Made of crushed quartz crystals, polymers, and pigments.
Characteristics: The fact that this countertop uses quartz crystals makes it look and feel very similar to some granite, although it doesn't have the dramatic patterns found in granite. Quartz-based countertops don't require special maintenance such as sealing. The surface is very hard to scratch or burn. Only a few quartz countertops come in an unpolished finish; most are shiny. They are available in many patterns and colors.
What's new: A broader array of colors in natural tones.
Cost: $60-$150 per square foot.
Products: Caesarstone, www.caesarstoneus.com or (800) 666-8201; Silestone, www.silestoneusa.com or (800) 291-1311; Zodiaq, www.zodiaq.com or (877) 229-3935.
Made of polymers, acrylics, and resins.
Characteristics: These surfaces are stain resistant and impervious to damage from acidic foods; they're not as cold or as hard as natural stone. Scratches buff out.
What's new: Finer grains and bolder textures and patterns make them look more like natural stone.
Cost: $45-$90 per square foot.
Products: Avonite, www.avonite.com or (800) 428-6648; Corian, www.corian.com or (800) 426-7426; Earthstone, www.wilsonart.com or (800) 433-3222; Formica Solid Surfacing, www.formica.com or (800) 367-6422.