Improved stone-cutting technology coupled with the recent popularity of home improvement television shows transformed the stone countertop industry, making granite the first choice of designers and home buyers alike. Granite countertops paired with stainless steel appliances and cherry finish cabinets have become the must-haves of modern homes.
Granite and Quartz
Granite is a much better choice of stone than marble for a kitchen. It is a common coarse-grained, intrusive igneous rock that often includes quartz, mica and feldspar. It has a natural crystalline texture and often will appear to glint in sunlight. It comes in an almost endless variety of colors, patterns and grades. On the hardness scale, granite can register up to a 7 if it is high in quartz. Quartz is the rising challenger to granite's success, though it has yet to achieve the nearly three-dimensional appearance of granite. It is the most abundant mineral in the world. It has a hard, glossy appearance, and it consists of silicon dioxide in crystal form. Its crystalline form makes quartz a light-reflective, semiprecious gemstone. Next to the diamond, quartz is considered one of the hardest minerals, registering a solid 7 on the Mohs scale.
Issues with Granite
The primary issues with granite center on market saturation (is the look becoming dated), maintenance issues (it requires annual sealing), difficulty in seam matching where different slabs are joined and recent concerns over potential radiation and radon emissions from the stone into the home. Most granites used for home countertops are considered safe; only a few of the more exotic and new varieties have been found to be hot (emitting). A good discussion with your stone provider can ensure that you select a well tested granite for optimum safety.
Quartz is able to counter these issues by presenting a new look, promising low/no maintenance, the potential for near invisible seam matching and no issues with radiation and radon emissions. The use of Microban during the manufacturing process also prevents the growth of bacteria on the countertop.
Issues with Quartz
The primary issue with quartz centers on how quartz countertops are made. As a mineral, raw quartz ranges from the size of rock salt to coarse grains. According to John Buenneke, Brand Manager for Cambria, "The crystals are then heated and vibro-compacted to form an impenetrable surface. We put the raw quartz, pigments, and resins into molds and simultaneously compress it, suck the air out of, and vibrate it" (see Hardy in Resources). Because a resin is used in the manufacture of quartz countertops, it may not be a green enough product for some purchasers, and there is some concern that quartz countertops may not be as durable to burn marks (resins are heat responsive). Quartz countertops are also significantly heavier than granite, although they are easier to cut. Either of these choices, when properly installed, will enhance the value and appearance of your home for many years to come.