Quartz vs. Stone: What’s the difference and why choose one over the other?

Believe it or not, Quartz countertops first made their debut in Italy in the early 1960s – However, it wasn’t until the 90s that they began to gain popularity in the US. Both quartz and natural stones can come in various finishes but often have a polished or a honed finish on their surface – polished has a glossy/shiny look to it, while honed is matte, which could lead to a more modern look and feel. Though quartz has become a popular alternative to natural stones due to its durability and appearance, natural stone remains a classic option that many homeowners gravitate towards for its unparalleled beauty and unique characteristics.

Waterfall quartz countertops from the Greenlake Contemporary Craftsman project.

Quartz

Quartz countertops and tile in the primary bathroom from the Waterfront Condo project.

Quartz is engineered to resemble many natural stones such as marble, granite, and concrete. Quartz countertops are made of natural quartz & minerals combined with chemical resins and pigments. There are countless options of colors and patterns available, ranging from solid colors to textured and veiny marble look stones.

Quartz examples


Selecting your slab

You may find small 4×4 samples of quartz depending on where you start your search. However, you may need more than these smaller countertop samples to visualize what the entire slab will look like. For instance, a 4×4 piece of a solid color with little-no variation or pattern repeat is more likely to get the point across, whereas marble-look quartz with a pattern repeat/veining will only show you a snippet of what the full-size slab will look like. Whether you are interested in a stone look or a solid color, chances are you’ll be able to find a local showroom or slab yard to visit near you to make sure you like the entire slab and ensure that it works with the finishes in your space.

Most shops should provide a template before cutting the exact piece, allowing you to review what seams look like before everything is cut out. Keep in mind that larger islands and countertops will require more seams. Also, be mindful of the openings the slab will need to be transported through. Tight hallways and doorways make using big slabs challenging due to simply getting them into the space.

Pros & Cons of Quartz countertops

Pros

  • Consistency in pattern and color
  • Durability
  • Easy to clean & stain resistant
  • Versatility (comes in 2cm & 3cm thickness)
  • Nonporous
  • Long-term/Lifetime warranties
  • Easy maintenance (no need to seal)
  • Easy to create a waterfall edge

Cons

  • Vulnerable to heat damage
  • Seams between slabs can be visible
  • Manufactured product

Quartz Project Example: Queen Anne ADU

Both beauty and function were prioritized by this client, who chose marble-look quartz for their ADU remodel. The thick veining adds visual interest to the backsplash and countertop while also being low maintenance and easy to clean. Learn more about the Queen Anne ADU project here.


Quartz Summary

Quartz is an excellent option if you want the look & feel of a natural stone without the worry of etching, staining, and regular maintenance. The variety of styles that quartz offers will fit any home interior style.


Natural Stones:

Marble, Granite, Quartzite, Soapstone

This kitchen countertop & backsplash are marble from the Leschi Home project.

Many natural stones are used for countertops in different applications. Most commonly, we see marble or granite selected for use in residential kitchens and some commercial projects. Quartzite or soapstone are also selected due to their unique character.

Selecting your slab

One of the most exciting parts of choosing a natural stone for your project is selecting your slab. You can stop by a slab yard or a stone showroom with various stone slabs on display. If you have a particular stone type and color, you are looking for; it’s best to call ahead of your visit to ensure they have options that will meet your needs.

Photo source: Happily Eva After

Marble

This marble countertop is from the Greenlake Contemporary Craftsman project.

Marble naturally has a luxurious look that can make a space feel high-end and unique. Their colors range from cool to warm white, gray, or blue-gray and come in various finishes and veining patterns. If you are concerned about etching on a marble countertop but are set on this material, we’d suggest going with a honed finish, as this will conceal etching more than a polished finish. A unique characteristic of white marble is that it will patina over time – if this excites you, it would be the perfect material for you!

Marble examples


Pros & Cons of Marble countertops

Pros

  • Beautiful natural veining and color variation
  • Each slab is one of a kind
  • Hundreds of varieties to choose from
  • Strong & heat resistant
  • Premium material
  • Versatility (comes in 2cm & 3cm thickness)
  • Stays cool (great for bakers)

Cons

  • Susceptible to etching/staining from acidic liquids
  • Requires regular maintenance & special cleaning products (seal 2x a year)
  • Porous (absorbs liquids easily)
  • Prone to cracking
  • Often have limited warranties

Marble Summary

No stone is like marble – its classic and luxurious look can elevate any interior. Whether you prefer to keep it soft with a subtle pattern and neutral color or go dramatic with bold veining and color marble adds a unique touch and beauty to your home. If your kitchen gets frequent use, sealing the countertops every six months is recommended to protect against staining.


Granite

Image source: Houzz

Granite comes in various earthy and neutral tones, including black, grays, silvers, dusty blues, and white (to name a few). Each slab is unique and can have flecks ranging from smaller to chunkier, adding visual interest and movement to your countertop. Compared to marble, granite is a more robust stone and can appear shinier – however, you can find granite in a “honed” or “brushed” finish.

