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The pros and cons of marble

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Is a marble countertop right for you?

One of the main features in any kitchen or bathroom is the countertop. Choosing the right one becomes a balancing act between look and utility. Select based on appearance alone and it may end up being something you need to redo down the line. Decide based on cautious advice from friends and you may end up regretting not going with your own ideas. Where does marble fit into the discussion?

Marble is the result of limestone or dolomite rock that has been subjected to pressure or heat. The creamy appearance of the stone and the natural veining are two of the characteristics that define it.

There is something classic about the look of marble, something about its brightness, the elegance of it. The smooth cool feel of marble is wonderful to touch and unmistakable. As with other natural materials no two pieces are exactly alike, making every application unique and beautiful.          

Many suppliers and installers recommend marble for foyers, bathrooms and fireplace hearths, places the material can be used as a showpiece and where it won’t have to stand up to a lot of wear and tear. When asked to provide or install marble for use in other areas, some even go so far as to have waivers signed to avoid the inevitable call about the material not standing up to everyday living.

The smooth coolness of marble makes it an ideal surface for working with pastry and indeed marble pastry boards are a must-have for many bakers. It also stands up to heat so the occasional hot pot isn’t something to fear.

Marble is a material that is easily stained, especially by oily, acidic or coloured foods. Think a Kool-Aid spill, a wine glass left on a counter overnight, a lime wedge left sitting during a party, greasy pots left to be cleaned the next day… If any of these sounds like scenes from your kitchen, you might want to avoid marble countertops. In the bathroom think hair dye, kids washing up from crafting….You get the idea.

Marble is easily scratched or chipped so again, consider how your kitchen or bathroom is used. Suppliers recommend caring for marble like a fine wood finish – using cutting boards, cleaning up spills immediately and protecting it as much as possible from wear and tear. A big part of choosing the right material is an understanding of and decision based on how you, and others in your home, live.

Sealing and re-sealing marble can help eliminate some staining, but it isn’t guaranteed and you have to be diligent about re-sealing. Depending on wear and tear, every four to five years is recommended.

Some people say the wear and tear on marble, the subtle markings that show its use and its age, like the wear and tear on real wood floors, give it charm and character over time. If you’re one of those people, by all means, marble it is. If, however, you’re someone who will be distressed by every mark, who will wonder who and what and why about every new character flaw, perhaps another material is best considered.  

The marble discussion then comes down to two basic things. Who uses the space and how well will they follow the rules for caution and care? Are you a fan of old, worn wooden floors – translated to marble countertops with character - or do you prefer glossy perfection?

By Heather Seftel-Kirk

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