I’m still enjoying Arizona with my family, but I’ve got a good educational blog post for you today! This one was actually a reader request and I couldn’t believe I hadn’t shared this topic before. I talk a lot about natural stone here on the blog, and have shared insight on each option, but have never lined up a comparison type of post. I wanted to break down the difference between natural stones for you, so you can make an educated decision the next time you’re choosing material for a countertop, tile floor, a backsplash, etc. Click through for a post on all things natural stone and how they compare to one another…
With so many different types of flooring and countertops readily available, it can be difficult to decide which materials are the best fit. Choosing the right stone is an important decision as it will affect not only the overall aesthetic, but also durability in each room- not to mention, it’s a costly investment. From marble tile to soapstone slabs, we’re exploring several natural options, along with pros, cons, and tidbits for each. Whether you’re a homeowner anticipating a renovation, or you’re an interior designer seeking insight into various styles, this is definitely one to save or pin!
Most natural stones can be used both indoors and out… after all- they are stones that comes from the earth. Some hold up better than others, here are the pros and cons for each:
Marble is one of the most popular stones, and for good reason- it’s beauty and accessibility. As an interior designer, marble is always one of my top choices.
- Accessible and easy to find.
- Provides a high-end, designer or historic look.
- Can be used anywhere, indoors and out.
- Naturally cool stone- great for cooking & baking.
- Patina builds character with time.
- Classic aesthetic.
- A longterm stone that has staying power & lasts.
- Lots of variety from slab-to-slab… lots of colors, veining patterns, etc.
- Because it is porous, marble is susceptible to staining and etching.
- Can be costly- it’s an investment stone.
- Patina can be bothersome.
- Requires regular cleaning, polishing, and sealing.
- Vulnerable to acids- including those commonly found in the kitchen.
- Can be scratched.
Granite is very popular among builders, since it’s one of the more cost effective options in regards to natural stone. It’s also loved by homeowners for its incredible durability.
- Extremely durable.
- Large pattern and color range.
- Naturally bacteria resistant.
- More affordable than other natural stones.
- Resistant to cracking.
- Heat resistant.
- Not affected by acidic spills- like citrus, coffee, tea, alcohol, wine, etc.
- Nearly impossible to scratch.
- Difficult to stain.
- Can be difficult to fabricate.
- Can easily fall out of style, depending on the slab selection.
- Requires regular resealing.
Soapstone is one of my personal favorites. It’s durable, has lots of character, a timeless look, and is easy to maintain. I think it achieves a very classic or historic look.
- Heat resistant.
- Stain resistant because it’s non porous.
- Very durable.
- Antimicrobial and bacteria resistant.
- Eco friendly & chemical free.
- Can be used indoors and out.
- Low maintenance- no sealing required, but it can be oiled, waxed, or enhanced.
- Highly accessible and moderately priced.
- Depending on the slab and quarry, it can take on a green look- which some find unappealing.
- It’s a softer stone, so it can chip or scratch.
- Few color choices… not much variety.
- More difficult to find.
- Wears unevenly.
- More expensive to fabricate or install.
Quartzite is extremely popular due to its marble-like appearance, while having granite-like properties (durability).
- It looks similar to marble- has a designer aesthetic.
- Naturally strong & durable.
- Heat resistant.
- Mostly resistant to staining.
- Many different color variations to choose from.
- UV resistant.
- Mostly resistant to acids that cause etching.
- Required regular cleaning and sealing.
- Prone to scratching.
- More expensive, and can be costly to fabricate.
- Can be difficult to find a nice looking slab.
This one isn’t as popular, but I had a few questions about it. Serpentine is often mistaken for green or dark marble, but it’s much better at resisting acid and can’t be scratched as easily as marble.
- Etch resistant- it’s non porous.
- Doesn’t require sealing.
- Does not scratch easily.
- More cost effective than marble.
- Looks like and is often mistaken for marble.
- It’s only available in one look: green or dark green.
- It’s softer than granite, so it can chip.
- Can be difficult to find a nice slab.
- Wears unevenly.
If you’re looking for something neutral and classic- slate could be a good option. I think it has a rustic and traditional appeal with old world charm.
- Classically attractive.
- Can be used indoors and out (even as roofing tiles).
- Easy to work with and fabricate.
- Nice textural look.
- Resistant to cracks, scratches, breaks, and chips.
- Resistant to freezing and thawing.
- Texture provides traction underfoot.
- Susceptible to moisture damage
- Cold to the touch, which could be unappealing for flooring.
- Texture can be unappealing in certain installations.
Limestone has a very historic look to me… the limestone tile in my entryway has a very European feel that I think is quite charming. Tumbled limestone is certainly having a moment and I think it’s a timeless option.
- Easy to shape & fabricate.
- Can be used indoors, out, and for structural elements.
- Tumbled texture and old world feel.
- Texture improves over time.
- Readily available.
- Texture provides traction underfoot.
