The difference between engineered quartz and natural quartz is not their source. They are both derived from the same mineral, mined from the earth. While the manufactured variety contains additives, it is mostly composed of the original stone.
Natural quartz, while beautiful, is not as strong as granite, a top contender among stone countertop materials. You will rarely see cut quartz used for kitchen or bath surfaces. Engineered quartz, however, is popular and widely available.
A stone countertop production process turns crushed quartz crystals into designer work surfaces. The combination of 93 percent natural quartz with resins and pigments creates a smooth and strong slab. It blends the quartz with the versatility of a wider color palette than nature provides. Some products also add an anti-microbial agent, making engineered quartz surfaces safer for food preparation in restaurants and institutions. At home, it offers the same safety, strength and decorative possibilities.
The ability of manufactured quartz to accept pigments lets it go where fashion dictates. Imagine delicious shades from green apple to raspberry sorbet. Manufacturers offer as many as 50 color choices. Traditional natural quartz colors and patterns are available as well. These include gradations of rose, violet, goldenrod and gray. You'll see sparkles and swirls and veins in this beautiful natural stone product.
Patterns in engineered quartz are natural or formed to mimic granite and marble stone countertops. The bonuses are less expense and maintenance, and greater environmental soundness.
Manufactured quartz is made locally in the United States by Cambria, which has been certified by GreenGuard and other green building institutions. Its nonporous surface does not require periodic sealing, as granite and marble do. Quartz countertops can be cut to nearly any custom size and shape.
Stone countertops are prized for their longevity, but it's how long their good looks last that make them winners with consumers. Manufactured stone slabs won't develop dips or depressions as marble can with long-term use.
Quartz countertops are billed as being more resistant to heat, scratches and some liquids than other natural stone surfaces. With periodic soap-and-water cleaning, their hard and smooth surfaces retain their luster along with their functionality in the kitchen. Some manufacturers offer a lifetime guarantee.
As with many reconstituted natural products, the quartz engineering process may fail or the composite materials may not retain their original quality over time. Some quartz countertops are simply "lemons." Dissatisfied homeowners report installed kitchen or bathroom slabs that shattered, chipped and stained.
While generally high-tolerance and low-maintenance, quartz countertops are not immune to scorching, scratching and discoloring. Acidic liquids and sunlight can cause their otherwise colorfast surfaces to fade. Light maintenance can prevent cosmetic problems.