A Buyer's Guide To Marble Countertops

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With such a prestigious history, it’s no wonder that marble in the modern home, usually used for flooring or countertops, is both prized and expensive. Its natural beauty, depth of pattern, and unique markings make it an elegant, luxurious choice for kitchen or bathroom counters.

Marble is the result of the metamorphosis of limestone due to extreme heat and pressure. The more pure the original limestone, the more pure the white color of the resulting marble. A favorite material of master sculptors, Michelangelo sculpted his famous statues of David and Moses from marble. The Taj Mahal in India is also white marble, constructed over a period of 20 years in the 1600s.

Pros and Cons of Marble

Like all materials, marble has both good and bad points to consider when choosing countertops for your home.

Pros:

  • Natural beauty that is difficult to rival with manmade materials
  • Heat resistant
  • Available with a wide range of elaborate edges
  • Durable
  • Adds value to your home

Cons:

  • Very expensive
  • Porous and stains easily
  • Easily chipped or damaged
  • Slippery
  • Can be risky in the kitchen as food spills and liquids can cause damage
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Is Marble Right For You?

If you have made the decision to install marble in your home, there are still more questions to be answered. You will need to consider your budget, the look you desire, where you will be installing the countertop, and your lifestyle.

  • Are you willing to seal the marble at least once per year? Marble stains easily, and if used in the kitchen, requires sealing to prevent damage. While the process is not difficult, generally just consisting of applying the sealing solution to all surfaces of the marble, letting it soak in, then wiping away excess, it does need to be done regularly if you want your marble to resist stains.
  • Will you love your marble countertops even if they become chipped or scratched? Marble is soft, and easily chipped. If you have young children, or members of your household who are rough, it might be best to keep marble out of the kitchen, and limit it to the master bath.
  • Do you want a solid marble counter, or one made of marble tiles? A solid counter is more expensive, but also has a more substantial appearance. Solid slab counters are the more popular choice, but tile can be a beautiful way to have a marble counter without breaking the bank. Marble tile is installed in the same fashion as ceramic tile, and will have grout, which can stain, chip, or be difficult to clean.
  • Are you willing to substitute cultured marble instead of natural? Cultured marble is made from marble dust and resin materials, and is molded to fit your project specifications. Cultured marble is less expensive than natural marble, and is also resistant to staining, but lacks the depth and richness of the real thing.
  • Are you thinking of installing the countertop yourself? An experienced do-it-yourselfer may be able to install marble tiles or cultured marble, but a solid-slab natural marble counter is much too heavy and difficult to install to make a suitable DIY project.
  • Are you willing to take the time to find the perfect marble for your home? Unlike manmade materials, natural marble slabs are unique, each with its own veins, patterns and blotches. Color is not standard, and you cannot reliably pick marble from a catalog, picture or website page. You will need to visit stone yards and look at the various slabs of marble available to find the one that is the perfect look for your counters.
  • Do you want polished or honed marble? Polished marble has a high shine, but any acidic liquid will make spots in the finish, leaving it blotchy. Honed marble has a matte finish, not having gone through the final polishing step. While honed marble is easier to maintain, it also lacks the high shine that most people desire in a marble counter.

Marble Counter Maintenance Tips

Once you have your new marble counters, they require proper care in order to maintain their beautiful appearance.

  • Wipe your marble counters daily with a soft rag to remove crumbs and dust.
  • Clean any spills up immediately. Do not leave wet dishes, glasses or other objects sitting on your counters.
  • Never use abrasive cleaners on your marble. Use products specifically made for cleaning natural stone. You can find spray stone soap at most discount department stores, or at any home improvement center.
  • If you need to remove something sticky from your counter, use a few drops of gentle dish detergent on a damp rag or paper towel, and wipe away the mess. Then wipe with a damp cloth to remove residue, and dry with a dishtowel.
  • Use coasters or saucers under glasses, bottles or cans left sitting on your kitchen counters.
  • If marble counters are in the bathroom, a tray underneath bottles of toiletries or soaps will prevent stains and damage to the counter.
  • Use marble sealer regularly, at least on an annual basis. Every three months is better, especially if you have light colored marble, which shows stains more easily than dark.

While marble does have more cautions and care involved than many other countertop materials, it also has a natural beauty and depth that manmade materials lack. If you love the style and elegance of marble, the addition of beautiful marble countertops will enrich the look of your home.

Last Updated: December 27, 2011
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About Michelle Ullman Michelle Ullman has lived and gardened in Southern California since childhood. A freelance writer, she covers topics ranging from gardening to home improvement to health issues. She also has experience as a catalog copywriter and poet. Michelle has trained and worked as a respiratory therapist and surgical technologist, but prefers to spend her time gardening, and walking with her dog. Michelle holds a Bachelor's Degree from Redlands University in Business Management. 

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