Design Dilemma: Marble Countertops, or Not?
Ahh…. beautiful white marble countertops. They’re classic, elegant, and don’t feel as ubiquitous as granite. (Which, frankly, we’re all a little sick of by now.) But there’s a reason why every kitchen in your neighborhood is not outfitted in marble. (And it’s not the price, since marble costs about the same as mid-range granite, and less than some engineered stone countertops.) The problem is that marble can stain. One wine spill, one splatter of tomato sauce or a cut lemon left overnight, and a pristine white marble countertop can be ruined. Like this:
In fact, the above stain came from a vitamin pill that got wet and was not quickly cleaned off the countertop. So if you’re considering getting a marble countertop, here’s what you should know ahead of time.
PROS: If you’re even considering marble, you probably already know why you like it. Marble’s classic colors and natural styles — such as white Carrara — feel timeless and unlikely to change with color trends. After all, Italians have used white marble in their homes for years, and it is still as valued and fashionable as it ever was. White marble has an air of sophistication that feels urban but can go either modern or more country. Marble can be an especially good surface for baking stations, since its surface temperature remains cool. Because of marble’s delicate nature, it is unlikely that marble will ever be so commonly used that it will feel “beaten to death” in the way that granite now does.
CONS: Now here’s what you may not know. Marble is soft and likely to show dents, gouges, scratches, scorches and stains. It requires diligent maintenance, including cleaning up spills immediately and occasional buffing. Acidic liquids such as coffee, wine and lemon juice are particularly damaging. So if you like a cup of coffee in the morning, or a glass of wine in the evening, prepare yourself for the inevitable marks that will be left by your indulgences. Even soap and cleaning products can stain marble, as can any wet object left on the marble. It’s hard to imagine getting through a Thanksgiving dinner without quite a few stains left behind.
REMEDIES: If you’ve decided you must have white marble, know that you should have your marble regularly sealed to help prevent stains. But even with sealant, you will still have to be extremely diligent about attending to spills quickly. Even if you do, it’s probably inevitable that your marble is going to stain over time. (Are you really going to use coasters under every glass on the kitchen counter?) There are special poultices that you can make to try to treat the stains, or you can accept the stains as evidence of a life fully lived. In fact, some people give their marble a head start on stains by pouring olive oil over their counters to stain and age them on purpose. Some types of stains may be resolved by having your marble re-polished. If you’re not into the stained look, be sure to use lots and trivets and mats and never place hot, wet or abrasive objects on the countertop. When choosing your marble countertop, you may find that honed marble is more forgiving to problems like water marks than polished marble.
AND IF YOU CAN’T DEAL: There are countertops out there that mimic some aspects of white marble but that are more resistant to stains. Honed granite and Kashmir white granite can look a bit like marble, but may hold up better to stains. CaesarStone can also be a great alternative to white marble, as can Okite (an engineered quartz stone seen below.) Both will likely be more expensive than marble.