It’s 1967 and the countertop material of the future has arrived! It’s durable, it’s heat resistant, it’s shiny, and best of all it’s customizable. This material is solid surface. Tired of plastic laminate burning and scratching at every touch, Americans fell in love with the composite countertop product as soon as it the market. Solid surface appeared more natural than other manufactured countertop options. It also had the benefit of being cheaper than natural stone. It was top of the line – in 1967. This is 2020, and due to clever marketing solid surface is still being sold as a premier product even though engineered quartz (EQ) significantly and consistently outperforms it. Let’s look at a brief comparison between the two products:
Both EQ and solid surface have a reputation for being heat resistant. However, under high enough temperatures both will burn. The difference lies in what temperature they can each withstand. Solid surface is said to remain undamaged at temperatures up to 212°F, or the boiling point of water. Although this appears to be high heat resistance, it doesn’t even touch EQ at 350-400°F (depending on the manufacturer). EQ is still potentially subject to thermal shock, but the same can be said for natural stone. EQ is close to equally heat resistant as most natural stone, but the same cannot be said for solid surface.
Etching and Scratching
Solid surface data sheets admit that it will scratch. However, manufacturers atone for this defect by claiming the scratches are easily repaired or buffed out. But why spend thousands of dollars on a product that scratches in the first place? Like granite, EQ is extremely hard and scratch resistant and has even been known to dull knives if cut upon. Cutting boards are advised for EQ to save your knives, not your countertops.
Composition and Aesthetics
Solid surface consists of about 30-35% resin and 65-70% natural minerals, most of which is a fine white powder called aluminum trihydrate. This powder is held together by the resin and formed into the various veins, swirls, and colors found in solid surface. EQ contains a much greater quantity of natural minerals, consisting of around 93% granite, marble, glass, or mirror, and 7% epoxy resin. Although EQ was originally known for its solid and uniform look, today numerous lines are producing slabs that are barely discernible from granite and marble. With dozens of EQ lines producing hundreds of colors, you have a choice from the most contemporary to the most classic design without worrying about sealing, staining, or scratching.
In reality, price is the final deciding factor for all consumers. As a stone professional, I see all kinds of misinformation on the internet paraded as fact concerning the price of EQ and natural stone. The truth is, there is no single product that is universally more expensive than another product. Prices vary regionally and all stone is sold in price groups. Group pricing is not universal, and suppliers and contractors all adhere to their own pricing systems. A Group A stone at one supplier could be considered a B or C somewhere else. It is highly possible to find a slab of EQ or natural stone that is less expensive than solid surface. However, you will never find a solid surface product that is worth the same amount of money as EQ or natural stone regarding durability and design.
For more information, check out our infographic: Engineered Quartz vs. Solid Surface