Style trends come and go so fast they can be difficult and expensive to keep up with, especially for pricey household items like countertops. Tossing a $200 sweater because the bell sleeves are no longer fashionable might sting a little, but the same fate for a three-thousand-dollar breakfast bar would be a tragedy. If there’s any stone out there that promises to stand the test of time for durability and style, it’s marble.
White marble gives kitchens a classic elegance that never loses its vogue. Marble is warm and inviting, yet bright and clean at the same time. It lends roominess to tight galley kitchens, or coziness to large, open spaces. The natural stone has been revered as a workhorse of a surface for ages – always on-trend.
Marble Shows It’s Past
For all of its versatility and beauty however, marble has a few natural characteristics that turn some people away. While marble is certainly sturdy – cathedrals and monuments built with marble centuries ago are still standing – it is not quite as hard as some types of granite and quartzite. It is also a bit more porous than other natural stones and man made countertop surfaces, making it more prone to stains and etches.
Those who prefer a countertop that will look brand new for decades might choose a man made product like Quartz instead of natural stone. Homeowners who are likely to sell their homes soon after buying, or those particularly worried about resale value should also consider the pros and cons of marble’s natural characteristics.
Embracing the Characteristics of Marble
Marble is perfect for homeowners who don’t mind traces of past errors – a dropped pan, a squeezed lemon that spritzed farther than desired, an errant splash of vodka. Compared to man-made surfaces, such as Quartz, and even many types of granite, marble is soft and somewhat porous. A dropped pan might create a small dent or chip, depending on where it lands. Any acidic juice or beverage – lemon juice, vodka, tomato sauce, soda – will eat away at the surface of the stone, creating what is known as an etch, which appears as a white discoloration.
Even sweating water glasses can leave permanent rings on the surface of the best-sealed marble, if the water is left to soak in, due to the stone’s natural porosity. Simply wiping the counter after spills and splashes will prevent such blemishes, but not everyone is so quick to clean up their messes. That said, a household with children will likely create plenty of etches on a marble surface.
Etching Can Add Character to a Marble Countertop
Some people embrace marble’s tendency to etch as a marker of character. Over time, the etches blend together to form a patina, much like the way copper turns bluish-green in the outdoor elements – except marble won’t change colors. They view the small imperfections as a testament to a fulfilling and joyous life – memories of a fabulous cocktail party, a great meal that took days of preparation and more than a couple of spills, an entertaining house guest’s refusal to use a coaster, a child’s first batch of chocolate chip cookies.
Those who swear by marble often take a sense of pride in the imperfections on their marble countertops and they relish the years of good meals and pleasant memories that formed the patina.
While it can be enjoyable to view etches as a walk down memory lane, sentimentality is not required to enjoy the patina as aesthetically pleasing. After all, most etches are subtle and only visible at certain angles. Over time, as the etches meld together, the patina gives the marble a softer look; it becomes broken-in like a pair of comfortable leather shoes. Many people find the look attractive even if the patina has no personal memories attached to it.
Marble comes in a variety of colors, including, green, gold, red, black and other hues. All of them, however, etch white. Black marble, therefore, may not be a good option for a busy kitchen counter.
Marble is the Perfect Choice for Bakers
Marble’s allure is practical as well as an aesthetic. For avid bakers, it is a must-have, especially in Florida’s unforgiving heat. Anyone who has ever made a batch of biscuits or a flaky pie crust knows the challenge of keeping the dough cool while working it on a lightly floured surface. The great thing about marble is that it naturally remains cool to the touch, even in hot weather.
Marble feels cool because it conducts heat well. When a person touches it or when dough is rolled out on top of it, it actually absorbs residual heat and disperses it quickly. Bakers love marble for this reason and few other surfaces compare. They can roll out their buttery dough right on the floured countertop. Some bakers who aren’t able to invest in marble countertops, or who are too fussy to embrace a whole countertop of material that etches, will buy a marble pastry board for rolling out their baked goods.
But marble is not ideal for every cook. Home chefs who abhor imperfections, like cup rings and etches, may want to steer clear of marble, unless they are willing to be vigilant about protecting the surface with cutting boards, placemats, coasters and other products that limit direct exposure of liquids to the countertop. Harder stones, such as Quartzite, or manmade products like Radianz-Quartz may be a more appealing alternative.
The Difference Between Honed and Polished Finishes
Another thing to consider when buying a marble countertop is the finish. Marble can be finished by the fabricator who cuts the stone, using a variety of techniques. The most popular and common finishes are honed and polished. A honed finish leaves the marble with a matte appearance that is timeless and rustic. A polished finish is glossy and shiny, more suitable for modern decor.
Both finishes will etch but etches will be easier to spot on the polished finish. The rougher-looking, matte appearance of the honed countertop will help to conceal etches better than a polished finish. The use of coasters and showing extra care in the kitchen will help polished surfaces looking shiny and untarnished for much longer.
Marble Countertops Need to be Sealed
Whether the marble is honed or polished, it will require sealant before the countertop is put to use. Sealants are applied following the installation of the countertop. The sealant will help protect the marble from stains, scratches and minor etching, but it will not prevent it. In addition to using coasters and other protective measures, wiping up any spilled liquids or acids as soon as they touch the countertop surface will keep blemishes at bay.
Is Marble A Good Choice for You?
The best way for someone to determine whether marble is right for them is to head down to a local bar or restaurant that has marble countertops and examine the surface. Look at it from the top and from the sides to see how the marble looks from different angles. Also pay attention to the way the marble looks up closely, versus from a distance.
In Sarasota, to get a feel for what a marble patina looks like over time, go to the bar at Classico downtown. Or check out the expansive bar at Brio Tuscan Grill at the University Town Center. There are plenty of etches and chips at both bars, but the surface still appears clean, inviting and beautiful.
Seeing a well-worn marble countertop is undoubtedly the best way to grasp the characteristics of this classic stone surface and envision how it would mesh with both your aesthetics and lifestyle. Stop by our showroom at The Granite Place today, and see why marble could be the perfect choice for your kitchen!