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Quartzite and Granite Compared

Choosing a material for your kitchen countertops is not a matter of simply picking the one you like the best. The material you choose for your countertop surfaces could be the difference between a successful project and a failed one. In the case of the two materials we are looking at in this article (granite and quartzite), the materials are fundamentally different yet they have striking similarities. As we compare quartzite surfaces with granite surfaces, you will see that there are many details on which to base your decisions regarding countertops.

Granite Countertops

Granite has been used as a countertop material for decades. People have often times listed granite countertops as a requirement when shopping for a new home. In fact, it was listed as one of the benefits of choosing it as a countertop surface by realtor.com. The following quote is taken from a home improvement article entitled: Types of Kitchen Countertops: Which One's Best for You? :

"Granite countertops are one of the most popular kitchen features, and they often make top 10 lists of desirable features among builders surveyed by the National Home Builders Association."

True, granite is not for everyone. Some home buyers look for other countertop materials. Yet, as that quote highlights, a large portion of buyers prefer granite - according to the builders that were surveyed.

The Alternatives to Granite Grow

Although granite is a tried and true option (and will most likely stay popular), it has met with several alternative surface materials in recent times. Some of the newer options are natural stone materials and others are man made surfaces. Still, there are those that prefer natural solutions when it comes to selecting a kitchen countertop material. For those, some of the granite alternatives (the man made options) simply won't do.

So in short, natural granite remains a reliable choice for those that prefer to have a beautiful, long lasting, and obtainable material for countertop surfaces.

Quartzite Countertops

In contrast with tried and true granite, quartzite is a "younger" option in the sense that it does not have the long history that granite has. However, natural quartzite fills the role as a kitchen countertop material very well. Even though it is relatively new as far as countertop materials go, our comparison will highlight benefits it offers.

Quartzite's Undeserved Crticism

One of the things you may find when you begin researching quartzite countertops is articles or quotes that mention quartzite and "etching". We won't go into what etching is since that is not the focus of this article. Suffice it to say, it is the result of a characteristic that is not inherent in natural quartzite. However, you can find information on the Internet that implies or makes direct statements regarding etching of quartzite stone. So, what is the reason for these statements?

The reason quartzite has been portrayed as a material that etches comes, not from the fact that quartzite etches, but from mistakes made during the buying and selling process. We won't delve into this topic either. But if you would like to get the scoop, you can check out this article written by a geologist entitled: The Definitive Guide to Quartzite. That article details the truth about quartzite geologically and highlights the difference between geology and marketing messages.

Simply stated, although quartzite has not been around as long as granite and is perhaps misrepresented through the mislabeling mentioned in the article above, it remains a durable and beautiful option for use as a countertop material.

Similarities Between Granite & Quartzite

Now that we have taken a look at both granite and quartzite briefly, let's get into comparing each of these materials. We will start by considering the similarities.

Granite and quartzite are similar in a number of ways. The similarities between these materials translate into very specific and necessary requirements in the way of care, maintenance, and working with the stones themselves. Let's look at 3 similarities between quartzite and granite.

Both Materials Are Very Hard

The first similarity between granite and quartzite that we will consider is their hardness. Granite comes in at anywhere from 5.5 to 7 in hardness as measured by the Mohs scale of mineral hardness. Similarly, quartzite comes in at around 7. the scale ranges from 1 to 10 with 1 being "soft" and 10 being "hard". So, both materials are on the hard end of the scale.

The hardness of a material has a direct bearing on its ability to resist scratching. In fact, the test used to determine the hardness of a stone is the "scratch test". By using a material with a known hardness to try to scratch a particular stone you can tell if the stone is harder or softer than the test material. So, both granite and quartzite are hard and scratch resistant.

Natural Stone is Porous

The second similarity between these two natural stone materials is their porosity. All natural stone is porous to one degree or another; granite and quartzite are no different. Like all natural stone, these materials have pores. The porosity of natural stone means that it will absorb liquid. If that liquid has color or is chemically reactive to minerals in the stone, it can discolor the stone. How is natural stone protected against stains?

