Marble is a metamorphic stone found in mountainous regions of North America, South America, Asia, and Europe—from Colorado to Brazil to Italy. It’s created by the physical or chemical alteration of sediment into a denser form through heat and/or pressure. The resulting rock has a crystalline nature enabling it to take a polish. It also has veins of mineral deposits that pattern it, no two slabs exactly alike.
Marble is one of the more porous of the metamorphic stones, which is why it’s prone to staining. While not as hard as its metamorphic cousin granite (which comes from deeper in the earth where it’s exposed to more heat), marble is not as soft as soapstone. It generally has a low abrasion rating, meaning it scratches quite easily. The stone’s chemical makeup (calcium carbonate) makes it particularly sensitive to acidic solutions, which can result in etching on the surface (see below to learn to manage this). On the plus side, marble is heat resistant, strong, and generally doesn’t chip or dent.
One of the attractions of marble is that it’s available in a wide variety of natural colorations. Marble comes in hues of white, black, gray, yellow, green, and pink, some with dark, prominent veins and others with more subtle patterning. Architect Elizabeth Roberts points out that the irregular lines of veining can be a nice contrast to the straight lines inherent in kitchens
There are three questions you should ask yourself when selecting marble. You may find that what some consider a “con,” such as the natural patina that develops on marble over time, is actually a “pro” for you.
1. What’s the application?
Marble is a natural product, so no matter what the application, it will change, age and wear over time. If you plan to use it on a floor, expect signs of wear from foot traffic. On a countertop like this, you’ll want to address any concerns you have about about staining and rusting.
2. What is your attitude?
Are you the type of person that needs a product to look exactly as it did the day you purchased it? Patterson describes two different mentalities: the European attitude and the American attitude. “When you enter into a European building, you can walk on the stone floors that are centuries old. Here in America, everything is roped off. I think that Europeans live more casually and enjoy the patina created from use and aging, where as some Americans want everything a bit more pristine.”
3. How do you live?
Are you the type of homeowner who picks up after yourself after each use in the kitchen? Or are you a busy on-the-go homeowner, where a kitchen counter wouldn’t get wiped down until the next morning? Acid from substances such as red wine, marinara sauce, blueberries and even lemons can tarnish the look of the marble if left to sit overnight. Keep in mind, the marble will not stain instantly! This only pertains to when substances have been allowed to soak into the surface.