When choosing countertops for the kitchen or bathroom, many homeowners prefer the look of natural stone, which offers a nearly endless array of unique colours and patterns. Granite is one of the most popular countertop materials on the market and a popular choice for modern or traditional houses. Marble is synonymous with luxury and is a classic choice for high-end homes. Use this simple guide to discover which of these beautiful materials is right for you.
Natural stone is a good choice for updating your home’s kitchen and bathroom countertops. It lends beauty to the room, is available in a wide range of colours, can be customized to nearly any shape and size, and is easy to blend with any home decor, making it versatile no matter what the style of your home is.
Granite and marble are the most popular choices when it comes to natural stone countertops. There are pros and cons to using each material, so it’s just a matter of deciding what’s right for your needs as well as your budget. Marble, for example, is elegant, while granite offers a more natural look. Both options can be costly, with marble generally being more expensive than granite, and their size and weight typically require professional installation.
While granite and marble share many common characteristics, they are very different in appearance and function. Let’s look closer at the good and bad of the two most popular options in the stone countertop arena.
When choosing countertops for your kitchen or bathroom, granite and marble surfaces are popular choices. They are natural stones — unlike, say, engineered quartz Silestone — so both marble and granite surfaces are susceptible to chipping and staining. However, granite is more durable than marble and less prone to stains and scratching. For this reason, granite is often found in kitchens, while marble is more common in other areas, like bathrooms.
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Getting to Know Marble and Granite
These are natural stone materials, and both are porous. If you want the technical details, marble is a metamorphic rock formed from recrystallized carbon. It is formed out of limestone that is subjected to intense pressure and heat due to tectonic shifting in the earth’s crust.
On the other hand, granite is an igneous rock composed of grains of compressed quartz, feldspar, mica and similar materials. This means that granite is slightly harder than marble, but both offer reasonably good durability.
Both granite and marble are natural stones. In the case of slabs sold for countertops, there are many different minerals and stones sold as either granite or marble because they contain similar composition and characteristics.
Commercial granite is an igneous or metamorphic stone that is mainly comprised of silica, feldspar, mica, and quartz. Stones labelled as granite usually have a tightly packed, granular appearance to their surface. They may have veins, flecks of colour, or be solid. Granite comes in a wide range of colours from very light to very dark, and each slab has some degree of variation in colour over its surface.
Commercial marble is either metamorphic or sedimentary in composition, made primarily of calcite. Some “marbles” may be a type of quartzite or quartz-based stone, and green “marbles” are made of a mineral called serpentine. Marble is usually characterized by having veins and a smoother surface texture than granite. Like granite, marble ranges from white to black and will have some degree of variation in colour over its surface.
Both marble and granite vary in appearance from slab to slab because the minerals that make up the colour of the stone may change depending on where it is cut from.
Marble is metamorphic or sedimentary in origin, with a smooth surface typically striated with veins of minerals. Some marble is quartz-based, while others are composed of serpentine, a greenish mineral. Commercial marble is typically available in variations of black and white.
Granite is metamorphic or igneous, made up of silica, mica, feldspar and quartz, generally with a packed, granular surface. Colour varies from light to dark, presented in flecks, veins or solid patterns.
Keep in mind that appearance in both types of stone varies between slabs depending on its natural source and cut location.
For this reason, it is always recommended that you visit a stone yard and select the stone you want in person. Showroom samples of either marble or granite will not provide a true representation of what the stone will look like.
Marble and granite counters are fabricated and installed in the same way. A template is made of your counter, and this template is transferred to the slab you want for your kitchen. The slab is cut to match the template and give a finished edge and any cutouts.
The slab is transported to your home, and a silicone adhesive is applied to the perimeter of the cabinets. The slab is then lowered into place. Some thinner marble slabs may need to have a plywood one substrate installed on the cabinets first to strengthen them, but any 1¼-inch (3-cm) slab can be installed directly on the cabinets.
Because marble slabs are usually smaller than granite slabs, you may need more pieces to complete a full kitchen if using marble.
