Marble for a Kitchen Countertop?: Crazy or Care Free?
June 2, 2015
White Carrara marble is a classic countertop for bathrooms and kitchens. But, its one of the most debated kitchen countertop choices, that is, if you are in the United States. Europeans don't bat an eye at a marble slab in their kitchen. It's a stone that displays elegance and beauty. But..oh the staining or rather... the etching.
I've talked about the qualities of marble in my first post "Why Is My Quartzite Kitchen Countertop Etching?" A good sealer will prevent an assorment of stains, but what it doesn't prevent is etching. I'm going to take a moment here to explain the difference between the two because they are often confused.
Stains occurdue to a stones porosity. The more porous it is, the easier it stains. That's why certain granites, such as black absolute (the real one) are impervious to staining and don't need any sealing. On the other hand, all marbles need more coats of sealer and needs to be sealed more often. Porosity means that the surface is less dense and there are more open spaces where a liquid or staining agent can seep into. A sealer fills the void by penetrating into the stone, creating a barrier, which blocks another liquid like wine from pigmenting the stone. For marbles there are poultice and different marble cleaners that can remove stain or at the very least lighten it. Overtime the marble will absorb the stain making it less and less noticable.
Etching is not the same as a stain, there is no pigment added to the stone. Rather etching is a chemical reaction when the calcium, which is what marble is mostly made of, comes into contact with acid. When acid reacts with calcium, the calcium particles dissolves into the acid leaving a dulled spot on the surface.
This is why its often recommended to have honed or matte marble in the kitchen because the dulled spots are strikingly more noticeable on a polished finish. Meaning, the transitioning of getting the coveted patina in a marble is more quickly achieved. Eventually, over the years, a polish will become matte.
This is where marble begins to get a reputation for being high maintenance. In order to keep the luster of a polished finished marble, it needs to be repolished by a professional stone restoration company. A honed finish is more forgiving from the start because there is less of a contrast between the etched spot and matte surface. Its actually quite remarkable how the markings seem to disappear on a honed finish, since etch marks are only noticeable in certain lightings and angles!
What kind of person gets a marble countertop?
I say there are two types of people who get marble in their kitchen:
A) The showroom kitchen.The most action this kitchen gets are cocktail parties where any etching accumulated is by a guests wine glass or bottle.This person gives their countertop a restoration face lift before each event, so it looks like the day it was bought.
B) The kitchen is the heart of the home and the family has a laid-back care free approach. They want items in their home to tell a story. The marble fits right in, as each etch mark and glass ring, blend into the other through the years. Sure they freaked out at the first markings or two...okay...more like several. But they soon relax realizing that nothing could mar the exquisite natural veining and the romanticism of vintage goodness. They no longer think twice about slicing tomatoes or making their favorite vinegarette on their marble countertops. And, memories are built rolling out pastries on their large marble island with their children.
If you are type A in the sense that you want your counter to look like new and pristine, but actually cook in your kitchen...marble may not be for you. These are often the people who have buyers remorse and look for another material for their next project. But, if you are a type A and are okay with a few imperfections and like the look of a matte finish, then, a dolomite marble such as Danby or Super White would be a better fit. I plan on writing more about these type of marbles in the next week or two, so please check back in!
Outside of personality, one has to consider the enviroment and my focus will be on what kind of water you have running through your pipes. Hard water tends to be acidic and will leave watermarks, it won't matter as much with the lemonade making, orange juice spills, and tomato sauce splatter. But, one thing you should reconsider is the amount of iron that could be in hard water. That will cause yellowing and rust marks overtime. You would have to rely solely on marble cleaners in these situations, rather than using soap and water, and extra attention to the sink area.
Walker Zanger has some beautiful white marble with striking natural rust coloring. These slabs definitely give an old world charm. So, its not all bad if you like this look.
What about chipping or scratches?
Yes, marble can chip, but very repairable, either with filling or sanding or both. Marble can scratch, so don't cut directly on it. Light scratches can be easily sanded or polished out.
This is what everything comes down to...whether its granite, marble, quartz, soapstone etc. Do you love the material more than its imperfections...or better yet can you learn to love its imperfection? If the answer is yes, than you found the perfect choice for you and honestly, that's all that matters.
Now, I wrote an unbiased post about marble kitchen countertops, at least I hope, but I am often asked what I would put in my own kitchen. I love honed and polished white marble!! I love that it doesn't stay looking new and that it fits perfectly in a contempory world with a rustic charm. I even love the fact that it etches, it gives it character. Yes, I am the type of person who can appreciate a home built before 1950's, the 1920's being my favorite era. Reclaimed wood is a treasure and brass fixtures with a natural patina is a thing of beauty to me. But, I also enjoy trendy amnenties scattered hear and there. Sleek modern lines mixed with the ornate...kind of ecletic I know. It just comes to show that marble can fit any style, and is always in style.