Over the past decade, the use ofquartz surfacing— especially for countertops — has been on the rise. For those seeking a durable and consistent look, quartz surfacing products offer an alternative to natural stone or other surfacing materials. And due to its evolving popularity, quartz surfacing manufacturers are expanding their selections — providing solutions for both consumers and the design community.

“Quartz surfacing continues to be very popular for countertop applications because of its inherent technical characteristics — mainly durability — and ease of maintenance,” said Michele Caneva of the Italian-based company Santa Margherita. “The residential market has not significantly changed, and the quartz surfacing is still promoted and sold mainly for kitchen countertop applications. We have seen an increased interest coming from designers working on commercial projects — mainly for flooring and bathroom area applications. Again, I think the interest toward quartz surfacing is mainly due to its outstanding technical characteristics, ease of maintenance and, when it comes to designers, the possibility to have custom colors.”

And while custom colors are appealing, Caneva finds that several basics remain favorites. “Some colors simply never go out of fashion — white and gray in different shades and black,” he said. “We see a trend for beige in ‘cold’ hues and taupe colors.”

Maggie Amir, Brand Manager for Caesarstone of Van Nuys, CA, confirms the color trends. “White is definitely a hot color when it comes to quartz surfaces,” she said. “In the A&D community, grays and whites are popular, while beige and browns are popular with consumers.

“Quartz has definitely grown in popularity, but mainly on the coasts,” Amir went on to explain. “Middle America is still learning about the product. In the last five years, quartz has become more readily available at point of sales, and the consumer has learned of the great benefits of the product, including durability and color consistency.”

Marketing approaches

The increased interest in quartz surfacing can be attributed to the strong marketing efforts of the leading quartz manufacturers. “With consumers, we focus on advertising both online and in print, and we try to educate them about the benefits of quartz,” said Amir. “With architects and designers, Caesarstone takes a direct approach. Our reps are out in the field meeting with the A&D community and building strong partnerships with them.”

Santa Margherita also takes a solid approach to marketing its products and educating its consumers. “All technical data, including instruction for maintenance and certifications, are available on our Web site and in all our published literature,” explained Caneva. “For the A&D community, we have developed an iPhone/iPad application, a CEU online course for AIA members (hosted by www.aecdaily.com) and a ‘lunch & learn’ presentation valid for both AIA and ASID members.”

Environmental benefits

In addition to strong marketing campaigns, the environmental benefits of quartz surfacing are alluring in this day and age of green building and sustainability. “Caesarstone surfaces are non-porous and prevent the growth of surface mold and bacteria due to the use of quartz as a key ingredient,” said Amir. “In addition, our product is in compliance with ISO 14001: 2004 to intensify environmental protection activities both in the manufacturing facilities and the outside world.”

Caneva agrees that quartz surfacing offers environmental benefits. “Most quartz surfaces to be found on the U.S. market, and Santa Margherita is among them, are Greenguard certified,” he explained. “This means that the level of VOC emission is very low. In addition to that, quartz surfacing shows a long life cycle. Today, many quartz surfaces can be manufactured using recycled raw materials, such as glass, mirrors, feldspar, granite and porcelain. Santa Margherita has developed a special line called Second Life, manufactured with 89% certified recycled content.”

Chris Carlson, Vice President of Sales and Marketing at QuintessenzaTM Stoneworks, states that his company’s line of quartz surfacing also is made with the environment in mind. “Quintessenza Stonework’s quartz materials are environmentally friendly, and fit right into our commitment to provide safe products for our customers and for the planet,” he said, adding that the company’s factory in China, CXUN, has 14 active production lines, with two more being added. “All of our products are continually tested beyond the industry standards for bisphenol A (BPA), phthalates and lead content to ensure our stone is completely safe for direct food contact.”

When speaking more on the environmental benefits of quartz, Carlson cites that it is radon and radiation free, and it has no harmful effects on indoor air quality. “[Also], the manufacturing of quartz surfacing uses materials that could otherwise be wasted and just go directly into landfills. The quartz engineered stone manufacturing process results in a very durable material, which is highly resistant to damages from scratching and warping, thus you can truly rely on having this ‘green’ countertop last for a very long time.”

Surface finishes

While quartz products present a wide selection of color options, various finishes are also available. However, a polished surface remains popular in the U.S. market.

“In Europe, honed, brushed and textured finishes have been popular for at least the past five years,” explained Caneva. “The North American market has always preferred a polished finish — mainly because of its ease of maintenance. We are seeing a slight change to the market with an increased interest in textured finish — especially when a designer is involved. We offer a textured finish line called Wave that recalls the look of slate, and Concreto that is reminiscent of a polished concrete look.”

Rupesh Shah, co-president of MS International (MSI), an Orange, CA-based stone and tile distributor with locations throughout the U.S., agrees that a polished finish is still in high demand. “Occasionally, we are asked for a honed finish, but I would say that 95% of the time consumers are looking for polished,” he said. “I think people like shiny quartz.”

Shah explained that MSI got into the quartz business about four to five years ago. “In the last 18 months, we are seeing a definite [surge],” he said. “One reason is because pure white is in. That’s one large part of it. The second thing that is driving its popularity is that the price points are becoming more comparable to natural stone. China is becoming a huge player.” Additionally, Shah believes that quartz products are much better marketed than competing products such as marble and granite.   

“I think many quartz manufacturers are keeping on top of the technology and evolving,” said Shah. “Our customers are purchasing it. This year, I think we will sell 20% quartz. It will be interesting to see what happens once white isn’t popular anymore.”