quartz alternatives - down2earth Interior Design - Silestone kitchen island

Alternatives to Quartz Countertops

In recent years, quartz countertops have become a go-to choice for many kitchen and bathroom interior designers, because of their durability, low maintenance requirements, and variety of color/style options. As the demand for quartz has escalated, so has scrutiny over its production methods and the potential health implications for workers. At the heart of these concerns lies the risk of silicosis, a severe lung ailment stemming from the inhalation of minuscule silica dust particles. Given quartz’s high silica content (typically over 90%), the processes of cutting, grinding, and polishing quartz release this dust into the air, posing a significant hazard to workers, particularly those directly involved in the fabrication and installation of quartz countertops. There are some methods that can be used to lessen the risk to workers like proper ventilation that can capture dust particles at the point where they are generated, wet cutting to reduce the amount of dust that can get into the air, and maintaining equipment to ensure it operates efficiently and generates less dust. However, there are still a growing number of individuals who are actively seeking alternative materials, so, let’s explore some popular substitutes to quartz countertops, weighing their advantages and disadvantages alongside their sustainability credentials.

Concrete

quartz alternatives - down2earth Interior Design - concrete kitchen counter on left and concrete bathroom vanity top on right

Photos by Kyle Born

Concrete countertops have gained popularity for their industrial chic aesthetic and versatility in design. Customizable in color, texture, and shape, concrete offers a modern and minimalist look. Often locally sourced and made with recycled materials, it is also a great sustainable option. While durable and heat-resistant, concrete countertops can be prone to cracking and staining if not properly sealed and maintained.

Granite

quartz alternative - down2earth Interior Design - granite kitchen counters

Photos by Rebecca McAlpin and design by down2earth Interior Design

Granite countertops have long been favored for their natural beauty and durability. While dust still poses a risk to workers who cut granite or marble, it is less concentrated than in the engineered quartz (although Granite dust can contain toxic materials and should not be dry cut either). With a wide range of colors and patterns, granite adds a touch of luxury to any kitchen or bathroom. Granite is generally considered safe and environmentally friendly because it is recyclable and reusable, but it is not renewable and its extraction process can have environmental impacts if not managed responsibly. Granite is naturally fairly stain and heat resistant, but it’s still recommended not avoiding place hot pots/ pans directly on the countertop and to clean up spills promptly, especially acidic or oily ones.

Marble

quartz alternatives - down2earth Interior Design - bathroom vanities with marble tops

Photos: (L) Rebecca McAlpin (R) Kyle Born

Marble exudes timeless sophistication and elegance, with unique veining that adds visual interest to any interior design. While marble is heat-resistant and naturally cool to the touch, it is prone to scratching and staining, requiring careful maintenance. Additionally, the extraction and transportation of marble can have significant environmental impacts. To mitigate these concerns, focus on sourcing locally and even looking for reclaimed marble. We usually recommend marble only for low traffic areas like powder room countertops to help extend the lifespan and reduce the need for replacement. We deter clients from using it in kitchens because of etching and discoloration; marble vendors actually require homeowners to sign a waiver acknowledging these risks. And again, proper worker precautions need to be taken because marble does release tiny particles of potentially toxic dust when improperly cut.

Soapstone

quartz alternatives - down2earth Interior Design - kitchen island with soapstone countertop

Photo by Rebecca McAlpin

Soapstone countertops are renowned for their durability and heat resistance, making them ideal for kitchen environments. With a smooth and velvety texture, soapstone adds a touch of understated elegance to any interior. However, soapstone may scratch and darken over time, requiring periodic maintenance. Since soapstone naturally darkens over time, it can appear patchy or blotchy, so we recommend oiling to help create a consistent coloring. If you like the rich, dark look of soapstone, oiling can help you achieve that look faster. Like marble, you’ll want to be mindful of extraction and transportation and focus on reclaimed or locally sourced soapstone.

Wood

quartz alternatives - down2earth Interior Design - wood countertops in a kitchen and bar area

Photos: left and right by Rebecca McAlpin

Wood countertops bring warmth and character to any space, providing a natural and inviting ambiance. Wood offers versatility in terms of style and design and durability when sealed properly. However, wood countertops can be more susceptible to damage from water and heat and scratches and stains compared to other materials. They can be perfect for butler pantries or bars and a great opportunity to use sustainable harvested or reclaimed wood.

