The Shocking Truth About Marble Countertops – They’re Not As Scary As You Think

Marble is both timeless and totally on-trend, and many of you may be considering installing marble countertops in your kitchen. First of all, marble has some wonderful qualities. It is heat resistant, and you can definitely do an undermount sink with marble countertops. It’s an absolutely gorgeous natural stone with every slab being a piece of art. Marble has a patina that evolves over time and will last a lifetime – but it may not be the best if you are OCD or a perfectionist. Maybe you’ve heard the scary talk about why you SHOULDN’T use it. Let me talk you through this, ok?

Last night I attended a learning session at Daltile here in Nashville all about marble – specifically marble countertops. And I’ve got some news you can use about marble. The burning question is: should you or shouldn’t you do marble countertops in your kitchen?

check out Jeanne Oliver’s thoughts on her marble countertops here

Staining & Absorption

It’s true: marble is more porous than most granite and quartz products. BUT, different marbles (and granites, for that matter) have different absorption rates, and that’s something you should definitely look into. Absorption is the degree to which water will penetrate a stone, measured as a percentage of weight. The lower the absorbency, the lower the risk of stains. For example, Vermont’s Danby White has smaller pores than many other marbles, with only a .06% absorption rate. That’s lower than that of some of the more popular granites on the market. In fact, the one-and-only Martha Stewart loves Danby White and has it in three of her kitchens . . .

Martha Stewart and Vermont Danby white marble countertops in kitchenimage source

Other marbles with low absorption rates include Bianco Carrera, Thaddos, and Statuary.

statuary marble countertops and backsplash in white kitchenStatuary marble image source

If you choose a marble like that, spills that stain are not a big deal as long as you wipe them up fairly soon. It’s important to clean marble countertops with warm, soapy water only. No harsh chemicals, as they may etch the surface. Make sure to use a pH neutral stone cleaner or you may etch the surface. But what if you do stain your marble countertops? There are a number of poultice solutions that can be applied to draw out most stains. In the worst case scenarios, professional refinishing companies can assist in removing difficult stains.

The Finish You Choose

Etching, or dulling of the surface, is caused over time by acidic materials (such as lemon juice, alcohol, or tomato sauce) on the marble countertops. If it is not wiped up right away, the acid reacts and eats away at the calcium carbonate in the stone, creating permanent markings that look like dull, slightly darker spots or rings on the marble. Like I mentioned earlier, harsh cleaners can also etch the surface. How light hits the marble determines how noticeable the etching is. In some light, the scarring will not be evident at all, while certain lighting will reveal the dulled areas.

Polished marble is shiny and is more resistant to staining. Honed marble is matte and less resistant to staining. However, honed marble reduces the problem of etching (mainly, because it’s pre-etched). So it you want to reduce etching, choose HONED marble and be sure keep the surface properly sealed to reduce staining.

image source

Proper Sealing

Just because a marble countertop requires sealing, doesn’t mean that’s a huge maintenance issue. How often to seal? That depends on use and UV exposure, but typically 3-5 years. Click here for a sealer appropriate for marble.

I learned that the best way to test a countertop to see whether or not it’s sealed (or if it needs resealing) is to set a glass of ice water on its surface and wait a bit.  If water from condensation beads up on the marble’s surface when you pick up the glass from the counter, it’s sealed. If you pick up the glass and see a dark ring on the marble countertop, it definitely needs resealing.

Rather than simply relying on “the experts,” I decided to ask someone who actually knows what it’s like to live with marble countertops in the kitchen. So I checked in with a former client who I worked with several years ago when she remodeled her home. She is one of the few clients I’ve had that chose marble for their kitchen! Here’s what she had to say:

“I love my marble countertops for their timelessness.  I love to bake and so do my kids. I became enamored with old bakeries while traveling in Europe — they have beautiful old marble counters. Also, marble was considerably cheaper than granite when we were shopping for counters.
 

I had mine installed with the honed side up — very unusual as most people want the glossy side. Mine are etched and used in my very busy kitchen. I decided from the get-go I was not going to baby them.”

 Etched or not, you gotta admit they are still gorgeous:
If you are considering marble countertops, definitely do your homework and be honest with yourself about whether or not you can live with its beautiful imperfections!
You are more likely to maintain its newly-installed look by finding a marble that has a low absorption rate, choosing the right finish, wiping up spills quickly, avoiding harsh chemicals, and keeping it properly sealed.
If you want a look similar to marble with less hassle, there are many attractive and more-forgiving quartz options.

quartz tabletop in the beautiful Daltile showroom

Here I am in the Daltile showroom with a couple of my design besties, Amanda Carlson and Elizabeth Scruggs. Who says learning can’t be fun?

