Boasting the best qualities of laminate and stone (along with its own special features), quartz began appearing in U.S. homes just a few years ago after gaining popularity in Europe for the past decade. Today, quartz countertops are exploding in popularity, with U.S. sales increasing 60 percent in 2004.
Made from one of the hardest minerals on earth, quartz countertops are arguably the most durable option for kitchens. They're also some of the most eye-catching. They come in a wide variety of colors, including fire-engine red and apple green, as well as earthy browns, blacks, and creams, with sparkles and veining for the look of granite or marble. But unlike natural-stone slabs, which are mined, these slabs are engineered in a factory. Their primary ingredient is ground quartz (about 94 percent), combined with polyester resins to bind it and pigments to give it color. For some designs, small amounts of recycled glass or metallic flecks are added to the mix. The resins also help make these counters stain and scratch resistant—and nonporous, so they never need to be sealed. Compare that with granite, the reigning king of high-end countertops, which typically requires a new protective top coat at least once a year.
Natural-quartz crystals are mined, then ground into a dust or an aggregate that's fused with resin binders under intense heat and pressure to form a solid slab. Pigments added during the process impart color to the countertop.
In the past, the biggest knock against quartz was that it lacked the patterns and color variations you get with natural stone, but that's a moot point now, with all the manufacturers offering multihued slabs with enough flecks, swirls, and random patterning to make them almost indistinguishable from the real thing. They were once available only with a polished finish; now you can get one with a honed, sandblasted, or embossed treatment. So, if it's the look of matte limestone, textured slate, or glossy granite that you want, there's a quartz countertop for you.
Why should you get quartz countertops?
Unlike natural stone or wood, it never needs to be sealed. Just wipe with soapy water for daily upkeep. Surface stains can be removed with a gentle cleansing scrub. Avoid scouring pads, which can dull the surface, and harsh chemicals that could break down the bonds between the quartz and resins.
Resin binders make quartz counters nonporous, so stain- and odor-causing bacteria, mold, and mildew can't penetrate the surface.
Some makers offer jumbo slabs for uninterrupted runs of countertop. But even with standard slabs, typically 60 by 120 inches, the seams can be almost imperceptible; added resins allow cleaner cuts without chipping as stone does. The resins also make quartz more flexible than natural stone, allowing fabricators to bend and shape it into sinks or the sides of a curved island. And it's versatile enough to be used on floors and walls—fabricators can even cut the slabs into standard tile sizes.
Founder's Choice has a wide variety of quartz styles from which to choose. Contact one of our talented designers today!