Quartz 101: Everything You Need to Know About Quartz Countertops

Quartz Quarry

Quartz is the most sought-after choice for countertops due to its durability, beauty, and affordable price. They were once considered a “fad” in the 70s when they were first manufactured. However, quartz countertops have since gained a devout following among designers and homeowners alike. They differ from granite and marble countertops in one significant way – they are an engineered product. Quartz is versatile – perfect for countless designs and applications from durable countertops to flooring. This symbol of luxury and value is sourced from all around the world including the United States from the mountainous regions of Arkansas and North Carolina. If you are interested in adding quartz to your home and you are overwhelmed with options, this guide will go over the production of quartz countertops, colors, cost, and much more!

Common Sources of Quartz

Quartz deposits are found across the world. The United States and Brazil are the largest producers of natural quartz. Much of the quartz in the US is mined in Arkansas. However, the Spruce Pine Gem Mine in North Carolina is one of the few mines worldwide where high-quality, pure quartz is extracted. The other top exporters of quartz used for countertop manufacturing comes from China ($97.1M), Turkey ($89.3M), and India ($85.2M). While China is one of the largest sources of quartz, there have been issues extensively reported with Chinese quartz countertops including resin pooling, dye inconsistency, emission of gas, and thickness inconsistency. For these and numerous other reasons, we recommend sourcing your countertops from local quarries.

Quartz Countertop Production

In 1963, the technology of creating engineered stone was developed by the Breton company in northeast Italy located about 20 miles from Venice, Italy. Bretonstone technology has been licensed to more than 50 companies around the world, including Silestone, Cambria, and Caesarstone. While these manufacturers add their own spin to their engineered countertops, they are still working off of the original patent. 

Quartz countertops are composed of about 93 percent quartz and 7 percent resin and color. Please note that when manufacturers state their countertops contain 7% resin that they are talking about the weight. The volume of resin is actually 35% of the finished product. Quartz crystals are accompanied by a high degree of physical impurities, and therefore require extensive processing in order to produce quality countertops. Here are the steps of producing quartz countertops.

  1. Mining – Miners use equipment and explosives to access the stone. Once it has been unearthed, they collect the pieces using a bulldozer. The minerals are then shipped to a manufacturer.
  2. Feeding and Mixing – Quartz crystals are manually selected and then put through a mesh to improve the purity of the sand. The raw material is then reinspected, fed into mixers, and blended with resin, color and crystals.
  3. Molding – Skilled workers spread the mixture into a slab mold.
  4. Pressing – The slab is compacted through machine that applies a vacuum and vibration process.
  5. Heat Curing – The quartz slab is moved to a curing kiln that heats it to give it its unmatched strength and firmness.
  6. Cooling – After curing, the slabs are placed upright, back-to-back and tightly clamped so they can set.
  7. Polishing, Leveling, Thickness – Then the quartz is leveled to the appropriate thickness and buffed to assorted finishes.
  8. Quality Assurance and Shipping – Finally, each product is inspected to ensure the best quality and shipped.

Quartz Countertop Manufacturers

Finding the correct quartz countertop for your home is one of the best investment decisions you will make. While quartz brands produce countertops with comparable durability and composition, there are a few key differences between each including sizes, prices, warranties, and designs. High-end quartz manufacturers not only use computer-controlled recipes but also better quality resin and thorough testing of the ingredients prior to mixing. Whereas, lower-end manufacturers are more affordable because they have less precise mixing and testing procedures that lead to distinct color variation between batches and across the same slab. Below is a breakdown of the similarities and differences between some of the best brands you can buy.

Silestone

When looking at the various brands of quartz sold for use as countertops, you’ll likely come across a few that are more popular than the others. One of the most popular among homeowners and designers, Silestone uses Breton technology and is available in 142 colors and styles. They have been in business for 25 years and is available through design centers around the country. Based in Almeria, Spain, Silestone is the crown jewel of the Italian company Cosentino. If Caesarstone is known for its natural stone appearance, Silestone’s distinguishing factor is it has all the benefits – durability and low maintenance – and comes in vibrant solid colors including bold oranges, greens, reds, and blues that can’t be found anywhere else.

