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.

2) Scratching – marble is a softer material than a manmade composite like Caesarstone or even the tougher granite, so you have to expect it will scratch and rather easily I have found. If you drag something across it, then it will scratch. If you cut food on it without a board, then it will scratch. But I have also found that the scratches blend in and eventually disappear. As you’ve probably heard, marble develops a patina and it all just kind of blends in over time. Sometimes with a bit of a wipe or buff with a cleaner and they will come out, but generally over time they are worn away.

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

51 Responses to Our marble benchtop and other surfaces 18 months on

  1. Great post Mel and interesting to see how it’s gone. I have been unhappy with my Caesarstone. It chips, marks and has cracked there are also marks in it where the powder was not mixed properly in the factory. I was very cross at first but like you have gotten over it. Although I will never use it again. The company didn’t want to know me either and said it was all the stone masons fault. The builder gave me a $2000 discount but I was very unhappy that the job was not done properly in the first place. I don’t like publically dissing brands but Caesarstone is one I would not use again. I believe Smartstone is a lot better. I don’t have the nerves for marble, but perhaps a different brand of stone next time for me.
    Carolyn

  2. Linda C. says:

    Wonderfully informative post. Thank you.
    p.s. you have the most beautiful kitchen.

  3. Great post Mel! I get lots of questions about mine too and I always recommend it. xx

  4. What a gorgeous kitchen and useful post!

  5. Great blog post. White caesterstone can still stain. People aren’t really aware of that. I am not sure I could do marble on my kitchen bench tops, but I definitely having it for my kitchen back splash and for my bathroom floors!!
    Love marble. It is so glamourous and timeless. I love your basket weave floor.

  6. K-L says:

    This is a fabulous post Mel! I think many of the perceived ‘problems’ with marble can be equally applied to stainless steel…once well used the developed patina adds great beauty and more robustness aesthetically. They ‘re not materials for those who want an immaculate new kitchen to last but are well worth persevering the negatives in the long run.. Must file this post for future clients! X kl

  7. leah says:

    Hi Melinda, I was wondering what products you use to clean your marble floors? Thanks for the lovely blog.

  8. Excellent post. I will refer this to anyone who emails me about marble (get it a lot too). Thanks for the low down, I totally agree with all you said. Marble is so beautiful and part of the natural characterisitics are these small “imperfections” but that is what makes it so pretty in my opinion! We used Dupont Impregnator sealer and so far so good, it is highly rated and we have had no problems so far (fingers crossed). As with anything, common sense and good maintenance goes a long way! Everything looks beautiful…..

  9. Leslie says:

    This is great Mel and a wonderful resource for anyone that’s considering marble. Our kitchen is primarily white marble with a little bit of black granite near the sink. The reason for the granite is that I’d heard so many negative remarks regarding marble that I feared going ALL the way.. so I combined the two and added marble back-splash everywhere. I have ZERO regrets about putting it in. When we put ours in a couple years ago I had college kids around ~ I’ll say they are like your little ones only in adult bodies.. and it took a beating. I got into the habit of toweling it down every night JUST in case something was on it that I didn’t see.
    I can’t believe you use all these different products for cleaning it??! I’ve been sticking to the marble/granite cleaners but I won’t be so paranoid in the future!

    We are getting ready to put marble in my bathroom next and I can’t wait.

  10. Extremely interesting. A great help to all who are considering their choices.

  11. Natasha says:

    Great post Mel, it’s going to be so helpful for anyone considering marble. I am one of those people who gets really bugged by scratches or marks… the tiniest mark on something new can really bug me for days but for a Carrara Marble bench top I would make an exception for as it’s just so beautiful. I’m wondering how the 2pac in your kitchen has held up as our kitchen is 2pac and I have never had it before and I am a little frightened of how easily it will scratch.

    • Melinda says:

      Hi Natasha – thanks for your comments. I find the 2pac is absolutely fine. I’ve had it in the past five kitchens I’ve had built and never had any problems with chipping or scratching. Unless you go for something like laminate I think it’s pretty hard to find anything more durable. Painted cupboards scratch and chip as well, but if you are having a white kitchen, then even if you get some chips it’s unlikely to show up.

