Natural stone countertop materials like granite are a popular option among businesses looking to add a touch of aesthetic beauty to their storefronts and facilities, but considering the cost, maintenance requirements, and a tendency to harbor bacteria in small cracks and crevices, granite is not the best choice for most commercial or industrial needs. Solid surface and quartz countertops are two popular alternatives to granite, both of which can easily be customized and provide durable, easy-clean performance suitable for life in a hectic commercial environment.
While solid surface and quartz countertops could easily be mistaken for one another, once you dig a bit below the surface some key differences may make one more suitable for your needs than the other. In this guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about solid surface and quartz to help you make an informed choice, plus, we’ll give you the inside scoop on the best place to find custom solid surface and quartz countertop options.
Solid surface and quartz are both artificially manufactured materials designed to provide enhanced strength, durability, and cleanliness in an extremely customizable package. Both solid surface and quartz are made from a combination of resin and fillers which can be altered to create a virtually limitless array of colors, patterns, textures, and finishes.
Both materials are uniform in color – either solid or with a consistent pattern throughout – and some versions have been created to mimic the look of natural stone.
Though these man-made materials are often designed to look like stone, both solid surface and quartz are far easier to care for than granite or marble, and can also be sanded down and repaired in case of damage. As such, these options are also more affordable than natural stone countertops and can be relied upon to remain in good condition for longer with less intensive upkeep.
Although solid surface and quartz countertops can sometimes be identical, their composition (how they are made) differs significantly. Both materials are made from a combination of a binding resin and various filler, but their exact compositions are as follows:
Solid surface is made from three key ingredients: a binding resin, filler particulate, and pigment. Acrylic, epoxide, and polyester resins are common choices for the creation of solid surface and must be heated to turn them into liquid before mixing.
Once cured, these resins become hard and extremely durable while also being carvable like hardwood, and thermoformable to facilitate the creation of curved edges. Once the resins have been chemically cured, they become smooth and impervious to the collection of dirt, grime, and bacteria, moisture absorption, and everyday bumps and scratches.
To add texture, filler particulate is mixed in with the solid surface resin along with pigment for color. Color and texture are entirely customizable, and can easily be made to fit client specifications.
Though artificially manufactured, quartz countertops consist of around 95% natural quartz that has been ground for easy mixing. To hold the quartz dust together, a final 5% of resin is added to the mixture before each slab of quartz is poured and cured.
Additional ingredients (like glass fragments or pigment) may be added to customize the look of quartz countertops.
Comparing Materials: Solid Surface vs. Quartz
If you are looking for durable, easy to maintain, super hygienic countertops to outfit your commercial facility, you can’t go wrong with solid surface or quartz. However, these two materials do have a few key differences which could dictate which option is best for your specific needs. Let’s compare the various qualities of both solid surface and quartz countertops:
Countertops in commercial facilities like labs, manufacturing facilities, and medical centers must withstand consistent use, unexpected friction and chemical exposures, regular cleanings, and the various tasks to be accomplished each day. As such, commercial countertops are required to be extremely durable and should be able to not only tolerate the constant use but remain unchanged years later.
Both quartz and solid surface perform well, even after constant use, but as with any surface, both have their limitations. In general, quartz is considered more durable than solid surface with better scratch and stain resistance, but solid surface still performs exceptionally well and can easily be refinished and made to look good-as-new.
High heat conditions may not be a factor in your facility, but in many labs and educational environments, heat resistance is an important feature for your countertops to possess. Although solid surface is considered suitably heat resistant for most settings from industrial kitchens to medical facilities, it can become damaged or begin to melt if exposed to extended high-heat.
Hot pans, open flame, heat utensils, and hot surfaces should never be placed directly on solid surfaces – use trivets, heat pads, and mats instead.
Quartz is heat resistant up to temperatures exceeding 400 degrees Fahrenheit and is generally preferred for high-heat applications like use in commercial kitchens. Though damaging quartz with heat is difficult, it is still advisable to use trivets and heat pads to protect the surface from possible damage.
Scratch resistance is important to prevent surface damage from occurring during routine tasks. Some softer surface materials may scratch easily from only minor drag or friction, but in a commercial environment, this kind of scratch vulnerability won’t do. Solid surface is considered moderately scratch-resistant and may become scratched over time and with extended use.
Though solid surface may scratch more easily than quartz, solid surface can easily be sanded and refinished to eliminate minor surface scratches.
Quartz is virtually unscratchable, and won’t develop even minor scratches after years of use. Though quartz is considered extremely scratch-resistant, it isn’t recommended to cut directly on quartz countertops, so you’ll need cutting boards regardless of which surface you choose.
Should your quartz countertops become damaged they may be able to be repaired, but quartz is not as easily resurfaced as solid surface.
One of the major issues with natural materials is porousness since most natural materials are not perfectly smooth. Because of this, materials like natural stone often need to be chemically sealed before being used in commercial environments, and even then, may be prone to collecting bacteria, grime, and chemical residue in small pits and crevices.
Both quartz and solid surface are completely poreless, meaning that they naturally prevent the accumulation of contaminants. Because of this, both quartz and solid surface are also extremely easy to clean and require no special treatment to achieve a desired level of cleanliness.
If you plan to install countertops yourself, the best option for your needs will be solid surface. Solid surface can be cut with easily accessible woodworking tools, and creating virtually indetectable seams can be accomplished with little more than adhesive and fine-grit sandpaper.
Thanks to a lightweight composition, a carvable, hardwood-like texture, and non-splintering design, installing solid surface countertops is relatively easy.
Unlike solid surface, quartz countertops must be cut using specifically designed industrial tools, and require more training to accomplish a professional-looking installation. If being able to DIY your countertops is a must-have-quality, quartz isn’t a good option.
Both quartz and solid surface countertops are relatively affordable compared to natural stone, but if you are looking for the more affordable of the two, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a difference. Both affordable in their most basic forms but capable of becoming more expensive as you customize texture and color, the cost of both quartz and solid surface can be kept budget-friendly.
Gaps & Seams
Seamless countertops aren’t just aesthetically pleasing, eliminating gaps helps to prevent dirt, grime, and bacteria from building up in hard-to-reach crevices, and helps to keep small items from accidentally being lost behind countertops. If you want a single, seamless countertop longer than a standard countertop slab, solid surface will be the best option for your needs, since solid surface can be carefully cut, seamed, glued, and treated to make seams practically invisible.
Quartz, on the other hand, cannot be seamed as tightly together, which means quartz countertops may have small (though covered) gaps between slabs.
Selecting High-Quality Countertops
No matter which material is right for your facility’s needs, it is important to find a reputable, reliable source to purchase your countertops from. Though considered durable and ideal in commercial, manufacturing, and medical environments, materials like quartz and solid surface can be found for sale from many sources, not all of which are equally reputable.
To ensure the product you choose is high quality, purchase your solid surface or quartz countertops from a furniture expert like OnePointe Solutions.
At OnePointe Solutions, we carry a huge range of lab countertop products and offer a wide range of services to help our clients develop the best and most long-lasting solutions for their specific needs. Our experienced team works to advise clients on everything from the best material options for their facilities to design ideas and final details upon installation.
OnePointe Solutions handles everything, ensuring the final result is exactly what you imagined.
In addition to solid surface and quartz countertops, we offer several other countertop materials (like stainless steel and maple block) as well as tons of other furniture options to complete your full commercial or industrial set-up. Whether you need workbenches, casework, ergonomic seating, or advice for expanding your design, our team of experts is here and ready to help.
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