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Beautiful, durable, and oh-so-easy to maintain, quartz has become one of the most popular countertop materials on the market. This article seeks to answer the questions about quartz you didn’t know to ask, enabling consumers to make educated and smart decisions about their own countertops.

For those considering a kitchen remodel or just updating countertops, quartz has become a real contender, especially given its availability in a wide array of designs and patterns that mimic authentic marble and other natural stones.

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Quartz first appeared in the 1960s in Italy in countertops that were created to resist cracking and breaking by mixing ground quartz with resins. Although the resins added flexibility, these early quartz countertops were very dull-looking shades of tan and cream. Today, innovations in solid-surface technology have elevated quartz countertops from merely functional to fabulous with an abundance of finish options and color combinations. Additionally, quartz countertops are surprisingly easy to maintain, requiring no sealant, unlike granite and marble countertops. They also resist cracking and scratching much more effectively than many other natural stone countertops, scoring a 7 for hardness on the Moh’s scale, as opposed to marble which scores just 3.

How it’s made: Quartz countertops are a man-made engineered stone countertop product, formed by combining 90 to 94 percent ground quartz (a naturally occurring hard mineral) with 6 to 10 percent polymers, resins, and pigments to form a very hard granite-like slab. The appearance of the slab depends on how finely the quartz is ground, coarser ground quartz will produce a flecked appearance, while finer ground quartz produces a smoother look.

The technology used to produce solid surfaces from resin and quartz was patented by the Italian company Breton more than 50 years ago (it’s still in business today). Since then, 52 companies around the world have been licensed to use it.

Durability: Quartz countertops are as close to indestructible as a countertop can be, so much so that many manufacturers offer warranties, unlike granite manufacturers. This extreme durability allows them to resist staining and corrosion without the need for sealing. Also, unlike other stone surfaces, quartz counters aren’t porous, making them much more hygienic

Con: Quartz’s weak spot is its heat resistance. It can be damaged by excessive heat.

Good news: Quartz countertops are suitable for a variety of edging profile options, much like natural stone, however, because its more flexible, engineered quartz is also suitable for other design possibilities. For example, quartz can be used for large vertical surfaces such as backsplashes and shower enclosures, without the seams typically visible with natural stone materials.

Installation: Even with its many advantages, installation of engineered quartz countertops isn’t one of them. Typically, the companies that produce and sell engineered quartz have their own certified installation experts, and professional installation is highly recommended especially when considering the extreme weight of quartz.

To summarize: Man-made, engineered quartz countertops are extremely durable, non-porous, and stain resistant with no sealing required. They’re available in a wide array of colors and easy to clean.

Postscript: When considering countertop options, do not to confuse quartzite with quartz. Quartz is engineered with resins and pigments, while quartzite is a variety of sandstone that was naturally exposed at some point to intense heat, causing it to solidify. Quartzite is mined from stone quarries and then cut into solid slabs, and while it’s also used for countertops, quartzite must be sealed before use and resealed periodically.

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