  12. Great post Mel, I have been umming and aaahing for ages the pros and cons of marble in my house. When I did the laundry, I did a marble tile splashback and in the shower I only used a small bit because I was worried about cleaning products killing it.

    We have artesian bore water which leaves white scale on everything, so acid cleaners are out of the question. I really want a marble benchtop in the kitchen though, I have looked at caesaerstone, but I am not convinced that it better than marble and natural stone. Lots of things to think about.

    I have wood benchtops in the kitchen currently, and they have dinged, watermarked and the varnish has eroded. Not a fan of wood in wet areas!

    • Melinda says:

      I can sympathise. Our bore water used to turn everything rust coloured from the iron, nightmare! I agree wood in kitchens and bathrooms is just not a great idea. Go Marble!

  13. Anonymous says:

    Below is a link to another very detailed post regarding living with marble that readers may find helpful. Don’t be put off by the “cautionary tale” part of the title. Princess Lucy

    http://www.lifeingraceblog.com/2013/04/living-with-marble-countertops-a-cautionary-tale/

  14. Hamptons2106 says:

    Hi Mel always nice to read feedback from people that have had experiences with products on a day to day level. I have the hones carrera subway in kitchen as splashback and all good there splashes siply wipe of and like you I sealed it myself. I went with Caesarstone snow on the bench top for obvious reasons (work there lol)but boith work nicely together. Never a problem with my Caesartone sorry to hear about Carolyn on your blogs experiences:(
    About to undertake main bathroom and doing the carrera hexagonal on shower floor will seal it and live with the results I guess? i agree feels natural when things start to patina and age , there is a difference to aging and just dirty and I am sure visitors appreciate the finish . Wel done once again

    • Melinda says:

      Thanks for the comments, your kitchen is equally as gorgeous. Good luck with the bathroom reno, the hexagonal tiles are one of my favourites, it will look stunning.

  15. Kaara A says:

    oh your home is absolutely beautiful and charming.
    i’m trying to convince my fiance to get marble, as we are renovating right now, but he doesn’t like such a light counter. I’m still working on him! 😉
    I am now following you too! I just love your blog and have been following you on instagram for a little while now as well!
    Have a great week!
    xo- Kaara @ In the Kitch with Kaara

    • Melinda says:

      Thanks Kaara. You can get darker marble, there’s so many colours. It went with Carrara because it was the cheapest. You could do granite which in black looks great with white cupboards.

  16. Excellent post! I also have Calacatta marble on kitchen and bathroom bench tops. Love it and would have it again in a heartbeat. NO stains whatsoever (including from spill of Indian takeaway food left overnight accidentally – which left stains on my original old laminate kitchen and wooden cutting board but not the marble). Also have a small stain on the caesarstone in the laundry which cannot be removed, but NONE on the marble in the kitchen which gets way more use, so go figure! Etching is inevitable – for HONED finish, you can gently rub etches with 0000 steel wool to remove, which works really well. I have one of the white ‘stun’ marks but it took quite a hard knock to produce it. So totally happy with the performance of the marble overall. On the other hand I am not happy with the 2pac finish on the cabinetry. It does chip much more easily than I had expected and I wouldn’t choose it again. So after all the initial marble angst, it’s the cabinetry that drives me crazy. I am forever touching it up with spare paint, and I am very gentle with it. My kids are older too (9 and 11) so they aren’t too rough either. Cheers Tammy

  17. Thanks – Having just bought a house with marble in the kitchen and ensuite, I was wondering how it would hold up.

  18. Anonymous says:

    Are you willing to share details of your kitchen sink?? We are building and yours would be a perfect compromise for Mark and I. Natalie

    • Melinda says:

      Hi Natalie, the kitchen sink is from Reece. It was something I found at the last minute because I really wanted a draining board. I would have had a butler’s sink in a perfect world, but find with kids and a busy family the draining board is really useful.

