A few times a week, we get emails asking us questions about the house. Paint colors, furniture, light fixtures, budgets, dogs, etc. One thing we’ve been getting a lot of emails about recently are the new kitchen countertops. Therefore, we thought it was time to do a big ‘ole post and give you the 411 on them – from how they’re made to how we’re liking them now that we’ve been living with them for a few months.

Before we cover all of your FAQs about our countertops, let me fill you in on some details about quartz countertops. Silestone, Cambria,  Zodiaq, and other quartz brands are all made the same basic way: the factories take ground-up quartz and mix it with resin, which allows the material to harden into a flawless flat surface. The end product is nonporous, heat resistant, and low-maintenance. On the flip side of that same coin, because quartz is a generally inexpensive material, the final product is also inexpensive compared to some other stone-based countertops (like marble, for example). Around our part of the world anyway.

What made you pick quartz over other materials?
For us, we really felt that quartz was the best bang for our counter-buying buck. Laminate wasn’t an option, and though we liked the look of butcher block, it scratches and gouges too easily. We found granite and quartz to be neck-and-neck on pricing (depending on what you get), but granite is higher maintenance. Corian is a cool product, but when you go beyond the tiny sample and see a big slab of it in person, we thought it felt kind of like super hard plastic. Then there’s marble. Ash especially loved the look of marble, but being on the much higher end of the price spectrum, it wasn’t in our budget. We ultimately decided on quartz because it looks great, is relatively low-maintenance, and we really liked the color/style options. That brings me to the next question…

What brand/color did you get?
Cambria‘s Torquay (more on that here). Not only did we really like the color/style, but we also dug the fact that it’s US-made.

It looks really white in photos. Is it that white in person?
First of all, in our very unprofessional opinion, countertops are really hard to photograph! In the first round of photos we posted about the kitchen, it looked super white, and you couldn’t really see the veining. We finally got a pretty good  hang on how to photograph them better, so now you can see the veining and color variations. The base is a milky white and the veins are a mixture of cream and gray. So you can get a better idea, here’s a photo of a bright white ceramic creamer against the countertop…

Can you see the seams?
If you take a look at the right-hand side of the picture above, you can see a very thin line. That’s one of the four total seams in our kitchen, and two of those are hidden behind the stove. So yes, the seams are there, but they are so thin and nicely finished that they’re definitely not an eyesore.

Is it  really scratch and heat resistant? 
So far, I haven’t seen a single scratch. As a mater of fact, Ash dropped the rough side of a heavy piece of tile flat on the countertop (by accident) and it didn’t leave a mark. On the heat side, having lived with other materials in the past, I’m a little hesitant to put this claim to the test on my own counters. It’s said that you don’t have to worry too much about heat discoloring the material, but the thermal shock from setting something very hot on a room temperature counter can cause cracks. The moral of the story: we can probably get away with it, but we use a potholder just to be safe. We have a good-sized left over piece in the shed and I’m dying to do a MythBusters-style post on the durability! 

What kind of edge did you get?
We went with the standard “eased” edge. It’s the closest thing you can get to a squared edge, and we wanted clean, simple, and modern lines in our kitchen. This is also the least expensive edge option, so it was a win-win!

What do you clean it with?
On a day-to-day basis, we use Mrs. Meyer’s countertop spray (our go-to “flavor” these days is Basil). Their products are free of ammonia, chlorine, artificial colorants, phosphates and all that jazz. It contains a special vegetable protein extract that naturally cleans, degreases and removes odors.

What is the turnaround time for quartz?
Mileage may vary, but the turnaround time for us was about a week and a half. Luckily, our provider had exactly what we needed already in stock, so all they had to do was measure our cabinets, cut each piece to the appropriate size, and install them. It was probably one of the simplest processes in the whole kitchen.

Who did you buy your countertops from?
We purchased the countertops from Alpha Stone, a local company here in Richmond. From start to finish, they were really great to work with and we’d definitely use them again if we’re ever in need of more countertops.

I think that about sums up the most frequently asked questions we’ve been getting in our inbox. Overall, we’re really happy with the decision to go quartz. Bottom line: it’s good-looking, low-maintenance, and durable. I’m not sure we could ask for much more.

How about you guys… Do any of you have quartz countertops in your home? While we’re on the subject, anymore countertop-related questions for us?