Engineered Quartz (ES)
By Mark Ortiz, Stone Restoration Specialist
This months subject is awareness of the common issues of engineered quartz, also called engineered stone (ES), right after installation. Realizing I'm speaking to a wide audience I'll keep my explanations easily understandable to the newly acquainted. I've been giving my perspective and sharing my experience of Engineered Quartz here in Southern California for the last 10 years. It's important to note that I don't sell or install engineered quartz, or ever plan to, therefore if I seem to step on your toes a little and thought we were friends, well, we're still friends but I will always do my best to give the facts and carefully consider my opinions.
My personal quote is that, "One can make better decisions for themselves once they have the truth, even if the truth is not always pleasant to hear." So let's get on with some truths about engineered quartz!
Here are some of the truths about man-made Engineered Quartz. It's a mixture of hardened resins/plastics and other additives such as natural stone, glass, metals and whatever else they can recycle.
Not all engineered surfaces are the same yet there are some similarities. Most don’t easily scratch, most don’t stain, most don’t etch from acidic liquids, and few can be restored. “What do you mean, few can be restored?”
I want to be real here 'friends'. ES is not bulletproof no matter what the creators of quartz or marketers may claim and now allude to. Problems happen to ES just like any other countertop surface. Due to its composition the repairs are difficult and surface polishing rarely matches the factory finish like other tried and true products such as marble and granite.
Inconsistencies in Reflection
ES is not blemish free. Customers should be aware that blemishes such as streaks, dullness, scuffs, pits and color contaminants are common on newer installations. ES is basically a mixture of 93% stone aggregates and 7% resin polymer (by weight, not volume). It is mixed together like a pan of rice crispies and buttered marshmallows. The mixture is pressed down and heated until all the air bubbles and voids are removed, cooled and refinished to a high polish. So if you are being intellectually honest, do you really expect it to be BLEMISH FREE? Let's look at some common issues for new installations.
If you look closely at the picture you will see dull blemishes in the reflection. Hard to see both in pics and in person.
Lighting reveals the blemishes
After installation we often see blemishes on the surface via natural lighting. It's very difficult to see blemishes, this is why fabricators could not see it prior to installation. Lighting changes everything! Outdoor lighting that reflects off the countertop reveals inconsistencies more than any other lighting. Sometimes homeowners will turn off their artificial lighting to see the blemishes more clearly. This is why the counter looks 'as expected' before sunrise or after sunset. Because outdoor lighting is the primary factor, most of the complaints i get are in kitchens. The picture shows dull rib like shadows.
This is not an excuse but a fact... Inconsistencies in factory finishes are common and are to be expected!
Sometimes it's not factory blemishes, and this is where it gets, well, sticky and people start to point fingers.
Large rings or circles
When we get a call about large rings on ES the first assumption from customers is that it's from 'suction cup rings' used at the factory. It's true that the factory and some fabricators use suction cups to lift slabs but that isn't always the case. To help see this, the photo to the right shows what factory circles look like on the back side of the slab. These are circles on the plastic protector yet similar markings on the front. They are evenly spaced, approximately 10 inches in diameter and throughout the slab. Red lines point to circles, blue lines are spaces in between. The best reason explained to me why this occurs is that the slabs may not have been completely cured prior to lifting because suction cups do not harm the surfaces. Sometimes the rings can be cleaned off but if it is more than skin deep, it may be permanent.
The poor fabricator.
Stop right here....and accept the conclusion, that until now, the blemishes had nothing to do with the fabricator.
Fabricators are the whipping boys of the stone industry. They handle the material more than anyone else. They drive it to the shop, unload and move them, lay them on a bridge saw table, re-lift and place on lamination tables, pick up again and place in their truck. Drive to the job, carry it in and sometimes walk up 3 flights of stairs, set it on cabinets, level as best as possible and fill joints. Sometimes a slab may require up to 6 strong men to move these around. These guys deserve an applause!
One piece of advice and consideration...do not initially put the blame on fabricators and installers for every issue on the surface of engineered quartz and natural stone.
Get the facts before unpleasantries come out out your mouth or a bloody showdown ensues. Stuff happens (chaos) and solutions follow (order).
Installers can scratch the surface
Installers are not out of the woods in all cases because 'stuff happens'. The most common issue is scuffing the surface with their abrasive diamond pads to finish the edges off or remove a scratch. These diamond pads scuff and dull the surface pretty easy and if the material is wet, it's impossible to notice until it's dry or the light reveals it.
Some fabricators have the skill and patience to remove these blemishes but most don't because the products and techniques are not available to them and because it's so darn difficult and usually impossible to restore the factory polish on ES!
Sometimes the installer is convinced he can remove the scratch or other issues without realizing the problems that he'll discover. Yes, I did say "he" because a "she" would stop and say, "Hey, let's get PGS out here to fix this." (You know I'm right.)
The picture is an example of a surface sanded by the installer. PGS is able to restore the polish but we never claim we can make it match perfectly. This time I don't think the flowers lessened the blow.
“Engineered Stone is an excellent choice for counters yet it’s not bullet proof and needs to be cared for properly. It is common to see light blemishes immediately after installation depending on the lighting in your home or office. Try to keep high heat away from it. It hasn’t been around as long as natural stone therefore any repairs or polishing is difficult, according to the professionals.”
I didn't have time to go into all the issues or concerns regarding engineered stone, but over time I will. PGS has been repairing engineered quartz since its inception to the industry so call ☎ (714-999-2961) us if you have any questions or run into an issue.
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