Which is Better: Granite or Quartz?
Clients often ask us if they should choose granite or quartz for their new countertops, and our answer, as with so many design questions, is, “It depends.”
It depends on your personal preferences. It depends on your budget. It depends on where and how you plan to use and maintain your countertops. It depends on the other materials you select for your design.
While some interior designers have a signature style, and tend to make recommendations based primarily on that style, our goal is to come up with designs uniquely suited to each client. Sometimes granite countertops end up being the better choice. Other times quartz wins out.
However, we do secretly have our personal favorites, and Wendy and I have found that we tend to slip into a bit of routine when we’re answering the granite versus quartz question. Wendy will extol the beauty and benefits of granite and other natural stones. I get the job of explaining what makes quartz a good choice. (And then we say, “It depends.”)
If we were to debate the issue, it might go something like this:
Wendy: Nothing beats Mother Nature. Granite and other natural stones have unique patterns that can’t be replicated by engineered products. You can find hundreds of colors and patterns, from stones that may have been formed thousands or even millions of years ago. If you’re looking for multiple slabs that match each other, you can find similar stones by choosing from the same batch. However, each slab you choose will have unique and beautiful characteristics, including veining, swirls, specks, and sparkles. No two slabs are exactly alike, and each slab will take on different characteristics under different lighting conditions.
Cathy: Quartz takes Mother Nature and improves on it, with new colors and patterns constantly coming onto the market. Quartz has become so popular that one contractor we work with said it now accounts for 90 percent of the countertops his company installs. That means more and more manufacturers are jumping into the market, competing to offer more and better colors and patterns. If you like a heavily veined granite-like pattern, you can find dozens of options. The same is true if you’re looking for the look of marble without the upkeep of it, or if you like a speckled terrazzo-style look instead of veining, or if you want extra sparkly countertops, or a very subtle pattern, or even a solid color with no pattern at all.
Here’s the difference: Granite is mined directly from the ground, with huge pieces of stone taken from quarries and cut down into the slabs that you purchase for your countertops. The look of the stone depends entirely on how it was naturally formed and compressed over eons in the earth. Quartz, on the other hand, is engineered from crushed quartz fragments bound together with resins. Engineered quartz is about 90 percent natural stone and 10 percent binding agents, but the colors and patterns are entirely manufactured. That means quartz is available in designs that mimic natural stone, but also in designs that you’ll never find in nature.
Wendy: People think granite takes a lot of maintenance, but it really doesn’t. While some granites are more porous (particularly lighter-colored stones), many are so dense that they require little to no sealing. While the general advice is to seal your granite every one to three years, it really varies from slab to slab. And if you really don’t want to take any time to seal your countertops, there are heavy-duty sealants that can be professionally applied that will last 15 years or more.
Cathy: Quartz is a completely solid surface, so it never needs to be sealed. It’s naturally antimicrobial and impervious to staining, and it doesn’t require any special cleaners. Mix a few drops of mild dish soap with some warm water, and that’s the only cleaner you’ll ever really need. You won’t find a more maintenance-free countertop.
Wendy: A well-sealed granite countertop is also relatively impervious to bacteria and stains. While there are special granite-safe cleaners that you can buy, the warm water and dish soap solution will also work on your granite. If you’re really concerned about disinfecting your granite countertops, you can occasionally mix together a 50:50 solution of water and rubbing alcohol and wipe that on your countertops. Let it sit for a couple of minutes, then rinse it clean. This is also a good way to remove soap residue and restore shine to your granite.
When taken care of, granite can last a lifetime. It’s so strong you can cut on it without scratching it, and put hot pans on it without burning it. It’s resistant to acids, which means you can spill lemon juice or colas on it without etching it or dulling it. It’s also a great choice for use outside, where quartz is not recommended.
Cathy: While quartz is not quite as rock-solid as granite, it too is resistant to abrasives, acids, and heat. A quartz countertop is heat-resistant up to about 350 degrees, so it is possible to take a pan straight from the oven and set it down on your quartz countertop without damaging it, or to spill acidic products on it without etching it, or to use a knife on it without scratching it.
However, I wouldn’t advise doing any of these things on a regular basis with either quartz or granite. Both stones are extremely durable, and both can often be repaired if they develop small chips or nicks, but that doesn’t mean they’re indestructible. It’s always a good idea to take protective measures on your expensive slab countertops, like using cutting boards and hot pads, and cleaning up spills as soon as they happen. A hot pan may not scorch your granite, but since granite is naturally cool to the touch, there is a small chance it could crack from an extreme temperature change.
For both quartz and granite, it’s also a good practice to avoid acidic or abrasive cleaners, including cleaners with bleach, ammonia, or citric acids. And it should go without saying that you should avoid spilling turpentine, nail polish remover, drain cleaners, and other harsh chemicals on your countertops. Any countertops!
Wendy: Granite, on average, is more affordable than quartz. There are many, many inexpensive granite styles available. And if you just need just a small countertop, such as for a bathroom vanity, we can often find remnant pieces through our fabricator for even less.
Cathy: While it’s true that you can find granite at lower prices than quartz, you can also find it at higher prices — often much higher. Both products come in a range of prices, but granite tends to have a wider range. If you’re looking for something other than the typical granite choices — something with unusual veining, maybe, or extra depth and sparkle, or just something out of the ordinary — you can expect to pay at the higher end of the granite spectrum. In either case, the fabrication and installation of the stone accounts for as much of the price as the material itself.
Wendy: Granite will bring a rich, high-end look to your home. If you visit a granite yard, you’ll be amazed at the stunning designs. Each granite slab is like a piece of artwork on your countertop, and you can find designs to match any décor. Quartz slabs often look plain and overly uniform by comparison.
Cathy: Quartz can also bring a stylish and sophisticated look to your home — but it can also be more on-trend and contemporary. I can’t deny the appeal of natural stone in the granite yards. The slabs truly do have the appearance of artwork, as if they’re some sort of otherworldly landscapes on display in a gallery. And then you get to the quartz section, with its stacks of identically sized slabs on racks, often not even facing out so that you can see them.
But here’s why: With granite, you need to see each huge individual slab to see what you’re getting. With quartz, a good-sized sample will suffice. The slabs will have slight variations in color and pattern, but for the most part, what you see on the sample is what you get on the slab. And while granite aficionados love the natural variations and imperfections of natural stone, there’s something to be said for a consistent and uniform look.
Also, while granite was the big status symbol back in the ’90s, today many people are looking for a less staid and traditional look in their homes. They don’t always want dramatic and eye-catching patterning on their countertops. Quartz can mimic that grand patterning, but it also gives the option of a more sleek and contemporary look. And keeping the countertops fairly simple can provide an opportunity for drama and artistry elsewhere, such as on walls and backsplashes. There’s currently a huge array of porcelain, ceramic, glass, and stone tiles and mosaics available to complement whatever you choose for your countertops.
One final note: People are often confused about the difference between quartz and quartzite. The product we’ve been describing here is quartz, also called engineered quartz. Quartzite, on the other hand, is a completely natural product — basically quartz sandstone that has been compressed over time into a dense metamorphic stone. It’s similar to marble, and is often labeled as marble, leading people to think that it’s a soft stone prone to staining and etching. However, it’s actually even more dense than granite, and has similar properties to granite in terms of heat and scratch resistance.
The bottom line is that any of these products can be used for beautiful countertops to match any design style, and all are durable and long-lasting!