Comparing Granite and Quartz
Each is an option for various surfaces in homes and businesses. Both materials offer stunning looks in a variety of colors and popular visual textures. Furthermore, both of these surface choices are used in a number of projects and have a very strong customer base. Yet, the two materials are very different in many respects. In this granite vs. quartz post, we will explore some of the similarities and differences as we compare natural granite with engineered quartz.
Foundation for Granite vs. Quartz Comparison
Before we begin the granite vs. quartz comparison, it is good to clarify what we mean by some of the terminology that we will use throughout the rest of the post. This is necessary because both of the terms “granite” and “quartz” are used to describe various products. However, in this post we will be referencing very specific materials.
In the world of marketing, words are often times used to describe an objects appearance. Additionally, particular products are given names or model descriptors as “labels”. These labels may or may not be representative of the actual material of which the product is made. Such is the case with the term “granite”. It is sometimes used to label household items that have a very durable appearance or resemble natural granite. However, for the purpose of our discussion, we will be using the term to refer to a very specific material.
In this post, the term granite will be used to describe natural granite; the igneous rock that is carved from the Earth and cut into slabs which are then processed for use as surfaces in design projects. These slabs are often times made into countertops, table tops, and worktops.
Like the terminology we mentioned above regarding granite, the word “quartz” is also used to describe a range of materials. Quartz is the name of a natural mineral. Because people are aware of this, when they see a slab of material that is referred to as “quartz” they may conclude that it is a slab of quartz that was cut. Again, marketing terms are used to convey various kinds of thoughts. In the case of countertops, the term is used because the material contains a relatively high amount of the mineral. However, there is more to engineered quartz than just quartz.
Engineered quartz countertops are just the phrase implies, they are engineered. Engineered quartz is a combination of a binding agent (often times, resins), ground up quartz, and coloring pigments. The mixture is formed into a slab and processed for use as a countertop surface or perhaps tiles or panels.
Now the stage is set for our comparison between natural granite and engineered quartz. As we mentioned at the outset, these materials share some characteristics. Yet they are also different in some ways.
Similarities Between Engineered Quartz & Natural Granite
To start off our granite vs. quartz discussion, we will look at some properties that are common to both granite and quartz. Some of these traits we have already mentioned briefly in the introduction to this post. But let’s look a bit closer at how granite compares to quartz in hardness, color selection, design compatibility.
Engineered quartz and natural granite are both hard materials. In fact, many of the fabrication tools, including the diamond blades on this website are described as being blades for cutting quartz and granite.
Natural granite ranges in hardness from 5.5 to around 7 on the Mohs scale of mineral hardness. By the same token, engineered quartz weighs in at about the same. That means these materials are both very hard materials. Just to give some context, natural marble and limestone measures about 3 or 4 on the same scale.
So if you are wondering which material is harder, they are pretty much the same. However hardness is not the only factor to consider when it comes to durability, as we will discuss later. For now though, granite and quartz are pretty equal as far as hardness goes.
Common Color Choices
If a material is durable and available, but only comes in one or two colors, it can really limit its uses. And there are some natural materials that seem to only come in a handful of colors. However, natural granite is not one of them. Natural granite slabs can be found in practically any color needed. And even though granite is formed through a natural process, it is very diverse and thus can be matched with various other colors.
Engineered quartz too is available in a plethora of color options. Since it is an engineered product in which pigments are used, the possibilities of color options are very broad.
Even though quartz slabs are not formed in nature, that does not mean that they are limited to solid colors without visual texture. In fact, many quartz manufacturers produce slabs that look very much like natural stone but without some of the drawbacks as we will see later on in the discussion.
Similar In Design Compatibility
The last area of similarity that we will consider in our comparison of granite and quartz is how well they work with various design styles. This is an important aspect to consider when selecting a surface material because often times the focal point of a design is made in whole or in part from one of these materials.
How Quartz and Granite Differ
Even though these materials share important features, they are by no means the same. They have properties that distinguish them not only from one another, but also from other materials as well. As we mentioned earlier, the hardness of a material is just one factor to consider when examining the durability of a surface. Other aspects come into play as well. namely, Stain resistance, heat resistance, and care and maintenance.
One of the areas that people are interested in when considering a material for a countertop surface is its stain resistance. Engineered quartz is a non-porous material. Because of this, it does not absorb liquids. The result? Liquids remain on the surface of the material where they can be treated. That does not mean that engineered quartz is stain proof, it simply means that the stains stay on the surface.
“Stains” occur in a number of ways. For example, a liquid could be spilled on the surface of the stone, the water could evaporate from the liquid and leave behind the other components of the substance. Depending on what that residue is, it can be very difficult clean up. For instance, plain old tap water for example, often times contains minerals such as lime or calcium. If water is left to dry on a quartz surface, it can leave lime scale after the water evaporates. These “stains” can be challenging to clean up without the proper cleaners for removing lime scale from quartz.
Natural Stone’s Porosity
Conversely, all natural stone is porous to one degree or another. That includes natural granite. Porous stone becomes stained in a different way than quartz does. In the case of natural granite and other porous materials, water and oil based liquids are absorbed by the material and when the water leaves, the residue is left in the pores of the stone. These kinds of stains also can be a challenge to remove if you do not have the correct cleaning product.
For natural stone, one commonly recommended method for combating oil based and water based stains on natural stone is to periodically treat the surface with an impregnating sealer. Sealers cause liquids to stay on the surface of a treated stone longer than they do on non-sealed materials. This allows more time for cleaning up spills. Impregnating sealers are most effective though when used in conjunction with a pH neutral cleaner. Using the wrong cleaner breaks down the sealer and nullifies the benefits that come from sealing the stone.
Heat resistance is another area in which engineered quartz and natural granite differ. Granite surfaces are naturally heat resistant. After all, the material is formed under intense heat in the first place. That is not to say that exposing natural granite to a tremendous heat source will not do anything. Some granite slabs have treatments applied to them (as previously mentioned) that can be affected by heat. Yet the granite is very resilient and can take just about any normal household heat that it experiences. As mentioned though, surface treatments are not as resilient as the stone itself, so maintenance is key in keeping granite looking its best.
On the other hand, quartz is composed of various materials; one of which is a binding agent commonly made from resins. Resins are not as heat resistant as natural stone. That being said, quartz surfaces do have benefits that make using a trivet or a hot pad a small matter for many.
Care & Maintenance
The last area in which granite and quartz differ in comparison is the care and maintenance. The direction may vary from one brand to another but along the way you will most likely find some very similar instruction. Although we have already touched on some of this information earlier in our granite vs. quartz post, we will restate it again here. Let’s first look at granite.
Being a natural stone, granite is porous and will need to be sealed to slow the rate of absorption. Additionally, using a pH neutral cleaner for everyday clean up will ensure that the sealer remains in tact for as long as possible. And if a stain does occur, using the proper stain remover can be beneficial.
Quartz surfaces do not require sealers. However, there are some important things to note. For example, many quartz care and maintenance manuals specifically state that all water should be dried from the surface. As mentioned previously, mineral deposits can discolor engineered quartz. Use a lime scale remover to treat those surface stains.
Although, not all quartz requires pH neutral cleaner for everyday cleaning, it doesn’t hurt. Acidic cleaners are okay to use on many quartz surfaces as long as it is the correct type of acidic cleaner. However, steer clear from cleaners that are alkaline. These kinds of cleaners are detrimental to say the least.
So there it is! A comparison of natural granite and engineered quartz. As we mentioned, there are a number of similarities between the two materials. Yet there are differences as well. No matter which material you are working with or treating, knowing a bit about what it requires will help you as you work with either of these surface materials.