Quartz and Quartzite Countertops: What’s the Difference?
July 23, 2018
Contrary to popular belief, quartz and quartzite are not the same material. As a matter of fact, they’re quite different and exhibit different properties, especially when it comes to their function as countertops. Whether you’re most interested in durability, physical appearance, maintenance, or cost, here are a few things you should know before making your selection.
The most significant difference between quartz and quartzite is related to how each is formed. Quartzite is a metamorphic rock that occurs naturally. It’s created when tectonic plate compression in the earth’s crust subjects sandstone to extreme heat and pressure. Similar to the process by which granite is quarried, quartzite is mined in large chunks and sawed into slabs which are eventually cut to fit countertop designs. In contrast, quartz countertops (also referred to as engineered countertops) are devised of about 90-93% loose quartz, silicon dioxide, and synthetic materials. These materials are all blended together with a binder and pigment before finally being shaped into countertops.
In terms of appearance, quartzite is most often found in shades of white and gray. Pink or red hues may be present in quartzite mined from areas with a higher concentration of iron oxide in the stone, and yellow, blue, green, or orange pigments may appear if other minerals were compressed when the stone formed. Quartzite is known for its unique streaking pattern.
On the other hand, because pigment can be added during the manufacturing process, quartz can be found in virtually any color. Its pattern is often designed to mimic the naturally occuring streaks in quartzite or granite.
In a comparison of hardness and durability, quartzite wins out over quartz. While quartz is extremely hard (more so than granite and most other synthetic countertops), the resin used in the manufacturing of quartz is prone to melting and/or discoloration in direct sunlight. However, quartz is more flexible than quartzite and is therefore less prone to denting or chipping.
Quartz is renowned for being extremely low maintenance. It wipes clean with a damp cloth and is stain and bacteria resistant. Care for quartzite is a bit more involved — it must be sealed initially, then resealed once or twice each year. When properly sealed, clean up is extremely easy; however, spilling on quartzite that hasn’t been sealed can result in stains or oil smudges.