Kristie Barnett, Amanda Carlson, and Elizabeth Scruggs

And speaking of learning, if you are considering taking our next professional home staging course in September, there are still spots left! I’d love to see you there.

If you have or have had marble countertops in your kitchen, please share your experience in the comments below!

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patti mccaleb
patti mccaleb
4 years ago

I have creme marfal marble as the countertop in my powder room. It gets etched circles around the faucet handles – it is polished, not honed. Is there a way to restore the beauty of the marble?

Cara
Cara
1 year ago
Reply to  patti mccaleb

You can buy a product called Lustro Italiano. Marble is high maintenance. Not sure where this writer got her information. It needs to be sealed regularly, and you cannot use just any product to clean it. I too have rings and other spots. Also, in between sealing, the water has crystalized inside, so there appears to be etched “veins” running through in the area where water would be more likely to stand. It is truly a high maintenance stone.

Lisa W
Lisa W
4 years ago

Love this entry Kristie! I have not (yet!) had marble countertops, but one of my very favorite first person accounts ever about the reality of marble countertops is this one. And the kitchen is stunning too. http://fortheloveofahouse.blogspot.com/2013/03/marble.html?m=1

Judy
Judy
4 years ago

We had marble countertops in our apartment when we lived abroad, in Turkey. I loved them so much that we bought a piece and shipped it home with our household goods to use atop an island. Marble is amazing for rolling out pastries and cookie dough. It takes a little bit of attention, but every surface does. You can’t set pots on Corian, and think of the staining that happened on Formica back in the day (my poor mother and our adventures with Kool Aid when we were kids…). My current kitchen had recently-installed granite when we moved in, and it’s fine, but it requires sealing and maintenance, too and for some reason, it isn’t as great for rolling out pastry. In the end, I honestly prefer the look of marble. To me, the benefits outweigh the small amount of extra care needed to keep marble looking nice. If we re-do this kitchen, I will replace the granite with marble.

Judy
Judy
4 years ago

I don’t really know why. Granite is cold like marble, but my pie crusts don’t roll out as well for some reason. I wonder if it is something about the sealed finish of granite. The marble countertops we had were polished, but not sealed.

Cara
Cara
1 year ago
Reply to  Judy

Quartz truly is no maintenance. Any stain will work it’s way out after a day or two. And you can put hot pans right off the stove directly on the quartz.

ceil tarwater
ceil tarwater
4 years ago

GREAT, & INFORMATIVE article on marble counter tops KB! Please write next on quartz and other counter top options.

Dana Tucker
4 years ago

So happy to see this post. I have helped many clients select countertops for their new kitchens and all have selected quartz. When it came time to select my own countertops, nothing but marble could give me the look and feel I wanted. I am sooooooooo happy with my marble.

Kay
Kay
4 years ago

I had honed Carrara marble countertops installed in my kitchen in 2013 and love them. I don’t baby them and don’t care about the etchings and other marks on them—patina in the making, I call it. They absorb oil, but after some time the oil stains disappear. I’ve never had a problem with red wine. The marble is perfect for rolling out pastry and croissant dough. And it looks gorgeous. I wouldn’t want any other surface.

Cara
Cara
1 year ago
Reply to  Kay

That is the way marble should be used… no maintenance. That is the way it is found in all the Italian villas.
But most people in the US don’t envision that look. They think it will stay polished.

JIL SONIA INTERIORS
4 years ago

Such a chock full, professional blog post Kristie! I’ll save this to show my clients the inside scoop about Marble. I’ve only had one client go with marble, but she loves it and it looks fabulous after so many years!

Carolyn Soltesz
4 years ago

Love, love, love the look of marble and that will be my next countertop for sure. Working with the purchasing end of buying marble with clients though, the granite yards that also carry marble request the signature of many liability wavers and pretty much scare clients away from the purchase. Has anyone else experienced this when purchasing marble for countertops?

patti mccaleb
patti mccaleb
4 years ago

Thanks, Kristie, I will try that product you found on Amazon. As for rolling out dough on marble, I think the property that makes this such an ideal surface for bakers is the coldness of the stone itself.

