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Talk me out of it- marble countertops

So, my husband and I are buying an apartment, which we love, pending a complete renovation of the tiny, tiny kitchen. This board has already helped me get over my despondency at learning there was no gas hook up for the stove (going induction, yeah!), so I just want some opinions on the counter tops I had in mind.

So, I really, really want a light colored counter top and found some granite that is semi light (Artic Rose, I think?) but it's really too speckley for what I have in mind. So I've done some research and really want to know opinions from people living with marble counter tops. I understand the possibility of staining, and am ok with some general wear and tear that just results in generally "lived in look" with blemishes in the finish, etc.

But I'd like to know from marble owners- what was your first stain? Is it generally just a light mark or a huge, glaring puddle? Knowing me, it'll be red wine. So, have you had any experience with this, can you mitigate the damage if you wipe it up right away or does it set in the minute the liquid hits the marble?

Any cautioner tales are welcome marble-experienced!

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  1. Okay, this still isn't what you're asking.... We did a house exchange over New Year's and I wondered if the countertops were marble and was VERY careful with them. When I asked later, she said now they are "honed granite." She had wanted Carrera marble but didn't want the upkeep issues. I think they're beautiful.

    3 Replies
    1. re: c oliver

      Thanks, that's good to know that there are some granites out there that look closer to marble than the ones I saw. I think I'll still keep my eye out to see if there's a granite that has the look I want, but if not, I think I can handle marble.

      1. re: mjhals

        I think the fact that they weren't polished/shiny made the difference. And, of course, that they were white with gray streaks (miserable description) in them. We're going to be back there in a few days and I'll try to remember to take a picture and post it. IMO, the biggest problem with granite is that is usually makes too big a "statemen." Where you walk into the kitchen and go 'wow, look at those countertops' rather than "wow, what a lovely kitchen.'

        1. re: c oliver

          I took these pictures. I think they look more yellow in the pix than they do in person.

    2. It can be sealed, which is something you need to do every so often (in terms of years, depending on the grade of the sealant). By no means your countertop would become stain-proof, it'll just be more stain-resistant.

      1. I'd find something harder than marble. You can always get a small sample and put it through the paces.

        I have a marble slab I use for pastry. I managed to etch it with citirc acid while working with citrus. I have also had people score it when cutting something on it with one of my chef knives. I could have killed them! I have lots of cutting boards and mats around but they decided my marble slab looked like the right place.

        I also made the mistake of getting real marble sills, shelves and thresh hold in my stall shower. Now I can't use the shower cleaning sprays because they'd etch the marble.

        1 Reply
        1. re: kayakado

          my marble slab is pretty much for pastry dough work as well so smaller scale.. but the first bit of damage was citrus and it just kind of etched it so that there are little matte circles now. the one thing i wasn't expecting was that there are many scratches from my ceramics being dragged across. i'm fine with it but realized how soft it was after those few times.

        2. jfood has marble and sandstone counters.

          Marble - there are different hardnesses in marble, from soft (on the sandstone side) to very hard (close to granite), and jfood has the harder version. So far so good after 6 years and if there is a stain it blends in with the flow of the pattern (rose and brown).

          Best advice is to choose the EXACT slab at the quarry, and have them place your name on the side with a Sharpie pen. Ask your quarry person, not the kitchen person, about the hardness. They know much better.

          1. i love my granite but agree it can look "busy". i've had marble tops not in the kitchen and i'm afraid it's just as much a red-wine magnet as the rug in the den. if i was starting over i'd also look at concrete.

            1 Reply
            1. re: appycamper

              The granite at the house we stayed really looked like marble - to the point that I was quite paranoid about stains. Heading back there today and can be more relazed with red wine.

            2. We have Imperial Danby Marble countertops in our Kitchen. They are bright and beautiful. We have had no problems and made it through with raising a son who liked to cook but not clean up. I had heard that they were soft and stained easily so we have been quite careful, using trivets, wiping up spills and not banging around. In about 10 years we have one tiny chip on an edge and one tiny stain from a pen.

              Ours were sealed by the fabricator, but we've done nothing special since then except keep them clean.

              1. Thanks everyone for the tips, they really helped! You guys nailed it- I'm not really looking for the striking look of granite- I'd really like something more subtle. For me that's the classic Carrera marble, whitish w/ grey streaks.

                I think there may be some granites available that look close to the Carrera-type marble, at least I've seen them in decorating magazines, and sounds like C Oliver saw it in real life! I met w/ my contractor and designer this weekend, so they have a good idea of what I want, so when we get to that stage I'll just go to the stone yard to pick something out, whether it's classic Carrera or if I can find a granite that I like. Thanks again for the reissurance!

                1 Reply
                1. re: mjhals

                  The one I saw was "honed" so I'm sure that's why it wasn't shiny. Good luck.

                2. We've had polished Carrara marble counters for a few years now (pet peeve notice: it's Carr*A*ra -- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carrara ), and a honed Thassos tile backsplash. I've attached some out-of-date pics...

                  Yes, they require a little more attention than other counter choices (we seal with Porous Plus 511 once a year -- http://bit.ly/pp511 ).

                  Yes, they're somewhat fragile and will scratch if you drag something across them (we have a nice chip over by the sink, too!).

                  Yes, they etch and suck up oil (be careful where you sit that olive oil!).

                  And, yes, we would probably do it all over again. For us, there is NO granite out there that comes close to the look of real marble.

