultation and quote for your quartz countertops.