Jennifer
Jennifer
4 years ago

Love that last kitchen! 🙂 And I love the marble countertops in the new house! I can’t imagine anything else!

chris
chris
3 years ago

people at the stone place have told us many times not to get marble. why? it chips. it stains. acidic things (lemon) etch the surface. this is true. but we ignore them and get it anyway.

first kitchen counter we had for 5 years. lots of cooking. lots of drinks. we might have put a chip in it from cast iron pans. who cares. and a cut lemon left on may have etched the surface. big deal. we only sealed it once….during the install. i happen to like the way marble wears and ages.

second kitchen we’ve had for 10 year. marble and soapstone. same thing. heavy use. a few chips, tiny bit of staining, tiny bit of etching. who cares. still looks great. it’s been sealed once and probably never will be again. we love wine and coffee and both have been on the counter many times.

some people don’t like a patina. we think a kitchen is for use. it’s not a museum piece.

Alfresco Kitchen
3 years ago

I think having a marble countertop is the best decision I have done over my kitchen. It may be a little bit pricey but the amount I have paid is worth it.

Natalia
Natalia
3 years ago

Kristie, I just wanted to thank you for this post, I do not know what I would do with the internet these days haha! My Husband really wanted Marble counter tops but, I was very hesitant to get marble and you managed to persuade me, my husband loves you sooo much right now! I’d like to share a post that also helped to persuade me. you should check it out, it is very informative! https://marble.com/articles/caring-for-marble

Justin More
3 years ago

Damn informative!! Worth reading!! This is a great post, and something I think needs to be communicated more often. Thanks for sharing the information!! I am living in Ohio and for all my kitchen countertop and remodeling needs, I trust: https://www.legacymarbleandgranite.com Thanks!!

Alvin Williams
2 years ago

I think the one way to save marble from its porous nature is to keep it away from any dirt. I believe marble to be a form of aesthetic element of your kitchen or bathroom but not very functional.

Universal Stone
2 years ago

Happy to see such an informative post! Your post will motivate those who are scared of buying marble countertop because of its absorption rate.

Cara
Cara
1 year ago

Not sure who’s giving you this information. Carrara is highly absorbent. The thing is, people see their counters daily and forget what they looked like day one. The only place Carrara looks great is in the old Italian villas. Yes, there the marble is worn with yellow stains, and no luster in sight. Yet it’s still beautiful. It blends in beautifully to the other old fixtures and architecture. It has been there for hundreds of years. It’s not a trend. If you were to take that very same piece of aged marble and put it in your home, it would not have the same affect as it had in that old villa. You would want it to sparkle… because here, it is, after all, just a trend.

Denny Smith
Denny Smith
1 year ago
Reply to  Cara

I share your appreciation of visibly aged marble, Cara. The look of something “yellowing,” is clearly not welcome in a tablecloth or a photograph (or a smile). But it is actually prized in some circumstances—like marble detailing—by people who are well-read, traveled and historically literate; folks who have come to understand that the venerability inherent with hand-crafted furnishings is far more attractive than the shine of perfectly reproduced “sameness.”
I don’t mean that true junk is attractive; but a well-made, yet gently worn bookcase, mixing bowl or chair is alive, wise and present in ways unachievable by spanking new, sterile equivalents. I prefer idiosyncratic, asymmetrical rooms glowing with the burnish of character much more than evenly numbered and flawlessly matched sets of dinnerware, throw-pillows, figurines and planters.
If you want to be surrounded by authenticity, here’s advice you’ll never regret adopting: Grace your home with crafted artifacts and original art more than identically manufactured “product lines.” Every town and city has galleries and neighborhood shops that offer art by artists, and hand-crafted objects of utility. Tutor yourself in the charm of boo-boos, the appeal of imperfection, the humanity singing from a vase, stool or quilt fashioned by the human hand. Nothing from Walmart or Ikea “sings.”
Enjoy your marble as a living presence in a lived-in home—let it suffer a ding or bruise. Haven’t you? No-one with a soul trades a Stradivarius for a Yamaha, or a genuine Goya engraving for a shopping-mall Monet.
And anyone who does? Get ready for my blistering lecture on “Wheatley, Waldo and Whitman,” for Americans who live in packaged purchases when they deserve imagined creations.

Toni
Toni
9 months ago
Reply to  Denny Smith

Beautifully written!

Caryl Kirtley
Caryl Kirtley
8 months ago
Reply to  Cara

Cara, Carrara is not the only marble choice out there. There are many others that are as beautiful, and some even more so, that are not as porous and absorption rivals granite.

Contractorfinder
1 year ago

Few weeks ago we have moved to a new house. While choosing which materials use for countertops, I was doubting about marble. But at the end we made a write choice, it is very beautiful, shiny and solid.

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eastcoastgranitetile
2 months ago

Quartz requires essentially minimal upkeep.
After a couple of days, any discoloration will fade.
And you may place hot pots immediately on the quartz after taking them off the stove.
Contact us now at: +14174237722.

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