Engineered Stone (Quartz)
Engineered or man-made stone products is a "Green Product" that is increasingly popular and comparable to granite in just about every way.
For those who love the look of granite but are concerned about its drawbacks, quartz may be the answer. And while granite is subject to unpredictable variations in color or pattern between slabs, engineered stone is uniform in color, pattern, and texture. It provides nearly all of the benefits of natural stone.
Quartz (Silica/Silicon Dioxide, SiO2) is the most common mineral on the earth's surface. It is present in nearly every geological environment and is a component of almost 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. (Granite is ranked 6 on the scale).
Because quartz grows in clusters and does not form huge stone blocks like granite (which contains 40% - 60% quartz), limestone or other types of rock, it is not suitable in its natural state to make into countertops or other large slabs.
The manufacturing process uses raw quartz crystals ranging in size from coarse grains to the size of rock salt. Once the quartz is ground and selected, the crystals are combined with bonding agents (resin) and color, then heated and vibro-compacted to form an impenetrable surface.
The resulting slabs are a matrix of 93% quartz and 7% resin binders and pigments ... free of fissures and cracks, and impervious to water, moisture, or bacteria.
Industry-wide, all quartz countertops are made with 93 percent quartz or they cannot claim the hardness, durability, or impermeability of a true quartz surface.
The manufacturing process is a controlled process and quality-control measures exist for quartz that are not possible for natural granite countertops. The process used during production ensures that any sample slab will be identical in color and texture to the delivered product.
Because they're man-made, these materials can be fabricated in large sheets ( 55"W x 120"L), which makes it easier to fabricate large islands in one piece. In addition, curves, circles and other shapes are possible.
Engineered stone is the most durable surface material, combining the hardness and durability of quartz with the exceptional low maintenance qualities of man-made materials
Engineered stone products require no maintenance because they are non-porous. Their impervious surface provides stain and bacterial resistance.
In addition to Kitchen/Laundry/Bath Countertops, engineered stone products can be used for vanities, Backsplashes, Wet Bars, Tub/Shower Surrounds and other surfaces throughout the home. They are ideal for commercial settings, especially daycare centers, hospitals and foodservice providers.
Color and Appearance
To the untrained eye, quartz surfaces appear to be natural stone. What makes it different?
Natural rock is variable by nature ... colors and patterns may shift and change on a large slab. Surface pits are a mark of granite. Engineered stone on the other hand, displays a "consistent variability" or mottling in color and texture throughout a quartz countertop.
The actual appearance of the quartz surface varies depending on the size and mix of the granules. Smaller, finer crystals give a more uniform appearance, while larger ones provide a more mottled look.
Quartz surfacing is available in colors may not be found in nature, as the crushed stone is generally mixed with pigment. Take advantage, and choose a color that dazzles while still looking like stone.
In addition to granite, some manufacturers produce engineered stone that looks like marble, travertine, concrete, and other natural stone.
Because engineered stone is a natural stone product, seams are required for any application that is longer /or wider than the slab size (generally 55"x120").
These seams are visible, but are often less noticeable than a typical granite seam - where the seams may show changes in pattern and shade.
As with solid surfaces, integrated sinks are available in quartz countertops.
A variety of manufacturers offer products in a diverse range of colors and finishes, including: