If you’re remodeling your kitchen, countertops have most likely come up in conversation. One hot debate in the world of home improvement is all about which material is best for kitchen countertops.
Granite or quartz?
Each side has its own advocates, but once all the pros and cons are weighed, you’ll see there are some solid reasons why quartz is better than granite.
You want to be careful picking out the materials of your kitchen because it’s one of those areas that can make or break the appearance of your home.
And yet, while everyone knows that old appliances and cheap cabinets can take thousands of dollars away from your property’s value, many homeowners don’t think about how important it is to select the best possible material for their countertops.
Before getting into a comparison of the pros and cons, it might be helpful to better understand both materials.
Where Do Quartz and Granite Come From?
Granite is essentially a molten-lava cocktail that has cooled and hardened over time, leaving behind a rock made of quartz chips, feldspar, and other minerals that give it unique colors, depending on the location.
Over time, it was pushed up near the surface of the earth, where it can be mined today in locations around the world. In short, granite is a real stone that has to be mined out of the earth, cut to size, then shipped.
Quartz is the second most abundant mineral in the earth’s crust (behind feldspar), but quartz countertops are not mined out of the earth. True, there are certain stones like quartz arenite that contain a large percentage of quartz chips.
But actually, quartz countertops are man-made by combing quartz chips with polymers and resins (the binding agents), creating a uniform slab that can be made with specific colors, striations, textures, and sizes.
Now that you know about what each one is and where it comes from, the question remains.
Quartz or granite?
Either one is considered a higher-end option in the world of home materials, but as a homeowner, you want to pick the option that looks the best, is the most affordable, and requires the least maintenance—to name a few factors.
Here are 10 surprising reasons why quartz countertops are superior to granite.
1 – Quartz Offers You a Much Wider Selection Than Granite
Granite is 100% natural, hewn from quarries all over the world. That global variety has yielded some interesting options, from Kashmir White to Venetian Gold. The unique patterns and textures of each place comes from the way molten material has cooled and solidified in that particular locale—an ancient process that cannot be replicated (well… it can, but not with authenticity).
However, since granite is all-natural, the very uniqueness that comes as one of its selling points can also make it a more limiting material to work with. If you’re particular about the look of the grain or the color you want, you may have to hunt around until you find something you like. When you finally do find something you like or that matches the style of your kitchen, it may be out of your price range, forcing you to use something that just doesn’t fit as well.
By contrast, quartz carries that same stony look while also allowing for more customization. The small percentage of polymers mixed in with ground natural quartz yields a huge color palette that isn’t geographically limited. Because of that huge variety, you can get a more precise match between your countertops and the stain of your cabinets or the finish of your appliances. Also, if your kitchen has a particular themed look that would best be paired with a particular color or texture, quartz may offer you better possibilities for facilitating that.
As any designer will tell you, it’s subtle details like that which can really increase the appeal of your home’s interior.
2 – Quartz is Stronger and More Durable
Granite is a natural material that contains quartz (and a whole other mix of materials that have accumulated over eons of time). Quartz (the natural quartz crystal) is a type of crystal formed from silicon and oxygen. It’s extremely durable, almost indestructible, in fact.
As mentioned, granite countertops are composed of quartz and other mixed minerals, which give each type of granite its unique color. However, despite their colorful contributions, those other minerals are not as rock-solid as quartz, and lessen the overall strength of the slab.
So what could be harder than granite, which is generally composed of 20% to 60% quartz chips?
How about something made from 95% quartz: quartz countertops.
Quartz is so hard, in fact (it scores a 7 on the Mohs hardness scale), that only topaz and diamonds are harder – and diamond countertops may not be in your price range.
While granite is porous and susceptible to chipping, quartz is not. If you drop a heavy pot or pan on your granite counter, it could chip—leaving you with a countertop that’s difficult to repair. Granite will also contain natural cracks that can widen or spread over time, further weakening its overall durability.