In the case of natural stone that does not contain calcite, the material can be protected by using an impregnating sealer for stone. These products penetrate the stone, causing the material to repel water based and oil based liquids. By keeping the stain causing liquid on the surface, these products afford the owner time to wipe up the stain-causing liquid before it can act. So, the porosity of a material affects the way that material must be cared for.

Periodically sealing the stone is not all though. Cleaning the stone with a pH neutral cleaner designed for natural stone is also important. Acidic cleaners break down impregnating sealers. This defeats the whole purpose of applying them in the first place. After all, why put a sealer on a stone and then just remove it by using an acidic cleaner?

Granite and Quartzite Are Unique

As natural stones, both granite and quartzite are 100% unique. Not just from one another, but also from one stone to another. The variety that exists in the world of natural stone is limitless in the sense that the colors vary and the patterns are never completely the same. This means that when you go to select your granite or quartzite slab, you will be picking the actual material from which your actual countertop will be made.

Because the slab you select in the slab yard is the actual stone that will be used in your countertop, you will no doubt want to be mindful of how it will look once it is cut and shaped for your countertop. Working with the fabricator and letting the professional know which features you like about the slab you are choosing can help them determine how best to cut the stone. The professional may be able to cut the sink form an area that perhaps you would not mind losing and keep the section of stone to which you are drawn.

As we have seen, granite and quartzite are very similar in that each is very hard, both are porous, and they are completely unique. However, granite and quartzite are not the same thing. Let's see how they differ.

How Granite and Quartzite Differ

As we have seen, granite and quartzite are similar in several ways. And it can be very tempting to conclude that since two materials are very similar, there really is no difference between them; that they are in fact, the same thing. Is that really so?

Similar Is Different from Being the Same

Similarity is different from sameness. Just because two things are similar does not make one of them the same as the other. This applies to granite and quartzite just as it does many other things. Let's see why we cannot say that granite and quartzite are the same material.

Different Composition

The first difference between these materials that we will explore is in their composition. Granite and quartzite are composed of different minerals. This has a bearing on the resulting stone. So, what are the differences between these materials? Let's take a look. The following table shows what minerals are commonly found in natural granite and quartzite.

Comparative Look at Granite and Quartzite
Material Granite Quartzite
Stone Type Igneous Rock Metamorphic Rock
Composition

Granite typically contains a combination of quartz, mica, feldspar and hornblende. Biotite, magnetite, garnet, zircon and apatite may also be involved in the formation of granite if the materials are present.

Quartzite is made out of sandstone, silica, iron oxide, carbonate, clay and a very large percentage of quartz.

Reference for the information regarding the composition taken from sciencing.com

As you can see from the table above, these materials are different in composition. Incidentally, they also are classed differently. And even though they have some similar characteristics, compositionally, they are very different. The difference in composition results also in another difference. Let's see what that is next.

Different In Appearance

Quartzite and granite may have similarities, but the second area of difference is seen in the visible appearance of them. Notice the images below:


Quartzite Sample
Alaskan White Granite

The image on the left is a close up of a quartzite sample and the image on the right is a sample of granite. As you can see, both of these stones are appealing. Yet the difference between them is noticeable. In fact, the images above are indicative of the visual differences between granite and quartzite.

The quartzite image (on left) is a gray color. And in fact, quartzite usually is colored from white to gray or beige in color. The color variations are subtle and gradual but the material can have som contrasting spots or streaks caused by "impurities" in the material. Since quartzite is metamorphosed sandstone it makes perfect sense that it would be light colored and not vary a whole lot in color. Granite, on the other hand, is a different story.

Looking at the photo on the right, you can see that it is different in that it is not as light and that the color variations are much more contrasting. This is because of the minerals that make up a granite slab. One of the main minerals that is in granite is feldspar. This substance forms in a variety of colors. Therefore, granite slabs that contain it are apt to have color variety like the granite in the photo above.

In conclusion, there are a number of similarities and differences between quartzite and granite. We have only briefly touched on how these natural stone materials compare regarding the benefits and how they differ. As we have seen, both materials share a lot of function similarities and they are different in how they look. This means that if you vlaue the performance of a natural stone that is very hard and resists scratching and heat, you have mnay looks from which to choose. So it really isn't a case of "granite vs quartzite". Rather, it is more like, which would you prefer, granite or quartzite?

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