Re-Crystallization vs. Standard Marble Polishing

QUESTION:

Are you familiar with the process of marbleizing / crystallizing for marble polishing?


They've used it in Florida and Italy for over 20 years and it seems fabulous.

I had white marble in my kitchen in Florida (not something I would have considered on my own for the obvious reasons). They apply a chemical that bonds with the marble and creates a lustrous to shiny surface that is easily renewed.

If acid gets on the marble and marks it, you just buff on more chemical and voila, it's new again! I have no idea why other places don't use it. Susan - Phoenix, AZ.

ANSWER:

I can appreciate that you think recrystallization (also called vitrification) is fabulous. It makes the marble shiny and that's the homeowner's goal.

Trouble is that most consumers are not aware of the pitfalls of marble crystallization compared to traditional marble polishing.
crystallization compared to marble polishing machine on floor tile

Most people don't do it... and most pros don't like it because marble crystallization creates problems (sometimes expensive nightmare problems) not found with standard marble polishing. It's just an inferior method.

Here's why:

Crystallization can ruin your marble, it takes longer and costs more without ANY benefit over standard marble polishing.

It creates a problematic hard chemical shell on your marble trapping acids (used in the process) in the marble. It will make the marble shiny and it seems this is the "proof". But the shell also keeps the marble from breathing properly, which could lead to your marble simply falling apart.

So, understand once you crystallize you no longer have a "marble" surface. It becomes a "chemically manufactured" surface. Traditional, proven methods for marble cleaning, care and marble repair can no longer be used. You are stuck having to maintain the chemicalized surface.

Yes, it's been around for a while, but that doesn't make it good or beneficial. Agent Orange has been around a long time too.

The people that have it done simply don't know any better (no reason they or you should of course) and get sold by the sales pitch which seems fine and dandy.

Formula compatibility is a tricky problem.

Example: You have your marble, limestone, or travertine floor crystallized. Then a couple three years later when this chemical crust (that isn't as durable as marble) starts to look crappy, you have it recrystallized again only the first guy who did it is out of business or not available so you go with someone else who uses a different formula.

Well... his formula may not work with the first formula and the crust will have to be removed (grinding it away just like standard re-polishing) before the new formula can be applied. Just useless nonsense.

Proponents of the procedure and the sales literature make it seem like it's the latest greatest thing, but the main reason they like it is because it requires very little experience or knowledge of marble.

Traditional marble polishing requires real skill, knowledge, and experience.... the art of a true craftsman.

Crystallization requires virtually no skill... no more than cleaning a carpet, so from a business standpoint, it's simply easier and cheaper to find/train technicians. So, marble crystallization is easier to perform.

But if they screw it up while recrystallizing.... your marble may be toast.

This will NEVER happen with standard marble polishing. You can always fix a mistake with re-polishing, you never change the chemical or physical nature of the stone, and it makes it nice and shiny too.

So ask yourself... do you want a craftsman who knows how to properly maintain your marble in optimum condition over its entire life.... or just anyone capable of pushing a machine around?

Also, if you etch polished marble... a normally re-finished marble... all you need to do is to properly apply a good marble polishing product like this ETCH REMOVER / Marble Polishing Paste and viola... it is gone... all shiny again. So, even on this point, there is no advantage to crystallization.

Marble slab factories don't use crystallization. So, if my arguments aren't enough to dissuade you from doing it again in your new home, then consider that no factory in the world uses recrystallization as a method to "polish" the stone.

They all use standard mechanical grinding, smoothing, and polishing to finish the surface and make the marble shiny. It's simply the best way.

Standard re-finishing / marble polishing provides "like new" results without any of the risks and problems associated with crystallization.

Plenty of stories and myths floating around about marble and natural stone care and repair are just bogus. It's unfortunate for consumers because it's only natural to think that anyone selling or installing marble ought to know what's right, but they often don't.

That's why I've written a comprehensive marble maintenance manual to debunk the myths and to teach consumers how to clean and maintain their marble the right way.

If you are interested in learning about simple proven solutions, what you should and shouldn't do, then check out Cleaning Marble Secrets.

Comments for Re-Crystallization vs. Standard Marble Polishing

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Can my marble be saved?
by: Anonymous

Help! I wish I'd found this article before my floors were ruined.

I have Crema Marfil marble floors throughout my home which I've had polished many times in the past and they came out looking beautiful and shiny. I don't know exactly what process he used but it would take one man about 8 hours (1400 sf of marble).

Unfortunately, he retired and the two people I had in for quotes said it needed to be honed, polished, re-crystallized, etc. and it would take two or three men two days to complete the work.