Corian Solid Surface

quartz alternatives - down2earth Interior Design - a marbled beige Corian kitchen countertop

Photo from Corian

Corian Solid Surface is a versatile material composed of acrylic resin binder and natural minerals and does not contain silica. It has a seamless appearance, similar to quartz. One of its main advantages is its durability, as it resists stains, scratches, and moisture. Corian is also non-porous, making it easy to clean. However, it can be prone to heat damage. It’s considered environmentally friendly due to its long lifespan, recyclability, and low emissions during production. Additionally, its repairability can extend its life cycle, reducing the need for replacement and minimizing waste. Unfortunately, we don’t know of a local showroom that has large samples for clients to see large slabs in person, but you can order samples here.

Dekton

quartz alternatives - down2earth Interior Design - Dekton samples

Dekton is made from 20 inorganic materials, sorted, tumbled and built up in layers. And then it is pressed…..with the equivalent force of two Eiffel Towers! Because it is a pressed material, it is super strong and indestructible. It can be used indoors or outdoors, and will not fade in the sun or crack when subjected to rapid temperature changes. Permanent marker and nailpolish won’t stain it, and you can even expose it to a small amount of fire and it will not burn.

quartz alternatives - down2earth Interior Design - Dekton flame demonstration on left and kitchen installation on right

Photo on right courtesy of Cosentino

Dekton comes in in a 4 mm product that could be used for cabinet doors. Here, Dekton’s Marmoria style is shown applied to the fronts of pantry doors in this kitchen interior design.

quartz alternatives - down2earth Interior Design - Dekton used for cabinet doors and kitchen island

Photo courtesy of Cosentino

It also comes in an 8 mm product that can be used for shower surrounds and accent walls (think fireplace surround), a 1.2 cm product for flooring or backsplash tiles and a 2cm product for counters. Because it is a pressed surface, if there is a decorative finish, like veining, it does not go all the way through the slab (although Dekton is working on a making a product where the design will go all the way through). As of now, you will see the edges are solid, even if the top has a design to it. Alternatively, you can create a mitered edge, which gives the impression of the design going through the product and can also create the look of a thicker countertop than their 2cm offering, which can give a nice, substantial look to a kitchen or bathroom design. However, fabricating mitered edges does add labor costs. Besides Dekton not being a through surface, the only other downside we can see is that it has to be fabricated and installed by people who are well-trained with the product, or else the seams will show and could chip. However, in terms of worker safety it contains no harmful dust, and in terms of sustainability, it is made in a factory that uses recycled water, sustainable energy and zero waste.

Silestone

quartz alternatives - down2earth Interior Design - wall of Silestone samples

Silestone is, in fact, an engineered quartz product. However, Silestone has been way ahead of the curve in terms of addressing the silica content in the product. They have introduced a Hybriq mineral surface to reduce the silica content in their solid surface material that doesn’t compromise the functional advantages of an engineered quartz countertop. Most of their products have 40 or 50% silica in them which is less than the industry standard of more than 90%.

But the even better news is that Silestone has recently released several colors with only 10% silica in it, which is far healthier for workers. And their older colors are in the process of being re-engineered to also have only 10% silica in them. Down2earth Interior Design has samples on hand of the current Q10 offerings, as they’re known, and we are looking forward to the release of the additional patterns in the Q10 format because they include styles that are super popular with homeowners.

quartz alternatives - down2earth Interior Design - Silestone samples

All the Silestone colorways come in a 3 cm thickness for countertops, a 2 cm thickness for vanities, and a 1.2 cm thickness for backsplashes, and you can choose between a polished or suede finish for most of their offerings. The only downsides involve steam, rapid temperature changes, and fading if outdoors. Use large trivets to avoid discoloration from steam, and if steam does leave a ring, you can gently scrub it with soft scrub to restore the factory finish. And if you use the material only indoors and don’t put hot pots right on the counter, you can avoid cracking that might be caused by rapid temperature changes and fading that might be caused by the sun.

If a design client of ours is interested in seeing this product or Dekton, there is a showroom in the Philadelphia area that has large slabs on display and we will happily arrange a visit.

quartz alternatives - down2earth Interior Design - Silestone slabs

Whether it’s opting for locally sourced materials, incorporating recycled elements, or choosing reclaimed options, every decision plays a part in shaping a more sustainable future for interior design. By exploring these alternatives and prioritizing sustainability in our choices, we can create spaces that not only enhance our homes but also contribute to a healthier environment for all. If new countertops are on your radar and you’d like to learn even more, complete our Client Contact Form and we’ll be in touch!

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