I often get emails from people wanting to know how the marble in our house is holding up. We have honed marble benchtops in the kitchen, polished marble tiles in two of the bathrooms, marble and granite basketweave tiles in our ensuite and two polished marble vanity tops.
However, when we were renovating and I was trying to decide whether or not to risk marble, I searched and searched the internet for compelling arguments and the right advice, trying to be convinced either way.
Kitchen companies seemed to be almost entirely against it, many tried to convince me to go for something more practical and hard wearing like Caesarstone, which I've had before and loved. But I just desperately wanted to have marble in our kitchen, and I was determined to find enough evidence to support my case.
I read many blog posts from people, mostly in America who had marble kitchens and I emailed several people with marble counters asking their advice. They almost all recommended marble without reservation, although many did say that it was prone to some scratching, occasional staining and definitely etching, but if you really want marble, you just accept that it will be imperfect very quickly, and that is part of the charm.
I think that even if somebody had told me it would turn lime green within two years, I would probably still have gone with it, I just so wanted a white kitchen with a marble benchtop. They do look beautiful, and if you are going for that classic American style kitchen it's hard to go past a marble surface.
So nearly 18 months on, I thought I would give you an update on the marble so that if you are in the same position, agonising over whether or not to use it, then hopefully this will help a little.
Bear in mind we have three small children and a dog, and live near the beach. So whilst I took a great deal of care with all the surfaces when they were brand new, and was paranoid about anything being put on them or spilt, after a few weeks I just didn't bother and they have been treated as you would any other regular surface. They have endured very well, although there are marks and scratches but that doesn't bother me. I'm simply delighted to have marble.
Here's the result in the kitchen. I have marble on the main island where I do all the prep, serving and feed the kids dinner and also on the side benches and around the cooker. I used the island for my craft projects, DIY and everything else as well. It's the dumping ground of the house, because everybody walks in and dumps their stuff on the island daily, so it has school bags, handbags, briefcases, laptops, car keys and kids toys thrown at it all day long and dragged across it all day long.
1) Staining - I have had no problem with staining of any sort. Our marble is honed and sealed and I would recommend both for a kitchen particularly. Honed means there is a softness to the look but that leaves the marble a little more absorbent, but it has more durability in terms of scratching, and the sealer helps with stains. I have read that polished marble is better for preventing stains, but then scratches show up more than on honed.
When the marble was first installed I had manuals and reference books for how to deal with staining of every kind, and what special treatment they each require. I was nervous about leaving my kitchen in the hands of a babysitter or visitor, in case they didn't realise how precious and vulnerable my marble was. What if they left a drop of red wine, or black tea, what about a dribble of oil or God forbid tomato or lemon? What if they don't wipe up their spills immediately? I soon didn't worry.
I use all manner of cleaning products on it, whether I'm supposed to or not. I probably should have a special marble cleaner but never got around to buying one. I have even had a go with diluted bleach and it didn't seem to cause any problems. Even stains that have been left for days like tea bag drips, oil around the cooker, red wine come out easily with a wipe.
While I was out yesterday Poppy drew all over the counter with Texta because she wasn't allowed a biscuit! My husband attacked it with Jif and the marks have all come out.
However, if you like things perfect and pristine, without a scratch or mark and want the benchtop to look as good as the day it was installed then I would seriously consider whether marble is for you. It will age, it will look more worn and weathered (although only in some lights and at some angles) than other more indestructible surfaces. But that doesn't worry me.
3) Etching - now this is something that seems to be unavoidable. Etching looks a bit like a water mark or a light discoloration, and it can appear that the surface has been slightly eroded away.
It can be caused by anything acidic, such as lemon, fruit juice, wine, soda, vinegar etc. I have some etching in various spots around the benchtop, mostly where the kids eat meals, but you can only see it if you put your head at a certain angle and it catches the light. Otherwise it isn't noticeable. It seems etching is a part of marble that is very hard to do anything about unless you can be there to wipe up spills the instant they occur, because the chemical reaction occurs immediately the acid comes into contact with the marble.
This is where we prepare the tea and coffee and there are cup rings and drips left for hours or even days, and the stains always come out. There isn't any etching either.
