Countertops Magazine Archive

Quartz Surfaces Continue to Trend up

Quartz surfaces have been around for some time now, but those involved in the surfacing industry will have to agree that over the last few years it has seen a large increase in interest. There are a several reasons for this that are worth considering, but first it would be prudent to provide a little background information on this growing material category.


Just about all products progress over time and quartz surfacing is no different. Before there was quartz surfacing, there was terrazzo which is basically chips of granite, marble, glass and other particulates mixed with a binder (many times cement) and poured into a shape. Terrazzo has been primarily used in the flooring industry.


The next step in the evolution was the invention of engineered stone, pioneered by the Italian company Breton. Developed and refined in the 1970s, the first engineered stone used polyester resin and limestone, but later experimentation lead to using granulated granite, marble and then silica sands.  Eventually, ground quartz became the standard because of its formidable properties and the category of quartz surfacing was born.


I have heard a lot of confusion around what is the difference between engineered stone and quartz surfacing, and it is a question that is often asked. Basically, all quartz surfacing is engineered stone, but not all engineered stone is quartz surfacing. The difference is determined by the type of crushed natural stone used, obviously with quartz surfacing using primarily crushed quartz. The content of actual quartz minerals in quartz surfacing is typically 93 percent quartz to 7 percent resin binders, by weight.


So What’s So Good About Quartz Surfacing?

The properties of quartz surfacing have some real advantages over previous versions of engineered stone, but there are also some great comparisons to be made with other materials. The primary areas of the material that highlight its capabilities are hardness, flexural strength, lack of porosity and colorant factors.


First off is the hardness of the material. The use of quartz is a major improvement over previous iterations of engineered stone (and most other surfacing materials) because it is one of the hardest materials available.


Hardness is ranked using something called the Mohs scale. The higher the Mohs ranking, the harder the material is. And, the harder the material is, the more resistant it will be to scratching, abrasion, etc. Talk, one of the least hard minerals, for instance, is ranked as a 1 on the Mohs scale. Granite comes in significantly higher at a ranking of 5. Diamond, the hardest mineral, ranks at 10. And natural quartz comes in at a 7, between granite and diamond. So, it is very durable and scratch-resistant, which is one reason why consumers are drawn to it.


Another factor is its flexural strength. Most tests agree that quartz surfacing has a flexural strength in the range of 4,500 to 7,000 psi. Granite has a flexural strength of between 1,200 and 4,300 psi. Solid surface has a flexural strength of around 10,000 psi. So, quartz surfacing falls in between these two other popular surfaces.


This flexural strength also makes it popular among fabricators. At a recent visit to a stone shop I talked with the fabricators about their experiences with quartz. The general opinion was that it was easy to work with because they didn’t have to worry as much about breaking as some other materials.


Another feature of quartz that brings value to the consumer is that it is nonporous, which makes it highly stain resistant without ever having to apply a sealant. That is a big relief to the end user.  Because quartz is nonporous is can also be listed in the NSF/ANSI compliance website. However, not all quartz manufacturers are listed.  There are three levels of compliance: Non-food; splash and drip; and food contact. For most, the food contact rating would be considered the most important, but some quartz surfacing materials are not listed with this level of compliance. So, it is important to make sure to ask if the quartz surfacing you are interested in or working with is in compliance. You can also search for it directly at


Now about those colors. Because quartz surfacing is manmade, it comes in a wide variety of designs and colors. Some mimic granite, marble or other natural stones, and some are quite unique to quartz alone. This broad array of color options, allows manufactures to keep up with the ever changing taste of educated consumers. The color wheel is simply whatever the color trend in the design world demands.


Another advantage when it comes to color is color consistency.  It’s pretty easy to match up slabs and maintain the color throughout.  Not only is this a benefit when fabricating a top, it also opens the door for other uses. For example, a wall treatment where multiple slabs might be needed is not a problem.  Quartz is shipped with lot numbers similar to how solid surface is shipped; if you keep to the lots you’ll maintain the color from slab to slab


Because color trends change all the time what was once a hot color may not be now.  And, different manufacturers have different palettes. So, designers will want to be familiar with multiple product lines so they can show clients a variety of choices. It may require a little study, but it will work to keep consumers happy with the choices they have.


Looking Ahead

Quartz is trending upwards; studies have shown it will continue to gain market share. With more and more emerging manufactures, it’s unclear what this will do to the price of slabs in the future, but at this time most manufactures price there material similarly. Consumers are prepared to pay a premium price for quartz, because of its growing reputation as a premium product. This, of course, is good news for kitchen showrooms, fabricators and designers alike. If you’ve passed on this product in the past, now would be a good time to take another look at it, as it only appears to be going up.


Is quartz the last step with countertops?  Something tells me the answer to that is “no.” I’m looking at the newer entries into the market and waiting to see which is next big thing, and I hope you are too. But in the meantime, happy selling.


About the Author

Jon Olson has been in the countertop industry for more than 30 years serving in a variety of aspects from fabrication, to management, to sales to distribution. He has received numerous awards including recently being inducted into the ISFA Hall of Fame. For more information, he can be reached at [email protected]