Marble Countertops or Granite

by J on May 7, 2010

Marble has been used for centuries in kitchens around the world. Today, granite has eclipsed the use of marble, in part because of its durability. But what if you have always had your heart set on a stunning marble countertop and love the warm, classic appeal of marble? Should you give up those plans in favor of the sturdier granite?

Let’s consider the three main concerns of marble so that you can make an informed choice:  scratching, staining and dulling.

Scratching can definitely be a problem with marble countertops. On a scale of 1 to 10, marble scores between 2.5 to 5 on the Mohs mineral hardness scale, so it is prone to scratches. Cutting or chopping directly on the marble top is definitely a no-no, so you would need to use cutting boards on your marble countertop. Because some cleansers contain ingredients that would damage marble, be sure to use only non-abrasive products. Your best bet is to work with a dealer that is a stone expert and ask them to recommend a marble that would be suitable for kitchen use. Naturally, you want to avoid purchasing marble that is on the lower end of the Mohs scale.

The next concern is staining. Marble is prone to stains when watery or oily liquids penetrate the microscopic spaces between its crystals. The Marble Institute of America recommends sealing your marble to help prevent stains. The sealing doesn’t completely prevent staining; what it does do is buy you plenty of  time to wipe up any spills before they sink too deeply into the marble to remove. Unsealed marble will stain in about 30 minutes. Sealed marble is much more forgiving; you’ll have about 24 hours before a stain sets in. Because of the quality of the sealers on the market today, staining should not be a deal buster in your decision to purchase a marble countertop.

The final concern—dulling of the surface—can be a tougher problem to handle. Marble is susceptible to dulling or etching from acidic substances, such as vinegar, lemon juice, tomatoes and acidic cleaners. This is a permanent condition, one which sealers can’t prevent. So, having a marble countertop in the kitchen means that you have to accept that dull spots will appear on your counter. Because of that, experts recommend that for kitchen use, you buy marble with a honed surface instead of a highly polished surface. A honed surface naturally has an evenly dull surface, making any etching that does occur far less noticeable.

Now that you know the good, the bad and the ugly about marble, you should be able to decide if a honed, sealed marble countertop is the right choice for your kitchen, or if you prefer the highly polished look of granite. Either way, the natural stone will grace your kitchen for years to come.

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