Quartz Timing

While specialists in site-cast or precast slabs continue to make countertop-market inroads for concrete, product fabricated from high quartz (90 percent)

Don Marsh

While specialists in site-cast or precast slabs continue to make countertop-market inroads for concrete, product fabricated from high quartz (>90 percent) content slabs is quickly gaining ground. Resin-bound, pigmented quartz products selling for $60 to $120/sq. ft. installed will exhibit the highest annual growth rate over the next five years, according to a new study from industrial market researcher Freedonia Group, Cleveland.

Residential Kitchen & Bath Countertops examines five categories’ shipments over 1999-2004, totaling 362.5 million sq. ft. to 469 million sq. ft. of product, respectively. Quartz countertops sold under brand names like Avanza, CaesarStone, Cambria, Silestone and Technistone are grouped in Engineered Stone, a category so new as to have negligible U.S. shipments in 1999, but representing 25.3 million sq. ft. of installations in 2004. Freedonia researchers predict Engineered Stone shipments will reach 38.3 million sq. ft. in 2009, with 8.6 percent annual growth rate over a five-year period.

Bearing compressive strengths in the 10,000 psi range, the concrete-like quartz slabs are cast in 3/4-in. and 1-1/4-in. thicknesses Û suited to countertop, back splash and shower enclosure applications Û and promoted for high heat resistance, extreme hardness, and near-zero porosity. Those properties are imparted in production that includes vacuum-augmented mix consolidation; high heat curing; and surface grinding and polishing to glass-like finishes. The leader in quartz slab machinery is Italy’s Breton SpA, whose specialties also include portland cement concrete tile equipment using processes similar to the slab production. Most slabs for U.S. installations have been imported from Europe, although US Stone has built a 200,000 sq. ft. plant near Houston for Avanza production, while Cambria USA claimed the first domestic line with a 150,000 sq. ft. plant in Le Sueur, Minn. Market leader Cosentino USA, also based outside Houston, sources Silestone slabs from Spain, and enjoys wide distribution through Home Depot stores.

Behind Engineered Stone, Freedonia researchers predict growth rates through 2009 in these categories: Stone (primarily granite, 5.6 percent); Solid Surface (i.e. Corian, 1.6 percent); Tile & Other (including concrete, 1.1 percent); and Laminates (0.6 percent). The latter category remains by far the largest, with roughly 58 percent of the market in 2004, shrinking to about 55 percent in 2009. The second largest is Tile & Other, representing about 17 percent of shipments.

Demand for residential kitchen and bath countertops is forecast to increase 1.7 percent annually through 2009. Advances will be driven by modest growth in kitchen and bath remodeling expenditures, which are forecast to continue outpacing other home improvement expenditures. Additionally, Freedonia researchers note an ongoing trend toward larger kitchens and more bathrooms, with less square footage allotted to formal living rooms and dining rooms. Although the new multiple unit and manufactured housing markets are forecast to rebound through 2009, countertop sales will be limited by declines in new single unit housing completions, a much larger market for new countertops. Residential Kitchen & Bath Countertops is available for $4,200 from the Freedonia Group, 440/684-9600; www.freedoniagroup.com