interiors & styling

Marble Maintenance & The Truth About Natural Stone

Marble Maintenance & The Truth About Natural Stone - roomfortuesday.com I get this question ALL the time, “Why marble, when you can install a look alike product- such as quartz?” For some reason, marble and natural stone gets a bad rep and seems like a scary investment to a lot of homeowners. It etches, it stains, it can be scratched, it changes over time, and naturally patinas as it ages. All of those things sound intimidating, but they’re honestly a big part of why I personally love using natural stone throughout our home. I’ll be the first to say- it’s not for everyone, but I wanted to provide you with a helpful post to weigh the pros, cons, and make an educated decision for yourself! Click through for my thoughts on natural stone, how I live with it on a daily basis, facts (the negative AND positive), and how I care for it- including marble maintenance. I’ve also got a fun quiz at the end of the post for you to take! 

Marble Maintenance & The Truth About Natural Stone - roomfortuesday.com First of all- I’m no stranger to using natural stone. Each of our home renovations has included natural stone materials, such as soapstone, limestone, granite, and marble. Aside from living with natural stone for over a decade, I’ve also visited the quarries where the stone comes from, and have taken multiple interior design courses and continued learning seminars in regards to natural stone. It’s safe to say, I’m well versed in the subject matter and definitely have a personal preference (I’m a natural stone gal through and through)! I wanted to share my knowledge if you’re trying to decide on the best stone or tile for your home.

Marble Maintenance & The Truth About Natural Stone - roomfortuesday.com Natural stone isn’t the top choice for everyone, but it’s always best to know what to expect before making the investment. I’ve talked about soapstone a lot in the past, so if you’re interested in that specific type of stone, check out the following posts…


NATURAL STONE v. MANUFACTURED PRODUCTS

Let’s begin with a quick comparison of natural stone and man made, or manufactured products, such as quartz! First up, let’s chat about natural stone…

Marble Maintenance & The Truth About Natural Stone - roomfortuesday.com

soapstone in our previous kitchen

NATURAL STONE PROS…

  • Aesthetic // Natural stone is one-of-a-kind, beautiful, original, and typically provides a higher-end look.
  • Touch // Natural stone has a really nice hand or feel, and typically regulates temperature better (there is a reason bakers love marble countertops to keep their pastry dough cool).
  • Composition // Natural stone is an organic, natural material that comes directly from nature- specifically, from a quarry. The below photo is an image I took of the Polycor quarry in Georgia. You can see how they cut away to expose and extract the marble slabs.
  • Historic // Natural stone has been around forever and is still just as beautiful today. Have you ever travelled to different (older) areas in the world to admire churches, cathedrals, statues, and other works dating back past the Renaissance? Natural stone certainly has a historic presence and stature.
  • Repair // Natural stone is relatively easy to repair, since it is softer and absorbent. You can pull out stains using a poultice, you can buff, sand, polish, or oil out scratches, and you can even reshape the material or edge profile if it gets chipped.

Marble Maintenance & The Truth About Natural Stone - roomfortuesday.com NATURAL STONE CONS…

  • Maintenance // Natural stone does require regular maintenance. It should be sealed or enhanced once or twice a year, and cleaned properly.
  • Aging Process // While I personally believe the aging process for natural stone makes it better with time, patina often bothers people. Natural stone WILL change throughout its lifetime. It’s just a fact. The areas of your countertops you use most often will look more used eventually.
  • Durability // While natural stones are very durable and have literally withstood the test of time (again, think of those ancient cathedrals), it isn’t as durable as certain man made stones. It is absorbent, “softer”, and prone to etching, staining, and scratching.

Time to move onto manufactured stone products. We’ll use quartz as the primary example in this category, because it’s known as the higher-end, superior man made stone… and is most comparable to natural stone, like granite.

QUARTZ PROS…

  • Durability // Quartz is extremely durable, doesn’t stain or scratch, and is totally heat resistant.
  • Maintenance // Quartz requires zero maintenance… no need to worry about sealing or special cleaners.
  • Family Friendly // Quartz is essentially a worry-free material and is very family friendly. You don’t have to worry about spills or accidents.