True, quartz is susceptible to heat damage (some estimates place the threshold at 150 degrees), but if you’re pulling something that hot out of the oven or stove, you wouldn’t set it down on a kitchen counter anyway, no matter what it’s made of—you’d use a trivet or a potholder.
3 – Quartz is Naturally More Hygenic
As I mentioned, granite is an all-natural material that’s porous. Not to gross you out, but pores are a great place for unwanted bacteria to grow, which is something you probably don’t want in the space where you prepare your food.
Many foods naturally contain bacteria (such as meat or chicken) and contact with the countertop can leave behind a teeming mess of invisible guests that will only leave with a little soap and water. Unfortunately, if you forget to clean up, they may move the party down into the pores of your granite countertop, where they’ll linger until some heavy-duty cleaning is done.
Yes, most granite is sealed on the outside, but chipping, cracking, or acidic materials can reduce the effectiveness of the sealant –– not to mention that it wears down over time anyway, opening up your counters to anything that wants to land on its craterous surface.
Quartz, on the other hand, is solid throughout. There is no sealant layer to wear away. There are no pores to permit unwanted organisms from staking a claim in your kitchen. Between the two options, it’s the easiest to clean, and you won’t need to have the countertops periodically resealed.
Some variations of quartz, such as Silestone, even carry antimicrobial agents inside of the resin, which can help keep your countertops clean, even under a microscope.
4 – Quartz May be a “Greener” Choice in the Bigger Picture
Sometimes in the realm of home improvement, environmentally friendly factors run contrary to what you might assume. For instance, if you want your home to be environmentally friendly, you should use all natural materials when remodeling, right?
Granted, granite is all natural. However, quartz is 95% natural—the other 5% being comprised of synthetic materials like resins, polymers, and pigments. Anything man-made can result in carbon emissions, which would only increase your suspicions about granite being a better choice for Planet Earth—but hold you proverbial horses.
Remember where granite comes from.
Granite is quarried right out of the earth, which requires a lot of energy, and a lot of water. Once the extremely intense quarrying process is over, the stone has to be shipped—sometimes at long distances—resulting in (you guessed it) lots of fuel burning and tones of carbon monoxide released into the air.
Granite is not sounding too green now, is it?
Although you can buy locally sourced granite, the vast majority of granite for residential construction is imported from outside the United States, where there may be even fewer rules and regulations about environmentally-friendly quarrying.
Quartz, on the other hand, is made from leftover byproducts, which means that no quarrying process is needed—no huge amounts of fuel or water needed to bring it into your home.
All said, the man-made production of quartz countertops can actually carry a smaller environmental impact than granite countertops in the bigger scheme of things.
5 – Quartz is Easier to Maintain
Given the fact that countertops are primarily for for food preparation, you’ll want to assess which material holds up better over time against stains and spills.
Due to its relative porosity, granite will require periodic resealing (some experts recommend at least once per year). Since granite is all natural, it may have inherent cracks that widen or spread over time. Not only will these cracks weaken the seal, but they will make cleaning more difficult.
In contrast, quartz is solid throughout and made from a mixture of natural materials and resins, so it doesn’t need to be periodically resealed.
Quartz is also chemically inert, meaning it has a low degree of reactivity to chemicals and compounds. Wine, citrus juice, and cleaning compounds can come into contact with the surface without altering its appearance (though bleach can cause select degradation). Simply wiping down the counter with a rag could effectively clean it up, whereas with granite you may need to use soap and water every day to keep its outer seal in tip-top shape.
6 – Quartz is More Affordable
Both granite and quartz are pretty expensive, much more so than other countertop materials like laminate. However, quartz has a slight edge in this category as well.
Granite countertops can run as high as $175 per square foot, once installed whereas quartz countertops don’t usually go over $145. That may only seem like a $30 difference per square foot, but keep in mind that the average American kitchen has 30 square feet of countertop.
Exact prices will vary, of course (depending on the exact type, size, depth, source, and treatment of the countertop material), but in our example that would yield $900 in savings. Don’t forget that if you’re also going to use the same material in your bathrooms, quartz will continue to yield additional savings.
