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Granite and Quartz Compared

You are looking for a material for the countertops in your next home and you are trying to decide between the natural granite kitchen countertops and the engineered stone surfaces. Which one you select may come down to the one that is more visually appealing. Yet, knowing what features these materials have in common and where they differ can help with the decision making process. In this article we will take a look at what makes these materials similar and what distinguishes one from the other. As we make these comparisons we will also mention how that translates into practical value. So let's get into our look at granite vs quartz.

Overview of Natural Granite

We will begin our comparison by establishing some basics about each material and then we will delve into the comparison. We'll start with natural granite. The first thing we want to point out is that the stone you see when shopping for granite countertops is commercial granite. This is different than geological granite. It is not a big issue because most of the materials that are classified this way share properties with granite. In fact functionally they are the same. Technically though, your "granite" countertop could actually be a different kind of igneous rock that has the same properties as granite.

Granite is a hard, scratch resistant natural stone that holds up very well to normal household temperatures. It is available in a variety of colors and is known for its reputation as a material that can affect the value of a home; making it increase. The history of granite goes back over decades and it has been tried and tested in a variety of applications. This means that natural granite has a large number of knowledgeable professionals that work with it. There are also some specific things that can occur with any natural stone. For one example, take a look at our article entitled: Where Does Granite Rust Come From?

Overview of Engineered Quartz

In contrast with granite, engineered quartz is a man made material that does not exist in nature; although the minerals used to make the materials do. Engineered quartz is manufactured by multiple companies and is available in various grades. For the most part, each manufacturer will have a variety of colors available for purchase. And while each company will have some specific requirements or features about their particular brand of quartz, we will talk here about the general characteristics of engineered quartz.

Engineered quartz (a.k.a. engineered stone) is composed of 1) the mineral quartz, 2) a binding material that holds the mineral together, and 3) coloring pigments. As a general rule, about 90% (by weight) of the surface is quartz and around 10% is the binder (usually polymeric resin) and pigments. These materials are formulated and processed to form a slab that can then be cut, shaped, and polished into a finished countertop.

Making the Comparison

Now that we have summarized what each material is, we can begin our comparison of granite vs quartz. Each material has pros and cons that come with it if it is chosen as a countertop material. Additionally, each person will likely have a preference for one material over the other. Knowing how the materials differ and and what they have in common helps not only in deciding which to purchase, but also how to care for, maintain, and even work with each of these materials. Studies and test data exist for how well countertop materials hold up under very specific situations. For example, Karin Kirk did this Performance Test on a handful of materials form a variety of classifications.

What Granite and Quartz Have in Common

The first aspect of our comparison we will consider is what granite and quartz have in common. These materials are similar in some key areas. Here is a partial list:

  • Scratch Resistance
  • Stain Resistant
  • Color Selection

Scratch Resistant

The first similarity that we will consider here is the scratch resistance. Each of these materials is resistant to scratches. And each one can be scratched by particular materials. Under normal, reasonable household circumstances though, you will most likely not have a lot of scratching that results from regular household use.

Resisting Stains

Next up, stain resistance. As the test mentioned above shows, each of these materials does reasonably well against stains. Of course, the color that you select will also play a role in how easily your natural granite or engineered quartz countertop stains. In a moment, we will get into how to treat these, but for now, just know that each of these amterials is fairly stain resistant if cared for properly.

Color Choices

The final similarity that granite shares with quartz is that each of these materials can be selected from a wide range of colors. Granite materials are more unique and each stone differs from all others in some way large or small. Yet, quartz is available in such a wide variety of color choices that virtually any color you can get in granite has a similar color in quartz.

How Quartz and Granite Differ

Although there are some big similarities between granite and quartz, these are very different materials. As such, there are significant differences between the two. Some of these differences include:

  • Care and Maintenance Requirements
  • Cleaning Products
  • Heat Tolerance
  • Colorfastness

Each of those differences cna play a role in the practical use of these materials, so let's look at each one individually.

Care & Maintenance

One of the primary ways in which granite differs from quartz is in the way these materials are cared for and maintained. Quartz is a non-porous material and as such, it does not absorb liquids. Granite, on the other hand, is a natural stone and it does absorb liquids. This means that common household spills will be absorbed by natural granite. This translates into the need for a sealer to be used periodically on natural granite to inhibit the absorption rate. For kitchen countertops, you may consider going with a food safe granite sealer to give you time to clean up spills that could stain the surface.

Regular Cleaning

Other thing that makes these materials different is the fact that sealers are destroyed by acidic cleaners. Because of this, granite must be cleaned with a pH neutral cleaner. Using acidic cleaners on granite breaks down the sealer and nullifies any benefit of using it. Conversely, engineered quartz is not sealed, an resists acidic cleaners very well. In fact, acidic cleaners are necessary to remove some kinds of surface stains that can affect quartz countertops and other surfaces. Cleaning quartz countertops with a quartz cleaner that is acidic will help to prevent mineral deposits for the most part and keep the surface looking good. So, what you clean each material with will be different.

Heat Tolerance

One of the things that people often wonder about is how well countertops hold up to heat. Even though people generally do not place hot pans on kitchen countertops, it doesn't mean that it will not happen. It only takes one accident to mar a kitchen countertop and cause a high repair bill. Granite is a natural stone so, as you might expect, it holds up extremely well against household temperatures. Quartz too is heat resistant, but you will usually find information advising against certain practices regarding heat. Test have shown that some quartz will discolor when exposed to high enough heat. In fact, some fabricators use special pads designed for polishing quartz because of the effects that overheating has on quartz.

Colorfastness

The last difference between granite and quartz that we are going to discuss in this article is the degree to which each of these materials holds its color. Of course, a natural granite stone that has not been dyed or colored using stone treatments holds up well in sunlight. Quartz on the other hand will fade in direct sunlight. What this means form a practical standpoint is that the location in which you are installing the surface may affect which material you select. If any part of the surface is going to be exposed to direct sunlight for long periods, you might want to give some thought to that. For the most part though, kitchens do not have long periods of direct sunlight exposure when the kitchen is indoors.

That will complete our granite vs quartz comparison. As you can see, each material has benefits and drawbacks, pros and cons, advantages and disadvantages, or whatever else you would like to call them. The idea here is that the decision be made based on information and not based entirely on how the surface looks. Because, as we have seen, depending on your preferences, you might just get more than your bargained for.