4) White Spots - in our kitchen this is probably the one thing that does annoy me. There are white spots in some places, where I can only assume something heavy has been dropped or banged on the surface. It's almost like the surface has shattered in that tiny little spot and gone white. These are obviously slightly deeper in the marble surface and I can't seem to get them out. I imagine they could be removed if the surface was sanded and honed again.
From what I can ascertain, these are likely what is known as stun marks. They appear as a result of tiny explosions inside the crystal of the stone and are caused by pin point pressure on the marble, such as banging something sharp or pointed. They can only be removed by re-honing or grinding the surface.
The photo below shows where I do all the prep for meals and most of the action takes place here. Apart from the white dots, there isn't anything noticeable about the marble in terms of staining, scratching or discolouration.
The above shows the spot where Amelia eats and you can imagine the mess a ten month old makes with food. Most of her food, particularly fruit is served on the marble directly so she can pick it up herself, because she tends to tip plates upside-down and throw them on the floor. This area is pristine, no marks or etching.
The only obvious damage was caused on the edge of the sink, and I don't even know how. I imagine something heavy like a cast iron pot was being cleaned, or a frying pan, and it banged the edge causing the chip. I'm sure it could be buffed or honed out by the professionals but it doesn't bother me enough to spend the money.
Now in the bathrooms, I have polished marble tiles on the floor which I also sealed myself. They do scratch a lot, particularly if you aren't vigilant about people wiping their shoes. If you have gravel pathways or driveways then that can be a problem because grit gets stuck in the treads of shoes which can scratch badly. But again, it's really only something you see in certain light at certain angles, and it doesn't bother me.
Up close and on my hands and knees this is what the floor looks like with the light shining on it, but when I stand up you can't tell.
The kids' bathroom is the same. There is quite a lot of scratching of the polished floor tiles, but it doesn't worry me because after a while it all becomes an even patina. Again, if you want the tiles to look brand new for years and years, then marble probably isn't for you.
The vanity top in the kids' bathroom doesn't get a lot of battering. I bought it from Recollections. It is a polished marble surface, so I think if it was being used more often and had older kids or teenagers using it, then it would probably look a bit worse for wear. They clean their teeth at the basin and that's about all it's used for at the moment.
There's a few scratches on the edge of the basin, but I don't know how they got there and they are hardly noticeable.
The basketweave floor tiles in our bathroom were sealed by me before we moved in, but I haven't done it since. The only problem I have had is that the grout does discolour slightly in the shower where oils and soap residue runs, but a bit of diluted bleach or shower cleaner gets that out. And that's not due to the tile. The same applies where we stand in front of the vanity. Otherwise I have no complaints.
As for our vanity, that has probably faired the worst, but it does have a lot of use. I bought the vanity from Schots in Melbourne. It has a polished surface which I also sealed myself. The white spots below were caused when I dropped the hairdryer on the edge. Not much I can do about that.
The most noticeable damage is around the taps, where there is a lot of water splash and it can stay wet for a long time because I don't religiously wipe down the taps after every use. I seems that the water has penetrated the surface and caused a kind of white veining. It won't come out and I can imagine will only get worse.
You can notice the etching when the light shines on the surface. I don't know what this was caused by.
On a different note, one place that wears really badly is the staircase. Another situation where having gravel or grit stuck in the treads of shoes then walking up the stairs is causing this deep scratching of the Resene stain. I will have to sand and restain it, otherwise have a sisal runner installed to prevent the problem.
Hopefully this will be of some use if you are considering installing marble in your home, and are unsure about how hard wearing it is, what its limitations and disadvantages are. At the end of the day, I think you have to do your research, evaluate your options and ultimately decide what kind of person you are and the kind of lifestyle you and your family lead.
Marble is a magnificent and very beautiful natural product that has been used as a building material throughout the world for hundreds of years. It's used in bars, restaurants, shops, foyers, churches and any number of other places where high traffic and high wear is likely to happen. If it can withstand this, it can probably handle your family.
Here's a couple of interesting posts/articles about selecting and living with marble.
For The Love of a House blog here
Perfection or Patina - Houzz here
How to remove marble stains - Marble Institute here
25 reasons why I love marble - The Enchanted Home blog here
Ten most common marble problems here
White marble for a kitchen yes or no - Cote de Texas blog here