Many homeowners are aware that having lovely natural stone kitchen countertops can increase the property value considerably. They probably want it themselves if they were looking at other people’s homes! However, while granite countertops are definitely popular, other types of stone countertops are available. One of these is quartz countertops. Unlike apples and oranges, granite and quartz countertops are similar enough to makes choosing one over the other can be challenging.
Here are a few things you want to consider when making your choice
The cost of granite countertops depends on what you choose. Because it is a natural stone, some are harder to source than others are. Prices start at $39 per square foot (yes, it is pricey, but that’s why it adds value to your home) but it can go up to $155 if you get blue granite from Norway, for example. Quartz countertops start out more expensive at $67, with the top range at about $95 per square foot. Most commercially available quartz countertops are engineered stone. They produce it by mixing up ground quartz, resins, and dyes. Some quartz countertops are actually from a block or natural quartz, but these are rare and expensive. Because it is an engineered stone, prices are more predictable if not lower than for the granite counterparts.
No two granite slabs are identical, even if they are from the same block. The irregularity of these slabs may displease some, but most consider it as part of what makes it so charming. Granite may also have pits and fissures, which some consider defects while others consider adds character to the stone. Quartz countertops, on the other hand, have a uniform design, so they are easier to match. There are no pits or fissures in quartz slabs.
When it comes to color and design, you have fewer choices when it comes to granite. It is a matter of what you see is what you get. You have to make do with what is available. Quartz countertops come in a large variety of colors and designs, and they are much more readily available.
Unless you have a sharp eye, it is very hard to distinguish between a granite and quartz countertop. They are both quite beautiful and share many characteristics. Purists will argue that a one-of-a-kind piece of art is more valuable than a limited edition print, but when it comes to how it looks in the kitchen, there is no real difference.
Granite scores a 6 to 7 in the Mohs hardness scale for minerals. Quartz scores a 7 to 8. To give you a little perspective, diamonds score a 10. Granite typically has 20% or so of quartz, while a quartz slab will have at least 93% quartz. It follows, then, that quartz slabs are harder than granite slabs. This makes quartz countertops much more scratch resistant, so you can abuse it more. However, the higher quartz content also makes quartz countertops heavier than granite ones, which may require more support (and higher cost) when installed.
As minerals go, both granite and quartz are extremely hard, although neither is indestructible. Both can chip or break with enough pressure. However, under normal use and with reasonable maintenance, both types of countertops will take a lot of use and abuse without much damage.
Granite is an igneous rock, which means that it formed as molten magma cooled beneath the surface of the earth. As such, it is a dense rock, but retains some pores. These pores make it vulnerable to some seepage and staining. Granite producers treat granite slabs with a protective resin layer to seal these pores, but regular resealing is recommended to maintain the integrity of the slab.
Quartz countertops, from the other hand, are fundamentally non-porous. Quartz itself is a crystal mineral and porous, but since it is ground up, and then reconstituted, the porosity is all but eliminated. There is therefore little risk of staining. There is no need to seal a quartz countertop.
The porosity of granite makes it less hygienic than quartz countertops. Microscopic bits of food and dirt can work itself in, encouraging bacterial growth. However, you can avoid this by making sure the seal is intact and with regular cleaning of the countertop.
Granite countertops need a little more TLC than quartz countertops. One is the sealing, which you must do every one to three years, depending on how much use it gets. Another is reaction to acids, such as wine or lemon juice, which can stain your countertops. A good way to avoid this is to wipe up spills immediately. Regular cleaning is the same for granite and quartz countertops, however. Warm water and a mild soap is all you need to keep them looking beautiful and polished.
You should note that quartz countertops have a peculiar weakness. The color can fade when exposed to direct sunlight, most notably the dark ones.. This is because quartz crystals do not really have any color. It is either transparent or whitish translucent. The color and design of the quartz countertop comes from a careful application of dyes that can fade under the sun. Granite countertops do not react as readily to direct sunlight because the colors are present at the atomic level, and not artificially applied.
Stone countertops are all the rage, and granite countertops are the belles of the ball. However, quartz countertops have been making inroads on popularity in the last decade of so. There is very little to choose between the two, however, as the discussion above shows. The decision you ultimately make for one or the other will be a question of personal preference. No two people will have the same reaction to a thing of beauty. If you believe that natural trumps manufactured every time, then granite countertops is your best bet. If you are more concerned with matching colors and designs for a seamless, uniform look, then you will have better luck choosing quartz countertops.