There are few things that are as stunning to me as a white marble countertop … I love them and appreciate the character and history they have as a material. Whenever the subject of white marble countertops comes up (which in my line of work is a lot) the topic of damage (scratches) and maintenance (stains) comes up in every conversation.
I thought I would put together some information that might help that person who loves the look of white marble but is afraid of using the material. It’s definitely a good look and a fantastic material, but you have to be prepared for a give and take relationship. Since marble is a natural product, it is going to evolve and change over time and with use no matter how much you baby it. It’s that last sentence that should be your major clue as to whether or not this is the material for you.
If you are okay with your countertop showing signs of use then by all means, white marble away! Marble is a calcium-rich stone, porous, has relatively low abrasion resistance, and is susceptible to expansion and contraction. When spills are left on a marble countertop, they seep into the pores … but seriously, who doesn’t wipe off their counters? If I spill red wine on my counter, I tend to clean it up right away. However, there have been times when I’ve had a party and I’m playing bartender, and in my haste to be a good host, I might slop a teeny-tiny bit when mixing up my cocktails. It’s important to wipe up any spills immediately, then wipe the area with a little water and dry immediately, otherwise, you are going to see the evidence of that awesome party – this is caused by a permanent change in the marble’s composition and can only be removed by professional polishing.
For finishes, you have a choice of polishing or honing your counters. Polishing creates a shiny reflective surface and honing produces a matte finish. I generally recommend that a person hone their white marble counter tops – polishing creates a sheen that will make it easier to see any changes in the surface created by acids (like lemon juice or tomatoes) – which isn’t really desirable. A honed matte finish is far better in my opinion.
Some people also think that a white counter top will make it easier to see just how clean the surface really is – not true! The darker the surface, the easier it is to see marks and “remnants” on the surface – which includes fingerprints. When a person wants their kitchen counter top material to look pretty much the same over time AND wants a material that will require less maintenance, they should probably look at choosing an alternative to white marble. Some very attractive and quite suitable alternatives include engineered quartz counter tops like those manufactured by Caesarstone, Zodiaq or Silestone. They’re man-made, almost completely impervious, and virtually indestructible once installed.
If I haven’t scared you off yet, here are some fairly generic best-practices to consider:
- Always seal marble prior to use. There are a lot of great products to use, your specifier, designer or installer should be able to help you choose the right one.
- To reduce the appearance of etching, choose a honed finish.
- To reduce the appearance of staining, always wipe up spills immediately. Oil and highly pigmented liquids (i.e. cranberry or grape) can penetrate and stain the marble and may need to be removed using a poultice.
- Always use a neutral detergent to clean marble. I generally tell my clients to use a non-abrasive liquid dish soap (like Dawn) and water only.
To set the record straight, I love white marble countertops a lot. They are as timeless as they are modern and there aren’t too many materials out there that can make that boast. I also don’t have a problem with the life becoming part of the story behind a material. I know that my marble countertops are going to scratch and get etched over time and through use – and I am completely fine with that. I am also the sort of person that is okay with cracks in concrete because I expect them to be there. Is marble more maintenance than a granite or a man-made quartz countertop – absolutely. If you are okay looking at your counter and remembering that awesome Christmas party then I highly recommend taking the leap and going with white marble counters. I can guarantee that you will be talking about them every time someone new see them.
and I think that’s pretty cool.