Granite or Quartz Countertops: Make an Informed Choice

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    The competition is neck and neck right now between granite and quartz, two of the most popular high-end materials for countertops today. Quartz vs granite: which one would be best for your kitchen or bath? See how each stacks up in 5 important categories and make an informed choice.

    1. Appearance

    Granite is a natural stone, quarried from the earth and cut into large slabs. Each slab has a unique pattern of variations in color and markings, including what might be considered flaws. Some homeowners think of this unpredictability and uniqueness as part of granite's charm, while others are looking for a more consistent appearance. Granite comes in a number of background colors, such as black, white, and a variety of earth tones.

    Although quartz is composed of approximately 93 percent natural stone, mixed with resins, its markings are regular. Spare yourself the trouble of viewing several slabs of material to order your quartz countertop; choosing from a book of samples is just fine. A wide range of colors and shades is available, including faux granite and striking shades of blue, green, orange, or magenta that have no resemblance to natural stone.

    2. Cost

    Generally, granite is considered to be a luxury option. When it comes to countertops, though, granite is actually slightly cheaper than quartz at mid-range. It's only when you start looking at top-of-the-line materials that granite costs appreciably more.

    3. Care

    Although it offers the advantage of admirable heat resistance, granite requires delicate handling so that it doesn't scratch, stain, or etch. Have it sealed yearly to keep it from soaking up oily or dark-colored spills. Beware of acids, like wine or lemon juice, and don't be tempted to use today's most popular natural cleaning agent, white vinegar, on your granite countertops -- it will leave permanent marks.

    Instead, wipe down regularly with a soft cloth dipped in hot water and a mild cleanser such as your everyday dish soap. Avoid harsh chemicals such as bleach or ammonia, as well as abrasive cleaning pads. Granite may be disinfected with a mixture of half water and half isopropyl alcohol, although sealing makes this really unnecessary.

    Quartz is non-porous and therefore doesn't need to be sealed or waxed. This material is hygienic and resistant to staining, scratching, and acids. All you need for cleanup is soap and hot water. However, it may discolor when exposed to strong sunlight. If burned by hot pots (please use a trivet!) or chipped, quartz will require repair by a professional handyman.

    4. Effect on Air Quality

    In 2008 the EPA raised concerns about the dangers of granite countertops. Some granites contain uranium or other radioactive elements. This can lead to the emission of radon gas, especially from the pink, purple, and red varieties (black is the safest color). Have the supplier or remodeling contractor test the granite slab you'd like to use, or check it yourself with a radon testing kit from the hardware store. While you're at it, test for radon in your basement or crawl space too, since this is where the gas is most likely to be found in the home.

    Quartz does not off-gas or negatively affect interior or exterior air quality in any way.

    5. Curb Appeal

    When it comes to putting your house on the market, granite adds an extra "wow" factor. If your home has granite countertops in the kitchen or bathroom, that fact will always be highlighted in your real estate broker's property description. However, some buyers may be leery of the radon danger. If you have had the granite tested, make the results available.

    While quartz doesn't tend to make the same strongly positive impression on potential buyers, it is certainly not a negative. Seller beware, though: do not install quartz countertops in bright, bold, and dramatic colors unless you plan on staying in your home for many years. Otherwise, as with other decorating features, counters in classic neutrals are your best bet to increase curb appeal.

    Laura Firszt writes for

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