When it comes to installing granite or marble countertops, both types of stone are installed the same way, starting with a template transferred to a slab, which is then cut to fit and finished. The slab is set into place (directly onto cabinets or a plywood substrate) and secured with silicone adhesive. Holes for sinks and faucets must be cut, and these stone slabs are tough to handle. Both tasks should be performed by a professional.
Granite counters range in cost from $40 to $75 a square foot on average. More exotic stones, such as stones coloured blue, may range in cost as high as $500 a square foot. For a 30-square-foot counter, the average material cost is around $1,000 to $1,500. Fabrication and labour add around $330 to the cost of the stone, a sink cutout adds another $100, and edging adds about $10 a linear foot on average. This makes the 30-square-foot granite counter cost between $3,000 and $3,500 installed.
Fabrication, installation, cutout, and edging costs for marble are around the same cost. Material costs for marble are higher, starting at around $60 a square foot and going as high as $100. This makes the material costs for a marble counter of the same size between $1,800 and $3,000 making the total range $3,800 to $5,000 on average.
Its makeup dictates the durability of the stone you choose. Most marbles are made of calcite, which is a very soft and porous mineral. This means that marble will be more likely to absorb stains and to etch or lose its finish over time. Having a honed, or matte finish, for your marble counter can help disguise some of the etching. However, not all marble is made primarily of calcite. Green marble, made of serpentine, does not etch as easily, but it can spall or flake with prolonged contact with water. Quartzites that are labelled as marble, like Thassos or Azul Celeste, are extremely durable and much harder than some granites.
Granite can range dramatically in terms of durability. True, igneous granites and gabbros, such as Absolute Black, are nonporous, do not require sealing, nor easily scratch or etch. Most dark-coloured granites are also impervious to staining and etching.
While it’s easy to believe that all stone by nature is super strong and nearly indestructible, it’s important to know the full story. Granite and marble are both very durable but must be sealed at least annually to ensure liquids do not gradually seep into the stone. Granite and marble are resistant to heat, but you should always be careful (i.e. don’t set red-hot pans directly on the countertop surface). Granite is a harder stone than marble and holds up better to chips and scratches.
Some light-coloured granites, however, are dolomites, which is a metamorphic stone. These may scratch, etch, or stain.
In general granite counters are considered more durable than marble. However, each stone is given a rating from A to D. Any stone rated D is considered weak, while stones rated A are considered strong.
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Every natural stone has its level of required maintenance. Even among granites or marbles, there are variations. However, most granites are lower maintenance than most marbles.
For granite, all stones except black should be sealed shortly after installation. A well-sealed stone will bead water on its surface. When the water stops beading, the stone must be resealed. In addition, always wipe up spills as soon as they are seen to prevent potential staining, and wash the stone with a PH-neutral cleanser to prevent etching or removal of the finish.
For marble, all stones should be sealed regularly with a sealer designed for porous stone. Even with a sealer, marble may stain more easily, which can be difficult to get out even with a poultice. Always wipe up spills as soon as they are seen, and avoid placing acidic things like lemon juice, tomato sauce, or red wine directly on the counter because these can cause the stone to etch.
Like granite, marble should always be cleaned with a PH-neutral cleanser to avoid more etching. It should also be resealed at least once a quarter, as opposed to yearly for granite.
All-natural stone requires different levels of maintenance, and homeowners should remain vigilant to the condition of their bathroom or kitchen countertops. In general, granite is very durable, stain-resistant and lower maintenance than marble. Granite should be sealed after installation, and if done properly, water will bead on the surface. Resealing should be completed every year to ensure a solid and efficient surface.
Minor scratches or even small chips can be repaired with stone epoxy. Note, however, that very busy or hardworking kitchens may need extra attention.
Marble should be thoroughly and regularly protected with a sealant designed specifically for porous stone surfaces. Keep in mind that marble’s composition is naturally prone to stain, even if sealed, so be sure to clean up spills as they happen. Acidic liquids, such as lemon juice, tomato sauce and citrus are unfriendly to marble and can etch into the stone.
