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What Is the Best Countertop Material: Granite vs Marble vs Quartz

August 07, 2018
Dark gray kitchen countertops in Brookfield Residential home

Countertops can help set the tone for a room, whether that’s in the kitchen, bath, laundry room or elsewhere in the home. If you’re interested in new countertops or replacing your existing ones, which countertop material should you choose? 

Deborah Armstrong, Senior Interior Designer with North American Builder Brookfield Residential, shares her thoughts on using granite vs marble vs quartz as countertop materials, honed vs polished countertop finishes and countertop cleaning and maintenance.

Features of marble, quartz and granite

Granite, marble and quartz are considered luxury countertop surfaces that can last over time with proper care. Each is natural stone or manufactured with natural stone.

Granite countertops

“Granite is a natural, very durable stone that doesn't stain like marble, although granite will stain, and it does need to be sealed,” says Armstrong. “You want to make sure you're using a good granite cleaner and sealer on that.”

Granite is also resistant to higher temperatures, which allows you to place a hot pan from the stove directly on its surface without scorching it. It’s also less porous than some other stones, but it does need to be surface sealed, Deborah notes.

Granite patterns tend to feature slightly busy natural patterns, making them a good choice for traditional decors. “If you're designing your home, and you want to be a little more traditional, you would probably stick with the granites. However, most people nowadays are wanting a lot of plain-looking countertops, including very white countertops,” she says.

Marble countertops

“Marble is also a natural stone, but it's very porous, somewhat like a limestone would be, and a travertine would be as well. They need a lot of surface resealing,” says Deborah. “Sealing is a job that you have to be very, very diligent with if you have a marble surface. It will stain from wine, oils, anything like that.”

Because of the ease with which it can stain, overall, marble “is not a good product to put in your home.” It’s also important not to apply high heat to a marble surface, particularly those in lighter colors, and risk scorching it, she says.

If you like the look of marble, Deborah recommends using quartz countertops, which imitates marble and is great for modern, contemporary decors.

Quartz countertops

Quartz replicates the look of natural marble. “One nice thing about quartz is that it’s antibacterial, it's not porous at all, so people love that. Any raw chicken or other food that you place on it is not going to penetrate it,” says Armstrong.

Quartz is partially composed of natural quartz along with other ingredients, including polymer used to bind its components. Because it is susceptible to scorching, she recommends using a hot mat to help absorb the heat from pans.

Because it’s manmade and features an impenetrable surface, Deborah says quartz does not require surface sealing. Alternatively, natural quartz countertops or natural quartzite is a completely natural stone and does require sealing.

Read our blog on the top materials for counter tops to learn more.

Cost considerations

There are different pricing levels for quartz, granite and marble countertops, she says. Pattern, countertop thickness, and where the products originate can determine pricing.

“With quartz, it depends on how much work is involved in getting the pattern in the product because it's manmade,” Deborah says. It’s best to use the one you like that fits within your budget.

Difference between polished and honed surfaces

Polished countertops feature shiny surfaces whereas those that are honed feature a matte finish, Deborah says. Honed finishes sometimes imitate the look of suede or leather.

Polished surfaces tend to be more stain resistant because the polishing that makes it shiny creates somewhat of a surface barrier, but one that still needs to be sealed when it’s a natural stone.

Are polished or honed countertops better?

Which is better is a matter of personal preference, says Deborah. “Some people don't want to have the shiny, they want that nice matte look.”

Sealing countertop surfaces

Sealers can help restore the look of countertops while offering extra surface protection, says Deborah.  “Sealing is when you apply a sealer, a chemical product that goes on top of the granite. It soaks down in and makes the stone less penetrable,” says Deborah.

“Even when these countertop surfaces are sealed, things like oils, red wine and pasta sauce can stain the surface if they’re left on it for any length of time.” 

Sealing frequency

“I would say it's a good idea to do a really good sealing every few years, “ she recommends. “Consider buying sealant from the stone company itself. They have very, very durable products.

”Dragging a dish towel across the countertop surface can help you determine when resealing may be needed. If it doesn’t easily slide across the surface, you might want to consider resealing, she says.

Clean before sealing

While you don’t need to seal manmade quartz, you do need to seal marble, granite and natural quartzite. Deborah stresses the importance of cleaning the countertop surface well before applying sealant.         

She recommends a product called Gel Gloss, which is applied similarly to the way you apply wax to a car. “You're going to put it on, it's going to leave a nice film on there, you're going to wait a little bit, and then you're going to buff it,” she says.

Daily cleaning

Deborah recommends cleaning debris off the countertop and using soap and water for daily surface cleaning. “Make sure there's no grease left on it and make sure it's dry before applying sealer. You don’t want to seal moisture into the stone,” she says.

For daily maintenance, she recommends buying products that you spray on the surface that function as a daily cleaner and a sealer.

Stain removal

Staining may indicate that it’s time to reseal stone countertops. In the meantime, “You can go to a granite or marble outlet, and they will have products for you to help clean stains out. You're going to clean it really well, it might take some time,” says Deborah.

You can also try mixing some baking soda and water and applying it to the countertop surface with a paper towel. “Rub it in, and then let it sit to absorb that stain out for a little bit. Once it comes out, it might take a little while. Then you've got to make sure it's good and dry,” she says.

Durability of quartz, granite and marble

Granite, marble and quartz are all extremely durable surfaces, Deborah says. “If you hit anything with a cast iron pan, especially if it's on an overhanging edge, there's a chance that it might chip. Quartzite will tend to chip more. It just has more fissures going through it,” she says.

The lifespan of each is “Forever or until you get sick of it or it becomes stained or chipped. If you chip most of these products, again, just go to your granite supplier,” she says.”

Your turn

If you’re looking for more design advice, homebuying insights, or moving tips and tricks, the Brookfield Residential blog has a wide selection of storage and organization tips including our favorite outdoor decor ideas and kitchen decor ideas. Also, feel free to contact us directly if you have questions about a blog post or one of our new homes or communities.