What's The Best Type of Marble Kitchen Countertop

by Pat Julien
(Playa Del Rey, CA)

QUESTION

I have seen the Venatino, Giola and standard carrara marble, honed slabs. Is one marble slab color better over the other for kitchen countertops?

Are there differences in the porosity of carrara marble?

And what about a satin finish instead of honed for kitchen counters? I have also heard of 15 year sealers or are they impregnators? Thanks for your help.

ANSWER

No.... there's no significant difference in the marble slab colors you are looking at or between any different marble varieties for that matter.

Marble is marble meaning that every marble slab regardless of color or pattern or name will have similar characteristics with a few exceptions in the brown and green marbles.

All marble slabs are relatively soft, so they will scratch much more easily than granite, which can be an issue for a kitchen countertop, but not a biggie.

Marble including Carrara marble is actually rather dense and does not stain easy, but every marble countertop slab has a different rate of absorption or porosity.

You can easily determine how porous a particular marble slab is by performing the water test on a sample off the slab.

Often Carrera marble does not need sealing since it can be very dense. This is especially true of polished marble since the process to polish marble closes down pores and makes the surface even less absorbent.

But if porous enough to take a sealer, then applying an impregnating sealer will control and minimize staining, so stains are rarely a major issue.

And yes, there are a couple very durable sealers available that will last 15+ years or longer, however, the only retail sealer of this sort is SenGuard Marble & Granite Sealer, which forms permanent bonds and comes in a DIY kit with complete instructions.

Sealing is not hard, but the couple other long-term sealers are only available on "pre-sealed" granite or by professional application. Both are way more expensive than Senguard for the same results, so we recommend using the DIY kit.


The main problem with marble countertops in the kitchen is etching.

You'll often read or hear that "marble stains easy". NO... it etches easily, which many confuse with a stain, but it is a completely different issue.

Most marbles are consistent in this regard. Meaning all marbles will etch, however, a difference in sensitivity does exist and some green marbles (actually serpentine sold as marble) hardly etch at all or not at all.

You cannot prevent etching by sealing. Sealing controls stains, not etching. You must simply avoid contact with acidic foods, drinks (impossible in a kitchen) and harsh cleaners.

A satin finish won't make a difference. It will still etch, but like a honed finish etching just isn't as noticeable as on a shiny polished finish.

Typically as long as a person is aware of the particular marble cleaning and marble repair issues with marble countertops in the kitchen and still wants them, a honed or otherwise non-polished surface is recommended.

Again, not because a honed or satin countertop finish doesn't etch, but just that you don't notice many of the minor etch marks. Eventually, you will see etch marks on any marble kitchen countertop.

So, the short answer is... no... one color or variety of marble or Carrara marble is not really any better or worse for a kitchen countertop. The surface finish can make a small difference, but if you don't like the idea of constant marble maintenance to keep the surface looking new, then go with granite.

If you don't care about the extra work or letting marble "age" naturally, then no worries... marble countertops are very durable and functional.

Here's some more on marble polishing and etching.

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Best Marble Kitchen Benchtops

QUESTION:

I am trying to decide about having a marble kitchen benchtop and have been told that some types of marble are better choices for kitchens then others.

Is it true that some types such as Elba and Grigio Cenere in a honed finish will be more practical to look after and avoid etching than a Carrara marble benchtop?

ANSWER:

The short answer is... no, but with explanation.... Most marble slabs will etch upon contact with acidic substances. You won't "avoid" it in a kitchen. But some marble colors and finishes will hide the etching better, so it theoretically reduces the maintenance needed to keep the marble countertops looking their best.

Now, it's a natural product of course, so etching can occur more quickly and more severely on one marble vs. another and some green stones sold as "marble" do not etch, but you won't find a significant difference in the stones you mention.

But the real question you should be asking yourself is if it's a wise decision to install any marble countertops in the kitchen.

