If you’ve been planning on a new worktop installation, chances are you’re caught between a solid surface and quartz. Also, you’re probably thinking that these two are almost the same or even that quartz is also a solid surface since it’s also an engineered stone.
We’ve got you covered.
A solid surface worktop is a man-made material composed of mineral dust (mostly marble) mixed with epoxy or a variety of plastic resins and pigments. It is often used in seamless worktop installations, its main appeal being easy to fabricate.
First introduced in 1967 under the brand name Corian by DuPont, solid surface is now offered by other brand names, from Swanstone to Avonite, and has become a mainstay in bathrooms and kitchens. Compared with laminate, solid surface is a decided improvement and a perfect midrange worktop material.
Although it lacks the visual depth of a real stone, solid surface does resemble stone far better than laminate, thanks to the fact that it consists of mineral dust.
A lot of worktop buyers end up with solid surface after considering its pros and cons.
However, in recent year, quartz worktops have exponentially gained favour among homeowners, architects and designers. In fact, they’re even more popular than granite.
Quartz is an engineered stone primarily composed of 95% ground natural quartz crystals and mixed with binding resins.
It is here that solid surface and quartz are serious competition. Both materials fall into the same middle tier worktop material options, with granite in the upper tier and plastic laminate in the lower tier.
The following is a seven-criterion comparison between two excellent worktop materials:
- Heat resistance
- Scratch resistance
- Sealing requirements
- Mould and bacteria resistance
- Seam visibility
By now, it’s clear that neither of these two materials is all-natural and is of a “single substance”. Both solid stone and quartz are aggregates of minerals and polymers.
If somehow you prefer an all-natural product, then you’re better off with a natural stone slab like granite and marble.
Solid surface. The original solid stone material, Corian, is made up of approximately 33% acrylic resin and about 66% natural minerals, with aluminium trihydrate (ATH), a bauxite derivative, being the common mineral used.
If you’re thinking ATH appears like granite particles, well they’re not. ATH is a fine, white powder, akin to baking soda.
The different colours and style you see are achieved by mixing mineral dusts and resins and pigments.
Quartz. This engineered stone comprises 5% to 10% binding resins, which could either be cement-based or polymeric. The other around 90% to 95% are stone-like industrial waste products like quartz, marble, mirrors, glass, etc.
There are even companies that have started using non-food-quality vegetable oils as an ingredient in the binding resins.
Verdict: If you want a more natural appearance, then quartz is the clear winner here, though not by much.
Solid surface. It can withstand boiling water’s temperature of up to 212°F. However, generally, solid surfaces don’t have the best heat resistance. You may want to make sure hot dry pans like frying pans (which are hotter than hot) and wet pans (like a pot of pasta in boiling water) are not directly in contact with your Corian, that is, if you want to honour your part of the warranty.
In the event of scorching, solid surfaces can be sanded and polished to remove the burnt stains.
Quartz. Yes, quartz is as heat resistant as granite. Noticeably, it can bear temperatures of up to 150 degrees or even more.
However, note that heat resistance does not mean it is heat-proof. The surface can still be damaged when exposed to sudden and extreme temperature changes.
Manufacturers still recommend the use of trivets and hot pads when handling hot items.
Verdict: The obvious winner in this category is of course quartz. Still, under normal conditions, both surfaces are equally heat resistant.
Solid surface. Never cut directly on your solid surface. It is relatively soft, hence can mar. Be extra careful and use cutting boards when slicing on these surfaces.
If you cut on any Corian surfaces, you care guaranteed scratches will appear.
On the bright side, these surfaces can still be sanded and buffed and end up smooth again.
Quartz. This engineered stone is almost indestructible and has a very impressive flexural strength compared with other natural stones. So it is highly scratch resistant, although manufacturers recommend owners never to cut on quartz worktops.
They do still scratch.
Especially susceptible to scratching are solid, tight-grained dark colours. Plus, they’re very difficult to fix.
Verdict: One thing is clear here—Quartz comes obviously ahead of solid stone.
Solid surface. No, it doesn’t require sealing.
Quartz. No, it doesn’t require sealing as well.
Verdict: Draw. Both are man-made stones; hence, they both have a non-porous surface that doesn’t require sealing at all. The amount of resins in each mixture ensures the non-porosity of the material.
Mould and bacteria resistance
Solid surface. Solid surface worktop products meet FDA standards for ASTM International standards (G-21 and G-22) bacterial and fungal resistance and have NSF International approval in Class 51 for both “Food Zone” and “Splash Zone” areas.
Of course, good hygiene is always a requirement for any product use, especially products in direct contact with food handling.
Quartz. Engineered stones are inherently non-porous thanks to the resin binders, making it resistant to stains, mildew and mould. How does 99.9 % bacteria-free sound?
That’s another bonus to being nonporous.
Additionally, quartz has GREENGUARD seal of approval thanks to its eco-friendly and sanitary properties.
Verdict. Draw. Since both are non-porous worktop materials, they don’t harbour bacteria or mould nearly as easily, which makes them easier to clean and maintain.
Solid surface. Seams are nearly invisible to the naked eye since they are created using a bonding adhesive, creating tight seams.
Quartz. Although seams are covered, they’re actually visible.
Verdict: Finally, solid surface wins this category. However, as large slabs, both worktop materials will have very few seams.
If you prefer the look and feel of a natural stone, then quartz clearly has an advantage over solid stone.
If you want a super modern-looking material, then opt for solid surface. In fact, it can be thermoformed or worked by hand (like wood) into flowing, curvy shapes, something that cannot be done for quartz/engineered materials.
Overall, because both materials are toe to toe in terms of appearance and performance (although we can’t say for scratching), the decision ultimately falls in your hands, whether you opt for the flexible solid surface or the natural-stone-looking quartz worktops.