For those who love the look of granite or marble but are concerned about its maintenance, quartz may be the stone of choice.
Quartz is the most common mineral on earth and is present in nearly every geological environment and is a component of nearly every rock type and exists in an impressive range of varieties and colors. Quartz ranks 7.0 on Moh’s Hardness Scale, which is used to measure the scratch resistance of a material. Only the diamond (at 10), topaz and sapphire (at 9) are harder than quartz.
Engineered stone surfaces combine the hardness and durability of quartz with the exceptional low maintenance qualities of man-made materials. Quartz slabs are formed by a vibro-compacting process which combines 93% quartz crystal with 7% resin and pigments. Slabs are free of fissures and cracks and are impervious to hazards such stains from cooking oils and grease, or etching from acids in common household products such as hairspray and other toiletries. Quartz does not have to be sealed and cleaning it is simple. Most quartz slabs are uniform in pattern and color and are available in the thickness 2cm or 3cm, though we recommend the latter. The fabrication process of engineered stone is identical to that of natural stone.
Most manufacturers of quartz offer a 10 or 15 year residential and commercial warranty.
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Granite is a 100% natural stone.
It is the most common rock and is millions of years old. It is formed by volcanic activity and the extremely high temperatures yield a very hard, resistant stone made of crystalized minerals.
Granite and marble is quarried all over the world – Brazil, India, Italy, Norway, Egypt and Africa, to name a few, but this information has no effect on the price or quality of the stone.
Granite boasts hardness second only to diamonds, therefore it is extremely scratch, stain, and heat resistant. It is virtually scratch proof – utensils, keys, even cutting directly on the countertop won’t scratch the granite. It is also fire proof and will not burn. Inclusions and fissures are normal and will not affect the function of the granite. Since it is a natural material it is subject to variation in color and pattern. No two granite pieces are alike, making each piece one of a kind.
Most granite used for countertops is polished to a high gloss finish but a honed (matte-like), leathered, brushed, and flamed finish is also available. Finger prints, metal marks, and other signs of daily living are more apparent on honed material, especially the darker colors. Granite is also suitable for use on fireplace surrounds and outdoor applications.
Granite is available in hundreds of colors and patterns from simple whites and greys to wild multi-color mixtures. Its beauty cannot be duplicated.
Read our natural stone care tips for information about granite care
Marble (limestone, travertine, onyx) is a much softer and more porous rock than granite. It begins as sediment, which solidifies into stone over millions of years. It has less resistance to stains and scratches, and because its main component is calcium, it is highly reactive to acids, which will etch the stone and leave dull markings.
Marble is a softer stone than granite but not as soft as soapstone. It is a favorite for bath vanities and because of the cool-to-the-touch, nonstick surface marble also makes a great preparation area for baking centers in the kitchen. Marble may also be used as a kitchen countertop but it requires special maintenance and care.
The most common surface finishes for marble are a polished or honed (matte-like) finish. A polished surface will protect the surface by sealing open pores and making it less porous than a honed finish. A honed finish, however, will not show etching as much as a polished surface.
Marble is an elegant stone available in a variety of colors from pure whites to earth tones to blacks with unique veining in each.
Read our natural stone care tips to learn about marble maintenance.
Soapstone (also known as steatite) is a metamorphic rock. The material is used for countertops, sinks, masonry heaters, flooring, and other architectural applications. Soapstone is composed of several minerals, the main component being talc. Although soapstone is softer than most other natural minerals, it is very dense (non-porous); more so than marble, slate, limestone and even granite. Since soapstone is impenetrable, it will not stain - no liquid will penetrate its surface. It is unaffected by acids in foods and chemicals.
Soapstone in its initial state only comes in shades of grey, but after oiling the colors range from dark green to charcoal black. Soapstone has a rustic, yet rich look, which makes it versatile enough to fit a traditional or contemporary home.
Learn about oiling and maintenance by reading our soapstone care tips.