It’s hard to match the classic elegance of richly veined marble countertops! They turn an ordinary kitchen or bathroom into extraordinary, and when they’re combined with new cabinetry and other fresh décor, the transformation is amazing. While their popularity does rise and fall from time to time, marble countertops remain one of the classic choices where premium quality is desired.
Michelangelo created some of his finest sculptures such as David and Pietà out of marble, and marble countertops bring that kind of spectacular beauty to your home. However, for all its appeal, marble has its durability drawbacks for use in kitchen and bathroom countertops. We explore all the pros and cons of marble countertops below.
This marble countertops guide gives you complete information to research these products for use in your home. You might also want to read our granite and quartz countertop guides to compare marble with these other premium, popular materials.
What You Should Know About Marble Countertops
Marble is a metamorphic rock containing a high concentration of calcite or dolomite. The word is derived from Greek meaning to sparkle or gleam. There are many variations of marble based on the minerals which give it color and veining. The most popular for use in marble countertops include:
- Carrara: White or blue-gray, from Italy
- Connemara: Green, from Ireland
- Creole: White or blue & black, from Georgia, USA
- Etowah: Pink, salmon or rose, from Georgia, USA
- Murphy: White, from the USA
- Parian: Very white, from Greece
- Purbeck: Gray/brown, from the UK
- Ruskeala: White, from Russia
- Sienna: Yellow with various color veins, from Italy
- Swedish Green: Green, from Sweden
- Vermont White: White, from Vermont, USA
- Wunsiedel: White, from Germany
- Makrana: White, from India
Marble varies in the size of the grains and the amount of veining, so stone quarried from different parts of the world have a unique appearance. Fine-grained marble tends to be more consistent in color. Heavier grains produce more variation in color.
You’ve got finish options too. Marble surfaces popular for counters are:
- Honed or Matte: The marble is sanded to be smooth, and it has almost a soft feel. A matte finish mutes the color somewhat while doing a good job of hiding scratches
- Polished: The surface is grinded and buffed to produce a rich luster that sparkles. A polished surface really brings out the color and veining, but it is also the most susceptible to showing scratches.
- Leather: This finish is preferred on darker marble. It textures the finish to better hide scratches and fingerprints while still offering some gleam.
Which marble style you prefer is simply a matter of personal preference. Part of the fun of shopping for marble countertops is to find the right “look” for the design you’ve got in mind for your bathroom or kitchen countertops.
Marble Countertops Pros and Cons
Like all materials, there are strengths and weaknesses of marble countertops. In exchange for more TLC than most materials require, you’ll receive elegance and beauty enjoyed by royalty and the rich the world over.
Marble Countertop Advantages:
- Every marble countertop is one of a kind
- Unsurpassed beauty
- A rich spectrum of colors and veining
- Several premium finishes that give you just the look and feel you want
- Fits well with most design styles from classic to modern
- Offers outstanding durability when properly cared for
- Excellent resistance to heat
- Develops a light patina with time that gives it an aged, antique look (some might find this a “con”)
Marble Countertop Disadvantages:
- Marble is porous and will stain unless properly sealed and conscientiously cleaned
- Must be resealed as often as once per year
- Scratches more easily than granite, especially in high-gloss finishes
- Can be chipped or cracked by heavy items
- Will etch if exposed to acidic materials such as tomato juice
- More expensive than most countertops
If you buy marble countertops, be prepared for the maintenance they demand. While not overly burdensome to most homeowners, it does mean you’ll have to diligently and quickly clean up spills of oil, liquid soap and acidic foods and liquids such as citrus fruit, juice, wine and tomato products. If you’ve got kids still learning to clean up after themselves, your job will be a bit tougher.
The upside is that marble countertops produce an eye-catching allure wherever installed that is unsurpassed.
Marble Countertop Prices
You know by now that marble is one of the pricier countertops options. It is right up there with granite, stainless steel and custom glass countertops, and in fact, may cost more than all of them when you receive countertop cost estimates from local dealers.