Granite examples


Pros & Cons of Granite countertops

Pros

  • Durability
  • Low maintenance (seal annually)
  • Heat-resistant
  • Stain-resistant when properly sealed
  • Can be used outdoors

Cons

  • Varied composition between slabs
  • Susceptible to scratches
  • Difficult to match a waterfall edge with different slabs
  • Porous (can be damaged by acids)
  • Its hardness makes cutting ornamental edges difficult and time consuming

Granite Summary

Granite tends to have a more traditional look & feel that may only work for some interior schemes. However, compared to marble and quartzite, granite only needs to be sealed once a year to prevent staining, which makes it the lowest maintenance of the three. Aesthetically, though not as dramatic as marble or quartzite, a wide range of colors and patterns available can help add a fresh and updated look to your interior.


Quartzite

Fantasy brown quartzite countertops and island in the West Seattle View Home project.

Like marble, quartzite has unique veining, colors, and textures that make it stand apart from other natural stones. This stone can be found in shades of white, gray, black, green, and blue, and subtle to bold variations. You’ll often find a translucent background and lively veining and movement in quartzite slabs.

Quartzite examples


Pros & Cons of Quartzite countertops

Pros

  • Beautiful natural veining and color variation
  • Each slab is one of a kind
  • Etch/scratch resistant
  • Stain & heat resistant
  • Easy to clean
  • Can be used outdoors

Cons

  • Requires regular maintenance & special cleaning products (seal 2x a year)
  • Porous stone
  • It’s hardness makes cutting ornamental edges difficult and time consuming

Quartzite Summary

While not typically used for kitchen or bathroom countertops, quartzite is an excellent choice if you want a unique material to add character and drama to your interior. Quartzite is not as susceptible to scratches and etching compared to marble, making it much easier to maintain. If neutrals aren’t your thing, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the color options available in this beautiful stone.


Soapstone

Image source: Architectural Digest

Soapstone comes in gray, blue and black and naturally has veining patterns running through them. Slabs can range from muted gray to blue-gray and charcoal or black and you’ll often see white veins in them. The coloring can change over a long period of time but can be maintained with a regular oiling to maintain its natural look. Because of its naturally textured surface, if your soapstone countertop gets dented or scratched you can use sandpaper to remove any imperfections.

Soapstone examples


Pros & Cons of Soapstone countertops

Pros

  • Naturally textured surface
  • Each slab is one of a kind
  • Non-porous & stain resistant
  • Does not crack easily
  • More durable than other natural stones
  • Easy to clean
  • Heat resistant
  • Ease of installation

Cons

  • Requires regular maintenance (oiling)
  • Limited color/pattern options
  • Difficult to match a waterfall edge with different slabs
  • Prone to scratching

Soapstone Summary

Soapstone is less commonly used for countertops than marble or granite, making it more expensive than entry-level granite or marble, depending on availability. Though limited in colors and patterns, homeowners who love soapstone gravitate towards it for its textured surface and natural stone look – it maintains its timeless look in any interior. It can add richness and depth to your home.


Installation & Cost Considerations

Once you’ve made your countertop selection, you’ll need measurements. It’s best to have a professional measure your existing cabinetry (or use your proposed layout for new construction) as incorrect measurements can lead to inaccurate cuts and wasted material. Aside from selecting your countertop material, there are additional decisions to consider including the thickness of your slab, edge profile seams – all of which have the potential to increase the cost.

  • Thickness – both quartz and natural stones can be found in varying thicknesses. Quartz comes in 2cm or 3cm while some natural stones may only be available in one thickness. The industry standard is 3cm (1-1/4”) but the thickness that you choose for your countertop slab can vary based on the look you are going for.
  • Edge Profiles/Treatments – there are many options to choose from and what you select will depend on the aesthetic of your home/newly designed space. Contemporary, and most commonly used, options include eased and squared. Traditional options can include beveled, bullnose, radius and double radius, to name a few.
  • Seams – whether choosing quartz or a natural stone, it’s important to think about how many slabs you may need for your application. If you are spanning a large area there will likely be a seam between two slabs as slab sizes are limited. Some colors and patterns can conceal this better than others and the location of the seam can be specified prior to installation so that it doesn’t land in a conspicuous area.

Cost

While looks are important, we know that cost can also be a determining factor when deciding on a countertop material. The cost for quartz and natural stone countertops can range widely depending on the quality and color – for instance, neutral/solid colors will cost less than something patterned/with more movement (veining, speckling). Additionally, stones sourced in quarries that are further away will likely be more costly.

Fabrication and installation are other factors to keep in mind – quartz is often a more affordable option when it comes to fabrication and installation, but this could vary based on your overall project scope and design intent. Natural stones can be more delicate than quartz which can make the installation cost pricier. We recommend working with a design professional and/or contractor to understand the cost differences between the materials you would like to use on your project.


This blog post was written by Adaiah, one of our interior designers. Our team has completed several projects featured in this blog post. Check out our project pages for more information!


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