Also, keep in mind that granite will need to be periodically resealed. While you can do that yourself, if you have a handyman over to take care of it, he’ll probably need to charge at least a few hundred dollars to make the job worthwhile.
7 – Quartz May Look Better in Your Kitchen
Granite can carry that au-natural look, but it’s not for everyone. Moreover, it can be somewhat limiting if you want your kitchen to have a certain look.
As I mentioned in point #1, quartz comes in a wide variety of colors, but it also can come in a wide variety of textures too—whether you’re looking for something finer or coarser.
Many suppliers have quartz varieties that mimic the look of marble. If that elegant material is out of your price range, quartz countertops may give you the opportunity to provide your kitchen with that same soft, veined look.
Also, quartz countertops contain crushed stone suspended in a layer of resins and polymers, which can give them a certain depth that is lacking in the visual solidity of granite.
8 – Quartz is Flawless
Because granite is a stone hewn right from nature, each slab is going to be different—not only in terms of shape, but also in terms of size and color.
That means it may be difficult to line up different slabs for a uniform look, and the lines may not be so perfect either.
That may not bother you, but it you prefer a cleaner, more uniform look, then quartz is the material for you. Because it’s man-made and lab-cut, the coloration is more consistent, and the lines are more regulated—which also makes installation easier.
9 – Quartz May Improve the Resale Value of Your Home
While real estate agents in all markets will be sure to have their two-cents on this issue, it’s safe to assume that most homebuyers prefer building materials that require less maintenance.
Moreover, not everyone goes for the all-natural look that granite provides. They may prefer one of the colors and textures created by a quartz countertop over the irregular appearance of granite.
Also, people always tend to be suspicious of health concerns. While it’s been shown that granite does not contain significant amounts of radon, there are potential homebuyers out there who are convinced that granite countertops will leak radiation into their food (though it’s not true)—something they can’t say about quartz.
You don’t want your house to sit on the market for months until a granite-loving buyer comes your way, so it might be better to go with the more popular material.
Lastly, the National Kitchen & Bath Association (NKBA) conducted a study of designers and homeowners over the last decade showing that interest in quartz is on the rise while granite is in decline.
10 – Quartz is More Resistant to Spills
Since it’s a solid material, quartz is more resistant to stains and spills, which can get into the pores of granite and leave behind their unwanted mark.
In fact, a comparison done by Consumer Reports found that stain-resistance was the most distinguishing factor between the two materials, putting quartz ahead of its natural cousin.
Hot vegetable oil, hot coffee, and chocolate syrup were just some of the substances that were poured onto granite and quartz countertops—and left to sit for 20 hours.
The comparative test yielded a victory for quartz, which earned a consumer reports rating 2.3 points higher than granite (out of 100).
Granite vs. Quartz: A Final Word
In pretty much every area of consideration—appearance, durability, hygiene, variety, cost, and maintenance—quartz is better than granite.
There are, of course, supporters on both side of the granite vs. quartz debate. Some will tell you that it’s really all about personal preference: those who have more appreciation for natural materials should go with granite while those who prefer the uniform look of man-made materials should go with quartz.
However, examining the pros and cons of each material should show you that all around, quartz is the better choice—and it still allows your kitchen to have a touch of that all-natural look, if you so desire.
Keep in mind that you will still need to maintain your quartz countertops, despite their high degree of durability. In fact, no matter what your countertops are made from, you’ll always want to avoid certain activities, like cutting food directly on the counter, putting down hot utensils without a trivet, and letting stains and spills sit for more than a few hours.
But properly cared for (and in fact, requiring a reasonably low amount of care) quartz countertops will not disappoint you.
Whether your kitchen is a blue-and-white French country cookery, or an earth-toned Southwestern adobe, there’s a quartz countertop that matches the exact look you’re going for.
If you’re serious about remodeling your kitchen, check out my post: Must-Have Tools of the Trade for Home Improvement DIYers.