Should I use marble in the kitchen? It’s one of the most common questions for today’s kitchen design! Read all about the pros and cons of marble countertops as well as what it is like living with honed marble countertops in a household with kids.
When we remodeled our kitchen almost a year and a half ago, I had plans to use a marble-look quartz. Instead, I chose a honed Carrara marble, and at least weekly I get questions from readers and followers about the marble: should you use marble in the kitchen? How is it holding up? Do you need to seal marble in the kitchen? How do you seal marble in the kitchen? What is it like living with marble and kids? So today I want to share with you why I chose marble over quartz and what it is like living with marble countertops in the kitchen – in short, an honest review of marble countertops.
Why I chose marble over quartz
I’m sure what everyone wants to know is would I choose marble again? The short answer is yes! But here’s the full story…
I chose marble over quartz for two main reasons: the look and the price.
The beauty, warmth, and character of a natural stone gets me every time.
We began with this island that has a natural stone top (pretty sure it’s marble, but what kind exactly, I don’t know). My husband gave it to me for my birthday after we moved into this home, and I absolutely love it. I also knew that I wanted marble subway tile as a backsplash (for the full story on that, see here). So I started collecting marble-look quartz options…
And they all looked fake next to the real marble.
I tried, y’all, really. I brought home probably 20 different samples of quartz from various manufacturers, but they all either looked too pink or too yellow or – most of all – too uniform. They simply didn’t have the natural variety and irregularity of our real marbles. I’ve seen some incredible homes that use all quartz, and it almost looks like real marble, but as soon as I brought in the real stone island and backsplash (which were non-negotiables for me), it began to look fake. And then I priced the difference and realized that in our area, marble was going to save me a couple thousand dollars… I was sold.
The pros and cons of marble counters
First, we need a quick lesson on the different materials for countertops and which material is best for your kitchen. The main benefit of quartz over marble is durability. Quartz is a man-made product that is non-porous (so stains cannot set into the stone) and incredibly durable – basically scratch proof. Granite (the other top countertop material) is not as durable as quartz, but is still more stain and scratch resistant than marble. Marble is porous – allowing oils and stains to seep into the stone – and softer than granite or quartz, allowing scratches and chips. It also is soft enough to allow etching, which simply means that water and acids can leave marks that are barely visible on the surface (usually only seen if looking at the surface from a particular angle). There are obviously other countertop options, as well, such as tile, wood, and laminate, but for today’s purpose, we are going to stick to comparing marble to quartz or granite.
Once I had done my research on all those factors, I still chose marble (I’m such a rebel 😉 ) because I thought the pros (look and price) outweighed the cons. And I can honestly say that I would make the same choice again today. But the cons of marble are not to be ignored:
- porous (can stain)
- soft (can scratch, chip, and etch)
- expensive (more so than wood, laminate, or tile)
Do marble counters stain?
Thankfully, my countertop fabricator recommended an excellent sealer. And I cannot urge you enough to SEAL YOUR MARBLE. I will be sharing more about that soon when I share my tips for caring for marble (UPDATE: here is the post on how to care for marble countertops), but for today I’m just going to say that staining hasn’t been an issue at all. We have spilled wine, tomato sauce, very colorful baby food, coffee, and more (and even left drops overnight or longer), and not a one has made a single colored stain in almost a year and a half. The only thing that has left some marks is oil. I once rolled out cookie dough directly on my kitchen counter. If I had make the cookies immediately and removed them, it probably would have been fine, but I took at least an hour taking pictures (for y’all! ha!) and by the time I removed the dough, there was a grease mark in the stone. I was able to lessen it (more on that to come in my tips for caring for marble post), but it was definitely still visible… for about a week. After a week or so, it disappeared. Seriously. Grease stains will absorb farther and farther into your marble and (often) eventually disappear; it’s kind of amazing. In conclusion, if your marble is sealed well, I don’t think staining is really a major danger.
Is marble too soft for kitchen counters?
The scratching and etching is more of an issue. We have noticed three main causes of scratching: the spots where we opened cans and wine bottles has some circular scratches (and I’ll be sharing more about how to soften those later).
