I’ll be honest: I never really knew the difference between quartz, granite and marble. So when it came time to pick a bathroom vanity material, I had to do a deep dive to figure out what they were and which material is best. Here’s what I discovered:
Quartz is a better choice than marble or granite for a bathroom vanity countertop. Since quartz is engineered and not a natural stone slab like marble or granite, it’s less expensive and more eco-friendly. Unlike marble or granite, quartz is nonporous, making it less susceptible to bacteria and more durable.
Let’s take a look at the composition of each of the countertop materials. Then we’ll explore the relative strengths and weaknesses of each material for a bathroom vanity countertop.
Bathroom Vanity Materials: Where Are They From?
While quartz is sometimes called “engineered quartz” because it’s manufactured, marble and granite are 100% natural stones.
What is Engineered Quartz?
Engineered quartz (also called “man-made stone”) is manufactured from 90-95% ground natural quartz crystals, marble, granite or other stone, and 5-10% polymer resins and pigments. It has a more uniform pattern and color than natural stone, although you can purchase engineered quartz designed to mimic the veining in marble or the flecks of color in granite.
Because it’s manufactured, you can often source it locally and avoid the transport costs and environmental pollution associated with purchasing slabs of marble or granite. Quartz is also eco-friendly because it actually uses the waste byproducts from cut slabs of other natural stones.
An Italian company called Bretonstone hold s the patent for the technology to make engineered quartz. Other companies like Silestone, Caesarstone and Cambria license the technology.
What is Marble?
Marble is a metamorphic rock, which means it originated as one rock type and was transformed over centuries into another kind of stone. Marble originated as limestone that was subject to high pressure and high heat. Slabs for marble bathroom vanity countertops can be imported from Italy and Brazil, as well as Vermont in the US.
What is Granite?
Granite is an igneous rock, which means it’s made from hardened and compressed volcanic magma that was trapped inside the earth. Mica, feldspar and quartz and a variety of other minerals are all found in granite. When you purchase a slab of granite for your bathroom vanity countertop, it will most likely be excavated from a site in Brazil, India, Italy and China and then transported to your local stone yard. Pink granite is found in quarries in Texas in the US.
Quartz vs Stone for Bathroom Vanity Countertop
|Composition||90-95% ground natural quartz/marble/granite "waste" plus 5-10% polymer resins and pigments||100% natural stone made of quartz, feldspar and other minerals that originates from volcanic magma||100% natural stone that forms when limestone is subjected to high temperatures and pressurized|
|Aesthetic||More uniform colors and patterns than natural stone||Flecks of color, less veining than marble||Heavily veined, no two slabs are the same, wide variety of colors|
|Grades||Highest grade has less veining and richer coloration: Seconds (lowest grade); Standard (commercial grade); First Quality (premium grade)||Determined by colors, pitting, marks, veins, thickness, sourcing location: Grade 1 (builder's grade); Grade 2 (mid-level); Grade 3 (high-grade)||Determined by colors, pitting, marks, veins, thickness, sourcing location: Grade 1 (builder's grade); Grade 2 (mid-level); Grade 3 (high-grade)|
|Cost||$15 - $70 per sq ft material + $10-$30 per sq ft for labor||$15-$140 per sq ft material + $10-$30 per sq ft labor||$15-$190 per sq ft material plus $10-$30 per sq ft labor|
|Cleaning||Nonporous so not likely to grow mold and mildew.||Porous, so will foster bacteria growth if not cleaned daily with soap and water||Porous, so will foster bacteria growth if not cleaned daily with soap, water and soft cloth|
|Durability||Harder and more durable than granite or marble; but can be damaged by UV light and high heat ||Oils and acids can stain; heat-resistant||Softer than quartz; subject to etchings (watermarks)|
|Repairs||Fix small chips or cracks with adhesive or superglue; no need to remove slab||Use epoxy, clear resin or acrylic adhesive for small cracks that don't run through the depth of the stone||Fix with epoxy or marble adhesive; DIY repair kits available|
|Eco-Friendly||Yes - Made by recycling and crushing remnants from other natural stones and materials||No - Excavating can be hard on land, plus exporting around the world uses a lot of energy||No - Excavating can be hard on land, plus exporting around the world uses a lot of energy|
1. Quartz May Be Easier to Select Than Natural Stone
If you relish spending hours—no, days!—sorting through slabs of marble or granite at the stone yard then ignore this advice. But if you are the kind person who wants to sort through samples online, point to your favorite and know that’s exactly the color and pattern you’ll get, then quartz is for you.