I know marble is gorgeous and you are only one in a long line of visitors wanting marble kitchen countertops with the same basic question.

There is nothing preventing you from installing marble kitchen countertops. But nothing will prevent you from repeatedly etching them for as long as you own the tops.

There are just too many acidic foods and drinks to keep from etching marble kitchen countertops.

So, if you like a lot of extra maintenance and the frustration of unsightly etch marks, then go for it.

Yes, you can hone marble to make etching less noticeable, but it still occurs. This is a point of confusion among many marble slab salespeople and consumers.

Many believe that "honing" the marble slab somehow "prevents" etching. Not true as explained above.

You will still see it and repairing etching on a honed countertop is much more difficult than on a polished surface where you can simply use SCP: Marble Polishing Paste designed just for this purpose.

With so many beautiful and low-maintenance granites available, it just doesn't make sense to install marble. Most who do regret it.

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Vermont Marble Kitchen Island

QUESTION:

I am considering using marble from Vermont on my kitchen island. The island will have an induction cooktop. Can you tell me how use of this marble compares to the use of Italian marble? Vermont marble seems grainier so I'm wondering if it is as durable. Thank you.

ANSWER:

"Marble" is a geological classification denoting stone with essentially the same properties and characteristics.

So, no matter where it is quarried... Vermont or Italy... marble is marble. Different marble slab colors can have a differences, but like people when you get down to it there are far more similarities than differences.

So, any marble will more or less have the same qualities with a few exceptions with some green stones sold as "marble", but are not technically marble (serpentine).

Regarding durability... any marble will last longer than you or your house will, but the look of it can be affected depending on how it is used and the quality of marble cleaning & maintenance.

Compared to granite marble is softer and much easier to scratch.

And as stated above staining is not much a problem, but etching can be.

Marble is made of calcite crystals, which are reactive with acidic foods and drinks (coffee, juice, wine, salad dressing, much more) and with too akaline products like nearly every common and name-brand household cleaner.

So, just FYI... you need to use only products safe for cleaning marble & marble maintenance.

On polished marble etching can be repaired using SCP: Marble Polishing Paste.

Kitchen countertops receive too much use and abuse and exposure to acids to be able to prevent etching. And sealing is only for staining and does nothing to stop etching.

So, marble as a kitchen countertop or island is not recommended. Not because marble is not durable, but simply because most people these days want the marble to remain in like-new condition and that just won't happen in the kitchen without a lot of constant marble maintenance.

Now, some green "marble" (it's actually serpentine, but sold as marble because can look similar) has less calcite and is not as prone to etching.

You can perform the lemon juice test on samples of stone you are interested in to see how reactive and easily etched they are.

Any true marble will etch, but this test is useful if you are interested in a serpentine to check and see how reactive it is. Some are not at all.

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Why Not Marble Kitchen Countertops

by Shep
(Bernardsville, NJ)

QUESTION:

I am obsessed with Carrara marble (or similar) for my new kitchen counter tops...I am being discouraged from using them due to the other options - granite and man-made sufaces - that hold up better in comparison. However, my house is circa 1900s cottage and the marble is period and I prefer its looks.

Since being (temporarily) talked into another material for my kitchen counters, I have seen carrara-type marble in use in commercial settings (kitchens, bars, eating counters, etc) and other high-use food and traffic areas and feel even more justified in my opinion and preference of a carrara marble surface for my new kitchen counters...these counters will be in a second home with a relatively low-use kitchen except for the occasional weekend renter or potential long-termer...

The question remains: Shall I be scared away from using marble because it is truly a poor choice or does it only pale in comparison to more "modern" surfaces like granite or the ceasarstones, silestones, zodiacs of the world? Afterall, marble has been used and lasted for centuries...right?

ANSWER:

Shep, you're right marble has been used forever as a kitchen countertop. It's very durable and Carrara marble is stunning, everyone loves it.

