How It's Made: Quartz countertops are man-made engineered stone countertops formed by combining 90% ground quartz (a natural hard mineral) with 8-10% resins, polymers, and pigments. This forms a very hard granite-like surface. The appearance depends on how the quartz is ground: coarsely ground quartz produces a flecked appearance, while finely ground quartz produces a smooth look.
Major Brands: Italian company Breton owns the patent to manufacture solid surfaces from quartz and resins. All other companies use that patent for their own brand of quartz countertops, including Cosentino (Silestone), DuPont (Zodiaq), Cambria, CaesarStone, Avanza, and Technistone.
Environmental Impact: Light-Moderate. Quartz is the second most abundant material in the earth's crust (which is good), but the acrylic resins used in quartz countertops are petroleum by-products, and they often contain alumina trihydrate fillers made from bauxite ore, which is mined primarily under toxic conditions in developing countries. However, the countertops are still extremely durable and non-porous. Additionally, a few major brands including Zodiaq, Formica, Wilsonart and Silestone have been certified by GreenGuard as low emitting. Other brands, like Cambria Quartz, are mined and made entirely in the USA.
Pros: Extremely hard and durable; glossy sheen; non-porous and stain-and-crack resistant; does not require sealing or resealing; wide range of colors; easy to clean with mild soap, water, and a soft cloth.
Cons: Expensive; not heat tolerant; seams are inevitable for large countertop designs.With its heat-resistant qualities, granite doesn't blister; it's also unlikely to scratch or chip. When used for kitchen countertops, it's far superior to marble, synthetic and laminate. It's also better-looking and has a luminous, dimensional quality when polished.