QUARTZ CONS…

  • Aesthetic // Though technology has come a long way, you can typically spot a man made stone due to its consistency. Imperfections in natural stone add to its beauty, but man made products typically look more perfect and are less varied.
  • Touch // In my personal opinion, quartz does not feel as good, to the touch, as natural stone. It’s pretty ordinary and manufactured feeling… whereas, my soapstone countertops have a velvety touch.
  • Composition // Quartz is a man made product, composed of a variety of materials that are not all-natural or organic. While they are typically not a direct threat to your health, the workers who create them have been known to have serious health complications, called silicosis (for more info, listen to this NPR article).
  • Marketing // Given quartz is a relatively new man made product that is competing with natural stones… it has been marketed as “indestructible.” I’m here to tell you it is not. While it is extremely durable, it can chip. In our first kitchen, pictured above, I chipped the countertop by dropping a glass olive oil bottle onto the radius corner, a week after the counters were installed. I was incredibly bummed and let down. This can happen, but quartz is advertised as indestructible so most people don’t know this is even a possibility.
  • Repair // Quartz is more difficult to repair if it does end up getting scratched or chipped.

Marble Maintenance & The Truth About Natural Stone - roomfortuesday.com
MARBLE MAINTENANCE

Marble is probably the most popular natural stone in design these days… and it’s the stone I get the most questions about. Emmett and I have lived with a marble backsplash, plenty of marble countertops, a marble fireplace, marble flooring, a couple marble showers (the basement bath being our most recent renovation), and plenty of marble furniture (both indoors and out).

Marble Maintenance & The Truth About Natural Stone - roomfortuesday.com Before chatting about my personal marble maintenance routine, I want to share the mindset you have to adapt if you’re going to embrace and love marble in your home…

Marble will age, change, patina, and show wear over time. It just will. Remember that a home is meant to be LIVED in- it isn’t a showroom. Patina adds character, tells a story, and definitely makes natural stone better with time. My advice is this… embrace marble for what it is. Holding marble to quartz standards isn’t fair and you’ll be setting yourself up to be disappointed. Love marble for being marble! It’s a pretty special stone.

Marble Maintenance & The Truth About Natural Stone - roomfortuesday.com Alright- hopping off of my (hopefully marble, ha!) soapbox to move into maintenance chat. BTW- that’s me at a marble quarry, pictured above!

  • Seal It // Apply sealer every 6-8 months… I use this one. Sealing marble feels just like cleaning or wiping a surface. It’s incredibly easy, doesn’t take much time, and can be done with a regular sponge.
  • Keep It Clean // Like any other surface in your home, cleaning is important. I use this natural stone cleaner.
  • Lift Stains // Marble is prone to staining, but you can easily remove stains by making a poultice. Mix baking soda and water to create a paste, then smear the paste over the stain, and cover it with plastic wrap to keep the poultice in place. Allow it to sit for 12-24 hours before scraping it off. The stain should have magically disappeared… it’s pretty crazy, but it actually works! My friend Cathy shared a blog tutorial here.
  • Clean Up Messes // I feel like this goes for any surface in your home, but if you spill something or make a mess, clean it up in a timely manner rather than allowing it to sit overnight.
  • Live With It // Lastly, don’t panic when something “messes up” your marble. It’s honestly inevitable and that’s what we call “character”. The first time is always a little difficult, but remember my voice telling you to accept marble for marble! If it really bothers you, keep in mind marble is easy to repair, fix, and polish. Just live with it and embrace it!

These maintenance tips apply to both architectural features (like countertops), as well as marble furniture found throughout your home.

Marble Maintenance & The Truth About Natural Stone - roomfortuesday.com I also want to note that the suggested marble maintenance is the same for all types of marble… from carrara (white and gray marble) to black nero marble, like pictured below in our guest bath!

Marble Maintenance & The Truth About Natural Stone - roomfortuesday.com

QUIZ : WHAT TYPE OF STONE FITS YOUR HOME & LIFESTYLE?

Ready for some fun? I created this little graphic quiz, so you could follow the road to the stone that best fits your lifestyle and home! We’ll see how it works. Also… there are no wrong answers here- it’s just for fun! Because I’m partial to natural stone, doesn’t mean that quartz isn’t an amazing option for you. Variety is the spice of life, my friends!

Marble Maintenance & The Truth About Natural Stone - roomfortuesday.com Tell me what stone you got in the comment section below! Do you think the quiz was accurate? If not- I hope it was at least fun? Haha! I’m also happy to answer any questions below. I hope this post was informative and helpful!

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  • Reply
    Rose Dykema
    April 1, 2020 at 5:14 am

    Loved this post! I have marble throughout my house (kitchen, fireplace, 2 bathrooms floors, counters and showers). I have a 5 year old and I am asked regularly why I did that or people constantly say I’ll regret it. I’ll admit and say my bathrooms are great as well as my fireplace. My kitchen counters on the other hand look an etched mess. However you can only see the etching in natural daylight. So if I have lights on or it’s darker you can not see any of them! The quiz had me at marble and I will tell you I have zero regrets! Marble makes my heart sing. To me there is nothing quite as pretty. And the etching…well I’m having them come out and look at my counter once things are back to normal here in Michigan and if there is something they can do great, if not it’s a part of our story forever etched in the soul of our kitchen.

