The Struggle is Real!
One of the most common questions we get when working on a kitchen or bath project is, “Which material is better for the countertops? Granite or quartz?”
Well, so far I haven’t been able to come up with the definitive answer for that because both are great choices depending on your functional and aesthetic needs.
Each project is different and each client’s personal taste is different. I’ve had clients who have come into a project certain that they wanted one or the other and then changed their mind once they saw the actual slabs of material. I’ve also had clients who have had one material in their previous home and then switched to the other for their next house. That tells me there is no absolute right or wrong and that we need to weigh the pros and cons of the different materials and the lifestyle of each client in order to determine which will be the best fit for each individual circumstance.
What is important to you?
Is it the non-uniform one-of-a kind look of a natural material?
Is it the uniform look you get from a man-made material?
Is it stain resistance? Heat resistance? Moisture resistance?
Do you want a timeless classic look or a cutting edge ultra-contemporary look?
Does the environmental impact outweigh all other considerations?
Let’s talk about the differences between granite and quartz.
Granite is a 100% natural stone that was formed as magma cooled millions of years ago. It consists of 10-50% quartz and 65-90% feldspar, but also contains mica and other trace minerals that give it distinct patterns and colors ranging from the more common off whites to more exotic blacks, greens, reds and blues. Being a natural material, each piece will be slightly different than any other piece so it has a one-of-a-kind quality. Granite is a very hard substance but is porous.
Quartz countertops are a man-made engineered stone produced by combining about 90% ground quartz with approximately 10% resins, polymers and pigments. The quartz used in production is white or clear and the color and pattern is added via pigments. Because of the production controls, each slab is almost exactly the same as the next so if consistency is your jam, quartz will appeal to you. Quartz has a very hard surface that is extremely durable and non-porous.
To determine the best product for your project, there are many things to consider regarding how it looks as well as how it performs. Let’s break it down into pros and cons for each.
Many colors ranging from off whites to more exotic deep rich colors
No two are the same
Available in different finishes, polished, leathered and honed being the most common—honing it makes it more porous, so you will need to seal it more often
Seams are more visible due to the pattern variation
Has naturally occurring imperfections, although they can be avoided during templating
Only naturally occurring colors are available
There is no end to the colors available as it is colored with pigments
Slabs are consistent throughout which helps reduce the visibility of seams
All quartz is available in polished and some are available in honed and leathered finishes—all are equally durable
Exposure to direct sunlight may discolor the resin over time
Because of the more uniform look and size of crystals, it doesn’t appear as ‘natural’ as other types of stone
Some of the patterned quartz looks a bit contrived—this works better in a contemporary setting than a traditional home—however, they are constantly improving the patterns and I’ve seen a few that look pretty realistic
Resistant to moisture and staining when sealed with a quality sealer
Granite will last the life of a home if properly sealed and cared for
Since it is a porous material, sealing is required to resist absorption of liquids
Sealant should be reapplied every 2 years but it’s an easy process
Spilled liquids should be wiped up quickly—the sealant will buy some time but it’s better to get drips and spills taken care of as soon as possible, especially with a polished finish that can become etched
Being a non-porous material, it is highly resistant to staining and bacterial growth
Does not need to be sealed
Liquids or foods that are dark in color can still stain the surface so wipe them up quickly
Strength and Durability
Resistant to chipping, cracking and scratches from kitchen implements—but don’t use it as a cutting surface, that’s not great for the counter OR your knives!
It may chip if struck with a hard object
Edges and corners are vulnerable to chipping but easing the edge can help minimize the risk
Care should be taken while transporting the slab as this is when it is most vulnerable to cracking
Highly resistant to chipping, cracking and scratching but again, don’t cut directly on it
Resins are a more flexible material than natural stone which makes it less susceptible to cracking or breaking during transport
Even though it is highly resistant to chipping and scratching, it can happen
Scratches may be more visible due to the uniformity of color and sheen
It’s already been molten magma so it’s very heat resistant and a hot pan placed on the countertop won’t discolor the stone
The seam is a different material than the counter and will expand and contract at a different rate, so never put a hot pan directly on a seam as it could crack it
Since it is composed of many different minerals, there is a slight possibility of thermal shock cracking it in an area where hot pans are repeatedly set on it, or if you set a cold item down where a hot item had just been--so it’s still a good idea to use a trivet
Quartz is heat resistant, so putting a warm plate on it won’t be a problem, but whether it can withstand 150* or up to 400* will depend on the manufacturer
The stone used to make the countertop is resistant to heat, but the resin used to bind it together can become discolored when exposed to high heat, leaving visible rings or marks that are difficult to impossible to repair
The counter should be protected from hot pans and utensils so definitely use a trivet and/or spoon rest to keep hot items from coming into contact with the counter
Chips and scratches are less noticeable in a natural stone due to the irregularity of the veining and specks
Honed or leathered finishes will help camouflage minor blemishes and etching better than a polished finish
Chips and scratches can be repaired with an epoxy kit available at most home improvement stores or sanded out if they are not too deep
It is possible to refinish or polish the surface if it gets multiple blemishes
Small nicks or scratches are more difficult to repair because the consistent coloring makes them more visible than in natural stone
Heat discoloration in the finish is permanent
I won’t go into a detailed cost analysis because there is a wide range of prices for either choice. You may think that a man-made material would be less expensive than granite, but that is not the case. In my experience, the starting price for quartz is a little higher than the starting price for granite. However, if you go with an exotic granite, it could easily top the price of quartz.
Return on Investment
So, as beautiful as your new countertops are, will they help you sell your home? The experts say yes! Granite has a timeless look to it and can transition through many remodels by future owners. Quartz is pretty hot in the real estate market right now with its clean, sleek look. Either material may be the tipping point when a buyer is considering a home with stone countertops vs. a home without that feature.
The trick is to avoid selecting something so specific to your taste that it won’t appeal to future buyers. If this is your forever home, go for the bright blue heavily marbled piece if you love it! However, if you think you’ll be selling at some point in the future, it’s best to keep it classic and fairly neutral for a more timeless appeal.
On this point, there is no choice. Granite will withstand the heat and UV rays that come with an outdoor application. Quartz and UV rays on the other hand, don’t get along. The polymers and resins used in the making of quartz will fade and discolor in direct sunlight. Another option for outdoor countertops is concrete, but that’s a subject for another day.
With all this being said, let’s face it, we make most of our decisions in our home based on the appearance we want. Sure, performance is important but when you’re comparing two great products like quartz and granite, you will probably select one material over the other based on which one looks better to your eye. Either way you go, you will have an outstanding countertop that will give you many years of service and beauty.