Unlike many natural stones that can be stained by oils and grease from cooking, engineered stone is resistant to these risks and offered in a larger selection of colors and patterns often at a lower cost than natural stone. Most engineered stone is manufactured by combining engineered quartz with different resin and other materials to create a "manufactured" stone that has qualities that are different from natural stone. Quartz itself cannot be used for home remodeling because it is not fond in large panels or "slabs". Quartz occurs naturally in a crystal form.
The reason quartz is so common for creating engineered stone is because it is one of the strongest natural minerals. The only minerals harder than quartz are diamonds, sapphire and topaz. Engineereed quartz stone surfaces are available in colors not found in nature, as the crushed stone is generally mixed with a colored pigment during manufacturing allowing you to select a unique color while still having the appearance of real stone. Listed below are some of the more popular engineered stones.
Below are some of manufacturers
- Corian - Invented and produced by DuPont, Corian is a stone surface that offers exceptional installation options and outstanding durability.
- SileStone Another of the engineered stones that can be an excellent substitute for granite at a much lower cost.
- Zodiaq - New brand of engineered stone from DuPont. It offers excellent superb design flexibility with a myriad of color and texture choices.
- Formica Stone Formica Stone has many similar properties to other engineered stones like increased durability but is offered in colors that are unique to the Formica brand.
- Cambria - Cambria is the newest of the engineered stones offering exceptional strength and beauty.
What is Engineered Stone?
Quartz (Silica/Silicon Dioxide, SiO2) is the most common mineral on the earth's surface. It is present in nearly every geological environment and is a component of almost every rock type and exists in an impressive range of varieties and colours.
Quartz ranks 7.0 on Moh's Hardness Scale, which is used to measure the scratch-resistance of a material. Only the diamond (at 10), topaz and sapphire (at 9) are harder than quartz. (Granite is ranked 6 on the scale).
Because quartz grows in clusters and does not form huge stone blocks like granite (which contains 40% - 60% quartz), limestone or other types of rock, it is not suitable in its natural state to make into countertops or other large slabs.
The process to convert quartz to a slab/countertop was patented by Breton, an Italian company, and is used by all companies which manufacture engineered stone.
This manufacturing process uses raw quartz crystals ranging in size from coarse grains to the size of rock salt. Once the quartz is ground and selected, the crystals are combined with bonding agents (resin) and color, then heated and vibro-compacted to form an impenetrable surface.
The resulting slabs are a matrix of 93% quartz and 7% resin binders and pigments ... free of fissures and cracks, and impervious to water, moisture, or bacteria.
Industry-wide, all quartz countertops are made with 93 percent quartz or they cannot claim the hardness, durability, or impermeability of a true quartz surface. The prescribed mixture results in a product that is non-porous, exceedingly durable, and more than twice as strong as granite and less likely to break during fabrication.
The manufacturing process is a controlled process and quality-control measures exist for quartz that are not possible for natural granite countertops. The nature of the production process ensures that any sample slab will be identical in color and texture to the delivered product.
The engineering and finishing phases of quartz-counter manufacturing are virtually the same throughout the industry, companies can all offer limited warranties for up to ten years on their products.
Because they're man-made, these materials can be fabricated in large sheets ( 52"W x 120"L), which makes it easier to fabricate large islands in one piece. In addition, curves, circles and other shapes are possible.
Color and Appearance
To the untrained eye, quartz surfaces appear to be natural stone. What makes it different?
Natural rock is variable by nature ... colors and patterns may shift and change on a large slab. Surface pits are a mark of granite. Engineered stone on the otherhand, displays a "consistent variability" or mottling in color and texture throughout a quartz countertop. Each slab looks the same, which helps minimize the visible seams that often plague granite countertop installations.
The actual appearance of the quartz surface varies depending on the size and mix of the granules. Smaller, finer crystals give a more uniform appearance, while larger ones provide a more mottled look.
Quartz surfacing is available in colors not found in nature, as the crushed stone is generally mixed with pigment. Take advantage, and choose a color that dazzles while still looking like stone.
In addition to granite, some manufacturers produce engineered stone that looks like marble, travertine, concrete, and other natural stone.
Since they are solid, the color and natural mottling from the quartz crystals runs throughout the material. Slabs are fabricated into countertops with edge profiles that range from simple bevels to bullnose and ogee.
Because engineered stone is a natural stone product, seams are required for any application that is longer /or wider than the slab size .
These seams are visible, but are often less noticeable than a typical granite seam - where the seams may show changes in pattern and shade.
As with solid surfaces, integrated sinks are not available in quartz countertops.
Fabricating and installing a quartz countertop is not a job for the Do-It-Yourselfer. It takes a practiced professionals.
In addition to being extremely dense and strong, quartz tops weigh quite a bit more than granite. It is however, easier to cut, handle, and fabricate without damage than granite is. Trained installers can count on fewer broken slabs and less waste than in a typical granite installation.
Care and Maintenance
Because it is non-porous, quartz polished surfaces do not need to be sealed as do other stones to prevent staining.
Unlike granite, quartz surfacing is a nearly indestructible material. It is resistant to stains caused by wine, fruit juices, liquid food coloring, tea, nail polish and remover, and felt-tip markers. Its non-porous nature is also extremely hygienic, making it a food-safe choice.
Though the quartz surface can briefly tolerate moderate temperatures for a brief time, it can be damaged by high heat and prolonged exposure to heat. Use a hot pad or trivet when placing a hot pan on it.
No surface is indestructible, though. As with any other stone or surface material, strong chemicals and solvents such as Drano®, Liquid Plummer®, oven cleaners and floor strippers will damage the surface.
Continuous long-term exposure to direct sunlight (UV rays) may result in slight discoloration of Quartz Stone countertops. Most indoor applications will not apply.
POLISHED SURFACES (high gloss)
Routine cleaning involves little more than soapy water or a mild household cleaner such as Formula 409®, Fantastik® or Windex®.
HONED SURFACES (smooth with more of a matte look)
A homed surface will require more daily maintenance than polished finishes.
Since there is more exposed surface area with honed finishes, metal marks, finger prints and other signs of daily living will show on honed material. Most of these marks can be easily removed with little effort and cleaning products such as Soft Scrub™. For tough stains, work the area with a Scotch Brite™ pad.
If you love the look of natural stone like granite, as most of us do, but are worried about the price or some of the drawbacks associated with natural stones, engineered stones like quartz may be the answer you need. Unlike naturals stones that must be protected by sealants from oil and water spills, engineered stones are non-porous and are not susceptable to water and oil spills. Also unlike natural stones, engineered stones do not have unpredictable variations in color or pattern which can make replacing damaged sections much easier. Engineered stones provide most of the benefits of natural stone without the weaknessess.
Engineered stones are the most durable countertops materials. They often combine the durability of quartz and the low maintenance qualities of man-made materials such as resin - making engineered stone a great option for not only countertops but also, showers, tubs, and flooring.
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