There are several factors that determine the final marble countertop prices for any project:
- The material grade: Choices may range from discount and builder’s grade through premium to designer, with each grade costing more
- The skill level of the installer: DIY won’t cost you anything, if you do the job properly. From there, your options include a handyman, a licensed installer you hire and one provided by a designer, with the price going up for each
- The complexity of the job: Countertops with more angles and seams or with a difficult edge to produce cost more than simpler designs
The marble countertops estimates you receive will be based on the variables you select plus the cost of living in your area. These factors produce a wide range of possible costs. Here’s what you can expect:
- Material: $50/square foot for discount marble to $170/square foot for designer-sourced material, with several grades in between
- Labor: $0 for DIY installation; $10/square foot for unlicensed handyman through $25/square foot for a licensed, insured countertop professional
- Supplies: $100 to $150 per every 50 square feet of countertop material
Based on these ranges, your total marble countertop estimates will be approximately:
$52/square foot for a DIY project with cheap material to $200/square foot for best-quality marble installed by a proven professional
Marble Countertops Cleaning, Care and Repair
Part of the price of having gorgeous marble countertops is the higher-than-average care they require. When you take care of them, your marble counters will provide you with long-lasting enjoyment for as long as you’re in your home.
Your marble counters should arrive freshly sealed from the factory or the contractor should seal them as part of installation. They’ll need to be resealed regularly, as often as once a year. Talk with the installer about the necessary frequency of resealing them.
Sealing marble countertops can be a DIY job when you use quality products from leading manufacturers. Most feature outstanding ease of use, and you’ll have “wet look” marble again in a few short hours. Of course, a countertop professional can be hired to reseal marble too.
Cleaning marble countertops is the daily step in keeping them looking showroom new. Wipe up spills immediately with a clean, damp cloth. Use a cleaner formulated for use on natural stone for best results. It won’t contain harsh chemicals that can damage the sealer or etch the marble.
When your marble countertops are looking faded, polishing them before resealing them will restore the luster. It’s easier than you might think with the right products. There are several DIY marble polishes available that can be used with a powered hand tool such as a low-speed polisher. All of the ingredients are included for the job, and great results are easy to achieve.
Chipped marble is a possibility, especially when a heavy object falls onto the surface or edge. As with polishing marble, there are several marble chip repair kits available that are DIY-friendly. They contain the same materials and tools the pros use along with complete instructions for marble chip repair a professional would be proud of. Coloring pigment is available to mix with the chip repair epoxy to perfectly match your countertops.
Keep these tips for marble countertop care in mind in the years ahead:
- Pour juice and wine at a table instead of over the counters
- Put dirty dishes and glasses into the sink or dishwasher rather than on the countertops
- Wipe food and beverages off the countertops immediately
- Don’t put wet items onto the countertops
- Use a cutting board rather than cutting on marble
- Use hot pads and trivets rather than putting hot items on the countertops
- Use a cleaner formulated for natural stone
- If a stain develops, use a poultice-type stain remover designed for use on marble
Choosing marble is a long-term investment in the beauty and your enjoyment of your home, but it requires an ongoing commitment to proper maintenance. While polishing, sealing and repairing marble countertops seem like daunting tasks, they really aren’t when you choose the right DIY products for each step. In fact, many homeowners find the satisfaction of doing these steps themselves to be part of the pleasure of owning marble kitchen and bathroom countertops.
Marble Countertops DIY Installation
DIY marble countertop installation is a viable option only for those with excellent experience. In most cases, the labor cost of installation when hiring a professional is less than 10 percent of the total cost of the job. Most homeowners don’t want to risk damaging the marble—and having to cover the cost of replacement—over the relatively small price of paying a professional to do the work. To find the lowest marble countertop installation prices in your area, be sure to get estimates from multiple qualified contractors.
Are Marble Countertops Right for Your Home?
Your answers to these questions should help you decide whether marble is the best choice for your building or renovation project.
- Is the higher cost of marble over material like laminate or tile in your budget? While you might find discount marble available, we suggest you stick with higher grades to ensure beauty and performance. You really do get what you pay for.
- Do you plan to sell your home in the near future? Marble becomes more cost-effective the longer you’re in your home.
- Are you committed to the higher maintenance demand in return for premium beauty? Not everyone has the time or energy to keep marble clean, sealed and polished.
- Do you have kids? Children don’t always have the same level of awareness as you do about following the tips to keeping marble clean and free of stains.
- Do you value eco-friendly building materials? Marble is a good choice for green homeowners because it is a natural material that is quarried and cut without the use of chemicals harmful to the environment.