Only Mike Holmes could write an article about counter tops and make it interesting. In this article, reposted from the Ottawa Citizen, Mike discusses the differences between granite and quartz, and the pros and cons of each. Me personally? If I had to choose, I'd definitely go with quartz, because, as Mike points out, Granite is very expensive, requires maintenance (no thanks), and inconsistent due to being a natural stone. Quartz is also expensive, but at least it doesn't have to be sealed because it is non-porous. Mike does a much better job at explaining than I do. Besides, right now the only thing in my kitchen is yucky laminate. Having to choose between quartz and granite is a dream that will have to wait.
Granite versus quartz — the debate continues
In just about every kitchen renovation I do the homeowner wants granite. As consumers, we’ve been taught that a good kitchen will have granite countertops. Some homeowners even feel like the entire renovation is a failure if it doesn’t come with a granite countertop.
Granite and quartz are the two heavyweights in kitchen countertops. But when we talk about kitchen countertops we have to think about practicality. Should it look good? Yes. Absolutely. But my top priority is that it’s safe and does its job.
What does it mean for a kitchen countertop to be safe? That it’s non-porous and has low VOCs (volatile organic compounds).
VOCs are bad for the environment and they’re bad for anyone breathing them in. Pores are bad because they’re tiny pockets for bacteria to collect. You can contaminate any food prepared on a porous surface that hasn’t been properly cleaned.
What does it take for a kitchen countertop to do its job? It needs to be durable, stain-resistant and scratch-resistant. Most people think granite is top of the line. But it depends.
Granite is natural rock. I love natural building materials — wood, stone, straw, whatever — and I love granite. But it has its drawbacks.
For one, it’s expensive. Why? Because it’s natural. This means it comes in one big slab of stone that needs to be extracted from the earth. Extracting and shipping granite takes a lot of energy. It can be harsh on the environment.
In nature, no two stones are equal. Every stone is different. And because granite is natural, it’s not going to look the same throughout the entire slab. It might even look different from the sample you originally saw. The good news is that it’s always beautiful. It just might not be exactly what you expected.
Also, because a granite countertop is a single slab, there’s going to be a seam if your kitchen counters bend or curve. And because it’s natural rock, the seam isn’t easy to hide. It’s hard to match up the natural colours and veins in granite.
On the other hand, quartz is manufactured and coloured. What you see is what you get. Your countertop will look exactly like the sample; there are no surprises. And because it’s all one colour any seams can be hidden. This let’s us be more creative with kitchen design.
Quartz countertops are actually about 90 per cent quartz and 10 per cent acrylic or epoxy binder, like resin. The resin means quartz countertops have higher VOCs than granite. And we know this is bad for the environment and indoor air quality.
But some granite contains radon. (Remember, granite is in the ground and so is radon.) It’s usually not a huge concern. But if radon levels in your home are already an issue, granite might not be the best choice.
You’ll also need to reseal granite once a year. Granite looks solid but it’s porous. Quartz is not; its non-porous. So you’ll need to seal a granite countertop but not a quartz countertop. It’s no big deal; it takes less than an hour once a year.
Usually, a water-based penetrating (or impregnating) sealer does the trick. The silicone in the sealer works its way into the tiny pores and coats them. But it doesn’t completely seal them. That means the surface will be stain-resistant but not stain-proof. You’ll still need to quickly clean up any spills, like coffee or wine.
Quartz isn’t sealed so you don’t have to worry about sealing or stains. A rag, soap and water are all you need. And if there are tough spots, usually a vinegar-water solution is enough.
If you’re going with granite, you can’t go cheap. Why not? Because when you do, you’re usually getting a thin slab of granite. The thinner the slab the weaker it is. So what are you really buying? Know where the granite is coming from and how much of it you’re getting.
In terms of strength, quartz performs. It’s one of the hardest materials on earth, harder than glass. The way it’s manufactured mimics the way granite is made naturally — through intense pressure and heat. So they’re comparable in strength. But this process takes a lot of energy, which isn’t ideal for the environment.
Granite or quartz — they’re both good options. That’s why they’re both expensive. In some cases, quartz can be more expensive than granite. But both get a thumbs-up as long as they’re properly installed by a professional who will make sure it’s level and sealed, especially around the sinks and faucets to prevent water damage.
Bottom line: It comes down to the homeowner’s budget, the kitchen’s design, and how much upkeep the homeowner is willing to commit to.
Catch Mike in his new series Best of Holmes on Homes, Tuesdays at 9 p.m. on HGTV. For more information, visit hgtv.ca. For more information on home renovations, visit makeitright.ca.
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