Many people can’t tell the difference between marble and granite, but they are not the same type of rock at all. For one thing, marble is a metamorphic rock, while granite is an igneous rock. Granite is formed from slow cooling magma, while marble is formed from limestone or dolomite that breaks down when it is subjected to high pressure and heat, and then recrystallizes. Marble is thus tougher than limestone, but softer than granite. It is usually white (because limestone is usually white) with light colored veining, but you will find marble of different colors with more pronounced veins when the original stone is contaminated with other minerals when it recrystallizes.
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You may be interested to know that marble has many uses aside from works of art and dimension stones. In crushed form, it is used as a a component for building foundations, highways, and railroad beds. In white powder form, it is a common coloring agent in putty, paint, plastic, paper, and even cosmetics.
One of the reasons why marble is a favorite stone by sculptors and architects since the time of the ancient Greeks and Romans is because it is a relatively soft stone, which makes it easy to carve. It is also pliable, so it is less likely to shatter as harder stones tend to do. Best of all, marble has a distinctive warm glow because the calcite in the marble has a low refraction index. It is an extremely popular dimension (or decorative) stone because it is not only attractive, but functional.
However, because of its softness, it etches easily, so it is not always the best material for kitchen countertops that get a lot of use. The one exception is its use as a pastry table, because it is very smooth and typically cooler than the ambient temperature. As a bathroom vanity top, however, it is an excellent choice.
Aside from its softness, marble tends to be porous and reacts easily to acids, so it is extremely important to seal marble if you plan to use it in the kitchen or bathroom. Marble comes in many finishes, and while polished marble looks nice, a honed finish would require less maintenance as it tends to hide small scratches and scuff marks.
As mentioned earlier, marble is most commonly white or light colored, but dark marble slabs with white veining may also be available. It is worthy to note, however, that dark colored marble probably does not occur naturally, and most “black marbles” are actually limestone.
Ironically, while white marble is common, natural pure white marble is quite rare. This is because this means that during its formation, the protolith (or originating rock) remained completely free from contaminants. That very rarely happens, so pure white marble can eb quite pricey, if you can even find them. If you are planning to put marble countertops or vanity tops, available slabs would be something like a Calacatta or Branco Superlative.
Why install it in your home
The best reason for installing marble in the home is its elegant beauty. Most people are impressed when they hear “marble” associated with a home, so any home with marble countertops are bound to be valued more highly than a similar one without them. You don’t even have to have everything in marble. Adding a marble vanity top can already significantly upgrade an ordinary bathroom with ceramic tiles and a porcelain tub. Homebuyers that see marble in the kitchen, living room, and/or bathrooms in a home may be more willing to pay a premium, typically more than your investment of putting them in the first place.If you have no intention of selling your home, it still pays dividends from the satisfaction you are sure to feel when you have it for your own use.
How to maintain it
The biggest problem you will encounter with marble is its relative softness and porosity. While marble weathers well in nature, in the home it does tend to scratch, stain, and etch easily when exposed to ordinary household products, oily food, and liquids. To keep your marble surfaces looking pristine, you need to have it sealed properly and keep liquids away from it. Wipe up any spills immediately, especially anything containing oil or acid. Even toothpaste can leave a stain, so keep all toiletries and beauty products away from direct contact with your marble vanity. Pure water will not harm it, but most tap water contain some minerals that can leave its mark on marble if left long enough.
You need to make a little more effort to keep marble from getting damaged. Because it is so soft compared to other stones, it can easily show nicks and scratches. To clean your marble surface, use regular dishwashing soap and warm water, and dry thoroughly afterward. You can also use bleach diluted with warm water if you want to sanitize the surface, but make sure you rinse thoroughly and wipe it dry. Other tips to keep your marble pristine include:
- Avoid any cleaner that contains ammonia; it will discolor the marble permanently
- Do not use an abrasive cleaner or cleaning pad; use only mild soap and a soft, clean cloth, If you have food or debris stuck to the surface, wet it slightly to loosen, and rub away with a sponge
- Schedule to reseal your marble annually to ensure protection
- Keep acidic liquids such as citrus fruits, coffee and wine away as it will etch your marble
- Use only a dry mop to clean marble floors; make sure you regularly remove dust and dirt that can scratch against the surface
- Sharp implements and metallic objects will scratch your marble countertops
- A honed finish is recommended for marble kitchen countertops and floor tiles as it does not show scratches as much as a polished finish
- You can use a polished finish for wall cladding and fireplace surrounds, which will keep it from staining
Installation and pricing
Marble is actually not much more expensive than granite, and may be more affordable than engineered quartz stone. The price will depend on where the slab you choose came from, and how rare it is. The typical locally sourced or common type of marble will cost about $60 per square foot, uninstalled. Exotic slabs will be more expensive, as much as $300 per square foot.
Price is a major factor in choosing marble, but it is not the only consideration. Your choice of marble should fit in with the overall design of the room.
Marble is not the first choice for many homeowners mostly because it is high maintenance compared to other stone materials. However, nothing can really match the delicate hues and mellow patina of natural marble. When it comes to esthetics, there really isn’t any contest. For homeowners with an eye for elegance, marble is the best choice.