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Are Marble Countertops Right For You?

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Why is everyone scared of marble countertops?  If you have arrived at this post because you’re on the fence about installing marble in your kitchen – I’m glad you are HERE!

Two years ago, I was hired by a woman named Kerri to help manage some issues that arose during her kitchen renovation.

The cliffs notes on this story are the following – She had walked into a large home improvement store and contracted them to design the kitchen of her dreams. She was sold on $55,000 cabinets, $12,000 countertops and had installers that were not showing up,  great!

We had been subcontractors for several years for a well-known home improvement chain and decided to part ways. Why did we part ways? There are many reasons, but the final straw was when I received a call asking about a property address we had no knowledge of. After a little digging, we realized that our contractor’s license had been stolen.  After making a few phone calls, I learned our permits were being used for properties we had no involvement in.  Nice!

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How Does This Impact The Homeowner?

The reason why I’m sharing this is I want my readers to understand that there are many layers of people involved.  The Retailer, the unknowable salesperson, a general contractor and then finally a subcontractor. The homeowner is funding it all. Not only are YOU paying a HUGE mark up in cost, the workmanship most times is what suffers. The tradesmen are dealing with an unrealistic schedule or not scheduled in the proper sequence of how the project should progress.

After reviewing the blueprints and manufacture of Kerri’s cabinets –  I knew she probably spent about 50% more than she should have. The other major issue was she had purchased marble for her kitchen countertops. Why should that be an issue?

Kerri lives on Florida’s intercoastal and her husband takes their teenage boys fishing every weekend on their boat. When they arrive back home, they take their freshly caught fish over to her kitchen to clean, cut, and prep their dinner.  In other words, they make a mess!  Kerri insisted she had been warned about marble countertops but still wanted them.

Before arriving at her house, I grab a sample of Carrara marble, which I had in my garage.  While driving to her house, I called Kerri to ask if she could have a few items out once I arrived. Sure, “Rebecca, what would you like?” My reply was the following:  “Ketchup, lemon, vinegar and a little red wine.” I don’t understand was her answer.

Kerri, you were warned about marble countertops but not educated.  We’re going to do a little experiment together.

Once I arrived, Kerri greeted me with a hug, coffee, and a sense of relief.  She felt she had a partner since I was invested in her project. I laid down the marble and instructed her to make a little mess with the items I asked her to prepare for me.  After she was done, I advised her we’ll inspect it once we return from picking out her sink and faucet. 

Fortunately, as we were leaving her home, Kerri realized she forgot her keys and peeked on the progress of the marble. I heard her screaming in the house and ran in. She said, “Rebecca, the marble is ruined, it’s dull and appears as if acid etched the marble and it’s only been 3-5 minutes.  I can’t get Carrara marble – the counters would be ruined in less than a week!” We ended up visiting a few natural stone fabricators, and Kerri fell in love with a quartz line which had a natural Carrara marble appearance. Not only did she save herself the headache…she purchased a better-suited counter for her needs and saved $7,000 by buying direct!

marble countetops

Lessons From a Commercial Marble Fabricator

My good friend Alex and his family own ICM Stone and are commercial fabricators of natural stone, quartz and stone glass.  Their warehouse was where I began my love of espresso and gain a lot of knowledge of stones.  As I walked through his many buildings to arrive at their demolition area, I would grasp as a cannonball would swing to destroy slabs due to inaccurate measurements. What a crime!!!

So, Alex allowed me to go digging in his demolition pile and gifted me beautiful imported marble from Italy, which I used in 3 bathrooms and on our fireplace. He also educated me on how best to care for it over many espressos. Thanks, bud!!

When cleaning marble, the rule of thumb is never use anything harsh.  To my surprise, Alex gave me Method Marble Cleaner. If you are brave enough to install marble in your kitchen, make sure you use cutting boards and lots of care when preparing acidic foods like lemons or tomatoes, as these will “etch” your surfaces.

Or, install honed (matte finish) marble to help prevent etching. In time our bathrooms did have a few etched areas, and my guess was hairspray was the culprit. I found using a polishing powder such as  Lustro Italiano Etch Remover to be the best solution.  

Pro Tip: During renovations, I visit multiple fabricators and ask to see their scrapyard. I usually pay 50-60% less and can find enough square footage to complete any project. 

How To Select Marble Slabs?

Since every stone slab is slightly different, selecting the pieces for your slab makes a lot of difference for your marble countertop. You can choose to decide on one based on the veining location or the color of your kitchen or bathroom.

You need to put into serious consideration how different pieces would come together to become one.  Consider book matching the marbles to make sure adjacent pieces give a mirrored appearance as in the case of seams.

Two Popular Marble Countertops

Carrara Marble

This has to be one of the most popular types of marble to be used for kitchen counters, floors, and tiles. It is quarried in the city of Carrara, Italy hence the name. There is a general misconception that this type of marble is white. The base color of this marble is muddy in appearance with hues of gray. The distinctive background color and feathery veining pattern make it easy to identify.

Since Carrara is readily available in the marketplace is it also less expensive. Some factors increase the price of the marble, such as grade, thickness, size, and finish type.

Calacatta Marble

Calacatta is considered rarer than Carrara marble and more luxurious.  As a rule of thumb, the whiter the material, the more expensive. Calacatta marble has a pure white background plus thick dark gray veins. This gives it a distinguishing factor from other types of white marbles.  It tends to look more dramatic thanks to its distinct bribing patterns and color variations.  The more uniform the veining, the pricier it gets. When it comes to using this type of marble, it usually depends on how you want to match it with other colors.

A Few More Natural Stone Countertop Alternatives 

Statuary Marble

The statuary marble is an option, which isn’t well known but has the same qualities as the Carrara marble. The classic statuary marble also comes from the same Carrara region.  It is a white marble which has a semi-translucent outlook which gives a dramatic feel. Unlike the Carrara, it is a lot brighter and tends to reflect more light, plus it has a smooth and glossy feel to it. Some professionals recommend it for indoor floor coverings where foot traffic is low. It’s also widely used as a kitchen countertop material.

Crema Marfil Marble

Crema Marfil ranges from light beige to yellow background, and it is designed with irregular vein patterns. Due to its neutral color, it is also the right choice for bathrooms and kitchen countertops, especially if there is a presence of dark-colored cabinet or designs with natural stones.

The Crema Marfil marble is very common and can be found almost anywhere. It is used for floors, walls and also surrounding the fireplace to give a more gentle and appealing look.

Nero Marquina Marble

If you have no problem with black marbles, then this is for you. Since marble is a metamorphosed rock which originates from limestone, it is usually mostly white.  There are also actual black marbles, and this is an excellent example of one. Another example is Marmol Negro. The Nero Marquina It comes from the Marquina region of Spain.

The Nero Marquina is a deep black stone which comes with pure white veins.  In some cases, it can almost overcome the contrasting white background. It is one of the most demanded in Spain and a lot of other countries as well because of its high quality, dramatic look, and fine grain. If you are looking to go for a black and white design in your kitchen or bathroom, this beautiful marble maybe the best choice for you.  Since it’s readily available, you don’t have to worry too much when trying to source it.


In Conclusion

Marble countertops are stunning! Be aware that they are porous and high-maintenance. Since marble is a softer stone, be prepared to see some scratches and chips. Remove stains right away as they will penetrate into the stone. Lastly, ask your fabricator if sealing your marble is recommended. If the answer is yes, follow their suggestions for products and usage for your individual marble.

For more home styling tips and tricks drop by anytime. Hey, we’re always up for company.

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Die-hard DIYer, home enthusiast and sometimes I cook :-)

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