At first glance, quartz and quartzite sound so similar, one might think they are the same type of stone. Or even that quartzite is perhaps a fabricated version of quartz. In fact, it’s almost the opposite. Quartzite is a natural stone, similar to marble.
Quartz countertops are an engineered product, consisting of about 90% quartz and 10% resins which provide pigments (color), stain resistance and a nonporous material.
Appearance and Quality
Quartz benefits from having a wide array of colors and designs to choose from. Everything from white to black, red, green, beige and more is available. Years ago, quartz worktops used to be available in only a handful of colors, but today quartz boasts a compelling variety of colors.
Modern quartz countertops now offer more color variation than almost any other option, except for granite.
Quartzite often resembles marble, though offers more color variations. It has veins in the material, similar to marble, though in quartzite these tend to be more linear.
While white and gray are common hues, beige, red/pink, blue and green are available and often mixed within the same slab.
Where quartzite greatly differs from quartz is its hardness. Quartzite is actually the hardest stone in the countertop market.
Many homeowners or even salespersons will caution against quartzite as having the problem of etching. — This refers to the porous nature of many natural stones, and etching is actually a form of scratching of the material, from acidic liquids.
Etching is sometimes mistaken as a stain, when it is really a mark that results from dulling.
But the reality is that true quartzite cannot etch. The mistaken belief that quartzite is susceptible to etching comes from mislabeling of marble slabs as quartzite. To test whether a slab or sample is true quartzite, you can do a scratch test via tiled glass.
Soft Quartzite vs. True Quartzite
Given the high durability of true quartzite, the test will result in scratching the glass, whereas if the material is scratched instead, then it is not true quartzite.
Thus, true quartzite isn’t in need of sealing ever. Yet, if the product you have or are interested in purchasing is not actual quartzite, sometimes referred to as soft quartzite, then annual sealing is necessary, given the porous nature of most stones for countertops. Likewise, quartz is nonporous and also needs no sealing.
Costs and Installation Considerations
Quartz is generally less expensive than quartzite for countertop installation. Quartz countertops start as low as $65 per sq. ft. and can go as high as $150 per sq. ft. for premium material quality. Full installation of a finished slab generally runs between $85 and $150 per sq. ft.
The wide price range depends not just on quality of the primary material, but on amount of slabs being installed, edging finishes, and how complex of a job is the overall design.
Quartzite, fully installed will cost anywhere from $100 to $200 per sq. ft. It is nearly the same on the low end, but keep in mind that soft quartzite is significantly different from true, or hard, quartzite, which costs significantly more. True quartzite is also harder to obtain.
For a complex job, quartzite will run more due to how each material is actually installed. Quartzite, being most hard requires diamond blades to make precise measurements; whereas quartz can actually be formed into whatever shape is needed via molds.
Likewise, when it comes to edges around slabs or for countertops, the process for quartz is easy to fabricate. Edges can be flat, which is most common, round or curved, and even beveled. Achieving the same look in a quartzite edge takes precision cutting that usually raises costs more dramatically than what can be done for quartz countertops.
Maintenance and Resistance Factors
Premium quartzite is highly durable but not indestructible. It can chip or crack under certain conditions whereas quartz, being more flexible is less prone to such damage. Quartz is resistant not just to etching and staining, but also to bacteria growth.
While soft quartzite will require sealing and/or polishing to meet such a standard of resistance, thus more upkeep. Both materials are susceptible to damage from strong chemicals in certain household cleaners. For this reason, mild soaps and non abrasive pads are suggested for wiping up spills or removing gunk that is stuck to the surface.
Quartz is also not as heat resistant as stone. For this reason, you’ll never want to place hot cookware on the countertop. The result of the abrupt change in temperature is an instance where quartz may actually crack.
Likewise, quartz countertops are a no-no for outdoor installation. The colors will fade from ongoing exposure to sunlight and heat from the sun could lead to cracking. Quartzite, like other stone materials, may be used in exterior installations for a deck or outdoor kitchen.
While quartzite can withstand a hot pan being placed on it, it is also possible to damage it if this heated utensil was there for a long period of time.
Both materials are quite heavy and very often take a professional crew of at least two workers to carefully lift and place the materials, plus to ensure cabinet space below is able to sufficiently handle the load.
For a most durable, natural stone appearance, choose quartzite. And to overcome the need for annual sealing, seek and find true quartzite. For a wider selection of color options and to save a bit on overall installation costs, you’ll want to select a quartz countertop.