Whether homeowners work on it before a meal or gather around it afterward, the countertop is arguably the most visible item in a kitchen. And according to a 2010 REMODELING Reader Panel survey, homeowners are choosing granite countertops by a margin of about 3 to 1 over the next most popular materials (see chart).

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Hard Rock

Though granite is the headliner in most kitchen remodels, quartz has its advantages. Cost, aesthetics, and maintenance all come into play when choosing stone countertops.

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But why does granite get all the attention? Manufacturers and installers of granite and quartz weigh in on the benefits of each type of stone.

Beauty & Movement

“The customers we see that are looking at granite really are looking for that beauty and movement in the stone,” says Troy Roering, sales and marketing manager for Stone Holding Co., in Waite Park, Minn. “With granite, it’s like choosing a piece of art, whereas customers who want a more consistent look will choose quartz.”

Remodeler Ben Thompson agrees. “Both granite and quartz are premium products, but it comes down to aesthetics,” says the co-owner of Thompson Remodeling, in Grand Rapids, Mich., noting granite’s impact during the sales process. “We can take our clients shopping, pull out a big slab and show them that it’s the most dramatic and substantial item they’re getting for their new kitchen.”

Pressure & Time

After nature does its part, mined quartz is crushed and mixed with resin to create subtly patterned slabs.
Pressure & Time After nature does its part, mined quartz is crushed and mixed with resin to create subtly patterned slabs.

At the same time, Cambria PR director Stacia Smith says quartz is one of the fastest growing surfacing categories in the industry. “Granite is a mix of quartz, filament, and mica, and it’s the quartz component that gives the stone its strength,” she says. “While some granites can have as little as 20% or 30% quartz, a quartz countertop can have as much as 93% quartz and only 7% coloring and binding.”

Porous granite also requires sealing against moisture, adds Hanwha Surfaces product designer Lisa Herreth, and the consistency of quartz means the material can be seamed more easily than granite where fabricators may need to work with or around veining and inclusions in the stone. To that end, Thompson says he often finds that quartz installations require more seaming, while granite installations result in more waste.

Price It

For customers concerned about cost, Roering says that quartz does tend to cost more than base-level granite. However, “granite price has nothing to do with quality and everything to do with availability of that stone in the world,” he says. “If they’re quarrying 10 blocks and nine of them are usable, we would put that granite at a level-one or -two price point. But if only one of the 10 is usable, it would likely come in at a premium pricing category.”

REMODELING Reader Panel, April 2010

Herreth adds that most quartz is cost-competitive with granite, particularly since the price of some stones has dropped dramatically in recent years, and can include green elements such as recycled content (usually glass), which might interest some homeowners. “Stone materials are going to last a lifetime,” she says, “so homeowners should consider choosing colors and patterns that will stay in style for the duration.”

—Lauren Hunter, associate editor, REMODELING.

This is a longer version of an article that appeared in the January 2011 issue of REMODELING.