  19. Bungalowgirl says:

    Thankyou, thankyou, thankyou for this post. I was one of those people who asked you a while back how your bench was going. We just chose our slab last week and I am so pleased that you have been happy with yours. We are also getting honed carrara, I just love everything about it. If we have enough left I will be using it in the laundry too. Your kitchen is one of the loveliest I have seen anywhere, I love the white/grey and am doing a contemporary version in our kitchen. Good to read your comments about the 2 pak as well as we have not had it before. mel x

  20. Caroline says:

    Hi Melinda, what a timely post. We too are about to commence a renovation and have marble specified for the kitchen, laundry and bathroom floors. I have four young boys, and I must say I did have reservations using marble at first, but as it’s such a beautiful material, I decided to go with it anyway. I’ve heard all the negative press, so this post has definitely put my mind at ease. xx

  21. Teresa says:

    I really love this post, Melinda. I think homes are meant to be lived in, and that wear creates character. It’s important for things to last though, so I love this review.

  22. I’m so glad you wrote this post…great information! I sent it to a client and I’m going to book mark it!

  23. Mel, what a wealth of information especially since we just installed a basket weave marble floor and shower in the master bath along with a marble topped vanity. After reading this, we’re not as worried about harming those as we are the brand new stair treads we just installed. Perhaps a runner isn’t such a bad idea! Hope you are well and enjoying your fall.
    xxoo
    C + C

  24. What a fabulously detailed and thoughtful post…should be compulsory reading for anybody considering putting in marble… I applaud your attitude towards such a timeless product: loving and accepting both its faults and beauty.

  25. Fiona says:

    Hi Melinda

    I am putting the exact same marble in my kitchen and I was just wondering what tiles you used for your splash back and where you got them for they look amazing against the marble

  26. Amanda Hale says:

    Thank you so much for taking the trouble to post this advice. Your kitchen is lovely and the marble looks fantastic. We have stone in the kitchen which is problem- free but thinking marble for bathroom renovation. My only concern is that we intend to travel in future and rent the house out, so am worrying about spilt suntan lotion, hair colouring products etc. i’m okay with patina but not big stains!

  27. Michael says:

    Can you tell me what Sealer you used please? I am doing some research of my own and seems like you found a good one..

  28. […] then here are some of the articles I researched from people actually living with Marble worktops: Georgica Pond For the love of a house I also emailed Courtney Adamo for Advice who has this beautiful honed […]

  29. Karen says:

    What a find! I needed this article to read desperately! I am presently going through this exact agony. Marble /Caesarstone? I still don’t know if I could be as brave as you Mel as this is my ‘forever kitchen’.
    But you have given me a valuable opinion to ponder. Thanks! PS your house is gorgeous!

  30. Megan says:

    Hello,

    Your kitchen is stunning!! I just love the marble, I’ve never considered it for a kitchen but it looks gorgeous. I don’t think you could get the same effect with anything but marble.

    I’m wondering what brand of doors you used? They are gorgeous too. We are renovating at the moment and I’m looking for doors like yours. Any help you can provide would be greatly appreciated!

    Thank you,
    Megan

  31. Jennifer Siler says:

    Thank you so much for sharing your beautiful house with us. I am in love with marble, but had been sure there was no way I could have it with three children….you have given me hope!

  32. mngranite says:

    Mel of Georgica Pond. Mel is uber talented, a kind, funny humble and sweetheart of a friend.

  33. Helbel says:

    Thanks for this information. I have found myself in the same position as you, just trying to make a decision on whether to have marble for my kitchen bench tops as I have a french provincial style kitchen currently with wood tops. Never again would I have wood tops as the sealer has worn away near the wet areas and it’s hard to clean. I would also like to use marble on the vanity tops too. You have convinced me as I’m ok with the things you’ve mentioned and enjoy a bit of patina.
    Does any one have any experience with unpolished (but sealed) antiqued marble stone floors?
    Thanks again.

  34. Eva says:

    I have similar marble in our kitchen, also honed, and three years on they are fabulous. Yes they scratch and etch, but not so that you can see it unless you are working right there. I have also found that the marks seem to wear out with use. I do use a marble conditioner, not very often but I do think the counter looks amazing when it has been used.

