Houzz Contributor, Beth Dotolo, ASID, RID, NCIDQ
That gorgeous Carrara and Calacatta marble, with their classic white and gray veining, has been used for centuries in homes and public venues. But these days, this natural marble is striking up a debate among homeowners, contractors and designers. We all love the look, but the debate about the maintenance and wearability is bringing up questions about when white marble is appropriate to use.
As the specifying interior designer, I’ve been in the middle of these debates between clients who love the look and contractors wary of wear. So I decided to bring in tile and marble expert Melissa Patterson, showroom manager of Renaissance Tile & Bath, to walk us through the pros, cons, maintenance, and how to make the most of your marble.
Here, marble tiles line the floor of a contemporary bath.
Patterson says 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.
In this photo gorgeous white marble sits atop the kitchen countertops.
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.”
Neither is right or wrong, it’s just a matter of asking yourself what your mindset is.
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.
The wet wall of this bathroom is beautifully accented in marble.
Aside from simply cleaning countertop surfaces after each use and wiping down your marble walls and floors, there are a few things you can do to lengthen the life of your marble.
Marble maintenance tip 1: Have your marble sealed. A sealer won’t protect your marble completely, but it will buy you some time if you’ve left an acidic substance on your surface that wasn’t wiped up right away. In a location like the fireplace surround shown here, a sealer can be helpful to protect against soot stains.
Marble maintenance tip 2: Spot-treat your marble. Many home improvement and tile companies sell a spray cleaner that is also a sealant. You can use this cleaner periodically in high-use areas as a spot treatment. A bathroom sheathed in gorgeous marble like this could benefit from spot treatments around the bath faucets, tub entry and commode.
Marble maintenance tip 3: Consider polished vs. honed. A polished marble is a little more resistant to staining, whereas a honed surface is a bit more absorbent. Many people choose a polished marble countertop for that reason.
In this bathroom, marble is used on almost every surface in the space.
The bottom line is that you have to ask yourself how you live and what your preferences are. Marble has been used on countertops, floors, and other surfaces throughout Italy, New York, and other places for decades. Many of these installations have a beautiful patina look where the veining has changed throughout the years.
If you are the type of homeowner who wants the marble to look as it did the day you bought it, a natural marble product may simply not be for you. But, if you love the character and beauty that a product develops with use, marble may be a perfect choice for your home.
What is your experience with marble? Tell us below!