    • Reply
      Sarah
      April 1, 2020 at 9:09 am

      Your home sounds gorgeous, Rose! I kind of hate when people insert their opinions like that… marble isn’t for everyone, but you know your home, lifestyle, and family better than anyone. If you love it, I say go for it! It’s your house to make home in whatever way you choose :) I’m a marble gal, too. I love your philosophy! Hope you’re having a great day and are keeping healthy. xo

  • Reply
    Karen
    April 1, 2020 at 6:30 am

    I agree with Rose – natural marble all the way! We have marble in our kitchen, most prominently on the island. Just this past weekend, after asking my husband for MONTHS to re-seal it, I finally started doing it myself. We decided (“we” b/c he meandered out to project manage as I was starting the process) to seal only half at a time, and I’m glad we did that so we can use the other half during the curing time (we’re going with the max time of 3 days).

    We also have an issue where water by the sink was soaking into the marble backsplash, and darkening the marble. Once it jumped seam lines and really became prominent we called out our contractor. He double-checked to make sure nothing was leaking (sink or dishwasher), and thus we determined it had to be b/c the grout lines between the quartz countertops and marble backsplash were compromised in an area, and water was seeping into the marble. He taped up that seam line probably a month ago, to prevent water from continuing to seep up, and I’m SO HAPPY to say it’s working! The water is receding, and the marble is returning to its white/gray glory. Whew!

    Also, for marble cleaner/sealer, I use this and love it – it smells amazing:
    https://smile.amazon.com/gp/product/B014GW1CRW/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_search_asin_title?ie=UTF8&psc=1

    • Reply
      Sarah
      April 1, 2020 at 9:02 am

      Such a smart idea, Karen! Sealing half, so you can use the other half while it’s curing. I love that you weren’t afraid to use marble on your island- I bet it is absolutely stunning. I’m also happy to hear you got your backsplash sorted out. Marble has such a cool way of “healing”. Thanks for sharing your cleaner… can’t wait to check it out. xo

  • Reply
    Lauren
    April 1, 2020 at 8:00 am

    This was jam packed with great info, and the quiz feature was really neat! I took it multiple times because I’m a bad decision maker, and each time landed on a different stone that I love! My husband took it and got quartz😒Lol. I especially like the care and maintenance section; I have a beautiful marble hex tile sample for our bathroom floor that I’m swooning over, and was at first a little hesitant. I’ve never lived in a home with marble so the unfamiliarity was intimidating. After reading this, I can see that it may need a touch more care than other stones I’ve lived with, but I think the look is worth it in spades! You convinced me and I’m not mad about it! Perfect timing Sarah! Have a wonderful Wednesday!

    • Reply
      Sarah
      April 1, 2020 at 8:57 am

      Woohooo! So happy to hear that, Lauren! I love marble and definitely think it’s worth the extra time and care. You should be totally fine having it installed on your bathroom floor… it will patina nicely and stains on a mosaic tile aren’t as big of a deal. Kitchen counters are a totally different story! I think it’s mostly choosing what is best for you and your family :) Hope you’re having a great week. xo

  • Reply
    Peggi
    April 1, 2020 at 8:21 am

    Well, I had this debate with myself about 10 years ago. If I had started my decision-making in the same manner as your flowchart, I would have ended up with soapstone. (Although, I didn’t know it was an option at the time.) I actually started with the question about cooking dinner (how we live in our kitchen), and I ended up with black quartz. I have been remarkably happy with them, but I will say two things. Keeping the shiny surface streak-free is tough; I would definitely have chosen a honed finish if I had realized. And there are most certainly some slightly worn/dulled patches in our most-used area by the stove. I know there are different grades of marble, but the stains on my marble serving board shocked me. I might just have to admire it in photos. What are your thoughts on butcher block? I’ve actually thought I might like to switch to stone floors and wood counters in my next kitchen. So many choices! Happy Wednesday!

