The current trend of the all-white kitchen seems to be here to stay, and marble often plays an important role in the design of these kitchens. But, before you jump onto the bandwagon of marble countertops, make sure you know what you’re getting into.
The Basics of Marble Countertops
A little science will go a long way towards helping to understand marble counters. Originally, marble was a soft rock – either limestone or dolomite. Through metamorphosis (heat & pressure from the earth), it was transformed into marble, which is a much harder surface. The quintessential marble veining was caused by other minerals (iron oxides and silt for example) that were present in the original stone.
Because marble started out as a soft rock, it still has some of those same characteristics. Compared to other stone countertops, like granite or quartzite, marble is relatively soft. It etches, scratches, and stains with use. This creates a patina that can be quite lovely. Some people love the patina, while others want the marble to look the same as it did when it was installed, so they dislike it. Surface sealers can help minimize the effects of use, but the patina will happen.
As a natural stone, marble is extremely individualized. Its looks will be dependent on where it comes from, and what was happening geologically-speaking when it was formed. No two slabs will be exactly the same, although consecutive slabs from the same bundle will be similar.
Designing with Marble Countertops
If you’ve decided that you still want to use marble for your new countertops, you’ll need to keep a few things in mind.
- Colors – Marble comes in a variety of colors – from the blue grey of Carrara, to the bright white of Calacatta, to the dark brown of Emperador, to the dark pink of Rojo Alicante, to the greys and browns of Fantasy Brown.
- Slab Dimensions – On average, slabs are about 9’x6’, but some marbles are available in slightly longer lengths. If you’re planning on using marble for the kitchen island countertop, be sure to keep the island dimensions smaller than a single slab. You can use multiple slabs, but that will require seams, which can be tricky with marble’s veining. Slabs come in various thicknesses, from 2 cm (about 3/4”) to 5 cm (about 2”). A thickness of 3cm is standard.
- Veining – Mable can be cut into slabs to give two different looks of veining. A cross-cut gives a more swirly and cloudy appearance, while a vein cut gives long stripes across the length of the slab.
- Seams – larger kitchens, and especially large islands, will need multiple slabs. The appearance and location of seams can be minimized, but not completely eliminated. Be sure to pay attention to veining and colors across the seams during the templating stage.
- Slab selection – Because each slab is different, you’ll need to visit the stone yard to pick out individual pieces. Consecutive slabs will have a similar appearance in color and veining, so try to select those slabs for bigger projects that need seams.
- Finish – Marble countertops are available in several different surface finishes, with polished being standard. Honed will give a softer matte look. Leathered provides a slightly bumpy surface that is great for hiding stains.
- Edge profile – The edge of the counter can be used to coordinate with the style of the kitchen. A square cut edge is appropriate in a modern or transitional kitchen, while a bullnose edge is a good choice for a traditional kitchen.
Which is Better Marble or Quartz?
It all depends on personal preferences. For some, quartz looks cold and lifeless – only a natural stone will do. For others, the patina of marble is unattractive, and trying to prevent it is too much work.
It also depends on how much maintenance a homeowner is willing to do. Quartz requires no maintenance, nor any special cleaners. Conversely, marble can be rather high maintenance. It needs to be sealed regularly. It scratches easily, and foods and liquids can etch and stain. Vigilant cleanup is required to keep the countertop looking good. With that in mind, marble might not be the best kitchen countertop for families. Finally, cleaning products need to be marble-friendly.
Is Marble Good for Kitchen Counters?
Again, this really depends on personal preference. Marble is going to scratch, etch, stain, and develop a patina of use. If that patina is acceptable and even desired, then marble is a good choice. But, if a homeowner is expecting marble to always look as perfect as the day it was installed, then it isn’t a good choice.
Is Marble Good for Bathroom Countertops?
Marble can be a great choice for the bathroom. However, because it’s porous, beauty products can stain it. Applying a sealer to the countertop can help minimize this.
Marble would be an excellent choice for a closet island inside the master bedroom closet. It’s a pretty dry location, and exposure to etching and staining agents is fairly minimal. It’s the perfect accent to the glam dressing room with a blingy chandelier.
Are Marble Countertops Expensive?
Surprisingly, marble can be a fairly economical natural stone countertop. But, it really depends on which marble you choose. The price will depend on the popularity and rarity of the stone. The more rare the marble, the higher the price.
Carrara is very popular, and since it is widely available, it usually has the lowest price, around $50 per square foot. Calacatta, on the other hand, is more rare, and often costs as much as $180 (or more) per square foot. That’s quite a big range.
Be sure to check out our Free Countertop Costs Calculator that can help you figure out which materials meet your budget, before you go countertop shopping.
Slab thickness will also affect the price of marble. While most marble countertops are 3cm thick, some budget slabs are only 2cm thick. That’s why they are often so budget friendly. Conversely, those high end, 5cm thick slabs are going a lot more.
Finally, the edge profile will affect the cost. Upgraded edges, such a full bullnose or ogee, are going to add to the cost of the countertops.
So, what do you think? Are you still on the marble countertop bandwagon? Will you be using marble in your next project? We’d love to hear from you – drop us a comment!
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