How Knowing the Difference Between Marble and Granite Can Help You Pick the Right Countertop
When people build new homes or remodel their current homes they tend to use natural stones in areas such as the kitchen or bathrooms. Common reasons for this decision include aesthetics and longevity. Two of the most common natural stones used for kitchen and bathroom countertops are granite and marble.
Granite vs marble there are so many differences and maintenance requirements. In this article, you will learn the difference between granite vs marble and why one of them is the better choice for a kitchen countertop while the other is great for a bathroom countertop.
Granite and marble are excellent and popular choices for your kitchen countertops. Homeowners also want to know what option is better for bathroom vanity tops, outdoor kitchens, and so forth. However, most people are unable to differentiate the two. That’s the reason for this article – to help you tell the difference between marble and granite, without mistake.
These stones are unlike engineered quartz therefore, they are susceptible to staining and chipping.
Granite is the more durable of the two stones, thus, less prone to staining and scratching. This makes granite preferable in kitchens, while marble is the choice stone for other areas like the bathroom.
The decision to install marble or granite counters in your home often boils down to the location of the counters and how you intend to use and maintain them.
It's essential to establish that marble is not granite. Both are natural stones existing in the earth's crust. But each one is distinct.
Geologists say that marble is a metamorphosed limestone. When limestone deposits in the earth are subjected to high temperature and pressure, the result is a marble.
Temperature and pressure can create changes in the overall texture of the rock. This explains the appearance of marble with enhanced beauty.
Bearing that in mind, we can now learn a little about granite. Granite is a granular igneous rock. Besides, the texture is phaneritic. The crystallization of magma beneath the earth’s surface occurs over time to yield granite.
Both granite and marble naturally exist on earth. They come from quarries and share certain similarities, despite a few crucial differences.
Granite is much stronger and harder than marble. Therefore, the appearance is shiny and glossy, whereas marble is dull and smooth.
On the Mohs scale, granite has a hardness of 6 to 7. It easily resists scratches and damage from heat. This property makes it ideal for kitchen counters both inside the home and outside. Granite counters will not scuff or discolor from everyday household use.
Granite is highly durable, though it’s porous (like marble).
Large granite blocks come from mines and are then cut into less unwieldy rectangular slabs. