Homeowner: I don't get it! Isn't quartzite supposed to be harder than granite and not etch??? I mean, that's why I bought it because it has the look of white marble but without the maintenance.
So is quartzite too good to be true? Have we been duped?
With the growing attraction to the beauty and resilience of quartzite, consumers, and yes even stone suppliers, are left in a haze why certain quartzites don't seem to be as "strong" as others. Is quartzite worth all the hype and not to mention the extra $$$ to achieve the coveted looks in all these home design blogs & magazines???
Well, its not the luck of the draw i.e. a bad batch v.s. a good batch. To understand this often misunderstood or better yet, misclassified gorgeous hunk of stone, we need to take a look at the geology.
Now I am no geologist. And in all honesty fabricators and the salesperson at the stone yard aren't geologists either. Believe it or not, most granite slabs in today's market are not actually granite, but I'll leave that topic for another day. But, being a part of the stone industry does mean that we professionals need to do a little homework, for our sake and for the sake of our customers.
Quartzite geologically speaking, is sandstone that has been transformed into the metamorphic rock called quartzite. In other words, its been through extra heat and pressure to become much harder, and much less porous than sandstone. Marble is a stone that has been metamorphosed from its kin, limestone.
Now lets talk a little bit about sandstone. Sandstone is made of just that, sand or quartz. Quartz does not react to acid like marble does, which is made of calcium or dolomite which does etch.
So, what does acid have to do with etching???
Acid has everthing to do with etching. Etching is a chemical reaction of the acid with the calcium and dolomite found in marbles that causes dull spots.
Okay, so if etching is caused by the presence of calcium and dolomite minerals and quartzite is supposed to be composed of mostly quartz, which doesn't etch...why on earth is my quartzite countertop etching?
Simple, your countertop is not made of quartzite. Yes, shocking, but the honest truth. In today's market there are a number of popular stone colors parading as quartzite when they are actually a dolomite marble.
Now dolomite marbles, like Imperial Danby, are more slow to react to acid than calcium based marbles, like Carrara which reacts instantaneously ...but dolomite marble etches tend to fade a little ( with a honed/matte finish)... and would have to take quite a bit of abuse and violent acid baths to look like well-loved marble countertops that grace pastry and bakery shops of Europe. BUT, that still does not make them quartzite. I do want to emphasize here that cleaning up spills when they happen, doesprevent etch marks from happening.
So, how does one know if he or she is getting the real deal?
A) samples and B) knowledgable fabricator.
A) Now sometimes its impossible to get a sample of every kind of quartzite...and no, its not because someone is trying to pull the wool over your eyes.
Some stone professionals don't know the difference, especially wholesalers, because its the fabricator who handles the end consumer. The other reason why its difficult to get a sample is the high cost of quartzite. Few are willing to cut a beautiful slab of into tiny sample size pieces, not to mention quartzite is extremely hard to cut.
B) So, that leaves us with our beloved fabricator. Fabricators learn on the job with every installation and rely on the feedback of their customers of how a certain material is holding up in a kitchen. Every home is different, every stone is different, and every kitchen is used differently. It is impossible for the professional to know how every material holds up in a home, because the professional isn't living with the countertop in question.
That being said, a fabricator who has been in the business for several years will have gained enough knowledge on the field to know which stones are marbles pretending to be quartzite. And, an experienced fabricator will know which stone supplier really knows their geology. The end result is the fabricator will be able to better understand the consumers expectations with the wear of their stone counter top and point them in the right direction as far as material choice is concerned.
Does this mean that the imposters should be avoided at all costs or are somehow inferior?
Absolutely not! It just means that the imposter won't meet the full expectations of a quartzite, especially in a polished finish. Its part of the reason why they can be past off as quartzites. But at least you'll know what to expect and make an informed decision.
Dolomite marbles such as Super White( it can also be known as Vermont White)and Calcite Crystal marbles (these beautiful slabs with their unforgettable crystal formation) are being confused for quartzite. Dolomite marbles are very durable and don't stain easily and hold up well in the kitchen. It's just not going to look like new. Calcitic crystal marbles are a different story, it depends if you are a marble person to begin with. A marble person doesn't mind the etching and romantic patina that marble obtains over the years of daily use.
So, we conclude for now, an end to this mystery.
Authentic quartzite does not etch and crosses all the t's and dot's the i's of all the hype. Beautiful, soft movement and depth that a calcite and dolomite based marble can't possess. Moral of the story, if it has the milky texture of Carrara, chances are... its a marble. But as I say to all my clients, go with what you love and what you can personally live with.