Quartz vs. Granite: What’s the difference?

  • Granite is a natural substance that is quarried while quartz is manufactured.
  • Both are durable, but granite requires you to reapply sealant every few years.
  • Installing countertops of either material costs thousands of dollars, and other factors are mostly preference.

Granite has long been a popular and somewhat expensive countertop material. Many people love the look of natural stone and its durability. In recent decades quartz has also become a popular choice as it is low maintenance and available in a wide variety of colors and patterns.

“Quartz is a man-made material and granite is a natural material,” said architect Wayne Turrett of the Turett Collaborative. Due to this fundamental difference, quartz and granite have different properties that make them more appealing to certain people depending on their preferences.

What is Granite?

Granite is an igneous rock composed of quartz, feldspar and other minerals. It is a natural material that forms in the earth from magma or molten rock. It is quarried and cut and polished to be made into countertops.

What is Quartz?

Unlike granite, quartz countertops are engineered products, consisting of over 90% ground quartz, usually a by-product of mining or manufacturing. Quartz is a mineral composed of silicon dioxide. The rest of the mix can include other stones or minerals and dyes, as well as polymer resin to bind it all together.

What are the pros and cons of quartz versus granite?

Sustainability

A kitchen with Cambria Babylon Gray Quartz countertops on the left and a kitchen with Levantina Dallas White granite countertops on the right.

A kitchen with Cambria Babylon Gray Quartz countertops on the left and a kitchen with Levantina Dallas White granite countertops on the right.

MSI/Levantine


“With a natural stone, over time the wear and tear on it will make it look less new,” Turrett said. Granite is quite durable, but it is not as hard as quartz. You may get chips and scratches that require professional repair.

Because a quartz countertop is made with an even mix of minerals and resin, it doesn’t have the cracks of natural stone. This makes engineered stone countertops very durable, although surface chips and scratches are always possible and require a professional to repair.

As for heat, you shouldn’t put very hot pans on either counter. Heat can damage the sealant of a granite countertop or the resin of a quartz countertop.

Cleaning

Granite and quartz are easy to clean, said Leslie Reichert of Green Cleaning Coach. For spills and crumbs, use a damp microfiber cloth and dish soap, no special cleaners needed. “It leaves it as clean and shiny as your windows,” she said.

To disinfect, Reichert sprays rubbing alcohol with a drop or two of essential oil added for fragrance. “Now it’s clean and sanitized and it will look like glass and it will smell good too,” she said. Be sure to use a solution that contains at least 70% alcohol in order to effectively kill germs. Never use rubbing alcohol with bleach, as it creates a toxic mixture.

You shouldn’t use bleach on your granite or quartz countertops anyway, because it’s too harsh for them. Vinegar, acidic cleaners and abrasive products can also damage the surface of these countertops. While an olive oil-based cleaner won’t harm countertops, it can smear, Reichert said.

For dried-on, caked-on stains, Reichert suggests a plastic scraper and cautions against using anything metal.

Maintenance

Because granite countertops are porous, you must use a sealer to prevent liquids from seeping in and creating stains. With a light-colored granite, you may need to seal it more frequently than a darker countertop. Granite countertops should be resealed every six months and every two years.

Quartz countertops are non-porous and do not require a sealer. “Quartz is sort of almost impervious to absorbing anything,” Turrett said.

Appearance

“Quartz can be very clean and clear and consistent, and granites are natural stones, so they’re not as consistent,” Turrett said. With granite, you will see mineral variations that appear as veins, spots or swirls. You can find black, white, gray and brown granite, but it is also available in blue and pink.

Quartz manufacturers can add pigments to their countertops creating a rainbow of colors. Although it is difficult to completely imitate the veins and waves of natural stone, you can find some that come close.

Environmental impact

Both quartz and granite have disadvantages in terms of environmental impact. Granite is a finite resource that is mined and shipped from mines, while quartz is made from leftover mineral products and resins.

Some resins are petroleum-based, which are not biodegradable. Additionally, cutting countertops containing quartz can release silica dust, which is harmful to workers, if not done properly, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Is quartz or granite more expensive?

Cambria Hertitage quartz on the left and MSI Monte Cristo Granite on the right.

Cambria Hertitage quartz on the left and MSI Monte Cristo Granite on the right.

Cambria/MSI


Whether you pay more for a granite or quartz countertop will depend on a variety of factors, from the style you want to availability. Granite can average between $40 and $100 per square foot according to Angi, while quartz can cost between $60 and $150 per square foot. You may find lower or higher prices, depending on what you are looking for.

Price differences between lower and higher quality granites are due to the rarity of pattern and colors. Higher quality granite will be more unique or complex.

Since quartz countertops are engineered, you can find them in a wider variety of colors and styles than a natural stone. To get a more natural pattern, you may need to pay more.

The bottom line

Granite and quartz are both popular choices for countertops, and there’s no clear winner between the two. Their differences in appearance, price and durability may appeal to different preferences.

The two countertop materials are often comparably priced. Granite has pattern variations and a natural look, while quartz comes in more colors and patterns. Both are fairly easy to maintain, but quartz is more durable and doesn’t require you to reapply a sealer every year or so.

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