There are four primary materials that dominate the market for stone kitchen and bathroom countertops:
Granite, Quartz, Quartzite, and Marble.
Aside from pricing, there are substantial differences between the four which can greatly affect the appearance and the durability of your countertops for years to come.
As it pertains to quartzite and marble, there is also a ton of misinformation surrounding the two. We have paired our own real-world experience with trusted resources like geologists from the Marble Institute of America and the Natural Stone Institute to provide you with reliable information based on science, not hearsay.
This will allow you to buy confidently and know how to expect your countertops to perform under normal use and everyday life.
Which material is right for you?
Granite is an igneous rock which is formed when magma or lava cools slowly below the surface of the ground. Granite contains feldspar and between 20-60% quartz.
Granite has been used as a building material since ancient Egyptian times. Its durability is unrivaled, which makes it an excellent choice for kitchen countertops.
Unlike quartz, which is man made and contains up to 10% chemical resins and binding agents, natural stones like granite can be considered the “organic, non-GMO” material of the countertop world.
Because granite is a natural stone, it does not exist in pure or true white, and is typically busier than quartz or marble. “White” colors in granite range from grayish to creamy or antique white.
Here is what to expect with granite countertops:
- Granite will not scratch with any household item including keys, knives, and glass.
- There is not enough calcium in granite to make it react with citrus acids or any common household cleaners including vinegar, CLR, and LimeAway. You may also safely clean granite with acetone, fingernail polish remover, alcohol, Windex, bleach, and any other off the shelf product. You do not need expensive or specialized “Granite Countertop Cleaners.”
- Even unsealed granite is extremely stain resistant. Common spills, even red wine and marinara sauce pose no threat to your countertops if cleaned in a timely fashion. Properly sealed granite is nearly 100% stain proof.
- Granite has a melting point of between 1,200 and 2,100 degrees Fahrenheit depending on the moisture content of the stone. This makes it impervious to hot pots, pans, candles, and even most torches.
- Hot granite will not crack or shatter if you put something cold on it, nor will cool or cold granite crack or shatter if you put a hot pan or pot on it… even directly from the oven or stove.
Quartz is a man made surface combining approximately 93% crushed quartz crystals with around 7% epoxy and/or polyester resin and other binders by weight.
Because quartz is a manufactured material it is available in true white and black. Unlike granite or marble, quartz is also available in solid colors, which is impossible in natural stone because of mineral inclusions.
Although quartz slabs lack the variance and randomness of quarried natural stone, there are patterns available which very closely mimic the appearance of granite and marble. Because of this, quartz is an excellent choice for someone who wants the look of marble without the maintenance and lack of durability that come with it.
Here is what to expect with quartz countertops:
- Quartz is slightly less scratch resistant than granite. In our testing, it has proven resistant to abrasion from keys, glass, and smooth blades, but we are able to lightly scratch it with serrated steak knives.
- Like granite, quartz is resistant to household chemicals and citrus acids. It may be safely cleaned with any off the shelf product including acetone, fingernail polish remover, alcohol, Windex, and bleach. There is no need to purchase specialized “Quartz Countertop Cleaners.”
- Quartz requires no sealing and is the most stain resistant of the four major countertop materials. Although it is advertised as stain-proof, lighter colored quartz can stain lightly if something like red wine or marinara sauce is left on the surface for several hours or more. As with anything, common sense must prevail.
- Objects slid across lighter quartz can also leave dark marks resembling scratches which can be removed with some elbow grease. An abrasive cleaner such as Bar Keepers Friend or dishwasher detergent can assist in this removal process, but test and proceed with caution.
- Quartz far less heat resistant than granite. The resin binding agents of the countertops begin to fail around 300 degrees Fahrenheit. It is good practice to use a trivet or mat with hot pots or pans.
Quartzite is a metamorphic rock which began its life as quartz sandstone. Under immense heat and pressure, the sandstone recrystallizes, forming interlocking chains of quartz crystals. Comprised almost entirely of quartz, quartzite is the hardest of the four common countertop materials and can offer the beautiful grays and whites of marble without the worry of etching and scratching.
Because they are often similar in appearance, many marbles are often miscategorized as quartzite or soft quartzite. “Soft quartzite” is a misnomer; dolomitic marble is much more appropriate since the durability of such materials has nothing in common with a true quartzite.
Dolomitic marble or “soft quartzite” will etch in the presence of acid and can be scratched by glass, metal, and even copper coins. A true quartzite is impervious to all of these things and is even harder than granite!
If you are considering quartzite, we HIGHLY recommend you read this article by The Marble Institute of America. Do not be fooled by disreputable or uninformed slab distributors, fabricators, and installers.
Here is what to expect with TRUE quartzite countertops:
- Quartzite is even harder and more scratch resistant than granite. It is only scratched by heavy pressure from gemstones such as topaz, saphires, and diamonds.
- Like granite and quartz, quartzite is impervious to all household chemicals and cleaners including acids. There is no need for specialized or expensive “Natural Stone Cleaners.”
- According to geologist Karin Kirk with the Natural Stone Institute, quartzite has a range of porosities. Some, like Taj Mahal, have been highly metamorphosed, and the minerals are bonded together tightly. Others, like White Macaubas have been exposed to less intense pressure, so they are more porous.
- We have seen some recent reports of dish soap causing a darkening effect around the edges of countertops and soap dispensers at the sink. We highly recommend that all edges, faucet holes, and soap dispenser holes be properly sealed.
- Quartzite has a melting point of around 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit making it impervious to any kitchen or household heat source.
Marble is a metamorphic rock which forms when sedimentary rocks such as dolomite or limestone recrystallize into interlocking carbonate crystals. It has been used as a building material since Roman times and is often desired in lieu of granite because of its whiter color.
Due to its mineral content, most importantly calcium and calcium carbonate, marble with etch in the presence of acids. Marble is also the softest and most porous of the four common countertop materials and will scratch and stain easily.
Here is what to expect with marble countertops:
- Marble is very soft and has little to no scratch or impact resistance. Metal, including knives, keys, coins, and many other household items scratch it even with light pressure. Marble will also chip and pit on its edges and surface due to impact.
- Unlike granite, quartz, and quartzite, marble is highly susceptible to even weak acids. Marble will fizz, etch, and dull in their presence. This includes citrus acids from fruit and carbonic acid from soft drinks. You may not use vinegar, CLR, LimeAway, or other acidic cleaners on your marble countertops. Marble is, however, bleach safe in moderation. The same applies to alkali cleaners such as Windex, 409, and Fantastic.
- Many fabricators and slab distributors will tell you that sealing marble will prevent it from etching. This is a widely disseminated piece of mis-information that is simply not true. At best, sealer will provide you with a very small window of time to remove the acid from the countertop before it starts to etch.
- Under no circumstances should and abrasive cleaners such as steel wool, Comet, ScotchBrite, or Bar Keepers Friend be used. If even remotely in doubt, test a small, inconspicuous area first. We highly recommend using a neutral cleaner labeled for marble.
- Marble is porous and stains easily. It is imperative that it be sealed prior to its initial use and resealed regularly. Red wine, marinara sauce, and grease pose and imminent threat to unsealed marble and must be cleaned promptly.
- Marble has a melting point of around 1,500 degrees Fahrenheit making it completely impervious to any kitchen or household heat source.