Quartz Slab Quality: How to Pick the Right Quartz Slab
Quartz Countertop Slabs: Why Quality Slabs Matter
There are a lot of factors involved with picking the right countertops for your kitchen or bathroom remodel; color, slab thickness, edge profile, and so on, but no factor is as important as the overall slab quality. Choosing a poor quality slab is a potentially fatal mistake that can end up costing you more to fix than you spent in the first place.
Picking a cheap slab can lead to countless hours staring at your new countertops with a sullen frown wishing you had spent the extra few hundred bucks for a quality slab that you will look at every day for years to come. In the article below, we will review the main factors used by consumers and professionals to determine the quality of the slab and discuss how to avoid critical mistakes.
When looking at samples and slabs for your new counters, here are the key factors to determine the quality of the quartz slab:
- Color consistency
- Through body color
- Aggregate settling
- High quality resin
- Consistent polish
Color Consistency: Making Sure Your Slabs Match
Good quality quartz will have not only have consistent color from one slab to the next, but within the slab as well. This is extremely important for kitchens that require more than on slab.
If a single slab has even minor variations in color from one end to the other, these differences will become glaringly apparent when two pieces are seamed together. Many quartz countertop colors vary within the slab by design, but even counters with bold, dynamic movement should have stability in the base color.
Quartz countertops are produced with a mixture of quartz, resin, and the color pigments that determine the color of the slab. High end quartz slab manufacturers such as Caesarstone, Cambria, and Pental, not only use computer controlled recipes to ensure consistency, but also do rigorous testing of the pigments and other ingredients prior to mixing.
Lower end quartz manufacturers have less precise mixing and testing procedures that can lead to severe color variation not only from batch to batch, but even within the same slab. Although the difference may be slight, if you have chosen your backsplash, your flooring, and your cabinetry around the color of your countertops and then you end up with two different colors, well that’s not good.
All manufacturers will have some variation from one slab lot to the next, and there is a very good chance that there will be a subtle difference between the sample you selected your countertop from, and the slabs used in your kitchen even with the highest quality quartz countertops on the market. All mass produced product such as carpet and tile have similar variations from lot to lot, but choosing a higher quality slab for your counter top project can prevent a lot color variation problems.
Here are two easy ways to identify color consistency issues before you purchase your new countertops.
- Hold different samples side by side. If you are choosing your new quartz counter tops from a sample, ask your dealer for a second sample to hold side by side with the first. It is unlikely that the samples were made at the same time, and therefore they SHOULD vary. This is not necessarily a warning sign, but it will give you an idea of how much different the slab you get may be from the sample you viewed. If you cannot tolerate the fluctuation in color, choose a different color or make sure to pick and tag the actual slabs for your project.
- View a full size slab. If your dealer does not have slabs in stock (most do not), simply ask if you can visit the distributors warehouse and view the slabs in person. When looking at the full size slab, hold a sample or piece of white paper up to it in several spots as a reference.
How to prevent color consistency issues in your counter top project:
Once you have identified and are aware of any color consistency issues that may arise in your countertop project, there are a couple things you can do to ensure your get the best quartz countertops you can afford.
- Choose a name brand quartz manufacturer to ensure you get a quality product covered with a manufacturer warranty. Watch our video "Do Brand Names Matter" for more detail on the differences bewteen quartz brands.
- Hire a reputable fabricator. A good countertop fabricator not only will prevent you from buying a poor quality slab in the first place, but will also layout your kitchen or bathroom counter tops in a way that matches pieces that will be seamed together appropriately.
Color Through Product: Beyond the Counter Surface.
Good quality quartz slabs have through body color. What is through body color? Those veins, patterns and other designs you see on the top of the slab, those should go all the way through to the bottom of the slab.
If color doesn’t go all the way through the body of the slab, then don’t your edges and undermount sink cut outs will look bad because the color will stop part of the way down the edge., if you have a waterfall edge that maybe has an exposed backside, that is going to look totally different than the top of the slab.
This is a common issue that a lot of homeowners miss until it’s too late but is easily avoidable. Simply look at the edge of the countertop sample or slab. If the color starts to fade or dissipate halfway down the edge, stay away.
Aggregate Settling: Consistency is Key.
Similar to through body color, a good quality quartz countertop should also have through body aggregate. That means with you look at your countertop edge, you should see consistent aggregate distribution.
The chunks or pebbles that you see in your countertop are called aggregate. Some quartz countertops have very fine aggregate, other quartz designs have larger, chunkier aggregate depending on the design. Regardless of the size or pattern of the aggregate, it should be consistent from the top of the slab to the bottom of the slab.
When the aggregate is not consistent throughout the slab, not only is it unsightly to the eye, but it can often lead to pits and pockets as well as a weight and density imbalance in the slab which can cause increased fragility.
High Quality Resin: The Countertop Binder
The quality of resin used in the manufacturing of quartz counters is one of the most important factors, but also one of the hardest factors to determine. The resin is what holds the countertop slab together. Poor resins fail and can have major health concerns. Good resins last for decades and carry certifications such as GreenGuard or Leed.
It is literally impossible to tell from looking at a slab or sample, whether high quality or low quality resin was used, however an experienced fabricator such as New Leaf Cabinets & Counters, knows the difference. Cheap, low quality resins are often found in no name imported slabs that are sold with warranties and can make the fabrication process more difficult and lead to bleached or burned edges during polishing.
Good counter top fabricators stay away from countertop slabs produced with low quality resins not only because it’s more difficult to fabricate, but also because of the unknown chemicals that become airborne during the fabrication process.
Consistent Polish: Shiny Countertops
Another key factor in determining the quality of a countertop is the consistency of the surface polish. When you look down your new countertops at eye level you should see a smooth consistent shine. There are several different types of polishing, honing, brushing and so on, but a good quality quartz will have a consistent, patch free shine (or in the case of honed countertops, lack of shine) throughout the countertop surface.
Poor quality quartz countertops will have a more blotchy shine because the manufacturers are using cheaper resins and pushing their polishing pads beyond their life span. Surface polishing is an art of it’s own and errors in surface shine are not easily repaired. Quality slab manufacturers test the shine of the slabs with an extremely precise gloss meter before leaving the factory.
Warranty: Your Personal Countertop Protection
It is easy to become overwhelmed with choices and factors, but there is one condition that quickly and easily assures you are buying a quality quartz countertop: the manufacturer’s warranty. For more details on what a manufacturer’s warranty convers, click here, but in general, you want to choose a brand that has not only a warranty from the fabricator to cover installation issues, but also a warranty from the manufacturer of the slab. If the manufacturer isn’t willing to stand behind their product and ensure that it is free from manufacturing defects, why should you risk your hard earned money.
Conclusion: How to Avoid Poor Quality Quartz Slabs
Choosing a poor quality slab can be detrimental to your new kitchen but is easily avoidable. The absolute best way to avoid the trap of low quality quartz slabs is to simply work with a quality, reputable countertop dealer and fabricator such as New Leaf Cabinets & Countertops. Quality fabricators and countertop dealers work hard to develop and maintain their reputation and won’t risk ruining it my saving a few bucks on a cheap slab even if that’s what you want. Truly good fabricators won’t even give you the opportunity to make that mistake, because they have a lot more than a single project on the line with every sale. If you’re in the Puget Sound area, reach out to us for a free, no obligation countertop quote.
If you are not in the Seattle Tacoma area, simply do your research and read reviews on your local fabricators before making your final decision.
If you have any questions, please comment below.