                  1. Not the OP's question, but we redid our kitchen in December and had planned to do granite countertops. I didn't find anything I liked, though - all of the patterns I saw were way too busy, like they were trying to escape from the slab. We ended up going with quartz instead (our builder uses Cambria, we picked Ashford - a gray/brown/pumpkin blend). It cost about 20% less than granite would have, and has been very low-maintenance. And the pattern seems calmer - still active and interesting, but not psychotic. :o

                    1. I had wanted white marble originally myself, but as my design turned out, soapstone and butcher block worked better for me. However, a good friend has 100-year-old marble in his very old house. They have a patina to them, to be sure -- but they're still very handsome.

                      On the other hand, this house I'm renovating had a marble-topped bar in one room, and it had an absolutely heinous pink stain -- I'm assuming from something in the Kool-Aid family. That would have been totally intolerable to me if I'd attempted to keep it. It resisted every poultice and other trick in the book totally.

                      I've decided you have to let your kitchen be used. I've already made my first tiny nick in my soapstone and my first slipped knife on the butcher block. If you cook, you'll manage some wear and tear on most everything. I say go with what you really want.

                      I do have to note, though, that Home Depot was selling a gorgeous white marble for a while, and discontinued it -- I believe because of customer dissatisfaction.

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: dmd_kc

                        there is a reason that granite and marble counters rate just above formica. try looking at silestone

                        1. re: cookinman

                          I have soapstone on the peripheral counters and silestone on the island because that gets all the abuse. We have a few nicks and scratches on the soapstone, that barely show but the silestone is really the easiest counter.

                          1. re: wekick

                            I have soapstone and love it. Even the nicks that give it personality. Especially the nicks and wear that give it personality. Of course, I grew up with my great grandmother's ancient soapstone so I knew exactly what to expect and welcomed the patina.

                            I also have marble in my baking area. The polish was etched by lemon juice within the first week but my approach is to see my kitchen as a work space and that was OK with me because my eyes were open when I made my materials decisions. I'm also not using things like red wine in my baking that are going to produce stains I can't live with.

                            1. re: rainey

                              I love my soapstone too. I love marble with a little patina and we have several antique pieces of furniture with various stones. My grandmother had some kind of dark gray limestone with little fossils. I t was a local stone and I couldn't find anything like it. The house was built in the 30s. I have one unusual piece of furniture with a stone top, I think marble that has pink and a little blue on a warm cream background. It reminds me of antique pastel pink rose petals. I do love my rock collection.

                      2. I once put in two white marble bathrooms. Absolutely never again. They were beautiful but I spent my life keeping them that way ie sneaking into the guest bath to move guests' stuff because anything that spilled, stained. And the worst was the pollen in the middle of lilies, which I quickly learned not to put anywhere within a mile of my white marble.

                        1. I had a client that wanted Carrera marble, I advised her against it. She was determined to have it. We used an excellent fabricator, sealed it, and within a month there were stains everywhere. I would take my time looking at several granite yards, some carry slabs that others will not have. You may surprise yourself and find something you never thought of.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: JEN10

                            I absolutely endorse the decision to go haunt the stoneyards. Don't forget to check out their remnant areas.

                            I got a great price on a piece of marble that was not in the least what I thought I was looking for that turned out to look and work great for me. And take all your samples with you so you can make an informed decision that may be very different than your original expectations.

                          2. I feel your pain as I am currently shopping for new kitchen countertops and would ADORE the look of marble. Alas, I am now older, sadder, and wiser than I was 20 years ago when I put in two white marble bathrooms (and the builder convinced us that marble should not be sealed). It absorbed everything, even newsprint, like a sponge. The worst was yellow pollen from the center of lilies. Guests bought a special nightmare as all were not as obsessional as we were about the marble and I was always sneaking into the guest bath to upright a spilled bottle of bright green shampoo etc. Now shopping again for a kitchen I am so tempted by the beauty of marble but have instructed my neighbors to tie me up and take away my checkbook if I show signs of putting marble on my counters. I am thinking of blueberries, tomato sauce, grape juice, red wine, and...lilies.

                            1. Years ago I had marble countertops that we recycled from my husband's family's bank. They were beautiful, but oil and vinegar and wine (if I remember correctly) pocked them. The rings were actually etched into the marble and could not be removed. They happened quickly.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: pickypicky

                                It wouldn't have happened so quickly if they had been sealed after installation (see my old post above).

                                FYI, they can be re-polished onsite if the 'patina' bothers you ;-)

                              2. I think they have different looks . Love the look of marble - it's just soft. It's a given....
                                On all the white granites, the veining cannot come close to a lookalike. There's always carsaerstone. All different *white* looks with the difference IMO completely different in looks.
                                Functionally, granite and casesarstone anyday.

                                Marble is beautiful - I tried talking myself into a full blown shower but fashion versus function. Function won.

                                1. Marble? NO.

                                  Granite? YES! Even something like Ceasarstone, but not marble . . . just get a marble slab to put on the counter when rolling out pastry dough.

                                  1. Even the best sealers won't stop etching...
                                    Yes, it mitigates it. but it doesn't prevent it

                                    1. It you want to be talked out of a marble countertop just think etching, staining, scratching, opaque spots where something hit it, etching and more etching. Did I mention etching? Have you seen the quartz by Silestone called Lagoon? The background is the same color as carrara and it has soft, diffuse light gray veining here and there. It matches beautifully with a marble carrara backsplash and is much more practical. You have your marble there instead with none of the worries you would have with it on the countertop.

                                      1. I really wanted marble in my kitchen and bath. All of the stone dealers strongly advised against it, telling us horror stories and such. I caved in and went with granite; mostly because I knew my wife would not be careful with the countertops. Now, I still wish I had just installed the marble. I always look at and think I should have just gotten what I wanted.