- Timeless aesthetic.
- Susceptible to acidity and etching- it’s porous.
- May stain since it is chemically susceptible.
- Fewer color choices.
- Requires maintenance and sealing.
Looking for more blog posts and information on natural stone? Check out the following blog posts!
- Marble Maintenance & The Truth About Natural Stone
- Design Discussion : Natural vs. Engineered
- Everything You Need to Know About Soapstone
- Why We Used Soapstone in Our Kitchen… Again
- Honing Our Guest Bathroom Nero Marble Countertops
- Our Limestone Entryway Tile + Alternative Options
I hope this post was helpful! As always, let me know if you have any questions in the comment section below. It may take me a few days to get back with you, but I’ll be back to my desk soon. I’m off to celebrate Emmett’s birthday- if you see him on social media today, help me wish him a happy birthday!
PeggiMarch 27, 2023 at 6:11 am
Good morning! So much helpful information here! I am only drawn to darker counters, so a classic marble or quartzite wouldn’t be for me. You’ve definitely encouraged a fascination with soapstone, but what is this magical serpentine?! I am in love! I’ve seen vintage chests and dressers with green marble tops; now I’m wondering if they were actually serpentine. I somehow never imagined procuring slabs for counters was a possibility. Our household will never tire of green, so consider my next kitchen countertop chosen. (Officially, the fastest decision I’ve ever made!) As for the other dark stones, I have dreamed for years of having slate floors. I’m sure the uneven surface might be occasionally annoying, but that natural texture is so appealing! Could an underfloor heating system (like your basement bath) be installed to address the cold factor? Or should I just buy a bunch of Uggs?🤣 You mention that slate is susceptible to moisture damage. What does this look like? Does it darken or become more prone to chipping? Can it (or should it) be sealed? Since I’m probably not in the market for new flooring anytime soon, I can afford a little more research. I’ve saved this to my kitchen board for future reference. Thanks for such a helpful comparison!
Happiest of birthdays to Emmett! I hope you are relaxing in the sunshine and soaking up all the desert vacation vibes! Let the recreating continue!☀️🌵🎉💜
SarahMarch 30, 2023 at 12:58 pm
I’m so glad it was helpful! I knew you’d be into the serpentine- it’s gorgeous in person! I once snagged a remnant piece from my local fabricator and used it for a furniture top for a past client. You could definitely install radiant heat under a cool stone floor. That would help, for sure! A bunch of Uggs would also be nice, hahah!! I believe slate can crack with moisture, but in my experience- it’s not super likely (it is used on roofs, after all). Emmett said thank you for the birthday wishes!! We had such a great time in the desert. I’m missing the sunshine!! Hope you’re having an amazing day :) xo
LaurenMarch 27, 2023 at 8:41 am
Good morning Sarah, and happy belated birthday to Emmett! This is a lovely and informational post. I always come back to granite and soapstone in my kitchen renovation scheming and dreaming. I’ve lived with granite and loved it- one thing I will add to the cons section: depending on the slab and color choice crumbs can easily hide. Sounds great until you run your hand on the countertop and come back with a handful of crumbs you had no idea were there. That being said- I know I’ll lean towards a lighter or darker slab if I ever chose this material again. You can’t deny the gorgeousness of soapstone, and in my opinion its much better in terms of maintenance compared to granite. Marble is certainly a contender for me though. I don’t mind the patina look that marble can take on, but the etching is my fear. You’ve certainly given enough information to make a sound choice. I hope your desert escapades have been fun and relaxing. Cheers to a wonderfully sunny week!
SarahMarch 30, 2023 at 12:20 pm
Emmett says thank you, Lauren! Great point about slab selection- that can really influence the look and function the stone… not all slabs are created equal! I’ll always be team marble and soapstone. I’m also loving the limestone in our entryway (my first time having it in our own home). Our desert escapades were really fun. It was great to soak up a little AZ sunshine before returning home to snow. We enjoyed some great music and had fun celebrating with the fam! I hope you guys had a fantastic spring break here in Utah :) xox
Christine CollinsMarch 28, 2023 at 10:35 am
Hello! I am late to the party, but I just recently discovered your blog and I love your style and the information you put out for your readers! Regarding natural stone options, have you heard of dolomite? We came across it while selecting stone for our recent kitchen renovation. Upon researching, I learned that it is somewhere between marble and quartzite on the durability scale. There was still some chance of etching and staining (albeit less than marble), so we ultimately chose Taj Mahal quartzite, but let me tell you, this dolomite was gorgeous! Had we been making selections for a bathroom I would have snapped it up immediately! Enjoy the rest of your trip!
SarahMarch 30, 2023 at 12:18 pm
Thank you so much, Christine! I have heard of dolomite and have used it in a few client spaces in the past. It’s a really gorgeous material! The Taj Mahal quartzite is also stunning- amazing selection. Thanks again for your kind words! I hope you’re having a lovely week :)