The reason is engineered quartz is manufactured. While there are hundreds of patterns and color options to choose from, including some that look just like natural stone, it’s like buying any other mass-produced product: each item with a particular model number will be the same.
On the other hand, no two slabs of marble or granite are the same. This gives natural stone the status of luxury, so if that’s important to you, then go for it. You will want to make your selection in person at a stone yard. That way you can see the exact tint of the stone, the flecks of minerals in the granite, and the veining running through marble.
2. Quartz is Less Expensive Than Granite and Marble
Because granite and marble are often sourced overseas to a stone yard near you. Excavating the slab from the earth and transporting something so heavy across the sea can add up to a small fortune. On the other hand, quartz is literally made by crushing up remnants from marble and granite, as well as other materials like glass, plus a bit of quartz. Then a polymer resin holds the fragments together and a pigment gives the engineered quartz its color.
When these materials are ground coarsely, the quartz looks flecked like granite. If materials are ground more finely, the quartz can be made to look like marble.
But because engineered quartz is manufactured from remnants, the cost of transport is paid by the natural stone consumer and stone yard. Essentially engineered quartz recycles and reuses other materials, it is also more eco-friendly than marble and stone.
Cost Per Square Foot
According to homeadvisor.com, you should expect to pay $10-$30 per square foot, plus the following:
Engineered Quartz – $15 – $70 per sq foot
Granite – $15 – $140 per sq ft
Marble – $15 – $190 per sq ft
Grades of Bathroom Vanity Countertop Materials
Each material comes in at least three grades. The grade determines the pricing tier for that material. The highest grade materials will be thicker with richer coloration and more elegant veining. For marble and granite, the originating country can help determine pricing as well. For example, marble imported from Italy is often regarded as high-end. The middle grade for each type of stone is considered the “builder’s grade.”
Some fabricators will break down their slabs further into 6 or 7 grades.
3. Aesthetics: Quartz Shows Seams
Marble is known for the veins that run through it. You might get a slate grey slab with white veins or a white slab with bluish veins. There are endless combinations and like snowflakes, no two pieces of marble will look exactly the same.
Granite is adored for the flecks that come from crystallized bits of limestone throughout. You could find black granite with pink flecks or white granite speckled in grey or black. It all depends on the exact combination and amount of minerals deposited in each particular slab of granite.
Now let’s talk about quartz. The color and pattern will be more uniform throughout the material. As we mentioned, you can even find quartz engineered to look like marble or granite, but even these pieces are likely to be more uniform than a natural stone slab.
Will There Be Seams?
Once installed, there could be an aesthetic difference—though very slight—between engineered granite and natural stone.
It comes down to one word: seams.
When you get marble or granite, you’re purchasing a slab the size of your bathroom vanity countertop. Most likely, even for a double vanity, you don’t need a length of more than 10 feet. Usually, you can get one slab of marble or granite that’s 10 feet at most. This will cover most bathroom vanities.
With engineered quartz, however, it’s made in smaller lengths in order to preserve the quality of the material. You will usually end up with at least one seam, where two pieces of material fit together. A great installer can often make them hardly visible, though it’s easier to conceal a seam with a darker granite.
But if this will bother you every time you brush your teeth, then you might want to consider spending more for a different option.
