Offering low maintenance, high durability and endless color choices, it’s no wonder that engineered quartz offers a tempting alternative to natural stone countertops.

Although some quartz countertops are made of quarried slabs of the natural stone, the new engineered material is actually created through a process that mixes approximately 95 percent ground natural quartz with 5 percent polymer resins.

The result is a super-hard, low-maintenance, natural stone-look countertop available in an array of colors. For many homeowners, those virtually unlimited color options are what sold them on quartz.

Quartz countertops come in a wide variety of colors, including fire-engine red and apple green, as well as earthy browns, blacks and creams, with luster and veining for the look of granite or marble.

In the past, the greatest objection to quartz was that it lacked the patterns and color variations found in natural stone. But manufacturers are now offering multi-hued slabs with enough flecks, swirls and random patterning to make them almost indistinguishable from stone.

Finishes can also affect the final look and quartz can be matte, textured or glossy.

Durability is another reason for its popularity; quartz countertops are close to indestructible. And, because they are not porous like other stone surfaces, these countertops can be kept virtually bacteria-, mold- and mildew-free.

Quartz is considered design-friendly, since its resins make it more flexible than natural stone. Fabricators can bend and shape quartz into sinks or along the sides of a curved island.

In most regions of the country, the cost of granite and quartz are comparable but natural granite requires a bit more care. Spills, especially oils, wine, acids and soda, need to be wiped up quickly and a regular sealing routine followed, typically once a year.

If you want a light-colored counter surface, quartz might be your best choice. It cleans with warm water and non-abrasive cleanser and no sealing is required.

Andrea Antunes McGilton is sales manager for Distinctive Granite and Marble, with showrooms on Hilton Head Island, in RiverWalk, Beaufort and Savannah (Pooler).