Engineered quartz is one of the most popular countertop materials in the modern American household. Strong, durable, and visually comparable to natural stone, quartz is often billed as the ideal countertop material. Some even say that it is indestructible. While this may be hyperbole, quartz is known for being especially resistant to many forms of damage. But just how durable are quartz countertops?
As a remodeling firm that specializes in custom home renovations, Lamont Bros. Design & Construction frequently works with quartz countertops. Having installed it into several dozen homes in the Portland area, we’ve seen firsthand the strengths and limitations of this material. If you’re looking to find out more about what your quartz countertop can withstand, you’ve come to the right place.
In this article, you can read about how well quartz holds up against different types of damage. This includes heat, stains, and surface damage. By the end of this page, you will understand how durable quartz countertops are and whether they’re right for you. Specifically, you’ll read about:
- What makes quartz durable
- How resistant quartz is to different forms of damage
- How to care for your quartz countertops
What makes quartz so durable?
First developed in the mid-20th century, quartz countertops were at first slow to catch on in mainstream kitchen design. However, in the last 20 years, the use of quartz countertops has boomed significantly. Today, quartz is on the verge of overtaking granite as the most popular countertop material.
Many people hear “quartz countertops” and automatically think it is a natural stone, like granite or marble. In reality, quartz countertops are a manufactured material that includes natural stone as one of its ingredients. Most quartz countertop materials are made by pressing 90-95% ground quartz dust with 5-10% polymer resins. The combination of natural stone and resin is what gives quartz countertops their unique strength.
Whereas natural rock may have weak points or fissures that cause it to be breakable in certain areas, quartz has a uniform thickness, composition, and strength throughout the entire slab. The resin material used in quartz countertops has strong bonding properties. As a plastic polymer, the resin forms long molecular chains. So when it binds to the stone particles, it creates a consistent, strong bond that is resistant to breaks, chips, and scratches.
How damage-resistant is quartz?
There are many misconceptions about the strength of quartz as a countertop material. While quartz countertops are known for being especially durable, they certainly aren’t indestructible. Rather, the benefit of quartz is that it combines a more natural stone appearance with the increased strength of man-made materials.
Be that as it may, it is still important to handle your quartz countertops with care. As a general rule of thumb, higher-quality quartz countertops are more durable across the board. Here are some potential hazards to be aware of.
Chip & crack resistance
Because of the polymer added to the quartz during the manufacturing process, these countertops tend to be more resistant to impact damage than other types of countertops.
The Mohs’ scale of mineral hardness measures the strength of a substance on a scale of 1 to 10. Quartz typically ranks around 7, while granite sits at a solid 6. This may not seem much of a difference, however, the Mohs’ scale is not linear. Rather, it follows an exponential curve, which means that quartz is about 40% harder than granite.
However, this doesn’t mean that quartz is impact resistant. While it is more resistant to major cracks and chips than natural stone, quartz is not immune to major damage. We most often see cracks appear in quartz as a result of major temperature changes.
When it is exposed to extreme heat or extreme cold, there is a higher risk that the slab will fail. This is due to the material’s low thermal conductivity, which may cause it to heat unevenly. When different areas of the slab heat or cool at different rates, those areas expand and contract more than other areas. These differences in expansion may result in the formation of a crack.
We’ve also seen quartz slabs be susceptible to chips and scratches along their edges. This usually happens when something strikes or scratches the side of the slab, such as a bowl or set of keys. The closer an impact occurs near the middle of the countertop, the less likely it is to cause damage.
Most stone countertops, including granite and marble, are naturally porous material. This means that they can absorb small amounts of liquid. So if you spill something on your stone countertop and let it sit, it may stain. As a result, most stone countertops require a sealant to prevent staining. To remain effective, this sealant must be applied to the countertop at least once per year.
Quartz countertops, however, require no sealing because the resins in the quartz act as a sealant on their own. Since resin is non-porous, it is much more difficult to stain or discolor. But while quartz countertops are more durable against stains than their natural stone cousins, they are not stain-proof.
Dark-colored liquids like wine, coffee, tomato juice, or tea can still seep into the countertop’s surface if left there long enough. So, while quartz countertops may not require the same effort to prevent stains as natural stone, you should still make sure to clean up any messes as quickly as you can. Matte-finished countertops and economy-brand quartz products are significantly more prone to stains than gloss-finish or high-end options.
Damage from heat is one of the most common issues among all types of kitchen countertops. Unfortunately, this is the one area where quartz underperforms against some other options. Remember, resins are a type of plastic, and plastic can melt much easier than stones.
Most quartz countertop manufacturers claim that their products will withstand high temperatures from 175 degrees to 300 degrees Fahrenheit. In contrast, granite is said to withstand four times that amount of heat. However, granite is still prone to thermal expansions and contraction, so while it may not melt as easily, it can still crack if exposed to extreme temperatures.
Heat damage can result in staining, warping, and in some severe cases, cracking of a quartz slab. Because of this, it is important to be careful when using kitchen items with a heating element. This includes slow-cookers, griddles, and waffle irons that are regularly placed on countertops
At Lamont Bros., we once worked with a client who frequently used a pancake griddle on one area of their counter. Every time they turned it on, the heat from the waffle iron would cause the slab to expand, until one day the entire slab cracked. After that, the crack would open up and become more visible each time they cooked pancakes.
The best way to avoid heat damage to your quartz countertop is to consistently use coasters, hot pads, and trivets when working with hot dishes or appliances. Get in the habit of protecting your countertops from heat, and it becomes one less risk to worry about.
Is quartz right for you?
If you have quartz countertops or are considering them for your kitchen remodel, you need to know how to care for them. To make the best of your quartz countertops, here are a few tips to make sure they last you a lifetime.
Don’t expose quartz countertops to high heat
As previously mentioned, heat is one of the highest risks for damage to a quartz countertop. To prevent damage, you should avoid exposing your quartz to temperatures above 300 degrees Fahrenheit.
In some cases, this is relatively easy – place a pot holder down rather than setting a hot stove pot on top of the countertop. It’s also important to be aware of what appliances generate high heat. Any items with an exposed heating element are a temperature risk. We’re looking at you, waffle iron.
Be proactive about cleaning up spills
It goes without saying that you shouldn’t let spilled wine sit on your countertop overnight. However, any liquid spilled on a countertop can stain the surface if left long enough. While quartz tends to be more forgiving when it comes to staining than most other countertop materials, it’s still best to clean up a spill as soon as you’re able to.
Repair minor dings and scratches
Quartz isn’t indestructible. While nobody intends to drop a ceramic bowl on the edge of their countertop and chip it, these things do happen. The good news is that quartz countertops are relatively easy to repair. Sometimes, you can do these repairs yourself with a resin epoxy kit. Other times, the damage is better left to professional countertop repair experts. In any case, it’s always best to repair the damage as soon as you can so that it doesn’t slowly get worse with additional wear and tear.
Want to learn more about quartz countertops for your home?
Now that you better understand how durable quartz countertops are, take the next step! If you’re in the process of planning for a kitchen remodel, read our Ultimate Kitchen Remodel Guide. There, you’ll find all the information you need to carry you through the kitchen remodeling process.
Do you want to talk to a professional remodel designer about your countertops? If so, click the button below and schedule a free video consultation with a member of our team. We’ll help you navigate the process of remodeling your home from start to finish.