Grouting Marble Tile Countertops

by Doug
(Beaverton, OR)

QUESTION:

I am installing 12 X 12 marble tile squares in my kitchen and bathroom countertops. Is there a recommended width for the grout line between marble tiles?

Should I have the edges honed?

Is marble tile installation possible without doing any honing or beveling of the countertop edges?

My understanding is that I need to use unsanded grout, is this correct?

Any further tips for installing marble tile countertops you can give would be appreciated. I have done tile work before, but this is the first time using marble.

Thank you, Doug D

ANSWER:

Doug, I'm assuming the marble tile is polished or honed (vs tumbled or other rougher surface finish not common on a countertop). So, a 1/16 inch gap or grout line between the tiles is perfect.

No need to hone or bevel the edges of the tiles.

Un-sanded grout or latex caulk can be used to fill the grout lines between the marble tile.

Sanded grout is for wider grout joints typically used only with more rustic looking finishes like tumbled marble tile.

Just be sure to push the grout/caulk deep into the joints so they root well or eventually they will come out.

Good Luck!

More answers below....

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Marble Tile Kitchen Countertop Pros and Cons

by Lisa
(Selma, Ca, USA)

QUESTION:

I would like to install marble tile kitchen countertops. Is this a bad idea and why?

I have several people telling me that its not a good idea and then i have several people telling me it will be fine.

How will it hold up over the years and how easily will it break if something falls on it?

ANSWER:

There's some good and bad points, pros and cons to installing marble tile kitchen countertops. But just like installing marble slab countertops the bad is bad enough that marble tile countertops are not the best choice for kitchen counter tops.... one that many regret.

The Good...

Installing marble tile will be a lot cheaper than a marble slab countertop. You'll save a bunch not only on the marble tiles (vs. a marble slab), but also on the installation cost.

Fabricating and installing a marble slab (or any stone slab) is typically the most expensive part of the job. It takes expensive machines to cut the marble slab and considerable skill, knowledge, experience and several pairs of hands to successfully install a marble slab.

However, installing marble tile countertops could be done by a handyman or do-it-yourselfer.

Another "pro" is that many consider marble to be the most elegant, beautiful and luxurious stone. So, if you do a decent job with picking a marble color and design, you'll likely have a gorgeous surface.

And marble does NOT stain easy. Yes, I know you've read and been told that it does, but no... there is variation, but for the most part marble is pretty dense and polished marble is nearly stain-proof, so this is not an issue. But the confusion here is due to a different problem (etching: see below) that many mistakenly confuse for "staining".

And now for the bad points:

First remember that marble tile and slabs have been used for eons as countertops, so they are very functional and durable.... this is not the main concern.

The primary drawback to marble tile or slab countertops in the kitchen (bathrooms and floors aren't a problem) is that cleaning and maintenance will be more involved than with a granite or quartz countertop.

1. Marble tile will scratch since it is softer than granite. It could absorb an impact as well as most other surfaces though.

Again, staining is no more a concern than it is with any other surface type, but....

2. Marble tile countertops etch easily and most people confuse "etching" with "staining" thinking they are both stains, when in fact they are completely unrelated.

In particular, it's this last issue... etching... that makes installing marble tile kitchen countertops a bad idea.

It is impossible to stop etching in the kitchen on countertops. Just too many acidic foods and drinks. And sealing has nothing to do with etching... will not prevent it.

The dull and discolored etch marks luckily can be removed on polished marble using the Etch Remover / Marble Polishing Paste, but it will be a constant chore.

You could install honed marble tile countertops. Etching isn't as noticeable on a honed surface, but a honed surface is more absorbent than polished. Applying a sealer will control staining on honed marble, however repairing etch marks on honed marble is a bit more difficult.

You'll find complete information regarding etching in the Removing Etch Marks ebook.

So why install marble tile kitchen countertops when you consider that granite does not etch and that several granite are nearly stain-proof requiring only very basic, easy maintenance?

Most people who install marble tile or slab kitchen countertops regret it... due to marble cleaning and protection frustrations.

Used to be people didn't care that the marble patina changed and aged with use. It was about function... not fashion.

But now granite and marble countertops are a design showpiece and people want them to remain looking like new forever. Which is fine, they demand quite an investment, but if this is you... you should not install marble tile kitchen countertops.

