Use of quartz in homes on popularity upswing

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One of the biggest trends in home and building design in decades, quartz is both durable and eye-catching. Designers, architects, and savvy homeowners are all excited about quartz.

Made from one of the hardest minerals on earth, quartz countertops are arguably the most durable option for kitchens and baths. They're also some of the most eye-catching.

Quartz comes in a wide variety of colors including fire-engine red and apple green, as well as earthy browns, blacks, and creams with sparkles and veining for the look of granite or marble.

Quartz slabs are engineered in a factory, unlike natural stone slabs, which are mined. The primary ingredient is ground quartz, which makes up about 94 percent of commercial quartz. Under great pressure, this mineral is combined with polyester resins and pigments.

Though this process, quartz slabs become consistently high quality, a feat Mother Nature has not been able to match.

Manufactured to exacting standards, quartz slabs also are about 25 percent bigger than most mined stone, making this material an ideal choice for larger projects with fewer seams. Many leading brands are made in the U.S. including Caesarstone, which is manufactured in Savannah, and Viatera, which is made in Atlanta.

Natural quartz makes the material strong, and the added resins make it stain and scratch resistant, as well as nonporous, so quartz countertops never need to be sealed.

In contrast, granite, the reigning king of high-end countertops, typically requires a new protective top coat at least once a year.

In fact, granite seems to be falling out of favor with many architects and designers, replaced by quartz as the surface of choice. It is being used for countertops, backsplashes, and even entire walls.

Recently, Consumer Reports named quartz as the best option for countertops. Even lifestyle and media mogul Martha Stewart recommends quartz for countertops and backsplashes, and has attached her brand to a selection of quartz materials.

In the past, the biggest complaint against quartz was that it lacked the patterns and color variations you get with natural stone. That's a moot point now, as all manufacturers offer multi-hued slabs with enough flecks and swirls to make them indistinguishable from mined stone slabs.

Once available only in a high polished finish, quartz now is available with a matte or embossed treatment. It even comes with small amounts of recycled glass or metallic flecks to create dramatic looks.

Shannon Baltzegar is a sales associate and designer at Stoneworks Inc.

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