Bottom story short. Because I get copious amounts of sunshine in my home everything shows up.

The morning after they were finished and the sun was shining on the floor all I could see were horrible scratches (what they tried to pass off as swirls).

They came back and rebuffed or some such thing to take the swirls out. By this time we were up to six days of labor. Baseboards all gouged. Steel wool dust all over the place.

A week later it appears my floors are getting worse on a daily basis. Dull, cloudy looking, along the veins it looks like calcium or lime deposits developing, etc., etc., etc.

I am sick at heart. I am trying to find someone to fix them but everyone within my area is telling me they need to be re-crystallized, etc.

Any suggestions would be greatly welcomed.

===ANSWER:

Sorry to hear about this. Document everything you can, the damage they caused, poor results, etc. Don't pay any remaining balance. You may have to go to court to recover any damages.

But to fix the floors you'll have to search for a true stone restoration professional.

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Crystalization
by: Anonymous

I agree with you completely. See this excellent article in support:
http://stonecaresolutions.blogspot.com/2011/04/crystalization-micro-recrystalization.html



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Absolutely...
by: John Jackson, aka kcstoneguy

I agree with your comments 100%. I restore marble 5 days a week and have done so for over 10 years. True restoration/polishing lasts longer and gives greater clarity than crystallization.

Crystallization is pushed by the Jan San crowd because it is easy, and requires less skill, therefore lower pay.

I tell people, go to Las Vegas and look at any hotel floor. Those plastic looking floors that are falling apart, are crystallized nightly. If a floor is properly powder-polished, it will last much longer with a greater degree of clarity.

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Question for Ryan
by: Anonymous

Thank you for your comments. It was an eye-opening.

I also have a crema marfil floor. When it was placed about a year before, after grouting, the floor had several spots all over. Then my installer sent the guys who did crystallization with Runit.

Now I have scratches in a couple of marble tiles. Can I now, going forward, do polishing instead of the recrystallization?

=== ANSWER:

Yes, you can have the marble refinished, but that will entail removing the "crystallized" layer. So, the first time will be more expensive.

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Finding a reputable floor restoration contractor
by: Anonymous

To whom it may concern,

My name is Robert and I've been in the stone restoration business since 1990. I stumbled upon this page and felt compelled to respond to some of the claims that are made in this article.

I have crystallized floors for over twenty years and have never had a problem with the process of crystallization.

Unfortunately, the floor restoration industry isn't regulated to eliminate some the inferior workmanship that is commonly found. In my years in the business, I've seen competitors submit estimates offering a multitude of services to get the job when in reality their intention was to perform less work.

I've seen work where the refinisher supposedly crystallized a floor when in fact they waxed the floor or applied some other product.

It is best to screen any tradesman by confirming that they are currently incorporated by logging on to the division of corporations in your state, check if they have workers compensation, general liability insurance, ask for a portfolio of work showing before and after pictures, once you hire them, demand that they perform a sample area prior to submitting a deposit and never pay the balance until their work was performed to your satisfaction.

These precautions will enhance your chances of finding a reputable floor restoration contractor.

==== Admin comment:

Thanks for the post... All good advice and unfortunately true. There are good and bad in every industry.

Crystallization can make the floors look very nice, however, even when done correctly crystallization introduces new potential problems that you will never have if you simply have your stone restored in traditional fashion by a skilled professional.

Maybe you won't have a problem, but there are many problems associated crystallization that commonly occur... and not just because someone was dishonest. It's the process itself.

Crystallization is an option... it's just not the best option even when done well.

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Refinishing Techniques
by: Dave

What an interesting article and some great points. Also. I have been manufacturing and refinishing natural stone for the last 8 years and have used both powder polishing and crystallization methods in the restoration process of many floors.

In my opinion, done correctly and properly maintained crystallized floors look as good as powder polished floors 85% of the time, and correctly maintained neither method is 'better' than the other.

However, it is true to say that diamond refinishing and powder polishing is a far more skillful method than crystallizing.

==== Countertop Specialty comment:

Thanks for your comments!

Yes, the problem isn't with the "look" of either. Crystallization will look good, when done properly. However, it can be done very poorly (like traditional polishing) and look horribly as well.

The rub is in the maintenance. While natural stone can always be restored to a brand new finish, crystallized marble floors change the surface layer of the marble into something other than natural marble and maintaining this surface can become much more problematic than natural stone.

Especially since there are many unskilled people using crystallization that lack any real knowledge of stone, solving problems can be a real dilemma.

You get some novices using traditional methods as well, but pretenders get weeded out pretty quick.

Also, once you crystallize it is troublesome to go back to a natural finish.