    As a contrast I used Pietra grey (dark grey marble) in our master bathroom and I would not recommend it. Seems to show every drop of toothpaste or soap ring. It looks fine from a distance but I don’t love that it marks up so easily. Would use it on the walls but never on the floor again. We used gorgeous grey marble heaxagon tiles on the other bathroom floors and they are perfect. Its just the dark colour I wouldn’t go for again

  35. Alice says:

    I am about to install marble into my kitchen also – is this carrara that you have used?! I adore your kitchen!!!
    Thanks Alice

  36. […] Mel, a mum of three, clearly had the same reservations as I did about her marble kitchen, but as she writes on her blog, she has never regretted it. She is very clear that it will stain and scratch, but […]

  37. Steve says:

    Great deal of info on marble tops, i have just finished renovating my home in Melbourne Australia, and did not for one second hesitate to put Marble on all tops Kitchen, vanity, and Bar, the reason for this was i had all of them coated with Clearstone , this is a 2mm thick water clear coating which protects the marble from staining and etching, sure it can scratch and scuff the same as marble , but can be restored without re-coating very cheaply when every i wish it also has a warranty of 10 years.

  38. Mary says:

    Thank you so much for this! I have just moved in to our new house with marble bench tops in kitchen and bathrooms. Had 50 people over last week and walked around like a paranoid lady with a wipe!
    But as you said, scratches and ‘wet stains’ are just part and parcel of having it, and I’m sure I will get used to it over the coming months. With 2 little kids and a big family I think I will have no choice.
    Your post has helped put my fears at ease!

  39. Mike Marsoun says:

    I have been in the stone restoration trade for over 24 years and have restored hundreds of marble tops, and every time I feel bad because I know the next margarita party it will be completely destroyed. I have tried many things to help prevent etching with only marginal results. My best advise is to go with light colours and a honed finish to hide any damage. These days you can have an epoxy coating applied but it looks unnatural and at $400-600 m2 not many people are willing to convert their marble countertop into a surfboard (that is the feel). Now I have a process that is half the price, no fumes, scratch resistant, and TOTALLY acid proof!!! It comes in a satin and gloss finish. The finish is beautiful and it feels great. Life expectancy is 2-4 years, and can go much linger if it is not damaged or vandalised. When it does need replacing, or you want to back to the virgin stone (if you are selling the house for instance) it is easy to do, unlike the epoxy coatings. Cheers all, Nu life Stone Care

    • Steve says:

      Hi Mike this product sounds like Tuffskin which a child can peel of 5 min after it is applied .

      • Mike Marsoun says:

        This would be very hard to peel off…it would require intentional act of vandalism which is unlikely because most people can’t even tell it is there. I showed samples to a couple of discerning marble showroom sales people, and they had no idea it could be removed, they thought it was another coating. So, with the benefit of the anti-microbial surface, inability to crack, scratch resistant surface, cost savings and lifetime warranty it is well worth it. http://www.crystalcote.net.au

        • Steve says:

          So if a child peels it of it is an act of vandalism, and not covered by warranty.
          Antimicrobial resistance makes it harder to eliminate infections from the body as existing drugs become less effective, how does a polyester film do this ?

          • Mike Marsoun says:

            Steve, I think you are confusing the anti-microbial surface with medicine in a persons immune system. This film has an agent that kills bacteria and does not allow it to grow or spread. Some versions are used in hospitals and food service areas. Also, I think it would be quite unusual to find a child who is such a hell raiser that he would attempt to forcibly remove a surface treatment, even if they could see it was there. It might be more likely for a child to bash a epoxy treatment and cause chipping or delimitation. At any rate, when it is half the price people are willing to take the risk which is equal to any possible damage risk with resin coatings (just different variety of risks), and they will always have the option to bringing the marble back to a natural finish.

          • Steve says:

            Mike, Some things to change on your compare sheet 1. Clearstone will not allow Bacteria to grow or spread. 2. Clearstone is not an Epoxy coating. 3. Easy to repair & less expansive than re applying . 4. Easy to remove if needed ( Clearstone coated tops have been in use for more than 10 years and some have been re sanded back to new two or three times ) Why would you want to remove it when it protects against etching and staining.

  40. Vanessa says:

    Great info, but sadly there are no longer any photos to see. I wonder how you are going now, many years later. We are considering Carrara marble for our 3m island bench with waterfall ends and then splash backs.

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