Cambria

A privately owned Minnesota based company, Cambria began as a dairy business in 1936 and still supplys cheese to big companies like Kraft. It was not until 2000 that they entered into the engineered stone business with its biggest selling point being that it is the only brand that is made entirely in the USA. Cambria is a high-end brand that uses Breton technology and is only available through specialty retailers. Like Silestone, it comes in a wide variety of color options – 133 to be precise – and can be tailored to suit individual tastes. Cambria countertops are food-safe surface and have a stain-resistant finish that makes it a great choice for busy kitchens. Cambria and Silestone are considered to be two of the more expensive, high quality types of quartz.

Caesarstone

Formed in 1987, Caesarstone refers to themselves as “ the original quartz surface manufacturer”. They are headquarted in Israel and have two factories. Caesarstone is known for their use of Breton technology and pushing the envelope with their Concetto Collection that incorporates agate, dumortierite, and even petrified wood. With 53 colors readily available in design stores nationwide, Caesarstone is one of the number one choices in engineered stone. They are continually improving and growing their product range and have added styles that will fit any kitchen design.

MSI Q Quartz

MS International (MSI) was founded in 1975 in Ft. Wayne, Indiana. Now headquartered in California, they offer a variety of options through their MSI Q brand. They maintain branches in NJ, Atlanta, Dallas, Chicago, and internationally in India, China, and Turkey and import their products from over 35 countries including China, Brazil, India, Turkey, Italy, Spain, and Mexico. About 40% of their products are created using the patented Breton technology and 60% from other practices followed by the top-of-the-line manufacturing systems around the world. They are a premium surface provider for residential and commercial applications. MSI’s quartz countertops come in 76 colors and dozens of elegant scratch, heat, and stain-resistant styles, from icy white to midnight black. They are an affordable option that imitates popular cuts of granite and marble without the elevated price tag

Corian

Corian Quartz, formerly known as Zodiaq, has been in business for 18 years and offers a versatile line of quartz products manufactured by the company DuPont. Corian Quartz comes in 62 colors and various interesting textured varieties that were made using the patented Breton technology. They are available at design centers and big box stores nationwide. Corian set themselves apart by using rich quality organic materials and focusing on additives in their products to ensure they are fully non-allergenic and non-toxic.

LG Viatera

Originally a division of the South Korean electronics company LG, LG Hausys owns a prominent mid-sized quartz company, Viatera. Viatera has been in business for 30 years and is well known for their HI-MACS acrylic solid surface products. Their countertops are created in Italy using Breton technology and are available in 64 earthy colors. With a wide range of colors from “Snow Storm” to “Absolute Night” you’re sure to find the perfect color for your new kitchen!

Hanstone

Manufactured in North America, HanStone has seven different collections and over 50 styles designed to match a variety of kitchen styles. The material is six times more durable than granite – ideal for aspiring chefs and families that spend a lot of time in the kitchen.

Cosmos

Rooted in the natural stone industry, Cosmos has been in business for more than 13 years and offers quartz products for residential and industrial applications. They display a direct link to stone providers in India, which allows them to offer reduced prices for higher-quality samples from their 74 color line.

Daltile One Quartz

With their inventory of 38 different styles, Daltile’s ONE Quartz produces a solid amount of cost effective options using Breton technology that larger brands do not offer. Daltile has been in business for an impressive 71 years and offers solutions for all parts of the home. Their countertops have a clean and modern aesthetic and are nearly indestructible. In addition to normal slabs, Daltile also offers extra-large surface slabs for large jobs

Types of Quartz Countertop

Each manufacturer produces different quartz designs with their own unique color and pattern. The high-quality manufacturers create slabs that are identical, which is why they are so popular. Below is a breakdown of what each color has to offer so you can determine what kind of quartz will work best for your home.

White

White quartz countertops are simultaneously trendy and timeless perfect for your home. It is one of the most sought-after types of quartz because of its marble-like look and chic aesthetic. It is well known not only for its use in residential and commercial use but for its breathtaking beauty and purity. The different types of white quartz are:

Calacatta Classique

Calacatta Classique Quartz countertop slab color sample

Calacatta Classique is from Spain and manufactured by MSI. This white quartz features stunning through-body veining and is perfect for creating show-stopping kitchen countertops, backsplashes, showers, and floors. While real Calacatta marble costs approximately $250 per square foot, Calacatta Classique is around $89 per square foot. This means marble will set you back nearly three times as much as quartz not including costs associated with upkeep. Calacatta Classique is one of the most popular quartz on the market and would be perfect for any style from cottage to contemporary.