Our thinking and that of many stone professionals is that you should do as little as possible to stone. And why mess with a problematic method like crystallization when traditional polishing methods are tried and true and don't change your stone into some chemical-ized surface.

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Marble Cleaning And Marble Restoration Is Not That Easy
by: Mint Marble

We have been restoring stone for over 15 years and acquainted with both procedures, but must say that crystallization is bad for your marble.

Believe in me, I've renewed many surfaces that had formerly been "frozen". Oh, what a change.

Stone is organic and should be handled in an organic way!! Get it done right.

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Crystallization Explanation Video
by: Anonymous

Explanation of marble crystallization from recognized stone expert Dr. Hueston.

http://youtu.be/SdMI7lGN5OU

Video is kind of long, but the first 4-5 minutes really explains the whole deal.

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crystallization video
by: Anonymous

take a look at this interview about crystallization

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mwkmDsBfzaI&feature=share&list=FLSYtGVkBZZmtYxVIQQJ978A

==== Admin Comment:

Yes, this video is an excellent explanation from a very knowledgeable and well-respected pro.

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What Can I Do?
by: Sherri

It's been about 5 years since we had our crema marfil marble floors polished. They look terrible.

They are self-crystallizing and the many hairline cracks are growing in number and size. Is there a way to correct without replacing all.

We have a large master bath and it goes into my master closet. We have slabs on counters and in shower, but only the floors have the problem. If we have to replace, would be upwards of $30,000.

==== Countertop Specialty comment:

Well, there could be many reasons why your marble floor tile looks bad. Foot traffic will wear down polished surfaces, improper/infrequent cleaning can be an issue, using harsh cleaning products (which are nearly all common household cleaners), or other physical and chemical damage could be at cause.

However, I'm not sure what you mean by "self-crystallizing" and would have to see the cracks and other areas of damage to make a judgement.

I'd suggest using our Contact Form to submit your question. Once received we'll respond with a request for photos of the areas of marble floor tile in question to evaluate.

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It all depends on the need.
by: Erwin of Technoshine

I've been in Stone Restoration Business since 1993. Being in a third world country makes all the difference...

While I highly believe that repolishing is the best solution to make the stone beautiful and shiny this can never be applied to big areas or commercial areas that use natural stones such as marble, granite, travertine, etc. simply because it's a huge area it is not possible to maintain it using the polishing method.

The only possibility is crystallization...powder crystallization at least twice a year and liquid crystallization for maintenance. It's cost-effective and easy maintenance especially in large hotel lobbies, hospitals, churches, and other similar areas.

Also, contrary to the belief that crystallization can ruin marble it protects marble since when you do it you lessen problems that usually arises due to marble porosity like staining and scaling. I can personally attest to crystallization effectivity. Thanks.

==== Countertop Specialty comment:

We thank you for your contribution and opinion Erwin.... we simply disagree with you completely. And as I imagine you are aware... so do many/most stone pros.

As you stated, traditional stone re-polishing is the best solution. And certainly it is possible to re-polish large, commercial floors... crystallization is just an easier process for the technician.

Crystallization does not "protect" marble in any way. It simply changes the maintenance equation. No longer are you maintaining "marble"... no, you are maintaining the crystallized surface, which usually requires more frequent work. As you note, "twice a year". No way that is more "cost-effective" than traditional repolishing.

In our opinion... crystallization is all-around bad for the stone.

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Removing Marble Crystallization
by: Allan

You can remove it by simply re-polishing with powders. I have done it works great.

==== Countertop Specialty comment:

Yes, that's true... but it's a whole separate job in and of itself apart from polishing and finishing the stone surface.

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No Problem Crystallizing Honed Travertine
by: Anonymous

After reading these comments I looked close at my honed travertine that I had the crystallization process done and it looks great after 12 years. Some of the higher traffic areas have lost some shine but most of the floor still looks great.

Maybe my contractor was great at crystallization or maybe the people putting it down are trying to scare everyone into the much more expensive old fashion polishing.

I found if you buy honed travertine and use crystallization to get a high shine it will cost you less than buying polished travertine.

The process does get some steel wool dust around but nothing too bad.

==== Countertop Specialty comment:

Well, no one is saying that every single re-crystallized travertine or marble floor tile will be a disaster. Just that you run a substantial risk of unexpected problems that you simply don't have with traditional marble polishing.

You got lucky getting 12 years out of it.

Traditional re-polishing requires significant skill and is the best way to finish a marble floor. Yes, it costs more because it's the "done right" method.

It provides the best finish without any of the various possible (often probable) side effects of crystallization.

I don't think any respectable stone pro out there is recommending traditional marble polishing because it is more expensive. It's also more work. If anything the re-crystallizers make a higher percentage profit and are telling a bit of a "story".