Only people who don't care if the marble etches or even stains should ever install marble as a kitchen countertop. Over the years these marks all fade and blend to create that rustic look, but you'll pull your hair out in frustration if you want it to remain pristine.

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Sealing Marble Tile Kitchen Counter Tops

by JL Budd

QUESTION:

I have been told by my contractor (retirement home) that I can use marble tile for the counter tops in my kitchen. And, that it is up to me to 'seal' the tile & grout.

I've done several web searches & have come up with conflicting information.

Can you give me any information as to what to do & what to use??? Any type of info would be GREATLY appreciated.

ANSWER:

Yes, you can seal the marble tile countertops and grout yourself. Sealing marble or any stone is an easy job, but you may not have to do it at all.

I know you often read or hear that "marble tile stains easy" and that "marble must be sealed". Both are false, however, these myths get repeated often enough by people who ought to know better that they "seem" true.

The conflict is that applying a sealer is an absolute no-brainer must do. While the real story is that many stones (including marble tile) need sealing, but many do not (including some marble tile), so a blanket statement does not work.

If there was no harm in applying a sealer to a surface that didn't need it, then no worries (except lost time and money!)... but a sealer applied to the wrong surface won't absorb, will dry on the surface creating a big problem. Sealer must be stripped off, which is a nasty job.

So, all you need to do is test your marble tile to see if sealing is necessary.

But you should also read above about the wisdom of installing marble tile as a kitchen countertop in the first place. Neither marble slab nor marble tile is the greatest choice for a kitchen countertop, due to the etching issue and the constant ongoing maintenance that results from it.

Good Luck!

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Marble Tile vs Marble Slab Bathroom Countertop

by Deb
(Golden, CO)

QUESTION:

Is it better to use solid slab or marble tile on bathroom countertop.

ANSWER:

Well determining which is better... a marble tile countertop or marble slab depends on what is most important to you.

Installing a marble tile countertop is certainly a lot less expensive than a marble slab countertop. Marble tiles are much cheaper for the same surface area and a reasonably competent handyman could install a marble tile countertop.

A marble slab countertop would have to be purchased, fabricated (cut) and installed by a professional stone fabricator and the installation is the most expensive part.

Having said that... most bathroom countertops are not that expensive compared to a kitchen installation unless you have a huge bathroom or complicated installation.

Regarding performance... you'll get essentially the same performance from a marble tile countertop as from a marble slab. Either way it's still marble so there is no difference in marble cleaning and maintenance requirements.

The main difference here is the grout, which could crack or crumble and get dirty. A tile expert could make the grout last a very long time and you can keep it clean, but a marble slab will easily outlive the house.

So, if you are handy and want to install a marble tile bathroom countertop you'll likely save a few to several hundred dollars, then again depending on the size the savings may not be enough to pass on a slab.

Another way to say it... if money really isn't an issue, go with a marble slab bathroom countertop.

Good Luck,
Ryan

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Outdoor Kitchen Marble Tile Grouting

by Margaret
(Richmond, VA)

QUESTION:

We are putting in a marble tile countertop on our tiki bar outside. Should we install the tile with spacer or install the marble tile together without spaces?

ANSWER:

You must always use a spacer of at least 1/16 inch between marble tiles and make sure to work the grout in deep so it doesn't break apart or pop out, etc.

If you just "butt joint" the marble tile edge to edge water will get into the seams, get trapped under the marble, rotting the marble tile, the tiki bar until the whole thing falls apart.

Also, if you are installing polished (shiny) marble tiles they won't stay that way for long. Weather and the elements will wear away the shiny layer leaving a more honed or matte finish to the marble.

This is fine really since honed or more rough finished marble is still a beautiful countertop and why fight an uphill battle. To keep the shine you'd have to periodically hire a professional to come in and re-polish the tile.

And expect to regularly get etch marks from acidic foods and drinks like soda, juice, alcohol, mustard, etc.

You can repair these etch marks following the instructions in the Removing Etch Marks ebook, but really I'd suggest you may want to look at installing a granite countertop instead.

Granite is much harder and will keep its polish far longer than marble and granite does not etch. Granite is really the hands down winner for an outdoor kitchen or tiki bar countertop.

Or go ahead with the marble countertop, but don't fuss about the etch marks or any stains, etc. That's the "old school" European approach. The sun and rain will eventually bleach out and wash away stains and etch marks aren't nearly as noticeable on honed or more raw finished marble.

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