The place where my four year old used a knife to saw into the edge (yes, that really did happen) can be seen as tiny little white spots along the edge of the marble in the image below. And the surface as a whole can show spots or rings when you get down to counter height and look from certain angles.
Why scratching and etching on marble counters is not a problem:
I’m a perfectionist. I need things lined up properly and I don’t like even one pillow out of place on the couch… but the scratches and etches on the counters don’t bother me for several reasons. First, you would never see any of them when walking through or even using the space. I have brightened and sharpened this image as I do all my photography, but I have not edited any scratches or marks out of the countertops.
You have to stand directly above even our biggest scratch to see it.
Second, the longer you allow the countertops to etch, the less obvious it will be. It’s like the first little mark on new wood floors: it shows up. But after some time, your wood floors will have a beautiful, slight patina over the whole thing, and you can’t find that first scratch even if you look hard for it. Can the wood floors get too worn? Of course they can. If you don’t care for them, they can be scratched until they look tired and need to be refinished. The same is true with your marble countertops: if you don’t care for them, they could become etched, worn, and stained. But with proper care (wipe up spills, use cutting boards, dry them after you use them), the entire surface will gain just a slight patina that will hide that original first scratch or water ring and simply look lovely.
I will add that none of our counters sit directly beneath a window. I would imagine that if you had light shining that direction onto your counters it might make the etching appear more severe, but I don’t know for sure as our kitchen isn’t laid out as such.
Polished marble vs. honed marble:
While on the topic of etching, I have to address this distinction. Polished marble is just what it sounds like, a polished surface that is smoother and glossier and reflects more light. Honed marble is a little rougher and less shiny. As such, honed marble is more forgiving when it comes to scratching and etching. BUT it is less forgiving when it comes to staining because honed marble leaves the pores of the stone more open, allowing them to absorb oils and stains more readily than polished marble. So if you choose honed marble (which we did for both the backsplash and the counters), be sure to seal it properly. And if you choose polished marble, you will need to be more careful not to scratch or etch the surface.
Is marble too expensive?
This is obviously a personal question. I believe that setting your budget and sticking to it is extremely important (see here for all my kitchen renovation budgeting tips), and natural stones are obviously on the more expensive end of countertop options. That said, many marbles are equivalent to some of the less expensive granites, and most are less than the majority of quartz options. So don’t assume that marble counters will be too expensive. Price the materials in your area and see. Note that Carrara (which is the kind we have – more gray than some and characterized by lots of gray veins) is usually one of the least expensive marbles you can find.
Living with marble countertops (and kids)
As I mentioned, I am working on a post and tutorial for caring for marble countertops… but I can say now that I don’t do much. I try to keep them clean (which seems like a good choice whatever your countertop material), and I have tried to teach the children not to saw at them with knives (also a good general rule of thumb, don’t you think? 😉 ). We don’t use markers or paints on them, but that’s more because there isn’t a good space for that in our kitchen. I do try to keep the coffee pot area clean – I think that’s important because of the acidity of the coffee. And I make sure to use a cutting board, especially if I’m cutting something acidic. Otherwise, I really haven’t changed my habits at all from when we had granite or ceramic tile counters. I can be much less careful than I had to be when we had butcher block counters (those are much more susceptible to stains, scratches, and water damage in my experience).
I should probably add that I cook. A lot. And I let my littles help me in the kitchen, too. And our garage door (where we enter our home almost every single time) opens right into the kitchen. I say all this to show you that we use our kitchen. A lot. Stuff gets set on the counters, dragged across the counters, spilled on the counters, and stuck to the counters. And while I have tried to be sensitive to the potential damage that could be done to our countertops… I’m pleased to say that none of it seems to happen and it hasn’t hindered our lifestyle or taken significant maintenance time.
Bottom line: would I put honed marble countertops in the kitchen again? Yes! Should you use marble in the kitchen? That’s obviously a personal decision, and you’ll need to weigh look, budget, durability, and personal taste… but I definitely think it’s a great option.
Because readers always ask, here are the products (or similar) for our kitchen:
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