If you're designing a kitchen or bathroom, eventually the classic question will come: "Granite or Quartz?" You've probably heard it posed as a question of natural or engineered stone, which of course makes you lean towards natural, but there's more to it than that. Both are high-end building materials for your countertops, but their unique compositions impart significant differences to each — maintenance, durability, and cost, to name a few. Understanding how each is made and comparing their properties can help you decide which is best for your build.
In the debate between natural or engineered stone, granite assumes the natural role. Quarried out from giant slabs in the earth's crust, granite is 100% natural. Each slab is sliced into sheets and custom-cut to fit your exact countertop. Since each stone layer has been formed over thousands of years from different mineral compositions, each sheet is unique.
Quartz takes the engineered stone position in the debate, but the title can be a bit misleading. These countertops are made from at least 93% natural quartz, which is ground into a fine powder, bound with resin, and hardened to a stone-level density. Trace minerals are added for pigmentation to give a wide variety of colors.
The fact that granite is made within the earth itself lends it innumerable natural patterns. Each variation in mineral composition or change in temperature results in a unique swirl or color, and when combined with the custom slicing, there are nearly limitless varieties for your choosing. While that sounds appealing at first, the uniqueness can prove a downside to remodelers seeking a consistent design to match their color scheme.
You might think that quartz's synthetic fabrication would limit its uniqueness, but the diversity of the natural material, coupled with added pigmentation, lend these countertops tremendous variety. Many are engineered to closely resemble their granite competitors, while some possess distinct looks that granite can't imitate. The more uniform selection of quartz varieties does help designers in choosing a stone that will fit their countertop reno.
Granite possesses the material properties of natural stone, and with that come defects. For starters, it's more porous than engineered quartz and so is more susceptible to staining from acids and oils. The porous surface can harbor bacteria, as well, so frequent cleaning is necessary. Granite is also softer, and the natural defects increase its potential to crack. To preserve your countertop, you'll need to have it sealed upon installation, and likely every year. This natural stone does have one advantage over its quartz counterpart: it withstands heat better and won't be scorched.
Quartz is engineered to overcome the weaknesses of natural stones like granite. Because part of the fabrication process is to bind it with resin, quartz is already sealed and will not stain or harbor bacteria as granite will. It's harder, too, so quartz countertops are less likely to crack. The disadvantage to engineered stone is that the resin that holds it together makes it more vulnerable to scorching, so don't toss your potholders or trivets just yet.
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Both quartz and granite are premium home products, and their price tags reflect it. The average granite slab costs approximately $85-$170 per square foot and can run anywhere from $2,000-$4,000 to install. Granite carries with it the added expense of an initial and annual sealing, which is an additional cost each year. New homebuyers are more likely to be drawn to the natural building material, so if you're building to sell, granite may add more to your home's value.
Quartz countertops may not be naturally made, but their value remains comparable to granite. This engineered stone costs $85-$140 per square foot, and installation prices have a wider variance than natural stone, ranging from $1,500-$5,500, depending on the design. Unlike granite, engineered stone is a one-time cost with no annual sealing expenses.
Both these stones are very heavy building materials, and neither lend themselves well to a DIY installation. Though exact weights vary according to thickness, you can expect between 13 and 30 pounds per square foot, with granite being slightly heavier. This weight adds up quickly, so stones as massive as these are better left to the professionals, for safety and damage insurance reasons.
Natural and engineered stones affect the environment in different ways. Granite is cut directly from the earth, sliced in a factory, and imported overseas to get to your kitchen, so its environmental footprint is larger than fabricated stone. Quartz is not without its own impact, though; it takes considerable energy to engineer your manmade countertop.