    • Reply
      Sarah
      April 1, 2020 at 8:55 am

      Quartz is really an amazing zero worry / maintenance material! There is a reason it is overwhelming popular. Amazing point about streaking… polished stones (natural or man made) are more finicky than honed stones- in terms of cleaning and wear. If the dull patches by your stove are bothersome, you could definitely polish those out. Another amazing point with your marble cutting board- I think that’s why so many people are disappointed with marble. The fact of the matter is it stains, it etches, it’s more delicate, definitely not as durably and worry-free like quartz. It’s not for everyone! Maybe I’d recommend installing marble on a low traffic / low use area instead? Like a fireplace instead of kitchen counters. My thoughts on butcher block are nothing but positive… I love it!! I like the warmth it adds, I like that it’s an organic material, it’s durable, it also patinas with time, etc. It’s awesome! If you swatch your floors to stone (you could heat them) and also add some visual warm with the wood counters. Sounds incredible to me :) Happy Wednesday to you!! xo

  • Reply
    Marynn
    April 1, 2020 at 10:08 am

    I got marble but I don’t think I’ll ever invest in marble unless and until we’re in our dream home/forever home. I like thinking about all the options but ultimately I think practicality wins in this stage of our lives…not the kids, just the upkeep and ROI for this house. Great post!!

    • Reply
      Sarah
      April 2, 2020 at 1:02 pm

      That’s such a good point, Marynn…. you have to consider the stage of life you’re in, if this is your forever home, and how your family uses the space :)

  • Reply
    Veronica
    April 1, 2020 at 10:14 am

    Soapstone all the way here!

    • Reply
      Sarah
      April 2, 2020 at 1:01 pm

      Wooohooo!!! Team soapstone :)

  • Reply
    Shawntae
    April 1, 2020 at 10:19 am

    What is your experience with varying thicknesses of marble countertops? We are contemplating installing 2cm marble in our kitchen and are wondering if installing plywood underneath is necessary.

    • Reply
      Sarah
      April 2, 2020 at 1:01 pm

      Thickness is really more of an aesthetic design decision as opposed to function! Typically for a more modern look, you’d go with a thin slab (1cm) or very thick, like 6cm (with a mitered edge)… for a more traditional aesthetic, 3cm is pretty standard and you’ll have multiple edge profiles to choose from!

  • Reply
    Stacy
    April 1, 2020 at 10:25 am

    Do you have any insight on the environmental impact of stone quarries? They are breathtaking but so destructive when you think about it a bit, and it’s not like trees where you can just plant a new one when you cut one down. I’d love to know if there’s anything these companies are doing to lessen their impact, if that’s even an option? I agree that natural stone has such a unique beauty, and I know manmade products have their own set of issues. But since you’ve visited a quarry before I’m curious to know if this is something they address.

    In my home I have a mix – my kitchen countertops are white concrete, laundry countertops are butcher block, and I have natural slate flooring in my laundry and guest bathroom. My only marble is in small furniture and accessories but I’ve never had any issues with it, I think living finishes are so beautiful. I got soapstone in the quiz which I’ve always loved, I’m dying to find a place to use it!

    • Reply
      Sarah
      April 2, 2020 at 12:59 pm

      That’s a great question, Stacy! I’ve taken a LOT of stone tours… to quarries and manufacturing plants for man made stones. I can definitely say that the quarries probably have less of an impact / waste than the other plants. Polycor (my favorite natural stone company) actually shares their sustainability report each year and is committed to their decreasing their footprint, recycling, planting trees, helping the community, etc. You can check them out here, as well as the report. I feel like most stone companies these days keep their employees and the environment in mind, which is very good news for all involved and us, as consumers. Hope this helps :)

  • Reply
    Jesseca
    April 1, 2020 at 10:51 am

    I loved the quiz. It reminded me of a high school magazine quiz. I got natural stone. I have natural granite in our kitchen and quartz in our bathroom. Honestly I am pretty torn on what I would use when we build someday. My husband and I are horrible at maintenance, but I always like the real thing over faux.

    • Reply
      Sarah
      April 2, 2020 at 12:55 pm

      That’s what I was going for! Love hearing that, Jesseca :)

  • Reply
    Julie
    April 1, 2020 at 11:14 am

    I get way too anxious about just plain water spilled on my engineered hardwood floors to deal with marble surfaces in my home! I loooove real, natural, raw things but with the caveat that they not cause me anxiety lol. For our homeschool table I bought a pretty beat up (i.e. pre-patina’ed) tabletop just so I could be saved from uptight marker patrol and such. It’s already scratched, chipped, and marked, so what if the kids add a few more! I think I’d like marble floors based on seeing them in museum visits and such – they aren’t close up under scrutiny like counters or tabletops would be.

