Marble For Kitchen Countertop Dilemma

QUESTION: I have found a marble slab that I really love and would like to use it for my kitchen countertops. But I keep reading about how marble is easily scratched and stained. Is there a sealant that I can put on it that will protect it or could I put a thin piece of glass on the area I use most to protect it? Any suggestions?

ANSWER: Marble for kitchen countertops is not recommended for two reasons: Staining and etching.

Marble is softer than granite and potentially could be scratched more easily, but that is not really an issue and you will be using cutting boards and trivets like you should with any surface.

1. Staining

Most marble is porous and absorbent (compared to most granite) thus, it has a tendency to stain easily.

Sealing will helps a lot to protect against staining by keeping spilled substances on the surface longer, so you have more time to wipe them up before being absorbed and staining... BUT sealers DO NOT prevent staining on marble or any stone. This is a common mis-perception.

Sealers do not create an impervious shell around your stone. They simply dramatically decrease the absorbency rate of your stone.

2. Etching

Marble is mostly made of calcium carbonate which reacts chemically with acids like fruit juice, alcohol, coffee, sodas, salad dressings, condiments, etc.

What happens is the polish gets corroded when it comes in contact with an acidic substance leaving a dull spot on your marble countertop.

This reaction can happen within seconds and there is NOTHING you can do to prevent it except not spill stuff on your marble. Sealers have nothing at all to do with this issue.

The shiny polish on a countertop is achieved via intense friction and abrasion... not be some chemical application.

If you wipe it up quick, the damage may be minimal and the polish can sometimes be restored with marble polish, but often it requires expensive professional re-polishing to restore the shiny surface.

You can minimize this problem by having the surface honed instead of polished. The marble will still etch, but it's not nearly as noticeable and probably not at all if you are diligent about wiping up spills quickly.

However, the color will not be as intense with a honed surface. Polishing brings out the color in natural stone. You may like it just fine though.

The Rest Of The Story

Marble is very durable and has been used for kitchen countertops in Europe for centuries.

But historically, using marble was more about function than decoration. Marble was readily available, soft enough to cut and it lasts forever. It's a great surface... especially for avid bakers... it's the desired surface.

So go ahead and put it in your kitchen IF you don't care about the etching or stains that are certain to happen and are perfectly happy to let the marble age and wear naturally like people have done for centuries.

But based on your question, I don't think that's you.

The recommendation against marble for kitchen countertops is not because it's a poor surface. It's because most people nowadays want and expect their expensive marble countertops to look brand new forever. It's as much or even more about decoration than function.

That is a near impossible task for marble in the kitchen. It will take too much abuse. Inevitably it will get stained or etched and you will be bummed. Stains can often be removed, but it's a pain.

With so many beautiful granites available that are even more durable and virtually bullet proof, it just doesn't make a lot of sense to install marble kitchen countertops.

Hope that gives you a little more insight into the issue. Good luck and have fun with your project!

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