Quartz sup­plants gran­ite as peo­ple’s choice for coun­ter­tops

The Washington Post - - REALESTATE - BY DEB­O­RAH K. DIETSCH realestate@wash­post.com

Gran­ite may be go­ing the way of plas­tic lam­i­nate as the pre­ferred ma­te­rial for kitchen coun­ter­tops. To­day, the gran­u­lar, ig­neous rock is less pop­u­lar than en­gi­neered stone, com­monly re­ferred to as quartz.

“About 75 per­cent of our clients are opt­ing for quartz over gran­ite,” says Bill Mill­hol­land, ex­ec­u­tive vice pres­i­dent of Case, a de­sign-build firm in Bethesda, Md. “More peo­ple want a con­tem­po­rary aes­thetic in the kitchen, and the clean look of quartz goes with that. Gran­ite goes bet­ter with tra­di­tional decor.”

In ren­o­vat­ing their kitchen with Case, Bethesda home­own­ers Chris and Bryan Leibrand did not even con­sider gran­ite for the coun­ter­tops. They chose Cae­sar­stone’s Bianco Drift, an en­gi­neered stone that looks like mar­ble. “I re­ally like the color and low main­te­nance of the ma­te­rial. It makes cleanups easy,” Chris Leibrand says.

Harder and less por­ous than gran­ite, quartz is more con­sis­tent in color, tex­ture and pat­tern than nat­u­ral stones. It is stain­re­sis­tant and does not re­quire seal­ing like gran­ite and mar­ble to main­tain its orig­i­nal ap­pear­ance.

“For me, it was a mat­ter of main­te­nance more than a look in choos­ing quartz,” says Ross­nyev Al­varado, an en­gi­neer who ren­o­vated the kitchen of her 1930s Colo­nial in the Amer­i­can Univer­sity Park neigh­bor­hood with the help of Wash­ing­ton-based Kube Ar­chi­tec­ture. “I didn’t want to have some­thing high main­te­nance in the kitchen, es­pe­cially if it re­quires spe­cial treat­ments ev­ery so of­ten. We tested sev­eral ma­te­ri­als be­fore de­cid­ing on Cae­sar­stone, which was found to be the most re­sis­tant to heat, wine stains and daily use and wear.”

To fab­ri­cate the ar­ti­fi­cial stone, man­u­fac­tur­ers such as Cae­sar­stone, Sile­stone and Cam­bria blend crushed quartz with resins and pig­ments, pour the mix­ture into molds and ap­ply pres­sure to com­pact the slabs, which are cured and pol­ished into the fi­nal prod­uct. The quartz is then cut and fin­ished like real stone.

Chevy Chase kitchen de­signer Jen­nifer Gilmer says 60 per­cent of her cus­tomers are choos­ing quartz over nat­u­ral stones, “partly be­cause modern kitchens are hot right now. In these kitchens, the less pat­tern the bet­ter, and quartz helps to keep the clean look.”

Pop­u­lar colors for quartz coun­ter­tops, Gilmer says, are white, off white, gray and black. “There are good op­tions for a mar­ble look that are get­ting bet­ter and bet­ter with all the quartz man­u­fac­tur­ers, and we’re sell­ing a lot of those,” she says.

Kitchen project man­ager Richard Subaran of Ai­dan De­sign in Sil­ver Spring says he re­calls that only a decade ago, 70 per­cent of high-end kitchen de­signs in­cor­po­rated gran­ite coun­ter­tops and only 30 per­cent fea­tured quartz. “Now those per­cent­ages have flipped. White quartz is fly­ing off the shelves.”

Still, Subaran says, “there is no com­par­i­son be­tween real mar­ble and quartz. Mar­bles have depth, one-of-a-kind vein­ing.” Quartz, on the other hand, is typ­i­cally more uni­form in its colors and pat­tern­ing.

Some home­own­ers who like mar­ble but do not want to deal with its up­keep are choos­ing quartzite as an al­ter­na­tive. Not to be con­fused with man­u­fac­tured quartz, the meta­mor­phic rock — formed when quartzrich sand­stone is sub­jected to heat and pres­sure — is harder and stur­dier than mar­ble but has a sim­i­lar look. “It has beau­ti­ful vein­ing but doesn’t stain,” Gilmer says.

In choos­ing be­tween nat­u­ral and ar­ti­fi­cial stones, home­own­ers should keep in mind that quartz is not nec­es­sar­ily less ex­pen­sive than gran­ite or mar­ble. Ed­die Cas­tro, vice pres­i­dent of Stone and Tile World in Rockville, says quartz can range from about $65 to $135 per square foot, in­clud­ing fabrication and in­stal­la­tion costs, com­pared with non-ex­otic gran­ite at $50 to $60 and mar­ble at $55 to $95 per square foot in­stalled. Quartzite ranges from about $90 to $120 per square foot, in­clud­ing in­stal­la­tion, Cas­tro says.

Gilmer likes com­bin­ing nat­u­ral and en­gi­neered stones in her kitchen de­signs to achieve dura­bil­ity and beauty. “We rec­om­mend com­pos­ite quartz on the counter and slabs of mar­ble or mar­ble tiles on the back­splash.”

Those home­own­ers who still pre­fer gran­ite are re­quest­ing stones with a more solid, “calm” ap­pear­ance, Gilmer says. “They do not want pol­ished or honed sur­faces,” she says. “They want a tex­tured fin­ish, which has sev­eral names, like leathered or pati­naed.”

STACY ZARIN GOLD­BERG/CASE

Home­own­ers Chris and Bryan Leibrand of Bethesda, Md., chose Cae­sar­stone’s Bianco Drift quartz, fea­tur­ing a pol­ished fin­ish, for the coun­ter­tops in their kitchen.

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