Marble is a smooth luxurious natural stone, and one of the softer natural materials used for countertops, which makes is prone to scratching and staining. While marble does need extra care, it's rich colours and beautiful veining brings an elegance and a warm ambiance to any style decor.
Marble is a metamorphic rock formed from limestone and dolostone that has crystallized gradually over time by heat and pressure in the earth's crust. This process is called re-crystallization.
Generally, marble is referred to as a crystalline rock composed predominantly of one or more of the following minerals: calcite, dolomite, or serpentine. In its purest form, marble is white. However, not all marbles are the same. Varying amounts of minerals present in the limestone during re-crystallization affect the mineral composition of each marble that forms, contributing to the interesting array of colours and patterns.
Marble is mined from quarries around the world in large blocks that are then cut into slabs. These slabs are polished and distributed to stone suppliers. Stone fabricators purchase these slabs from the stone suppliers and install them in your home or office.
|Heat Resistance||Stain Resistance||Chemical Resistance||Hygiene Rating|
The durability characteristics vary between the different types of marbles. Generally the darker marbles, like serpentine marble, are harder and less porous, making them more scratch and stain resistant. For more information, see our care and maintenance tips.
To prevent scratching, use cutting boards and avoid scraping heavy object across the top. To prevent staining, clean up spills as soon as possible.
If you intend using chemicals on the surface, we recommend that you confirm with your stone fabricator that the surface type is resistant to the chemicals.
|Marble Scratch Resistance|
Marble is softer natural stone and does not have as high a scratch resistance as granite and engineered stone.
This makes marble unpractical for use in the kitchen, unless ultra care is taken with the use of cutting boards to protect the surface from scratching.
Different colours of marble have varying scratch resistances due to impurities such as clay or silt that were in the original limestone. To give you a comparison, marble scores a hardness rating between 2.5 and 5 on the Mohs scale of mineral hardness, whereas granite scores a rating of approximately 7 out of 10.
|Marble Heat Resistance|
Like granite, marble is very resistant to heat. Hot pots can be placed directly on the surface without damaging or discolouring the marble.
|Marble Stain Resistance|
Marble is porous and it will stain when oily or watery liquids seep into the microscopic voids between the crystals. Sealing the surface with a penetrating stone sealant will help to protect the stone from water patches and stains. This sealant is absorbed into the stone filling the microscopic spaces, but liquids can still stain the surface, although not as quickly.
Stone fabricators should apply a quality sealant before and after the installation of your marble countertops.
If marble does stain, you can usually remove the marks or at least partially lift them. This is explained under the care and maintenance section.
|Marble Chemical Resistance|
True marble is composed mainly of calcium carbonate, which is reactive with acids (fruit juice, soda, coffee, alcohol, salad dressing, etc.). If this liquid spill on the surface and are not wiped up they will "etch" the surface of the marble. Etching destroys the polish leaving a dull, light spot.
This makes marble unpractical for use in the kitchen, unless ultra care is taken and spills are wiped up immediately.
|Marble Resistance to Weathering|
As mentioned above, the calcite crystal is marble is vulnerable to attack by mild acids. Acid rain, pollutants and other weathering elements can affect the surface of exterior marble installations. If the marble surface is polished to a mirror-finish, it probably will not last outside. If you want a polished surface that will last then granite is the recommended alternative for exterior installations.
|Marble Cleanliness & Hygiene|
Although marble is known to be a slightly porous material, when sealed the surface is on par with the hygiene and cleanability of granite and engineered stone.
A study was conducted in 2006 by Dr. Snyder (president of The Hospitality Institute of Technology), where four widely used countertop materials were compared – two granites, one marble and one quartz surface (engineered stone). The study showed that all are easily cleaned to meet FDA sanitizer criteria of 5-log reduction pathogens on the surface. “Overall, there was no statistical difference in reduction after wash and rinse for any of the four stone surfaces,” said Dr. O. Peter Snyder.
However, marble has a low scratch resistance, and if scratched, this will compromise the hygiene of the surface. Granite and Engineered Stone have a much higher scratch resistance, making them a more hygienic alternative.
Marble is known for its classic beauty and its soft translucent quality, bringing a soft, warm opulence to any room.
Marble elegance is has a small crystalline structure with veins of colour running through it.
Colours & Patterns
Minerals in the limestone during re-crystallization give marble its wide variety of colours and patterns. For example, marble containing hematite has a reddish colour. Marble that has limonite is yellow, and marble with serpentine is green. In its purest form, marble is white.
The veining patterns in marble are caused from silt, sand, clay and other impurities that were in the original limestone before it transformed into marble.
Below are 3 examples of full marble slabs (+- 2.8m x 1.6m), from one of the most consistent surface patterns to one of the more “wavy” patterns”.
|More Consistent||Less Consistent|
Our Online Marble Colour Gallery
Our detailed online marble colour gallery has examples of many of the different stone colours. Each stone colour includes a close up, a full slab photo, and examples in applications.
After you have made a list of your favourite colours the next step will be to visit the stone show rooms to see the stone slabs in person. This will help narrow down your list of options.
Seeing the marble slabs in person is a very important, exciting, step in the process and will ensure that you make the right colour choice for your project before getting quotes from the stone fabricators.
Marble's Surface & Touch
Marble has a solid, smooth, cool, sophisticated stone feel.
Like granite, marble countertops can also have a high gloss surface shine which really brings out the depth of the colour and pattern in the stone. This shine is accomplished by polishing the surface to a mirror-finish using diamond polishing tools. It's not caused by something coating the surface. Therefore, polished marble will keep its beautiful high glossy shine for decades!
Marble, which was once found only in very expensive high-end kitchens is more commonplace today. Prices have reduced due to technological advances, improved methods of quarrying, and widespread popularity.
The price of marble countertops varies. Expect to pay between R2500 and over R3250 per m2, depending on the colour, availability and complexity of the installation.
Marble in Application
Marble kitchen countertops
Marble gives a kitchen a smooth, soft, luxurious look.
Like granite, marble kitchen countertops have a high heat resistance, so hot pots can be placed directly on the surface, straight from the stove or oven.
Marble, like granite and engineered stone, is also rated one of the most hygienic surfaces for countertops.
Unfortunately, due to the soft nature of the stone, marble can scratch. The stone is also porous and will stain if spills are not wiped up quickly.
The following limitations need to be considered:
Many people insist on installing marble in their kitchens, if you do, be prepared to look after them carefully.
Before installing marble in your kitchen, see what colour options are available in granite and engineered stone first. The scratch and stain resistance of these stone types makes them far superior for use in the kitchen.
If you are determined to have the smooth luxurious look of marble in your home, then rather consider installing marble in the bathroom and granite or engineered stone in the kitchen. This will create a harmonious interesting balance in your home.
To read more about the different kitchen countertops, go to Kitchen Countertops page.
Marble in the bathroom
If there is one application where marble is most popular, it's the bathroom!
With a wide variety of colours and beautiful soft patterns, marble give a bathroom a warm elegant ambiance.
Aside from using marble for bathroom vanity units and walls, it can also be used for the floors of the bathroom as well. Like any other smooth surface floor, the polished surface of a marble can be slippery if it gets wet and a honed marble surface is recommended, especially for shower floors.
Marble can also be used for, fireplace surrounds, table tops, reception countertops, floor tiles, exterior applications such as braai areas, jacuzzi and pool surrounds, and more.