The problem with cheap quartz worktops
If you’re looking to give your kitchen a makeover, you may be considering a quartz worktop. It’s a great choice. Not only is quartz beautiful, but if you choose carefully, it’s also incredibly durable and resilient against stains and scratches.
But beware, because not all quartz countertops are equal.
As the popularity of quartz has risen over recent years, so has the demand. And this has led to a flood of cheap quartz worktops being imported from China. And while they may look similar on the surface, the quality is not.
In this article, we look at the problems that can arise with Chinese quartz countertops and show you why cutting costs may be more expensive in the long run.
What makes a quartz worktop quartz?
You could be forgiven for assuming that for a worktop to be called quartz, it must be made 100% from natural quartz stone. But that’s not the case.
Quartz worktops are an engineered stone. They’re made from ground down quartz minerals that are bonded together by a resin. And getting the quartz to resin ratio right, combined with the right manufacturing process, makes all the difference when it comes to the quality of the worktop.
In Europe and the US, quartz worktops contain at least 93% quartz and 7% resin. This ratio is the sweet spot that makes them so durable. Not enough quartz and the surface won’t perform as well. Too much quartz and the worktop will be brittle.
But regulations in China aren’t so stringent. Unbranded quartz from China can have as little as 60% quartz and as much as 40% resin. And it’s these high levels of resin that cause most of the problems.
Cheap quartz worktops can have quality and performance issues
Buying cheap unbranded quartz worktops can be a gamble, so it’s best to be aware of the problems that are common in Chinese imports:
When too much resin is used in quartz worktops, it can be distributed unevenly and settle in pools across the surface. This causes dark spots which affect its overall appearance.
Too much resin makes cheap quartz countertops bend when they’re being transported. This can make the installation very difficult or even impossible.
Good quality quartz worktops have a very uniform colour and pattern. So, if you order more than one slab, you can be confident they’ll match. This isn’t always the case with cheap quartz, and you could end up with two slabs side by side that are different shades.
Colour changes after installation
Dye inconsistencies and the higher levels of resin in cheap quartz worktops can affect the colour pigmentation. When this happens, your worktop can change colour after you’ve had it installed.
Another common problem with cheap quartz is that the slab thickness can vary, and the worktop thickness you ordered isn’t necessarily what you’ll get. A thinner slab won’t be as durable, and a thicker slab may not fit your kitchen correctly.
Strong chemical smells
In Europe and the US, there are strict regulations about the type of chemicals that can be used in worktops because they’re in contact with food. But Chinese standards are more relaxed, so the chemicals used in production may not be as safe. You may also find that your worktop emits a strong chemical smell that can last for a year or more.
If you’re lucky, you might get a worktop that looks fantastic and doesn’t show signs of any of these problems. But once your worktop is installed, there could still be performance issues.
Less resistant to stains
Because of their high quartz content, quality branded quartz worktops are non-porous, which makes them stain resistant. However, the low quartz content and high resin levels in unbranded quartz worktops make the surface porous. This means that anything that’s spilt can be absorbed quickly and is more likely to leave a stain.
Less resistant to scratches
Quality quartz worktops can withstand everyday scratches and scrapes easily. Although it’s always a good idea to protect the surface when you’re cutting with knives. But quartz worktops with high levels of resin are much softer and will scratch more easily.
Prone to melting and scorching
While branded quartz worktops aren’t heatproof (we recommend using a trivet for hot pans), they do have a certain level of heat protection for short periods. But when it comes to quartz worktops with a high amount of resin, there’s very little protection at all, so melting and scorching are common.
They won’t last as long
High-quality quartz worktops are known for being extremely durable and long-lasting. And that durability is underpinned by generous manufacturer’s warranties. Silestone® and Caesarstone® quartz worktops, for example, come with a 25-year warranty. Unbranded quartz worktops will deteriorate at a much quicker rate, and it’s unlikely you’ll be offered a warranty at all.
Branded versus unbranded quartz worktops
In summary, branded quartz worktops, made in the UK or Europe, are durable, consistent and reliable. You can trust their quality and performance and have peace of mind that they’re underpinned by long warranties.
While you may pay less for an unbranded quartz worktop, the pay-off is poor quality, poor performance and potentially a worktop that looks awful. And with no warranty to fall back on when things go wrong, you’ll either have to put up with what you’ve got or pay-out again.
So, our advice is to always check where your worktop has been made and buy quality branded quartz over unbranded quartz worktops to avoid problems.
SEH Interiors have over 10 years of experience supplying and fitting premium-quality kitchen countertops at affordable prices across the UK.
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