Reasons to Consider Marble Countertops
The virtues of marble speak for themselves. It has been treasured by cultures all over the world throughout history: this material stands all on its own as one of the natural world’s most fundamental works of art. This metaphoric stone comes in a wonderful display of color. Your choice of hues include solid white, solid black and a variety of color spectrums. Marble is heat resistant and is recommended to have honed or matte finish. In the kitchen, it stands up well to hot pans and pots.
“You won’t find anything as white in nature as white marble,” adds Evan Nussbaum, a vice president at Stone Source in New York. “You just don’t get that color and kind of figuring in any other type of natural stone."
But it’s not a perfect product. While good-quality marbles, such as the world-famous products from Carrara, Italy, are dense and relatively nonporous—which makes them durable and stain-resistant—they also have weaknesses. A non-foliated metamorphic rock, marble is generally composed of calcium carbonate (the same ingredient used in antacids such as Tums) or magnesium carbonate, which react to acids. An acidic kitchen liquid like lemon juice or vinegar will etch marble, leaving a dull, whitish mark where it has slightly eaten away the surface, even after the marble has been sealed. But as long as you choose carefully, know what to expect, and care for white marble countertops, they can be a beautiful, functional choice for your kitchen design that lasts a lifetime.
How to Select Marble Slabs
Every stone slab is slightly different, so it’s ideal to select the exact pieces of stone that will be used for your countertops. “There’s an art to marble—selecting the slabs and understanding where the veining is going to be located on the countertop,” says Groves. “You want to artfully place the markings so that it’s almost like a painting.”
At the same time, it’s important to consider how different pieces come together. “The longer the piece you can get without any seams, the better,” says Groves. “If you do have seams, it’s always nice to book-match the marble,” so adjacent pieces have a mirrored appearance.
Reasons to be Cautious about Marble Countertops
There are two primary reasons that marble countertop installation is not recommended for the kitchen. These concerns are severe enough that some marble countertop manufacturers won’t warranty their counters if they are installed in the kitchen.
The first concern:
Is the porous nature of marble. It’s more porous than granite, so it more readily absorbs liquids. That means that oil, wine, juice and other spills penetrate deeper into the stone very quickly, and they are hard, if not impossible, to get out. Even in the bathroom, be cautious with things like nail polish, liquid makeup or remover that can stain the tops. Marble's natural beauty often leaves people undeterred by this eventuality, but fortunately there are sealers which are commercially available for the do-it-yourselfer, as well as professionals who can help.
Marble can and should be sealed when installed and again every few years. However, if it is not done properly or often enough, staining is a “not if, but when” proposition. While no products available on the market today offer a panacea, if you do accidentally stain or scratch your marble countertops, you do have some options.
The second concern:
To be concerned about marble kitchen counters is that the material isn’t sturdy enough for the kitchen. Sharp knives can scratch the surface. Heavy pots or mugs may chip the marble or even break off a corner.
These are the primary reasons some manufacturers won’t warranty marble countertops if used in kitchens and many countertop installers won’t install them. There are too many complaints from homeowners when their marble kitchen countertops stain, scratch, chip or crack.
If you love the look of marble – and it is beautiful – consider installing marble counters in locations other than the kitchen. They offer beauty and good longevity when they are treated with the care they require.