We’re often asked how quartz and quartzite countertops exactly differ. With similar names, the question is raised with good reason. But to understand the differences between quartz and quartzite countertops, we must first clarify that the mineral “quartz” and “quartz countertop” belong to two different categories.
Quartz: mineral and countertop
In geology, “quartz” refers to one of the most abundantly occurring minerals in Earth’s surface. More strictly speaking, it refers to the chemical compound silica, i.e. silicon dioxide (SiO2). When looking at quartz as a mineral, you’ll find that granite, onyx, quartz, slate and soapstone countertops all contain the mineral quartz in varying degrees.
But when we speak of quartz countertops in the stone industry, we are talking about a manufactured product, sometimes referred to as “engineered stone.” Quartz countertops are produced by using loose quartz, mineral pigment and an industrial resin binder. Since there is over 90% of loose quartz content in quartz countertops, the stone industry simply refers to these surfaces as “quartz.”
Given that quartz surfaces are man-made, they come in any color and pattern imaginable. Keep in mind, though, that quartz countertop patterns are often more uniform and repetitive than the patterns of natural stones. Since industrial resin binds the quartz minerals together, the countertop's surface is non-porous and requires no sealing; however, quartz countertops are sensitive to heat above 300 degrees Fahrenheit. In addition, quartz is more flexible than quartzite, less prone to chipping, and out of all the surfaces, maintaining quartz countertops is by far the easiest.
What is quartzite?
Quartzite is a naturally occurring metamorphic rock that began its life as pure quartz sandstone. Over millions of years, sandstone morphs into quartzite under the extreme pressure and heat underneath the surface of the Earth.
Due to its natural origins, no two slabs are the same. The color range of quartzite countertops usually falls within the white, gray and beige spectrum. However, pink and red hues are common due to the iron oxide in the stone, as well as yellow, blue, green and orange hues that are a result of other naturally present minerals. Because of the subterranean pressure that helps form quartzite, the slabs have streaked patterns similar to marble. Quartzite is heat resistant and slightly harder than granite. Quartzite surfaces are sometimes porous, which means that they require periodic sealing and more meticulous care than quartz surfaces.
Both quartz and quartzite are great for kitchens and bathrooms. But with any stone, the question is not about which material is better. Rather, the question is which stone is more suited for your needs. Both quartz (Mohs scale of mineral hardness: 7) and quartzite (Mohs: 7-8) are comparable and often harder than granite (Mohs: 6.5-7). With quartz, you get a low-maintenance surface that comes in a myriad of colors, even though it isn't fully heat resistant. With quartzite, you get the unique look of natural stones and a harder, more durable surface, although periodic sealing is suggested. In terms of pricing, it all depends on the project at hand. However, if there are a lot of small details in your design, quartzite might put a heavier strain on your purse, given that the stone's hardness usually translates into more labor.
|Color||Large spectrum||White, gray and beige|
|Pattern||Any pattern||Similar to marble|
|Hardness||Mohs Scale: 7||Mohs Scale: 7-8|
|Maintenance||Minimal care||Simple care|
|No sealing required||Requires periodic sealing|