Are All Quartz Countertops the Same?

Is there a difference between quartz countertops and other materials? Which countertop material is best: Quartz or Granite?  Of course, the answer is “It Depends”.  After explaining the differences many people prefer Quartz. “Quartz” in context to this discussion is a man-made countertop product more accurately described as “engineered stone”.  So with a decision to go with Quartz the next question is: “Is there a difference between Quartz products?”  Answer is yes and now we’ll discuss what we know from our experience, our vendors and outside news sources/press releases.

When considering a kitchen or bathroom remodel, think about what is most important to you.  Do you prefer achieving the end product by cutting corners to save money OR selecting products that will live up to your expectation?  Homeowners and contractors walk hand-in-hand during the remodeling process.  Many homeowners rely on the expertise of their contractor to help them make the best decision.

For example, this year has been quite political when it comes to quartz countertops.  The U.S. Department of Commerce will be imposing antidumping and countervailing duties on certain Chinese imports. Since 2015, Chinese quartz increased from $167 million to $460 million in 2017.  In the first nine months of 2018, this number has grown to be over $526 million.  This surge in Chinese quartz has displaced more than $1.2 billion in the U.S. quartz surface products market economy.     

Quartz countertops better known as engineered stone have been around since 1963 when the Breton Company in Italy first created the technology used in manufacturing quartz countertops and aptly licensed this process as Bretonstone.  Since being introduced to the market, the Bretonstone technology is being licensed to other manufacturers such as Cambria, Caesarstone and Silestone.

Why Quartz?

Why is quartz displacing granite in the marketplace? Well, quartz countertops are non-porous and sealed during the manufacturing process.  This means that bacteria, mold and liquids no longer have a safe haven in or under your countertops.  Since this is a man-made product, you have more say in removing imperfections you find when viewing slabs. 

An increase in demand has opened the gates for Chinese imports. If the supply is low, dealers have a means to provide product at a cheaper cost. While Chinese and U.S. quartz countertops look similar, there are stark differences that homeowners and contractors need to be aware of: resin pooling, inconsistent material quantities and thicknesses, dye lot inconsistency and potential volatile organic compounds.

What’s the difference?

Keep in mind that quartz countertops are 93% quartz with the remaining 7% being comprised of resin and dyes. If the correct ratios are met, this allows for a consistency in coloring which is unattainable with granite. With resin pooling, large pools of colored resin mar the surface of the counter; this problem is being found largely with Chinese quartz.

U.S. trade laws specify the quartz to resin ratios which all North American manufacturers strictly follow.  Some Chinese quartz manufacturers aren’t following that standard.  You might have higher quantities of resin or dyes in your imported slab than actual quartz.  This can lead to the countertops bending during transport.  What can also happen is an inconsistency in slab thickness due to the inadequate ratios.  3cm slabs are the norm in the U.S. but you might not receive that thickness from Chinese imports. 

In conjunction with material quantities are dye lot inconsistencies.  As mentioned above, homeowners have more say in the color consistency of their quartz slabs.  However, if Chinese quartz manufacturers aren’t following U.S. trade laws as to what ratios to use in materials, you can end up purchasing a slab that can quickly change in color and pattern.  If there is more resin within the product, this affects the pigmentation of the slab.

Lastly, U.S. trade laws dictate what chemicals can and cannot be used indoors and outdoors.  This is to protect homeowners from being exposed to potentially harmful gases and materials that come into contact with food.  However, China views volatile organic compounds differently than North America.  If you purchase Chinese quartz, there very well could be components for indoor and outdoor use within a slab being installed in your kitchen. 

Who is taking action?

Due to the large amount of uncertainties from Chinese quartz, Cambria, a leader in U.S. quartz manufacturing, is fighting to ensure that free trade and fair trade are at the forefront of the U.S. Commerce investigation.  Initial findings have concluded that Chinese imports are being dumped into the U.S. which is violating existing trade laws.  Therefore, starting in 2018, duties will be enforced on imports that range from 242.10% to 341.29%.  While this could spike prices and bring the supply of quartz down, in the long run it is protecting homeowners and contractors. 

Remember – you get what you pay for.  Be sure you do it right the first time and don’t be afraid to press your contractor with questions.

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