It’s a classic countertop surface that many people value above all others: Marble. Classic white marble is coveted because it looks great in any style of kitchen, paired with any other type of material. It’s like a basic white shirt that goes with any man’s suit.
So what exactly what is marble?
Marble is a metamorphic stone that’s created when heat or pressure that converts sediment into a denser form. Marble’s crystalline nature enables it to be polished. It has veins of mineral deposits that form patterns, making every slab unique. While white marble is classic and most popular for its design versatility, other natural colors are also available: black, gray, yellow, green, and pink. Some types have prominent veining while others have more subtle patterns. Impurities in the stone are what turn it a particular color.
Advantages of Marble Countertops
The advantages of marble countertops are many and go far beyond just beauty, notes Pacific Stone Shores.
- It does not easily or chip or dent,
- It is heat resistant.
- While marble is typically not as durable as granite, it is still a strong, reliable countertop material that will last for decades.
- If you want fancy edges, marble is a good choice because it’s softer to work with compared to granite, which is very difficult to cut without chipping.
- The slab you see is the slab you buy.
- The surface is naturally cool, so if you do a lot of baking, a marble countertop is a natural choice.
Five Downsides of Choosing a Marble Countertop
- One of the drawbacks of marble is that it is very porous and easily stained – red wine and other highly pigments liquids are the most likely to stain.
- Acidic foods and liquids such as lemons or tomatoes are particularly damaging to marble because they will etch the surface.
- Marble also scratches easier than granite.
- Sealing the countertop critical. That said, even a sealed marble countertop will take on color over time and develop a patina.
- Some manufacturers won’t warranty their marble counters if they are installed in the kitchen.
As with other countertops, two types of sealers can be used on marble: topical and penetrating. Both types will need to be reapplied periodically to preserve the surface of your countertop.
A topical sealant can slightly alter the look of the marble but it does protect against acidic foods and liquids. All topical sealants will wear off and must be reapplied. They also make the surface less resistant to coloring from heat.
Penetrating sealants soak into the pores of the marble, which is why they are highly recommended, especially for kitchen countertops. These sealers make marble countertops more stain resistant, but do not improve their imperviousness to acids.
Finishing Options for Marble
Marble can take on a different look depending upon the finish you choose. The most commonly chosen finishes for marble are polished, honed, and leather (also known as antique). The finish you choose will affect the appearance and performance of marble countertops
- A matte finish – also called a honed finish – is a satiny-smooth, almost soft feel that comes from sanding. Scratches and flaws may be lessened with this type of finish, however it also mutes the color of the stone. While it is a beautiful finish, it also makes the stone more porous and easily stained.
- Polished finishes are created by grinding and buffing that creates a high-gloss surface. This enhances any detail and brings out the marble’s color, veining, and character. This finish is less porous than the matte finish but is also more likely to become damaged any acidic substances. You may want to consider this finish only for surfaces that don’t come into much contact with food and drinks.
- A leather finish adds texture to a honed marble countertop and can be described as an orange peel type of finish. The soft sheen is not reflective and is commonly used with dark marbles. Texturing helps hide fingerprints and imperfections.
Six ways to keep marble beautiful
- Clean up spills right away. The less time a liquid spends sitting on the surface the less chance they have of staining the stone.
- Do not use abrasive products on marble, including powdered cleansers, tub and tile cleaners, abrasive pads, and all-purpose cleansers that contain acidic ingredients.
- Use mild liquid dishwashing detergent or soap and warm water with a non-abrasive towel or sponge for regular cleaning.
- For tough messes, use a neutral stone cleaner.
- Using cutting boards and trivets to protect the surface.
- Reseal the countertop at least once a year.
Choosing a Marble Countertop
Shopping for a marble countertop can be time-consuming and complicated, according to Stone Source. Working with your contractor is key, but Stone Source says there are three other things to keep in mind:
Know your specifications.
Marble comes in slabs that are finished and cut to a certain thickness, most often 0.75 to 1.25 inches thick. If you want an extra-wide counter, it’s best to laminate to the edge of the slab with a separate piece of marble to get a thick look. This not only keeps the cost down, but also prevents the countertop from being too heavy. The thickness of the slab also affects the price, installation method, and how resistant to breakage it will be.
Allied Stone notes that “Granite and marble countertops that are 3cm thick are strong enough to support their own weight when installed on cabinet bases. Countertops that are 2cm thick usually are installed on a 3/8” plywood decking to increase its strength and resistance to weight.”
Do your homework.
It’s most efficient to have an idea of the color and the amount of patterning you want. It’s important to understand that marble is a natural product and it’s not possible to order an exact color or patterning.
Allow time for looking at options.
Because marble is already cut into slabs, whatever is in the warehouse is what you can choose from. If you can travel from your immediate area, you can expand your choices.
Different Edges For Marble Countertops
The most basic edge for marble countertops is the straight edge, according to Marblecityca, but advances in marble cutting technology have created a number of different decorative edge options. The ogee marble countertop edge is very elegant and has two graceful, sweeping arches, one concave, and the other convex. Another is the cove design, which is essentially a concave bevel on the top edge. The Simpler eased edge, rounds off a 90-degree corner and a bull’s nose has the profile of a half circle. Marble also notes that it’s even possible to engrave the edge of a white marble countertop with the pattern of your choice. Of course, the more complex your edge choice, the higher the cost will be.
What’s the price tag?
Marble is not a low budget option. The price range is usually between $125 to $250 per square foot. Demand and availability both affect price, as does the thickness of the slab the complexity of the installation.
You can help control the cost in three ways:
- Work with a good fabricator who can lay out the job in a way that minimizes waste.
- If you have a small project, you might be able to complete it using remnants from other jobs.
- Be open to a variety of shades and patterns, which gives you more options and a wider range of prices.
Alternatives to marble
Some homeowners want the look of marble but don’t want the maintenance — or the price. While there are laminates that mimic the look of marble, they are often less desirable, especially when it comes to resale time.
Engineered, or “cultured marble” is a blend of stone particles and resins that is combined with pigments to produce a wide range of colors and realistic, natural looking patterns, says GoMajestic. “Unlike natural stone, cultured stone is cast in molds to create specific pieces such as bathtubs, sinks, countertops, backsplashes, moldings and trim, shower walls and shower pans.” The resulting product is nonporous and low maintenance. Those who prefer cultured marble value its advantages:
- Beauty– “Veining and patterns can be incorporated during the casting process, creating character, depth and interest that mimics its natural counterpart,” notes Go Majestic.
- Easy Maintenance– Cultured marble doesn’t need sealing and is easy to clean.
- Durability– Cultured marble is non-porous and resistant to stains, mildew and chips.
- Cost — it is less expensive to make and install than slab marble.
- Custom options – Because it is a manufactured product, it offers a wide range of color options and pieces can be shaped to fit your specific needs and decor.
While installing a marble kitchen countertop is generally not a do-it-yourself project, it is possible to create a faux marble countertop with concrete using a concrete overlay product called Ardex Feather Finish. This can be spread onto existing countertops. The project involves putting down multiple layers of varying shades of the overlay substance. The marbleizing occurs when you sand down the different layers that you applied. The coated surface is then sealed for a beautiful countertop at a fraction of the cost.
If your budget and plan allow, natural marble is a classic choice that never goes out of style. A little investment in care and maintenance will yield big results over the long term, especially when it’s time to sell your home.