By Sam Ferris
Quartz countertops. Photo courtesy of Cambria USA.
Mascarello granite countertops. Photo courtesy of MSI Stone.
As the Washington Post quipped several years ago, in the beginning, God created granite. But the Post failed to mention what happened next: the 1960s rolled around; man saw how good granite was; man tried to one-up it with quartz; man debates whether to buy granite or quartz countertops ever since. So it is written.

On a serious note, the quartz vs. granite debate isn’t an age-old one. Quartz has only gained in popularity over the past 30 years, while granite is virtually timeless. Like most other debates, the quartz vs. granite one is a matter of pros and cons. Quartz isn’t always the best choice for your home, and neither is granite.

But before you throw yourself into the fire, you need to know what the two are. We explain both (it isn’t too science-y, promise) to warm you up:

What is granite?

Granite countertops are a type of natural stone – igneous rock, to be precise. They’re 100% natural. Oddly enough, granite contains quartz, along with other minerals like feldspar and amphiboles. Granite is a popular decorative choice in commercial applications, like countertops and floor tiles, because its grains are so easily identifiable to the naked eye. In non-scientific terms, it’s stylish.

What is quartz?

Quartz countertops are a man-made stone. They contain quartz (shocker), a naturally occurring, rock-hard mineral, but they’re also manufactured with resins, polymers, and pigments, according to The Kitchn. Some quartz, like Cosentino’s ECO line, uses 75% recycled materials, including porcelain, glass, mirrors, earthenware, and more.

Now that you have working definitions of granite and quartz, we delve into the pros and cons of each. Just remember, the right choice isn’t black and white. It all depends on your wants and needs. 
Bordeaux Dream granite countertops. This type of variation is common in granite. Photo courtesy of MSI Stone.
Madreperola granite countertops. Photo courtesy of MSI Stone.
Granite pros

  • It’s less expensive. Granite countertops cost more than laminate countertops, but that isn’t the case with quartz countertops. On average, granite countertops cost less than quartz. Expect to pay anywhere from $45 per square foot for entry-level granite to $85 per square foot for more exotic slabs (price includes installation and fabrication). According to The Kitchn, the price could be higher – up to $400 per square foot in some instances - depending on stone rarity and origin. 
  • It won’t look like anyone else’s. Instead of keeping up with the Joneses, set yourself apart. No two slabs of granite are alike. Because it’s a natural stone, granite has variation that only God and nature can control. Quartz countertops, on the other hand, are man-made, and while there are small differences between slabs of the same style, there isn’t as much variation. If you want countertops that are unique to your home, go granite.
  • It comes in bigger slabs. The average length of a quartz slab is about 10 feet (certain manufacturers allow you to order jumbo slabs). Though that may seem long, it isn’t enough to avoid cuts in larger kitchens and islands. In other words, your countertops will definitely have seams. But some granite slabs are longer, in the 11-12 foot range. If you have a large island or spacious kitchen, granite may be the answer to avoid seams.
  • You can install it both indoors and outdoors. Granite is built to withstand the elements since it’s a natural mineral. It won’t weather or fade because of long-term exposure to the sun. It’s more versatile than quartz in this sense. Granite is perfect for outdoor kitchens and facades.
Granite cons

  • It has more environmental impact. Though there’s a myth that granite countertops emit harmful radiation, the Environmental Protection Agency says there isn’t sufficient evidence. The environmental impact here has more to do with how granite is made. The Kitchn notes that mining granite is resource intensive and that it takes a lot of energy to transport, and common sense tells us the environmental impact is significant any time you’re using natural resources.
  • There aren’t any “clean” styles. For the minimalist, granite just won’t cut it. Granite countertops have a lot of variation and movement. They aren’t like quartz countertops, which offer solid colors and clean, marble-white styles. If you’re planning a modern design, quartz countertops will likely be your best option.
  • You have to reseal it. Again, and again, and again. Otherwise moisture can seap into the porous parts of your granite and damage it. You should reseal your granite at least once a year to make sure it’s properly maintained.
Unlike granite, quartz comes in clean styles that resemble marble. Photo courtesy of Cambria USA.
Clean, white quartz countertops. Photo courtesy of Silestone.
Quartz pros

  • It has less environmental impact. There’s still impact, though. Quartz production has an impact on the environment since quartz is made from natural resources. The Kitchn says quartz is the second most abundant material in the earth’s crust, but that it’s usually mined under toxic conditions in underdeveloped countries. They do add that many quartz manufacturers are certified as low emitting by GreenGuard, which is a plus.
  • It’s twice as strong as granite. Today’s rocket science: quartz is made of more quartz than granite is. That means it’s more durable. Cambria, for example, is made of 93 percent pure quartz. According to Cambria, granite contains just 40-60% quartz. This kind of durability also lets you get more creative with your countertop’s edge shapes.
  • There’s less maintenance involved. Quartz isn’t porous like granite is. Granite countertops need to be sealed at least once a year to prevent staining from moisture. While sealing isn’t too difficult, it’s a task you have to stay on top of. Quartz doesn’t have to be sealed, so that’s one thing you can scratch off of your long to-do list. It may be a tradeoff worth considering.
  • It has more style options than granite. Granite has plenty of different styles, but they all have a lot of variation. Quartz comes in patterns that mimic natural stone and patterns with little to no movement.
Some quartz countertops have patterns that mimic natural stone. Photo courtesy of Cambria USA.
An all-white kitchen in quartz countertops. Photo courtesy of Cambria USA.
Quartz cons

  • It’s more expensive. It isn’t often that you find quartz for less than $65 per square foot (if you do, whip out your credit card). In most instances, you’ll spend $75-$120 per square foot depending on the size of your kitchen, the brand, and the style. For the budget-conscious, granite can be the more affordable option.
  • You can’t install it outside. You can’t let quartz countertops sit in the sun. According to Cosentino, the surface color gets damaged when it’s exposed to rapid changes in temperature, or under long-term exposure to the sun. Quartz wouldn’t be a good idea for any kind of outdoor surface.
  • It has less natural beauty than granite. Imitation never beats the real deal. There are beautiful patterns found in quartz that mimic those found in granite; however, the natural beauty of granite just can’t be replicated. 
Whether you’re buying granite or quartz countertops, our designers can help you figure out what works best for your home. Click here to schedule a free consultation. 

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