If you are looking to remodel your kitchen or bathroom, there’s a lot to consider when making a decision about countertops. As much as you would just like to pick the one that looks the best, there are other factors that should influence your decision. The durability of the material, the maintenance, your lifestyle, and of course, budget, are all matters of consideration when selecting your new countertops.
Granite ranks #1 in upscale kitchen countertops on the market today due to its hardness, durability, resistance to weathering, and fascinating color and textual patterns. Stone is a natural material; millions of years old, and as unique as a fingerprint. It is the oldest building material, dating back thousands of years with notable structures like the Egyptian pyramids and structures from the Roman empire. Granite is generally classified as an igneous rock; cooled molten lava, where marble is metamorphic; formed from extreme heat and pressure of layers of earth. Both are resistant to extreme temperature and compression, however, granite is generally more durable than marble to scratching, absorption and chemicals.
Quartz is a generic term for a man-made slab that starts out as 85%-93% pure quartz, among the hardest minerals in the earth, and very clear in color. The remainder of the material is polymer and pigments that allow the material to be given color and pattern in a controlled manufacturing environment. As such, quartz can be chosen from a sample, as its range of variation is very small from lot to lot. The process of heat and compression when making it also creates a ‘non-porous’ surface that can sustain greater overhangs than natural stone because of the potential for hidden flaws that can occur in nature. Quartz is generally a more expensive material than a standard granite.
Natural stone slabs are mined throughout the world but most come from Brazil and India. Granite comes in many available colors, but is limited to those naturally occurring in nature. It is important to remember that some colors can be rare and thus increase the cost of the slab. Cost of natural stone is not a function of quality or durability, but scarcity and supply/demand worldwide. Each granite slab is one-of-a-kind, because it’s formed in nature. When you are choosing your piece and see something you love, don’t delay in making a decision because you will not see that pattern again.
Granite and quartz countertops can come in different finishes and each can have an effect on the appearance and potential maintenance. The most common finish is polished. It is the least porous finish, therefore, stands up well to stains, and is mirror-like in appearance. Honed is a matte finish and is typically not recommended as it can stain and scratch more easily than other finishes, and may be more difficult to clean. Leather is more polished than a honed or a matte finish, and has texture, or ‘relief’. Good for outdoor use, as it hides dust & pollen well. Other finishes are available, but are not common.
Nature truly created an enduring surface with natural stone. Granite does not discolor with age, with heat, or with UV rays unlike other man-made solid surface countertops. Quartz is subject to UV fading, but is not a problem in homes built in recent years, because they have UV resistant glass as part of typical window construction techniques. While granite is very resistant to high temperatures, it is not recommended to put very hot pans directly on the material, and a trivet is highly suggested for quartz. The best analogy is in this question “Do you drive your car into the end of the garage every night because you have 5 MPH bumpers?” No.
You may ask, what about wear and tear? Granite is also durable and scratch resistant. You can actually use your countertop as a cutting board without damaging it. It can only be scratched by another piece of granite, a diamond, or carbide material, which is found in drilling equipment. Granite is also stain and water-resistant as long as it has been properly sealed and maintained. There is a commercial grade lifetime sealer that can be applied called “Invisiblock” to help maintain your granite countertop, and comes with a 15-year transferrable warranty. The sealer embeds permanently into any exposed pores, making it impervious to stains, and utilizes today’s ‘nanotechnology’. It will also help your countertops remain sanitary.
Granite and quartz do not require any special expensive cleaners to maintain its great looks. Soap and warm water will keep your countertops looking like new, and is still the best anti-microbial on the market. A neutral pH window cleaner, or ‘no ammonia’ type will quickly make it shine and remove any dull soap residue. Acidic cleaners and strong amounts of bleach and ammonia will not damage the granite, but can strip away the sealer that has been applied that prevents absorption. Definitely NO harsh cleaners on quartz, especially those that are alkaline, like bleach and ammonia!! It is not necessary to use any of these types of cleaners.
So, ask yourself some basic questions…..do I want the unique beauty and natural variance of granite, or do I want a performance product like quartz with a greater range of color, at a generally higher price point? And for those wondering, 30% of the market is now quartz.
If you’re still weighing your options, please know that our knowledgeable and friendly staff know what makes a great kitchen (or anything else you can dream up!) Give us a call and we’ll help you find something that’s perfect for your next project. As always, our estimates are free!