You may have heard by now that quartz stone is the top contender for the best material for kitchen countertops, closely followed by granite. Quartz stone is an engineered stone, meaning it is a manmade material. It came into the US market in the 1980s, although it has been around elsewhere since the 1960s.
When it first appeared in the kitchen countertops horizon, quartz stone was a novelty item, lauded as an alternative to granite and marble countertops. However, it was more expensive than natural stones, so it was slow to gain traction in the residential market. Lately, however, it has become much more popular, and many homeowners maintain that quartz countertops have all the best features of natural stones and none of the weaknesses.
While some people point out that these claims are not entirely accurate, quartz countertops have undoubtedly come into their own. For the uninitiated, here is an overview of quartz countertops and top quartz brands.
Quartz stone is a manmade material composed primarily of crushed and other forms of natural quartz mineral, polymer resins, and various pigments. These are available today from various manufacturers under different brands, although that was not always the case.
Most people are not aware that all brands of quartz stone use the same manufacturing process. This is the Bretonstone process, patented technology owned by Breton S.p.a., a company based in Italy. Marcello Toncelli, the founder and owner of Breton, invented it in 1963, and the company has since issued licenses to use the patent to over 50 companies.
The process uses a combination of vibration and compression to bind the materials together into a dense solid, or an engineered stone. Not all engineered stones are quartz stone, however. The process does require the use of specific materials, so this may be anything from quartz to seashells. Quartz stone refers to engineered stone that uses quartz mineral as its base material.
While quartz stone is a loose term, the most recognized brands have many things in common:
• Minimum of 90% quartz, a highly durable naturally occurring mineral responsible for the scratch resistance and look of quartz stone
• Absence of softer materials and impurities common in natural stones due to the Bretonstone process, making quartz stone typically more durable than granite
• Nonporous with low water absorption rate of 0.5%, equivalent to porcelain tiles
• Relative heat resistance of up to 360°F provided the exposure is short and indirect, as polymer resins tend to react adversely to high heat
• Built-in edge treatments as opposed to fabricated ones for natural stones
While quartz stones have some things in common, manufacturers ensure brand recognition by incorporating visible differences into their products.
Manufacturers create unique design lines that distinguish them from each other. These may be a particular color, distinguishing features such as striations, streaks, and crystals, or textures. There may also be the addition of unusual features, such as semi-precious stones, reflective objects, and recycled materials.
Most manufacturers offer their products in custom sizes and shapes to suit a client’s needs. This allows homeowners to specify the number of seams they want, as well as indulge in unusual shapes and other features for their kitchen countertops.
Established quartz stone manufacturers typically offer generous warranties for their product, but these may have significant differences in terms of length, exclusions, and transferability.
The cost will depend on the manufacturer, although they do tend to be more expensive than granite or marble countertops. You may be able to get them at a lower price from authorized distributors if they happen to have negotiating leeway with the manufacturer. Note that manufacturers do not sell directly to consumers, and they typically require homeowners to have quartz countertops installed by their authorized installers. Failure to do so usually voids the manufacturer’s warranty.
Below is a short description of the top quartz brands in the market today.
The only US brand of quartz stone is Cambria, and it only started to produce them in 2000. The company is the unlikely diversification of a family-owned dairy business founded in 1936 in Minnesota. Cambria began production in a plant with 150,000 square feet of space, and the business rapidly grew over the next five years.
Today, Cambria has one of the largest collections of quartz stone designs at 133, customizable in mixed, heavy, or fine textures and one of 19 edge treatments. You can choose slabs with a thickness of 1, 2, or 3 cm. Cambria offers a limited lifetime warranty for its products, but only to the original buyer. The warranty is not transferable.
Caesarstone claims it is the “original quartz surface manufacturer.” This is stretching the truth a bit, because it is the first company to bring quartz stone into the US residential market. Strictly speaking, however, the original manufacturer is Breton S.p.a., which also produces its own quartz stones.
Nevertheless, this Israel-based company founded in 1987 is one of the most popular brands of quartz countertops. It specializes in turning out unusual designs, such as lace textures and petrified wood inclusions. Cambria currently produces these unique quartz stones out of factories in the Bar Lev Industrial Zone and the Kibbutz Sdot Yam.
Caesarstone has 53 designs available in 8 edge treatments, 2 or 3 cm thickness, and with matte, smooth, or satin textures. Its lifetime warranty applies to the original owner, and on a pro-rata 10-year basis to future owners.
One of the most recognized brands in quartz stone in the US is Silestone, a brand under the Italian-based company Cosentino. Silestone quartz countertops typically have bold and vibrant colors such as orange and green, and these design lines definitely do not look like natural stone. However, Silestone does have some lines that look very similar to white marble, such as Silestone Calacatta Gold.
Currently, Silestone offers 142 colors for kitchen countertops, and you can choose from 3 textures and 15 edge profiles in 1.2, 2, or 3 cm slab thickness. You can also match your Silestone quartz countertops with vanities, sinks and shower pans. Silestone has a 25-year limited warranty, which is transferable.
Quartz countertops are an easy choice for you if you want durable, easily available, and beautiful stones for your kitchen. They may not have the uniqueness and depth of natural stones, but they are distinctive in their own way. The important thing is to find an authorized company to supply and install them to your home.
Silver Marble Granite is your best bet in the areas of Washington D.C., Alexandria, Arlington, Falls Church, Fairfax, Chantilly, Herndon, Centreville, among others. We are your ONE-STOP SHOP for home improvement, and we specialize in the best kitchen countertops in Northern Virginia.
We work only with the best brands in the business. And we can offer better prices and faster turnarounds than big box stores. We carry top brands in engineered quartz, including Silestone, MSI, Cambria, and Caesarstone as well as granite and marble slabs. You can visit our showroom in Sterling, VA to see the products before you buy.
Check out our website for some of the best deals in kitchen countertops and other products to make your home a better place. We offer free quotes for the asking. You will be amazed at the deals we can offer you!