Rarely are buyers made aware of the significant risks of re-crystallization.

Traditional marble polishing is recommended on this site simply because our aim is to recommend the best, most effective and proven stone care methods.

Re-crystallization is sketchy at best. Try at your own risk. You may get lucky, but if it goes sour can't be too surprised.


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False information
by: Anonymous

Crystallizers DOES NOT ruin natural stone. I have been in the Marble Restoration business for 30 years. We use Crystallizers and we've never had a problem.

We have received the opposite feedback from clients. They have noticed that the stone surface lasted longer this time around compared to their previous stone restoration company, which had used traditional polishing methods.

We use Crystallizers as a final polishing and have tested the difference of Crystallizers vs. Powder polishing. Marble polishing with a 5x powder provide great results, and requires sealing of the stone.

When Crystallizers are applied, the stone surface is harder and repels liquid stains better than the traditional 5x powder polishing. When we've tried sealing the stone. The sealer would not penetrate the stone surface. Proof that Crystallizers is the better method.

It last longer and resisit dirt and stains better than the powder polishing alone. The people who claim they had a bad experience with the Crystallizers process are completely wrong.

Most marble restoration companies use oxalic acid to polish marble and natural stone. They should be using the 5x powder. The combination of oxalic acid powders, Crystallizers and not sanding the stone properly (aka short cut process) can create orange peel/burnt pores.

So. Crystallizers are not bad for the stone. The inexperienced marble polisher or the lazy marble polishers are the problem. Don't use oxalic acid. Yes oxalic acid is a lot cheaper and faster for polishing stone. But 5x is the best and better polishing powder. PERIOD! Crystallizers are ok to use!

==== Countertop Specialty comment:

Thanks for you input. Our information is not "false". If you've been in the industry for that long, then you know that crystallization has always been controversial and not for nothing.

Likewise, I don't know how you can say that other people's comments regarding their experience with crystallization are not "wrong". These stories about problems with marble crystallization abound.

The problems experienced by homeowners due to crystallization are the very reason that crystallization is controversial and has a bad name.

I'll agree with you that it can be done very poorly and messed up pretty easily at that. And it can be done well.

We've never stated that ALL crystallized marble floors will look bad or experience problems. Only that it occurs at a much higher rate than with marble polishing and it's much more difficult to fix crystallized floors gone wrong.

Regarding sealing.... in my opinion, that is not proof of anything. Polished marble rarely needs sealing. As you know, marble is actually pretty dense, does not stain easily (it etches easily and this is confused for staining) and "polished" marble is even more stain-resistant.

Maybe a crystallized marble is less absorbent, but the difference is minimal and it certainly doesn't trump all the potential problems of crystallization.

The fact that a crystallized marble won't take a sealer doesn't prove that crystallization is better. A polished marble won't take a sealer in most cases either.

I sincerely respect your opinion, your knowledge, experience, and input. I just happen to disagree. Not on all of it, but certainly on the final conclusion.

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Problems with Granite Refinishing
by: Anonymous

Hello, we just refinished the granite countertop in the kitchen and it looks totally messed up.

It looks like it has very fine hairy cracks underneath that were not there before and they are filled with a powdery white residue. The clarity of the stone is compromised.

The surface looks like a plastic crackled coat. If you compare the side of the stone with the top you can see a big difference. Please let me know what that can be. Thank you.

==== Countertop Specialty comment:

Without knowing exactly how the refinishing was performed and without seeing it in person it is really difficult to say why this occurred.

However, I think you guessed the probable cause... a coating. Based on your description of the results, that's what it sounds like to me.

Perhaps the contractor did not use the traditional mechanical refinishing method of grinding, smoothing, and re-polishing the stone.

Certain types of coatings are now available that will refresh the look of granite, but applying a coating isn't really "re-finishing" the stone. It's just applying a coating in an attempt to achieve a certain look.

A coating will not solve the underlying problem of why the granite needed refinishing in the first place.

If the coating is applied incorrectly, then you could get some awful-looking results.

Coatings, in general, should be avoided. The promise sounds good, but in practice, coatings can cause more problems than they solve and often end up needing more maintenance attention than the granite or marble itself.

Coatings have improved a lot and are an appropriate choice in limited and fairly rare circumstances. But 99% of the time traditional, time-tested refinishing, repair, or restoration methods are the way to go.

Again, I can't say for certain this is the reason, however, it is a likely cause as your description of the surface doesn't sound like anything that would occur with normal granite refinishing.

I'd look for a stone restoration professional with a good decade of experience to come assess the situation and determine what might have happened and what can be done now.

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