Quartz worktops have grown rapidly in popularity over the last decade. They offer all the benefits of a natural stone but with the added practical benefits of manmade enhancements. Stylishness, brilliance, durability and low maintenance are just a few of the reasons to consider quartz for the kitchen, bathroom or any other application.
Before it is made into a worktop, quartz itself is a mineral. In fact, it is one of the most common minerals on Earth. Pure quartz is clear or transparent, but quartz in general comes in a variety of colours, depending on what else is in Mother Nature’s mix and from surrounding elements.
Quartz is found in many shapes and sizes and is usually mined from veins. It can be mined in small, globular-type masses deep beneath the surface, or as sharp crystals that look like salt, anywhere from dusty granules of salt to larger pieces, much like rock salt, from the surface. As quartz is very hard, it does not erode – this means that large rocks containing quartz may be eroded over time by wind and water, leaving behind the crystals.
Other than use as a gemstone, quartz alone isn’t much of a building material. It must be bonded with something to make it into a useable structure, such as a worktop. Typically, resins and binders are utilized for this purpose. Manufacturers also usually add other natural stone products like granite pieces, pigments, recycled mirror, or coloured glass to enhance the material’s pigment and appearance. Sometimes antibacterial chemicals are even added, to make the stone even more adept for applications like kitchen worktops or bathroom tiles.
These raw materials are fed into mixers and blended together. Mixers play an important role, and multiple mixers may even be used, depending on the number of colours introduced. This mixture is then poured into a mould to create the shape and sizes we expect in a worktop. These slabs will be pressed to form 2cm or 3cm thickness with the help of a vacuum and vibration process. Aside from creating the worktop dimensions desired, this step presses air pockets from the material. Lastly, the slabs are baked in the oven at very high temperatures.
Once manmade materials have been bonded with nature’s quartz under pressure and heat, the result is a very hard, strong and durable material that is very low in porosity (quartz is usually described as non-porous) so that moisture, bacteria and soil have no place to settle. After the slabs are baked, the final step is to polish them to a glossy shine. The resulting product is beautiful in appearance and may be cut without difficulty as well, making it an easy material for installation. It requires no sealing or polishing to keep its brilliant shine. Quartz is truly an excellent marriage between nature and manufacturing!