Aterra Blanca

Aterra Blanca Quartz Countertop Slab Color Sample

Inspired by natural marble, Aterra Blanca features an elegant misty white base with delicate earthy veining that radiates a translucent glow. It made its debut earlier this year with the rest of Caesarstone’s new Whitelight Collection that includes two other new quartz surfaces, Calacatta Maximus and Arabetto. Aterra Blanca is a versatile design that goes well with a broad range of styles from classic or country to minimal and sleek. It blends beautifully with a monochromatic white kitchen or with darker woods and concrete for contrast. This quartz’s luxurious feel is timeless and would be perfect for any kitchen, bathroom, or commercial space.

Black

Black quartz countertops are trending in the interior design world for their elegant, expensive look, durability, and easy maintenance perfect for a busier lifestyle. Design trends come and go, but black quartz keeps coming back with upgrades and new variations. From matte black quartz countertops to polished black quartz countertops with sparkling glass and quartzite, there are many options for you to choose from.

Negro Tebas

Negro Tebas Quartz countertop slab color sample

Taking its name from Greek Mythology, Negro Tebas is a black quartz from Macael, Spain that features white, star-like speckles throughout. It is one of the seven colors from Silestone’s Mythology line, which was one of their original series. Negro Tebas brings unrivaled beauty and glam to any space. It is sure to make a statement and is an excellent choice for modern all-black kitchen and bathroom designs, as well as black and white contemporary remodeling projects.

Et Noir

Et Noir Quartz slab example by Silestone

Inspired by the asymmetric elegance of natural stone, Et Noir quartz is a jet black quartz from Macael Spain that features striking veins of white, gold, and silver throughout. Silestone debuted this quartz along with the 11 other colors of the Eternal collection in January of 2017. Et Noir is perfect for a modern aesthetic, as well as black and white kitchens, bathrooms, laundry designs, and more!

Cream

Cream-colored countertops add a certain luminescence to a space that darker colors cannot. They are very popular because they make small spaces feel larger and blend perfectly with the Scandinavian-inspired minimalist aesthetic that many interior designers are going for. Cream countertops are a great option because of their classic appeal and versatility. Here are some of our most popular cream-colored quartz colors:

Ironsbridge

Ironsbridge Quartz countertop slab color sample Full Slab

In a busy world, Ironsbridge brings tranquility to your space with a design reminiscent of a warm sandy beach with liquid honey tones mingled throughout. This design features fine, spidery veins on a cream background showcasing a stunning blend of stone and organic nature. Ironsbridge was also introduced as a part of Cambria’s Marble collection in 2017. It is the perfect choice for the constant DIY’er who likes to redesign their space frequently because it suits nearly any color palette and atmosphere.

Delgatie

Cambria Delgatie Full Slab

With a pattern even more subtle than Ironsbridge, Delgatie features a flowing white-on-white tonality and warm beige cross veining. Cambria debuted it along with four other colors of their Marble collection in November 2017. Delgatie’s warm, comforting demeanor blends effortlessly with its surroundings while maintaining its own personality. This premium quartz is perfect for kitchen and bathroom countertops.

Quartz Finishes

Quartz countertops are not only popular due to their durability, uniform movement, and beauty but for their extensive selection of finishes. Since quartz is a manmade product created with resins and recycled materials, it is customizable. Below is a list of finishes for quartz countertops.

Polished

The most well-known finish is polished or ‘high gloss’. All quartz manufacturers offer it, and it intensifies the color and clarity of quartz. They create its glossy, mirror-like sheen by using fine abrasive powders and diamond discs.

Honed

Honed is a soft, matte finish. It gives your surface a smooth, modern look without a glossy reflection. Manufacturers create this look by not buffing the quartz.

Suede

One of the newer finishes that is trending is the suede or ‘leathered’ finish. It also features a soft, matte style but has a more textured appearance than honed. The stone’s beautiful, dimpled texture is achieved when diamond-tipped brushes run over honed quartz.

Rough

This rich, modern finish has a more tactile texture. Caesarstone’s rough finish has a more distinctive texture that is designed to mimic the coarseness of natural stone. This finish will reveal variations in appearance that are distinct to each quartz slab, mimicking the uniqueness of granite slabs.

Concrete

Another new countertop option that is trending right now is the concrete finish. It features a lightly textured stone that acts as a middle ground between the Honed and Rough finishes. MSI and Caesarstone offer this lightly reflective finish that is sure to deliver a timeless, industrial feeling to any space.

