There are many questions that we get asked when our customers are choosing worktops. The most common being, “What is the difference between granite and quartz worktops”?
In this article, we explain exactly what each material is, what properties they have, how they are fitted and how they are cleaned in the hopes that we can answer any question you have about these great worktop solutions.
First off, lets cover the basics and explain what each of these materials are.
What is Granite?
Granite is a natural material (igneous rock) formed from the slow crystallisation of Magma beneath the Earth’s surface. This coarse grain material is comprised mainly of quartz, feldspar and other minerals. The colour of the granite depends on the type of mineral content and where it is formed.
Granite is quarried from many sources around the world with each quarry producing a unique colour and composition. For worktops, the term ‘granite’ is used for commercial purposes and also refers to and includes materials like diorite, gneiss and basalt which have varying quartz and feldspar content.
What is Quartz?
Quartz is a man-made material which is predominantly quartz mineral (85-98%) mixed with acrylic resin.
There are many manufacturers of quartz worktops, brand names like Caesarstone, Silestone, and Unistone are well known across the kitchen industry but there are many more.
All manufacturers have their own colour collections, many made to replicate the look and feel of natural materials. It can often be difficult to tell the difference between quartz worktops and polished marbles.
Advantages of Granite
Aesthetic Value – Granite worktops are second to none in terms of form and beauty, these natural stones are full of unique features sometimes offering amazing character and drama.
Scratch resistance – Granite is a very hard material. Natural minerals are given a hardness score out of 10 using what is known as the Moh’s scale. Granites generally have a score of 6-7. To put that into perspective, iron has a relative score of around 4.5, with a knife blade at 5.
Scratch resitstance does not mean scratch proof. Minerals tougher than granite can damage the worktop. Some substances found in abrasive cleaners can also cause small scratches particularly with some of the stones mentioned above that are sold as ‘granite’ as they can sometimes be slightly softer than true granite.
Heat resistance – As you can imagine, being an igneous rock granite can withstand the usual temperatures encountered in the kitchen. However, please note that direct contact from hot pans should be avoided as this can tarnish or cause discolouration of the sealer (see disadvantages).
Cold to the touch – Perfect for rolling out dough and pastry
Disadvantages of Granite
Porosity – Natural stones are porous, when fabricated and polished the slabs are sealed with a stain-stop barrier. This holds on to moisture on the surface of the worktop for approx 20-30 mins before it will soak through. It is very important to keep surfaces dry and to mop up spills quickly, especially if you choose a light-coloured stone. Water will not stain the surface; it may cause dark patches but these will return to normal once the water has evaporated.
Hot pans – The stain barrier can be affected by the heat from direct contact with pans, despite the heat resistance of the actual granite, it is advised that you always use a trivet or pan stand.
Slab sizes – Granite slab sizes are not uniform and may vary significantly. This may limit your choice of material if you want to keep joins to a minimum. It could also affect the price that you pay if you specify a particular size which has to be cut and shipped to suit. This may result in you having little control over colouration.
Colour matching – If your kitchen worktops are made up from more than one slab of granite, it can sometimes be difficult to closely match the colouring and pattern due to the natural variation. A good fabricator will always consider this when templating. Where possible, visit the stone yard and choose the slabs that you would like to use before fabrication.
Advantages of Quartz
Stain resistance – Quartz worktops have a low water absorption rate and are highly resistant to staining. Some chemicals and solvents like acetone and paint stripper can damage the surface and leave it prone to staining.
Scratch resistance – With a very high quartz content, these worktops are very dense and hard wearing. It is difficult to scratch or chip a quartz worktop but not impossible. Some chips and scratches can be filled and polished by a specialist.
Slab size – Being a man-made material, slabs are produced in consistent, inform sizes. Some manufacturers produce jumbo sized slabs in certain colours which can be good if you have a long run and want to avoid joins. Most are typically 3.2 x 1.4m.
Colour matching – Strict processes and batch matching in manufacturing mean greater control over colour matching and book matching.
Cold to the touch – Perfect for rolling out dough and pastry.
Colour options – Huge range of colours, patterns and finishes available.
Disadvantages of Quartz
Heat resistance – Due to the acrylic content and pigmentation in quartz worktops, extreme heat can damage and cause discolouration. Although quartz worktops are UV resistant, prolonged exposure to intense direct sunlight can result in discolouration due to heat.
Like with all other worktop materials it is advised that you always use trivets and pan stands when transferring pots and pans from a hob.
Cost – Quartz worktops are costly and, in most cases, more expensive than granite. Expect to pay more for premium brands like Caesarstone and Silestone as they will have a higher quartz content and greater control of colour and book matching.
Fabrication and installation
Both worktop materials are machined in the same way by worktop fabricators using CNC machinery with specialist diamond tipped cutting and routering tools.
A template for your kitchen will be created once all the units are in-situ and the space has been measured accurately by the fabricator. Each length of worktop is cut from the slab material before cutting out the holes for sinks, taps and hobs. All edges will be polished and made ready for installation.
Both granite and quartz worktops are commonly available in 20 and 30mm thickness. Thicker profiles can be created by building up sections of worktop. The leading edge can be shaped and finished in different ways, see the picture below for examples.
Joins in a granite or quartz worktops are done in the same way. Two sections of worktop are butted together with the join filled with a colour matched expoxy glue or silicone. Both sections are pulled together using clamps and any residual expoxy is cleaned away. These joins are typically 1 or 2mm thick. Your join will be obvious, especially where the direction and pattern of the worktop changes.
It may be possible to ‘book-match’ sections of worktop, depending on the material, pattern and join direction. Book-matching is where two sections of stone or quartz are lined up and matched to create continuous, uninterrupted flow of the pattern. The image opposite shows a book-matched join on a kitchen island. The vein in the quartz is matched up to detract from the visible join on this large section of worktop.
Cleaning and maintenance
Your granite worktop will be treated with a sealer / stain-stop barrier which helps to protect the material from absorbing liquids for around 20-30 minutes. However, foods such as beetroot and red cabbage and liquids like lemon juice, cooking oil and wine can be absorbed and may cause staining. It is best to always prepare food on a chopping board and to wipe any spills quickly.
Most sealants have a 15-year warranty, check with your fabricator for more information. It is possible to re-seal your granite worktops; we recommend this is done professional to validate any further warranty offered.
Use clean water or a Ph neutral detergent to clean your granite. Wipe clean with a soft cloth and dry with a chamois leather to remove streaks. Never use abrasive sponges, abrasive cleaners with high alkaline content, bleach or other solutions that have a high chlorine content.
Always protect our granite worktop from heat, although the material is naturally heat resistant, you may damage the sealant and cause the surface to dull. The use of a trivet or heat deflector is recommended.
Unlike other materials, there is no waxing or sealing required with a quartz worktop.
Quartz is really easy to clean and maintain. Normally, you will need nothing more than warm water and a mild detergent to clean everyday spills.
To removes stuck on materials, gently scrape away the excess with a plastic putty knife or non-scratch pad and then wipe with warm water.
Nail varnish or chewing gum can be removed with denatured alcohol, rinsing thoroughly afterwards. Do not use acetone or paint removers as these will damage and discolour the worktop.
For those extra-stubborn stains, a non-scratch Scotch Brite™ pad is recommended along with a non-abrasive cleaner which won’t dull the surface
Quartz is more heat resistant than most worktop materials however, it does need protection from very high temperatures (above 150°C / 300°F) or sudden extreme temperature changes. We firmly suggest that hot pots and pans are never placed directly on the surface. We also suggest that a trivet or heat deflector be used under toasters, slow cookers and other countertop cooking appliances.