Marble carries with it the weight of its legacy, but now owning a marble countertop is not limited to the wealthy. That is because not all marble countertops need to be quarried slab marble; there are cultured marble countertops that are more within the affordable range for the rest of us.
And if seamless slab or cultured marble are unaffordable, homeowners can always find a ready solution by using marble tiles instead. Owning a marble countertop is now within the reach of the middle-class.
Where Do Marble Countertops Get Their "Look"?
One of the best qualities of marble countertops is the variety of color and veining. Laminate and solid surface countertops (i.e., Formica or Corian brands, respectively) all attempt to reproduce the beauty of marble, yet with mixed results.
Marble is a metamorphic rock, which means it changes from its original, sedimentary form (in this case, limestone or dolomite rock) to marble under severe pressure and heat. That highly distinctive aspect of marble--the veining--is the result of impurities in the original limestone. Under extreme pressure and heat, the original materials completely re-crystallize. The purest marble is white, type that Renaissance artists carved into statues.
Cultured Marble CountertopsIf you want the marble look but not the marble price, a viable and cost-effective avenue is the cultured marble countertop.Cultured marble counters are made of crushed marble and a manufactured thermoplastic resin, and poured into pre-cast molds to suit your project. Unlike natural marble, the resins in cultured marble lend non-porosity to the material.
That means that stains on cultured marble countertops are of less of a concern than natural marble counters. Cultured marble countertops have a gloss or flat finish, and can come with integral sinks or allow for a drop-in sink.
Can you DIY-install a cultured marble counter? Absolutely. With minimal tools, any homeowner should be able to install the cultured countertop. Natural slab tops are simply too heavy and require more specialized tools and procedures to install. Cultured countertops are custom one-off products: no two are exactly alike, and the varieties available are more or less made to order. Some varieties include onyx, granite, two-toned, and can be made with fancy inlays. Cultured marble countertops are cheaper than solid surface (such as Corian), but more expensive than laminate (such as Formica), and provide a more affordable solution to those looking for the beauty of marble without the price tag. One drawback: this surface is prone to scratching, and is not heat resistant. You can't use it in the kitchen for these reasons, but they excel in bathrooms.Advantages of Marble Countertops
There are plenty of reasons why man- and womankind over the centuries have valued marble as a practical surface, not just for marble countertops, but for other uses:
- Fancy Details - Marble countertops can be fabricated to have fancy ogee edges (as well as other profile styles), due to the softness and overall workability of marble.
- Cutting - If you've worked with marble tiles, for instance, they cut easier than granite, which is prone to chip more easily. Marble cuts like a dream. This allows for fancier design capabilities without the fear of damage, relative to other types of stone.
- Decent Durability - Even with marble's inherent "softness," it is still hard enough to withstand high traffic.
- Resists Heat - It's an ideal work surface. It is also heat resistance, lending itself well to kitchen use.
Marble countertops have many disadvantages, too. It is not just the cost of marble countertops that stalls many homeowners' dreams, but some practical issues such as:
- Scratches - Scratches tend to be more of an issue with polished marble. As a natural mineral, there are varieties of marble with varying degrees of hardness, but scratches are a pretty common concern, particularly in kitchen applications.
- Staining - Due to its softness or porosity, its also more of a pain to service as staining can be an issue. Certain foods, especially on the acidic side, can result in permanent stains. Sealing the marble countertop and keeping up with sealing on a regular (usually annual, though more frequent if you are an avid cook) helps mitigate staining.
- Repairs - Repairs on marble countertops are not simple, unless the countertop is marble tile. In the case of marble tiles, you simply replace the damaged tile. Replacing a marble tile individually--without affecting surrounding tiles--is a painstaking task that you may want to leave in the hands of professional tile installers. The good news is that the cost of replacing one or two tiles is minimal.
Should You Install Marble Countertops? Words of Advice
With all of these concerns, you may be asking yourself if installing marble countertops is a smart choice. That question can be answered in a couple of ways.
- Appearance - Do you like the way marble looks? Do you enjoy the statement that marble makes? If yes, then the concerns of scratching and staining can be addressed by taking a little more care with the surface, being careful not to use the countertop as a cutting surface, and sealing it regularly (as the sealants wear off over time).
- Maintenance - If you can discipline yourself to properly maintain your marble countertops, then you can be the proud owner of timelessly beautiful marble countertops. If your love for the warm and unique appearance of marble outweighs the minimal maintenance required, then it's worth it. Marble maintains its value, and adds equity to any home or office.