Both granite and marble are heat-resistant. Both types of stones were formed through heat, either through volcanic activity or enormous amounts of heat and pressure. Typically, hot pots will not bother either stone, and neither will discolour when used near heat. Always use caution with hot pots in the kitchen, regardless of how well your stone handles the heat.
Decomposing granite, which is found in soil, has been known to give off radon two gas. So naturally, some people are concerned about using granite counters in their home. There is no evidence, however, that either granite or marble slabs give off radon two gas in the home. If you are concerned, radon 2 test kits are available, which can detect the gas.
On their own, granite and marble counters do not have much impact on resale value. As part of a luxury kitchen upgrade, however, Remodeling Magazine shows that you can recoup roughly 53% of the total costs.
Both granite and marble can make a kitchen look more appealing to a buyer, which may help the property sell more quickly, particularly if the old countertop was in poor condition.
Signs Granite Countertops Are The Best Option For You?
- If you prefer the look of granite.
- If you want a wider selection of colours and patterns to choose from.
- If you work on countertops recklessly and with a lot of force and need a surface that can bear all this.
- If a lot of people use your kitchen.
- If your countertop gets dirty fast while working.
Signs Marble Countertops Are The Best Option For You?
- If you prefer the look of marble.
- If you don’t mind spending more time on maintenance.
- If you don’t mind spending more money on marble countertop slabs.
- If you are fairly careful with your countertops and not much concerned about scratches or dings.
- If you can clean a lot and know you are capable of preventing the formation of stains on the marble surface.
Large blocks of granite and marble are mined and then cut into more manageable rectangular slabs. Granite slabs tend to be cut larger than marble slabs because granite is sturdier.
Neither granite nor marble is very eco-friendly. While both may last for a very long time if taken care of, considerable amounts of fuel and energy are initially necessary to mine, cut, transport, and install the stones.
Some granite may contain trace elements of naturally-occurring, radioactive radium, uranium, and thorium. Over time these elements can decay and emit radon, a noble gas that, at high enough levels, can lead to lung cancer.
Though some have raised concerns over this potential health risk, granite countertops are usually safe. The Marble Institute of America has an archive of information regarding erroneous reporting on granite safety.
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So which one should you choose?
It all depends on the aesthetic you prefer and how much maintenance you’re willing to do.
Though both are natural and quarried from the earth, they possess very different properties. The biggest difference between granite and marble is their porosity. Marble is softer and more porous than granite with few exceptions like marble from Danby, VT. Marble like Imperial Danby from Vermont is one of those types which are very solid. Granite, whose crystalline structure makes it more resistant to abrasion, staining, and discolouration, is in fact, the strongest of all-natural stones.
Granite is an igneous rock, which means it was once molten and formed as it cooled deep within the earth. The minerals contained in granite usually appear as small flecks throughout the stone. Marble, on the other hand, was once limestone that changed due to intense heat and pressure. This process altered its crystalline structure and introduced other minerals, which produce its characteristic veining.
Both marble and granite are hard, heavy, relatively heat and scorch proof, and come in a wide array of colours and patterns. Since both are created in nature, there can be drastic variations in colour and pattern. In both cases, a display sample you see in-store may not be an accurate representation of your actual purchase. (So be sure to see your slabs in person, no matter which material you select.) Oily or intensely coloured foods can stain both stones, so both require sealing every so often (typically once a year.) Both come about through complex reactions in the earth that take millions of years, helping them achieve a look that is very much, unlike any human-made material.
Most of all, both marble and granite make beautiful countertops, backsplashes, wall coverings, floor coverings, and more. They are both unique stones and can represent a very significant investment.
So by now, Marble vs Granite, you know all the properties of both stones. Both have their unique properties and qualities. In the end, it all depends on the aesthetics and where you’re going to use this stone. If you are willing to devote some of your time in maintenance, then go for marble. But if you want a natural stone with more durability, scratch-resistant properties and less maintenance, then granite is the best option for you.