    • Reply
      Sarah
      April 2, 2020 at 12:52 pm

      You definitely sound like a quartz person, but maybe a quartz that LOOKS like a natural material (like marble or soapstone)? You would get the best of both worlds that fits your lifestyle, Julie :)

  • Reply
    Leslie
    April 1, 2020 at 11:33 am

    Sarah,
    Thank you so much for this helpful and informative post. I have a marble top in one of my bathrooms and I admit as beautiful as it is, caring for it intimidates be a bit. I’m going to give the poultice a try for a stain it has that’s been bumming me out and be more stringent about sealing it. Which for some reason I thought was a really big deal and not easy to do well. 🤷‍♀️

    • Reply
      Sarah
      April 2, 2020 at 12:51 pm

      Yes!! Definitely give it a try, Leslie. Let me know if it works- it’s really pretty magical and I think it will surprise you :) xo

  • Reply
    Elena
    April 1, 2020 at 4:07 pm

    Hi, Sarah,

    Love your blog and your overall esthetic. My question is about my marble vanity countertop. Even though it was sealed immediately after installation, a vase that was leaching out water (not puddles, but tiny amounts) left what seems like an etched circle on the surface. The color didn’t change, but the texture is different and it’s more matte than the rest of the counter. Would you have any suggestions for how to remove the etching? I would really appreciate any advice. Thanks!

    • Reply
      Sarah
      April 2, 2020 at 12:50 pm

      Thans, Elena! I would try making a baking soda and water paste poultice and see if it will even out or lift. If that doesn’t work- you can always buff or polish it out to create a cohesive texture. Hope this helps :)

  • Reply
    Shannon Voiles
    April 1, 2020 at 7:03 pm

    Sarah,
    Fantastic article! Thank you for helping to clarify for homeowners the practice differences of the various countertops options. I am with a fabricator in Pennsylvania, we do 30-50 installations a week, with currently about 70% of these being quartz. It should be clarified, quartz is not heat resistant at all, in any way. The resin that binds the natural quartz together will discolor if exposed to excessive heat. All major manufacturers of quartz recommend using trivets, and such language is found throughout their warranties. When a homeowner does discolor or ‘scortch’ their countertop, they invariably request a replacement top under warranty. However, no quartz manufacturers will warranty this type of damage in any way, as it is specifically spelled out as not covered. Just thought you and your readers should know. As a side note, natural Stone, particularly granite, is heat resistant as granite was formed in heat within the earth.

    • Reply
      Sarah
      April 2, 2020 at 12:49 pm

      Thanks Shannon! That is SUCH a great point… quartz is definitely not heat resistant and can discolor- I totally should’ve mentioned that. Thanks for the pointing that out! I love that many of the natural stones are indeed, heat resistant… I should add that to the “pros” list for sure. xo

  • Reply
    Jama
    April 1, 2020 at 7:51 pm

    Such a timely blog! We JUST had calacutta gold 3×9” backsplash tile installed with leathered black granite countertops. We have to drill into the backsplash tile for the pot filler to be mounted. Do you or Emmett have any guidance on best type of drill bit to technique to use? I’m terrified of busting the tile around it!

    • Reply
      Sarah
      April 2, 2020 at 12:47 pm

      Yessss!! I bet it’s beautiful, Jama! Great question- you’ll need to use a diamond coated bit, and you can just use your regular drill (no impact driver needed). Hope this helps :) It seems more scary than it actually is. You’ll be just fine! xo

  • Reply
    Jennifer
    April 1, 2020 at 8:36 pm

    Love all the information on the different stones! Natural is definitely not for everyone. I love the look of marble and soapstone, so naturally, I thought I’d get that answer on my quiz. Surprisingly I got Quartz, HA! I do like quartz as well, and the questions were hard to answer as I really had to think about it. Do I want durability or character?! I also have a toddler and husband that likes simplicity and durability first, style second. So those things definitely play into our decisions.

    • Reply
      Sarah
      April 2, 2020 at 12:45 pm

      Such a tough decision, Jennifer!!

  • Reply
    Molly
    April 2, 2020 at 3:14 am

    Soapstone, but we have ironbark a lovely dark red timber which we oil with grapeseed oil. Love it and it looks like we actually use the kitchen.

    • Reply
      Sarah
      April 2, 2020 at 12:34 pm

      That sounds beautiful, Molly! I love the warmth wood adds to a kitchen- great choice :)

  • Reply
    Jordan
    April 2, 2020 at 8:34 am

    Great post! Any suggestions for keeping the grout between marble shower tile clean? I can’t get rid of mold spots and I’m afraid to use a cleaner that is too harsh for the marble. Thank you.

    • Reply
      Sarah
      April 2, 2020 at 11:13 am

      I use baking soda mixed with a little water (to make a paste) and a toothbrush! Works like a charm :) As always, be sure to test an area first.

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