Granite Countertops, Marble Countertops And Quartz Countertops: How to choose?
Granite countertops, the beginning and end?
Granite countertops are but one material of choice for kitchens, bathrooms, bars, receptions, tables etc. Granite countertops are the most commonly used name used by people to refer to stone countertops, whilst in fact, they may actually be referring to something different like marble countertops or quartz countertops. What’s the difference? It’s all stone, isn’t it? Not really.
This article covers what granite countertops are all about, what alternative countertop choices are available, how they compare with granite countertops and what factors should influence your choice.
The following topics are covered in this article:
- History of granite countertops and other stone countertops in South Africa
- Granite Countertops versus Quartz Countertops (Why are Quartz Countertops the current number one seller?)
History of granite countertops in South Africa.
Before the early 1990s, Formica and wooden tops were the materials of choice for countertops. At that time marble & granite tops were not widely used domestically due to high prices and limited supply. It was mostly seen in government buildings, corporate buildings, hotels and airports. During the early 1990s, marble and granite tops were steadily being introduced into the domestic market. (Directors of Granite Projects has been in the granite industry since 1994). At that time it was mostly referred to as “marble” tops even if it was in fact “granite countertops”.
Granite countertop salesmen spent a great deal of time explaining what granite countertops were and why it is a preferred solution for countertops. The words “It’s for life!” were often used. South Africa has vast deposits and different colours of natural granite but hardly any marble to speak of. South Africa is a major exporter of granite blocks worldwide, with our local Rustenburg Black (Also called Impala Black overseas) granite being one of the most popular granites in Europe. Being readily available, together with the fact that granite countertops are more durable than marble countertops or any other countertops, insured that the use of granite countertops increased rapidly in the domestic market. Smaller fabricating companies specializing in the domestic market popped up all over South Africa, creating healthy competition which in turn lead to more affordable prices.
For many years granite countertops ruled as the preferred countertop choice in South Africa. During (date) man-made quartz countertops (also called engineered stone) were introduced to the South African market with demand growing steadily and eventually overtaking granite countertops as the preferred choice. Eventually, the demand for quartz countertops became approximately double that of granite countertops. The question is why? To explain this, we will discuss the different characteristics of all available countertops compared to granite countertops. We will do this in order of popularity starting with the current most popular countertop type first.
- Granite Countertops versus Quartz Countertops (Quartz Engineered Stone) (Quartz https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Engineered_stone) (Granite https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Granite)
Why are quartz countertops the most popular currently?
The main reason, for quartz countertops to become the most popular work surface in South Africa, is the variety of available colours. Because quartz countertops are man-made, colour options are vast even though most brands import only the most popular colours.
Previously the only natural stone countertops available were with limited colours. Housewives and architects desired different light and uniform colours. Marble countertops, countertops without the black grains (tiny spots) which are common to all granite countertops, unlike granite countertops, also have light and uniform colours, but unfortunately, it is much softer and more porous than quartz countertops. This means much less care and maintenance is required for quartz countertops than for marble countertops.
Other reasons are the characteristics (explained later) of quartz countertops which contribute greatly to making it the ideal countertop solution.
- BRANDS of Quality Quartz (Engineered Stone) Countertops available locally
Quartz countertops were introduced to South Africa by Caesarstone and for many years were the only choice available in South Africa. Caesarstone spent a great deal of money on marketing and became a household name for quartz countertops in South Africa. However, after a couple of years, many quality brands entered the South African market with similar colours and quality, many of which are lower priced.
Examples of other good quality brands are Legacy Quartz, Silestone, Vicostone etc. A common mistake is to call all quartz countertops “Caesarstone”. This is because the Caesarstone brand name is well established and many customers talk about Caesarstone as if it is the only quartz countertop available. In our experience to date, we have not discovered any quality differences between the above-mentioned brands, only that some brands are better priced and thus better value for money.
QUARTZ COUNTERTOP COLOURS
The fact that there are so many available colours attracts most people to quartz countertops. Architects have a lot of fun with it! Even bright yellow, blue or red countertops are available! Quartz countertops are available in smooth and uniform colours, unlike granite countertops, which always has tiny black spots of which the density varies. Being natural, granite will always contain some degree of black speckles. Even “white” Granite tops contain tiny black speckles.
Quartz countertops have also introduced the marble look with veins and milky textures, remarkably similar to natural marble. This became an instant hit. Quartz countertops do not only have stunning colours but it also much more durable than marble countertops and thus requires much less care and maintenance.
