5 Questions You’ve Asked About Natural & Engineered Surfaces That We’re Answering
In this post, we will answer the following questions:
What's the difference between natural (granite) and engineered (quartz) surfaces?
Which one is better - natural (granite) or engineered (quartz)?
What are the benefits of engineered (quartz) stone?
What are the benefits of natural (granite) stone?
Which one has a better price point?
Let's get started!
1. What's the difference between natural and engineered surfaces?
Great question to start off with! The simplest explanation is as follows: engineered surfaces are man-made. Natural surfaces are, well, natural. One comes out of a facility and the other one comes out of the good old earth.
In general, when someone in the stone industry says engineered stone, they mean quartz. There are other surfaces such as pyrolithic stone and porcelain Sapienstone, but these aren't as popular as quartz. Quartz is a developing market that has increased in popularity in the last decade. Fabricators and facilities are expanding to include engineered surfaces.
When someone is referring to natural stone, they're referring to granite (the most popular). But there is also quartzite (not the same as quartz), soapstone, and marble (popularized by Joanna Gaines & HGTV - thanks guys!). We'll focus on granite in this post. Wood surfaces and cement surfaces are also popular but we don't want to bite off more than we can chew in this post.
2. Which one is better - natural or engineered?
It depends. There's no clear cut answer to this question because the different stone types fill unique niches in the market. The answer to this question is a question - "What is important to you?" There are clear differences between the two, which we'll point out further on in this post.
But here are a few important clarifications.
1. Marble in the kitchen may not be the best idea.
Disclaimer: This does not apply if you have a low use kitchen that favors aesthetic over functionality. If you only turn on the oven in winter to warm the downstairs when your heating breaks, marble is fine. However if you're cooking a daily feast for a ravenous family, marble may not be a good choice. It may not withstand the wear and tear of acidic ingredients, spills, sharp knife nicks, and slamming metal pots well. If you like the aged stone stone and are going for the distressed farmhouse patina look, disregard this rule of thumb. But if you want a stone to age well, hold its shine and state well over the years, and not be high maintenance, we recommend a tougher material. Especially if you're going to be renting out the property at some point. Or if you have children. Or if you're a klutz. You get the point 🙂
2. Quartz has better marketing than natural stone surfaces.
Since quartz distributors make the stuff, they're going to make sure that people know about it and like it. You'll find company sponsored shows on Youtube and sleek marketing ad campaigns for quartz. Whereas natural stone has some catching up to do. Just be aware and make sure that you know actual details about the stone, the care it requires, and its strengths and weaknesses.
Quartz may sell like its Kryptonite ( Cambria even made a film and tapped into old world legends for heaven's sake - props to the marketing team!), but like Superman, it has its weakness...even though it is his weakness...you get it.
3. What are the benefits of engineered stone?
The benefits of engineered stone (I'll focus on quartz here since volcanic pyrolithic stone isn't a household name yet) are:
This is one of quartz's strongest benefits - since its man made, the design is controlled. There's no crazy swirl in the upper right corner breathing fire at you when you eat breakfast (unless desired).
The most popular colors right now are neutrals - whites, greys, browns with swirls and soft movement. Quartz fits this bill to perfection. It's a perfect marble imitation look. So to all the hipsters on Pinterest with Magnolia Table subscriptions, you're looking for quartz. It's the poster child of modern design.
The reason stone stains is because like a hard sponge or your face, it has pores. This is the case of natural stone. Quartz on the other hand, is impermeable. It's made up of quartz aggregates and held together by resins - and its those resins that render it impermeable. You don't have to worry about sealing the stone ever ( and shouldn't "just in case" because its truly impermeable ). So this is a huge maintenance bonus for the home entertainer who no longer needs to watch her tipsy guests like a hawk.
Scratching / etching:
Resins are the only part of the quartz that will scratch and etch. What's the composition on quartz? The industry standard is 93% quartz aggregate and 7% unsaturated polymer resin. So with high quality quartz, scratching and etching are not a problem.
4. What are the benefits of natural stone?
Natural stone has many benefits. We'll follow the same outline as before:
What a second - I thought quartz took the prize? Yes, for a specific look quartz gets the job done. However for pizzaz, the special wow, the brilliant colors, and sheer wild beauty of nature - natural stone is best. A granite slab is truly unique - its design dependent on where it came out of the mountain. So even if both you and Mrs. Jones have, say Colonial White, both of you still have unique stone due to natural variance.
Granite is harder than quartz. You'll blunt your kitchen blades on either surface, but granite will withstand the impact of sharp blades. A properly sealed granite is a versatile tool in the kitchen. It can double as a dough rolling surface, a once a blue moon cutting board, and perfect garlic crushing surface.
Disclaimer: any stone surface that is shocked with an extreme drop or rise in temperature is liable to crack. Like blow torches are a big no - the stone will crack and pop and discolor...and don't ask us how we know this (yes we've tried it).
For those of us who operate within normal temperatures in the kitchen, putting a hot pot, dish, or pan on the surface will not harm it. With quartz, the resin in quartz will discolor when in direct contact with heat. So granite completely wins the cake for being heat proof.
5. Which one has a better price point?
Ah, the real question isn't it?
While prices will depend on fabricators, location, and services offered, here is a good rule of thumb:
Lower priced quartz usually has a quality impact (double check on that quartz to resin ratio). Lower priced granite means higher volume, lower demand. (It's a subjective metric depending on market trends).
Quartz starts at a higher price point than granite. Meaning, there is granite you can get at a price you won't find quartz in. Unless you find a quartz remnant or a fabricator is being super nice to you because they have a ton of it or got a sweet deal they're passing on. (P.S. We love to pass on sweet deals to our clients
Granite comes in a few different tiers: entry level granite, mid level granite, high level granite, and exotic granites. You might find small variations in language depending on location. Entry level granite beats entry level quartz on price. However once you start looking at mid / high/ exotic granite, the price difference is gone between quartz and granite.
If you've stayed this long with us, thank you! We hope this is helpful information that aids you make a good choice that fits your lifestyle and design preferences. And remember, our number is 413.737.8700 - call any time!