4. Must Seal Granite and Marble But Not Quartz
Since quartz is man-made, it’s constructed to be nonporous. Contrary to common wisdom, stones do absorb water, albeit extremely slowly. Any bathroom surface that can absorb water is a place where bathroom mold and mildew would just love to grow.
(By the way, you’ll definitely want to eliminate any bathroom mold before installing a new vanity countertop, and when you’re remodeling, it’s the perfect time to hunt down hidden mold and get rid of it. For the ultimate guide to fighting bathroom mold, be sure to read Bathroom Mold: A Battle Plan to Destroy It.)
So granite and marble will need to be sealed annually, while quartz won’t need to be sealed ever. That said, sealing doesn’t really have to be a big deal. You can do it yourself. For a complete guide to sealing stone read Don’t Forget the Sealer!
How to Test the Sealant
Here are general directions for testing sealant on your countertop:
- Clean and dry your bathroom vanity countertop.
- Wipe the countertop with the sealant.
- Once the sealant dries, pouring a small bit of water in different areas.
- Time how long the stone takes to absorb the water.
If you leave the water for a specified amount of time and it hasn’t penetrated the surface, the sealant is working. However, if it does get absorbed, repeat the process. Consult the directions on your sealing solution for exact instructions.
Because at some point the sealant will wear off, it’s best to wipe down natural stone daily with warm water and soap. Then dry with a gentle cloth, just to make sure that no bacteria can take hold. And even if you have a quartz countertop, you’ll probably want to wipe them down, too, though you don’t need to worry about bacteria if you miss a day here and there.)
Another reason to wash a marble countertop daily is that water glasses can leave what is called “etchings” on the surface of marble, which is basically rings from the bottom of the glasses. The longer you leave on etchings the harder they may be to remove.
5. Quartz Is the Most Durable Material
Every material has its nemesis. For granite and marble, the enemy is acids and oils. These can stain.
For granite, the arch enemy is UV light, which can fade the pigments and polymers to yellowish tint over time. So a granite countertop shouldn’t be in direct sunlight.
That said, in or out of direct light, marble tends to darken a bit as the years pass. Unless you commit to daily cleaning, natural stone bathroom vanity countertops are more likely to stain and get permanent etchings over time, while quartz won’t.
What Happens If My Countertop Chips?
It’s possible that any of these materials can chip, especially if something especially hard falls on the countertop, although that’s much more likely to happen in the kitchen than in the bathroom. Still, keep in mind that marble is the softest countertop material we’re discussing, followed by granite. Toughest of all is quartz.
That said, if you do get a small chip or crack in your bathroom vanity countertop, there are several DIY repair kits on the market and chances are you’ll be able to fix it yourself. However, if you’re worried that you won’t do a good job, or the crack seems to be more than surface-deep, then it’s time to call in a professional fabricator for help.
Marble Fissures vs Cracks
Also, marble has natural fissures. These are different from cracks, in that they are supposed to be there. Run your fingernail over the surface of a fissure and your nail won’t catch. However, if it’s a crack, your nail will catch. People going for a rustic look in the bathroom especially seek fissured marble slabs for their bathroom vanity countertops.
If you take excellent care of your natural stone bathroom vanity countertop, guess what? It will probably outlast you at more than 100 years!
And a quartz countertop can last more than a century, too. It just won’t require the same amount of maintenance.
The Best Bathroom Vanity Countertop
If you hate the possibility of having seams show or if your bathroom has a lot of direct light, then go with natural stone. However, if a very subtle seam won’t bother you and your bathroom has indirect light or no light, then choose quartz (also called “man-made stone”.) It’s lower maintenance, more eco-friendly, and less expensive.
For everything, you need to know about bathroom vanities, be sure to see my post 8 Tips to Pick the Perfect Bathroom Vanity. Discover bathroom vanity types, size guides, and guidelines for choosing vanity mirrors, sinks and sconces.