I get this same question about marble kitchen countertops (almost always about Carrara) with your same passion nearly once a week.

So you will see it in restaurants, design magazines, etc. But these people are just as naive and uniformed as most people about using marble in the kitchen. They love the look and only after installation realize what a pain cleaning marble is in the kitchen.

So, why not marble kitchen countertops?

It has nothing to do with the performance of marble vs. other surfaces. It's all about maintenance.

Granite and quartz countertops will require far less maintenance and will maintain their "like new" look easily and forever.

Not so with marble.

Understand, marble has been used as a kitchen countertop for centuries because it is readily available, easy to fabricate and very durable, but until recently no one polished it and no one expected it to look brand new forever.

They simply used it. It was all about function. They didn't worry about how it looked. And over time that use shows up in the marble as stains and etch marks, which create a natural patina... that rustic Italian villa look.

In the US, the sentiment is completely opposite. We want the marble for a show piece that we also cut tomatoes on. We expect this expensive showpiece to maintain a pristine "like new" look effortlessly and forever.

Not going to happen with marble. That's what you have to swallow and that's why marble is typically not recommended for the kitchen. It requires near constant attention.

Most people quickly realize that marble will etch (dull spots caused by corrosion) in seconds upon contact with any one of hundreds of acidic foods and drinks.

Staining can happen, but is not much an issue, especially with polished marble. People confuse staining with etching, which does occur easily. It really isn't that absorbent and often doesn't even need to be sealed when polished.

It is simply impossible to avoid or prevent etching marble in the kitchen. And once etched, the etched area is much more susceptible to stains and often you get a stain and etch mark in the same spot.

You could have the marble honed, which makes etch marks more difficult to see, but they still show up. You'd most likely need to seal a honed marble kitchen countertop to guard against staining since honed marble is a bit more absorbent than polished.

However, with honed marble there's no product to quickly remove etch marks. You have to either use a DIY method as described in Removing Etch Marks Manual or have the surface professionally re-honed. Expensive!

Or you could go real old school and have the marble rough honed, don't seal it and use straight vinegar to clean it.

Really? That sounds easy and cheap! Yeah? ... keep reading...

Vinegar is highly acidic and will etch (eat away and destroy the surface) of your marble each and every time you use it.

But since you are doing the whole countertop, individual etch marks simply don't show up... because the whole countertop is etched.

Now if you did this the marble would be much more prone to staining since you are constantly destroying the surface and exposing the marble pores as much as possible.

Sealing won't help, because as the vinegar eats away the marble the sealer goes with it as will stains, but do you see how this method would also require near constant marble maintenance?

Which is what happens in restaurants and bars, but they pay people to do these things.

And do you see why you should not use vinegar to clean marble? It will keep the surface looking relatively uniform, but it's eating away your marble and it still won't look "new".

So, unless you are willing and in fact want to let your marble age naturally with use and simply not worry about any etching or stains or any maintenance, marble kitchen countertops just aren't practical, they become a hassle especially when compared to granite and quartz, which are a breeze to take care of.

And installing marble kitchen countertops in a rental where it's guaranteed to receive far less attentive care makes even less sense.

So, bottom line is that the common recommendation is simply "trust me, don't do it" for the above reasons.

I can tell you that THE most common question I get is about how to remove etch marks on kitchen countertops from people who were never warned. They are all frustrated.

But now that you understand what you are in for and if you still want to install marble kitchen countertops, then go ahead.

However, I'd say you'll regret it (unless you take the no worry approach) and I'd suggest you install the Carrara marble in a bathroom where it will still provide the "wow" factor, but will require far less effort and marble maintenance.

granite countertop cleanerGood Luck,
Ryan

P.S. Get all the facts and simple step-by-step solutions to any problem with our Granite & Marble Maintenance Manuals.

Find the recommended best product brands for cleaning marble, sealing, cleaning granite countertops, quartz and all natural stone.

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