The 3 best selling colour ranges are:
- Marble-Look quartz countertops
- White and light quartz countertops
- “Shades of Grey” quartz countertops
- Samples of the marble-look quartz countertops: (Take note that pictures can never truly resemble the colours)
Legacy Quartz – Calacatta – close up. (Actual colour is more white)
Legacy Quartz – Calacatta – full slab (3200mm x 1600mm). (Actual colour is more white)
Legacy Quartz – Picasso White – close up (Actual colour is more white)
Legacy Quartz – Picasso White – full slab (3200mm x 1600mm). (Actual colour is more white)
- The white and light colours are most popular and thus a wide range of different choices are available. Different shades of white and different textures with various sizes of grains and veins to choose from.
Legacy Quartz – Niveous White – close up – Very fine grain (Actual colour is much more white!)
Legacy Quartz – Niveous White – full slab – 3200mm x 1600mm – Very fine grain (Actual colour is much more white!)
Legacy Quartz – Nixie White – close up – Slightly bigger grain (Actual colour is much more white!)
Legacy Quartz – Nixie White – full slab – 3200mm x 1600mm – Slightly bigger grain (Actual colour is much more white!)
Legacy Quartz – Lacuna White – close up – bigger grain (Actual colour is much more white!)
Legacy Quartz – Lacuna White – full slab – 3200mm x 1600mm – Bigger grain (Actual colour is much more white!)
- Also popular are the different “Shades of Grey” for example:
Legacy Quartz – Stealth Grey – close up – Slightly bigger grain (Actual colour is more grey!)
Legacy Quartz – Stealth Grey – full slab – 3200mm x 1600mm – Slightly bigger grain (Actual colour is more grey!)
Legacy Quartz – Elysian Grey – close up – Bigger grain with sparkling mirror (Actual colour is more grey!)
Legacy Quartz – Elysian Grey – full slab – 3200mm x 1600mm – Bigger grain with sparkling mirror(Actual colour is more grey!)
Herewith some sample granite countertop colours to show the main differences between
Light granite countertops with uniform grain
Brown granite countertops with veins and movement
Dark countertops with uniform grain
Namibian Granite countertops
- Scratch resistance & Stain Resistance
(Quartz vs Granite Countertops – geologists perspective
A Granite countertop is a granular igneous rock consisting of 35% quartz on average with the balance being mostly feldspar with some mica. A Quartz countertop is man-made consisting of at least 90% quartz with the balance made up of resins, polymers and different types of pigments.
The quartz content in granite countertops and quartz countertops is what makes it hard and durable. Notably, quartz countertops have more quartz and therefore is harder and more durable. Although, for all practical reasons both surfaces are considered highly durable. Both quartz countertops and granite countertops are considered highly scratch resistant quartz countertops coming out tops slightly ahead of granite countertops.
Quartz countertops are slightly flexible due to the resin and polymer content, which is absent in granite countertops. This makes quartz countertops less prone to breaking when compared with granite countertops. This is also what makes quartz countertops more stain resistant than granite countertops. Quartz countertops are virtually non-porous whilst some granite countertops are porous and require sealing treatment before use. A rule of thumb to determine porousness of granite countertops is to look at the colour, darker and black granite countertops are virtually non-porous whilst lighter and white granite countertops are mostly very porous and prone to stains. Make sure your light granite countertops are sealed at least once a year!
- Ultra Violet Resistance
Direct sunlight is the enemy of quartz countertops due to the effect of ultraviolet rays! Constant direct sunlight will change the colour of quartz countertops and also negatively affect the glossiness over time. Therefore, unlike granite countertops, outside use is not recommended for quartz countertops. Direct sunlight hardly affects Granite countertops, but if constantly in the sun, the colour will fade gradually over time.
- Handling the heat!
As mentioned before, quartz countertops consist of about 7 % resins, polymers and pigments. Although this is what provides it with the best flexibility and stainproof qualities, this also makes it vulnerable to heat. This is because the resin content in the quartz countertop will start to burn at 150 degrees. This means that it is not advisable to put a hot pot directly from the stove onto the quartz countertop.
On the contrary, granite countertops can handle a hot pot directly from the stove. However, it is not recommended by us, especially in a cold room. Few cases have been reported where the reaction of the hot pot onto the cold surface of a granite countertop has caused it to crack. It is advisable to place a smaller piece of granite next to the stove on which to place hot pots.
- Pricing (Waste! Exclusivity)
For all practical purposes, the quality of quartz countertops and granite countertops are very similar. However, the following differences must be considered.
- Although there are many colours of granite countertops available, colours of quartz countertops are only limited by imagination and new colours are continually added.
- Both are considered scratchproof with granite countertops slight less scratchproof.
- Quartz countertops are considered highly stainproof whilst some types of granite countertops require sealing treatment.
- Granite countertops are much more resilient against
- Granite countertops are more heat resistant than quartz countertops.
- Granite countertops can be polished to a much higher gloss than quartz countertops.
- Light granite countertops clean easier because it can be polished to a higher gloss. Light quartz countertops will require more cleaning.