Most people are aware of the many drawbacks of natural stone countertops. This has led homeowners to look for man-made alternatives that can deliver similar color or appearances, but without the high maintenance or durability concerns.
Understanding the Differences Between Solid Surface Countertops and Quartz
Two of those materials often get confused for one another - quartz and solid surface. Both can sometimes have similar color patterns and appearances, and both are far lower maintenance than a natural stone countertop. But there are numerous differences between the two materials as well, which homeowners need to understand in order to decide which one is right for their home.
How They’re Made
The biggest difference between the two materials is how they’re made and what they’re made of. While the two materials are both man-made, they couldn't be more different in how.
Quartz is made of roughly 93% natural quartz stone - one of the strongest materials in home use. This quartz is mixed with polymer resins for binding, as well as pigments that give it its appearance, style, and patterns. Once it’s set, the final countertop is solid and heat resistant.
Solid surface material is made of acrylics or polyester-based plastics, which are heated until melting, then poured into a mold. The finished countertop has a slightly softer feel to it than quartz, and may be thinner with a built-up edge to give the appearance of thickness.
How They Look
At first glance, the two materials can look either very similar or very different depending on the color, the pattern, and the finish. Quartz often has a high-gloss or polished surface finish, while solid surface countertops are often a little duller with a low sheen, but it is possible to find matte quartz and a highly polished solid surface - they’re just a little less common.
Quartz is more likely to come in patterns that more closely resemble granite or marble. So if you want the look of natural stone in your kitchen, quartz is more likely to give you that look. However, solid surface countertops often have more subtle patterns and sometimes many more colors to choose from, so you can create a more unique or personalized look in your kitchen.
The biggest differences between the two in terms of appearance are in the details. Quartz slabs act a lot like granite or stone slabs. They’re heavy, solid, and either 2cm or 3cm thick at all points. They need to be cut and polished on their edges, so a sink is likely to be undermounted below the counter, with the edge polished up. If more than one piece is necessary for the installation, the two pieces will be butt-edged together and a seam will be created and filled with epoxy.
Solid surface countertops may be 2cm or 3cm thick, or they may be thinner with a thickened edge. They don’t have visible seams anywhere, because the material can be softened and melted with heat to blend two pieces together. So even a dramatically thickened edge or an extra long countertop won’t have a seam. Because two pieces can be joined seamlessly, a solid surface countertop will often have an integral sink, or a sink made of the same material in a contrasting color. Sometimes in small countertops it will also have an integral backsplash as well.
How They Perform
Both materials are much lower maintenance than natural stone. They don’t require sealing or special cleaners, which makes their day-to-day care simple.
There are some differences between how they work over time, however. Quartz countertops are very hard and are unlikely to scratch or chip. They’re unaffected by heat and are also resistant to stains. While it’s not advised that you cut right on them - because it can dull your knives - you can cut something on the countertop or set a hot pot on it without issue.
Solid surface countertops are less resistant to scratching, and they may lightly stain as well. Both of these can be removed with an abrasive pad, and in the case of a light-colored sink, some bleach, but this does mean that you may have some added maintenance with this countertop if you choose not to use a cutting board.
In addition, solid surface countertops are susceptible to heat. A hot pot could burn or melt the counter or even open a seam. A curling iron left on the edge of the sink could melt the countertop or open the seam between the sink and the counter. So more care needs to be taken around a solid surface countertop when using heat. Otherwise, the countertops are fairly easy to care for and can maintain their beauty for many years.
Choosing the Right Countertop for You
There are many benefits to both types of countertops. Solid surface countertops give you a lighter countertop without seams, while quartz countertops give you a more durable option that can resemble stone. Both are lower maintenance than natural stone and do not require sealing or special cleansers. Take a look at both options to see which one will fit your space best.