Volcano

Finally, this unique texture mimics the look of volcanic rocks. Silestone’s volcano finish features a rustic yet soft feel. It is a statement piece that will add a bold, contemporary look to your space.

Pros and Cons of Quartz Countertops

When you ask a professional if you should install quartz countertops, they will say “it depends on how you use them.” Quartz has acquired a reputation for being pricey and non-heat resistant but don’t dismiss it too quickly. This beautiful stone has a great deal to offer. Here is everything you need to know about the strengths and weaknesses of quartz.

Pros

  • Excellent options for color, pattern, texture and finish
  • Extremely durable
  • Quartz doesn’t need to be sealed while natural stone does
  • It is non-porous and resistant to staining and bacteria
  • Easy to clean
  • The resin creates flexibility, so countertops won’t chip as easily as granite, marble, tile or concrete
  • Seams between slabs are less visible than between slabs of concrete or natural stone

Cons

  • Not as resistant to heat as concrete or granite
  • Isn’t as natural looking as stone, since it is engineered
  • Quartz countertops are more expensive than some countertop materials
  • Direct sunlight over an extended period of time will cause fading

Levels of Quartz

First Choice

First choice is a premium grade level of quartz that has rich, vibrant colors, minimum veins, smooth finish, and almost looks like marble in some instances. The colors are rich, and it has a unique sparkle. It is also flawless on its finish, incredibly durable, but will come at a significant upfront investment. Another great boost is it’s an incredibly durable stone, not just pretty to look at. This makes it a great investment if you’re looking for a gorgeous countertop that will last you.

Commercial

Commercial grade offers the best of first choice and the basic grade, and it is still incredibly durable. In fact, restaurants, hotels, and businesses opt for this version because it is just as beautiful to look at, but easier to pay for.

Second Choice

Second choice is your entry-level quartz surface. It is the least expensive but still a very durable product. While it may not have the same high-end luster that you get in commercial or first choice, it looks great, especially if it’s for your second home, investment property, cottage, or your starter home.

Cost of Quartz Countertops

While quartz countertops cost less than natural stone, they do cost more than many other types you might be considering for your home. However, they might also be the last countertops you’ll ever need to install because of their durability and timelessness. Here are the factors that affect quartz countertop prices:

  • The grade of the material: It is offered in several grades from second choice to first choice
  • The complexity of the countertop: The more cut outs and seams in the countertop, the higher your quartz countertop cost will be
  • The cost of living in your area
  • The type of quartz

How to Save

As you can see, there are several variables that will determine the cost of quartz countertops. So how can you save on kitchen countertops even if you want a material that is more expensive?

  • Work with a good fabricator that will minimize waste.
  • Shop around and get at least 3 estimates from different fabricators to ensure that you won’t be overcharged.
  • Buy a countertop that’s locally sourced to eliminate import taxes and reduce shipping costs.
  • Use remnants – leftover pieces from other jobs – whenever possible. They are a much more affordable option for smaller projects like bathrooms and sectioned kitchens.
  • Be open-minded to different types of marble, so that you’re able to find an affordable option that suits your needs.

Quartz Maintenance

Quartz countertops are the easiest to clean. Since they are crafted using a resign binder, the surface is non-porous. This means that spills can’t seep into the material and that dirt can be wiped away with a cloth and mild cleaner. This material doesn’t harbor bacteria, so you’ll have peace of mind that it can be cleaned without the use of harsh cleaners.

Follow these quartz countertop cleaning and care tips to keep yours looking like they were just installed:

  • Wipe up spills quickly, especially acidic products
  • Use a damp cloth or mild cleaner to remove debris
  • Avoid using harsh cleaners
  • Dish soap won’t harm the quartz, but avoid using it repeatedly as the soap might leave behind a residue
  • While quartz countertops are quite resistant to scratches, it is still possible to damage it. Make sure to use a cutting board
  • Use a hot pad or trivet for hot pots and pans

Be sure to follow your manufacturer’s instructions closely for best results. As long as you follow these quartz care tips, your countertops will remain in pristine condition.

Conclusion

Regardless of whichever quartz you choose for your countertops, we have everything you need with hundreds of slabs to choose from. Whichever you choose it is sure to add an elegant, upscale look to your space. When you’re ready to design the kitchen of your dreams, contact us for a free in-home estimate!g

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