If you've ever looked into different kitchen countertop materials, you may wonder how these natural stone slabs end up becoming the lovely polished countertops that we all know and love.
While most stone countertops are made from natural stone, such as marble countertops, quartz is a man-made material. While natural stone countertops are literally pieces of stone cut from a giant slab and polished to perfection, quartz counters are made very differently.
So, how are quartz countertops made? How does this engineered stone find its way to our kitchen counters?
In this Kitchen Infinity blog we aim to find out!
The Main Steps to Making a Quartz Countertop
Although certain stone fabricators may have slightly different ways of doing things, most companies will use the process below to make quartz countertops.
1. Raw materials are mixed together
First things first, the raw materials that make up quartz are mixed together in large industrial-sized mixing bowls. Quartz is around 90% ground quartz, a natural mineral found in the earth. After that, the last 10% or so is comprised of various resins, polymers, and pigments.
Polyester resins are commonly added too.
Depending on the color and style/look of quartz countertops that you desire, certain pigments and stones may be used for the design. Quartz kitchen countertops can come in various colors and patterns, all of which can be made to look uniform. In contrast, natural stone kitchen countertops have natural veins and colors that can't be changed.
As the raw ingredients of quartz are mixed together, they start to form a paste-like consistency similar to damp sand. At this point, the ingredients are starting to bond together and the fabricators can move onto the next step in the process.
2. The mix goes into a large mold
The mix of sediment goes into a large mold designed to shape the raw materials into long, flat, rectangular slabs. This is when the quartz will begin to take shape as a slab.
Once the quartz is in the mold, it will be smoothed out to ensure that it is evenly distributed and there are no gaps where air can get in. It's essential for the quartz slabs to be non porous and airtight, so the mixture must be molded properly.
3. The mold is compressed to form quartz slabs
Once the mold is ready, the materials will be compressed by a large machine in order to form quartz slabs. Essentially, all the tiny pieces of quartz mineral and resin are forced together under immense pressure so that they become one large solid object (a slab of quartz).
Ideally, the slab should be around 1-inch thick.
Special processes are used to make sure that the slab is airtight and non porous. Industrial vacuums suck any air pockets out of the quartz material as the mixture is compressed, essentially “squeezing all the air out” of the mixture.
Additional processes are used at this point to reduce air pockets in the surface of this engineered stone – vibrations help to shake out any loose stone and really solidify the construction.
Basically, all of this effort goes toward making the quartz slab as solid and air-tight as possible!
4. The quartz slabs are dried and heated
Once all of that compression is done, the quartz is dried and then “baked” in hot machines that use heat and pressure to fully solidify the quartz and ensure that the surface is smooth.
It's important that bacteria don't have any pockets of air to hide in and liquids don't have any little pores to seep into when you're using the quartz for countertops.
Because quartz is a manmade stone, extra effort can be put into making the surface as practical as possible for kitchen usage.
5. Finishing touches are made
After the slabs are dried and heated, the quartz is basically ready for the finishing touches. Usually this involves large machines polishing the slabs until they are perfectly shiny. After the polishing process, a stone fabricator may inspect the slab and do some hand-polishing if necessary.
Now the slab is ready to be cut to size for your home. A technician will visit your home to get exact measurements for your new kitchen countertops. These measurements are sent to the factory floor, where the experienced fabricators use special tools to cut the quartz countertops to the correct size.
The cutting process is very precise – fabricators must account for things like sink basins and the various different styles of countertop edges that home owner might desire. Once the quartz has been cut to its final shape, it will usually be hand-polished and inspected a final time before it is finished.
Then it makes its way to your home to give your kitchen a fresh new look!
Do Quartz Countertops Stain?
Quartz countertops can stain, but not very easily. Quartz is designed to be stain-resistant because it has a non-porous surface. However, it's very difficult to remove every single pore from a surface, so it can still stain if liquids like orange juice and milk are left to sit for long enough.
No kitchen countertop is perfect!
If you find that your quartz countertop is stained, try making a 1:1 mixture of water and baking soda until they form a paste. Apply the paste to the stain and leave it to sit for several hours (or overnight) before wiping it away. 9 times out of 10, this will remove any stains that do seep into the quartz.
Are Quartz Countertops Safe?
Generally speaking, quartz countertops can be considered safe as kitchen counters. This engineered stone is naturally very tough and durable, easily lasting for decades in your kitchen if treated properly. It also has significantly lower levels of radon emission than most granite does.
However, just remember that quartz counters are less heat-resistant than natural stone counters, so if you put hot pans and pots on it regularly, it may start to get burned and tarnished. On the whole though, quartz counters are very safe and low maintenance.
Quartz and Granite Countertops
Like Granite, there are many pros and cons of quartz that might make them suitable for your kitchen. For example, granite needs to be sealed regularly due to its natural porosity, while quartz counters never ever need to be sealed. In general, quartz is just very easy and low maintenance. You can also check out our countertop comparison chart of quartz vs granite to find out more detailed information.
Is Quartz Better Than Granite?
It all depends on what you're looking for. Quartz is more flexible than granite and never needs to be sealed, so it's brilliant if you want an easy-to-maintain kitchen.
However, granite is much more heat-resistant than quartz, so you can easily place hot pots and pans onto surfaces without worrying about burning or discoloring the stone.
Which is More Expensive, Granite or Quartz?
Most of the time, quartz is around 30% more expensive than granite if you're buying it in the United States.
This is partially because quartz has to undergo a large production process because it is manmade, whereas natural stone counters are basically just cut and polished from quarries directly.
The Bottom Line
Quartz is a manmade stone that is designed specifically for use in kitchen counters, so it has many qualities that are perfect for people's everyday cooking needs.
While some people may prefer the look or the qualities of natural stone surfaces like marble, quartz remains a very popular choice for kitchen counters due to its durability, variety of design choices, and its natural stain resistance.
Whether you go for quartz, marble, or any other stone material, we hope you find the perfect countertop material for you!