Buying quartz countertops in Chicago whittles down to aesthetic and price, but what, exactly, determines cost? Size, labor, color, and grade are responsible for the final buying price. Quartz grade is determined by the slab’s thickness, colors, resin, and minerals it contains. Picking a decent grade delivers longevity, ensuring your countertop withstands everyday wear and tear.
We advise our clients to familiarize themselves with different grades of quartz countertops before purchasing so they understand how it impacts durability and stone appearance. Let’s review the main factors used by consumers and professionals that help them make savvy countertop choices that become valuable returns on investment.
Different Grades of Quartz
When it comes to different grades of quartz, there is the first choice, commercial-grade, and second choice. These grades of quartz determine overall cost, durability, aesthetics and impact your home’s overall value.
- Rich and vibrant coloring with minimal veins;
- Smooth finish that’s sometimes mistaken for marble;
- Virtually flawless, with a unique sparkle;
- Expensive, but incredibly durable and beautiful;
- Typically consists of 7-8% resin;
- Costs between $80 to over $100 per square foot;
COMMERCIAL GRADE QUARTZ
- Used in hotels, restaurants, bars, and other service industry applications;
- Best mix between quality and price;
- Costs between $60-$80 per square foot;
- Contains between 8-11% resin;
- Not as flawless as the first choice, but difficult to detect flaws within commercial applications;
- Basic, builder’s grade material;
- Lacks luster and is duller than first choice and commercial grade quartz;
- Commonly used in prefab models;
- Used for entry-level projects;
- Contains more than 12% resin;
- Costs between $50-$60 per square foot;
Assessing the Quality of Quartz Countertops
If you know what to look for, several visual tell-tale signs can alert you to low-quality quartz. Take heed of the following when examining slabs of quartz counters you might buy.
CONSISTENT COLOR THROUGHOUT THE SLAB’S SURFACE
Decent quality quartz is consistent in color within and across slabs. For kitchens requiring more than one slab, this is a prerequisite. While quartz patterns do vary intentionally, the base color or dye lot and movement patterns within a slab or piece should be more or less the same.
Natural quartz crystals are mined and then ground into an aggregate that’s fused with resin binders under intense heat and pressure to form a solid slab.
Reputable quartz brands like Caesertsone and MSI Q Quartz manufacture slabs according to specific formulas to ensure superior consistency. Lower-end quartz manufacturers may have less precise mixing procedures or testing rounds, leading to garish color differentiation.
Choosing name-brand quartz that comes with a warranty and hiring a reputable fabricator prevents the purchase of low-grade quartz. Experienced fabricators have the finesse and foresight to lay out similar pieces that, when seamed, display little difference.
BODY COLOR & AGGREGATE SETTING
Veins, patches, splatters, and any other patterns and textures should seep through the slab’s body, i.e., travel all the way to the bottom. Slabs with surface-deep patterns are problematic and will make waterfall edges and undermount sink cutouts look tacky. Don’t buy a countertop slab where the color fades or disappears halfway through the edge.
The aggregate setting is also important to examine. Aggregate refers to the crushed material that forms patterns in the quartz. A good quartz slab, like Calacatta Flutter quartz, will exhibit consistent aggregate distribution. In the best quartz countertops, aggregate can be fine or chunky, so long as it’s evenly distributed with the slab.
Poorly distributed aggregate may cause pits and pockets, weight and density imbalances within a slab, increasing fragility and the risk of chips and cracks in your kitchen countertops.
A visual inspection will quickly reveal whether a quartz slab is uniform in color and thickness and has a homogeneous crystalline texture. It goes without saying: you shouldn’t just order from a catalog- always view the slab in person before buying.
High grades of quartz countertops contain over 90% compacted quartz with minimal premium-grade polymer materials and resins. The combination of these materials produces non-porous, color-consistent slabs during the manufacturing process when compared to other natural stones like granite or marble. On the contrary, poor-quality countertops exhibit resin pooling.
Slabs with gross inconsistencies are sometimes subject to resin pooling that mars the counter’s surface. Poorer resins may also be manufactured from sub-par materials and unknown chemicals that are unhealthy. Good resins last for decades and carry certifications. If your supplier can’t tell you much about the resins or doesn’t provide a warranty, that should be a warning sign.
Consistent Polish of Quartz Countertop
When examining quartz slabs at eye level, the polish should possess a consistent shine. Whether a counter is polished, honed or brushed, etc., the surface should be smooth. A counter with a blotchy shine is a sign of inexperienced surface polishing, the use of polishing pads long past their “use-by-date” or cheap resin.
A quality manufacturer will always test a slab’s shine with a gloss meter as a final quality check. Quartz that isn’t polished properly may be porous in areas and risk damage after use. Not all quartz manufacturers are equal. Quality fabricators take pride in their workmanship and won’t risk stocking or installing poorly polished slabs.
HOW TO CHECK THE QUARTZ QUALITY ON A SAMPLE
It can be challenging to discern the quality of quartz countertops with the naked eye. Below are some fool proof methods to ensure you select a decent grade of engineered stone.
EXAMINE THE SAMPLE
Examine the appearance of the white quartz slab to ensure there are no defects such as cracks, chips, scratches, stains, watermarks, or impurities. Quartz levels of thickness should be uniform throughout the stone. You can also do a pen test by making a small mark on the slab. If it wipes off quickly, then the sample is stain resistant.
Scratching quartz with a steel knife is one way to test hardiness. The blade will produce a black line on a good quartz slab, whereas, on inferior quartz, it will leave a white line. If you’re doing a scientific test using the Mohs hardness scale, then quartz, like granite, should rank around 7.
BURN THE SAMPLE
Quartz can withstand heat up to 300 °C. Resin binders in inferior slabs will melt and cause the slab to bend, change color, or become charred. This simple test can be done with a lighter or light cigarette. Fire may leave a black, sooty residue, but on genuine quartz, this can be cleaned with a damp cloth.
To test its quality, you can also drop dilute hydrochloric acid, lemon juice, or white grape vinegar onto a quartz sample. High-quality quartz crystals won’t bubble or react to any of the above ingredients. If dark spots develop, this indicates your quartz has a high porosity level and won’t be suitable as a worktop surface.
WHAT GRADE OF QUARTZ COUNTERTOP IS RIGHT FOR YOU?
When it comes to quartz countertops, the heat resistance varies depending on the grade. It’s important to exercise caution by not placing hot pots directly on the quartz surface and using a trivet or hot pad instead.
Lower-grade of quartz countertops is more susceptible to dull, hazy spots and scratches during food prep. If you’re someone who tends to be careless while cooking, it’s best to opt for a higher-grade stone as they are more durable and require less maintenance.
For those who may not have the time or inclination to maintain their countertop regularly, a higher grade would be the better option for new quartz countertops as they can last longer without needing sealing or care.
While a lower-grade quartz countertop can work well in the bathroom where there is minimal exposure to heat from items like curling irons, it’s recommended to choose a higher-grade stone for the kitchen where they need to withstand high temperatures and frequent use.
Quartz is a popular countertop material due to its resilience, durability, and limited porosity when compared to other natural stones like granite or marble. Aside from these qualities, quartz requires almost zero maintenance and comes in an astonishing array of colors and varieties. Homeowners tend to like it because, as a manufactured countertop, its patterning is more uniform, and seams are less visible,
If you want to know what to know about quartz countertops, then you’ve come to the right place. At Granite Selection, we have many years of experience fabricating and selling high-quality quartz countertops and are always happy to offer advice to our clients about which quartz suits their needs best. Why not start by getting a free quartz countertop quote for your project?
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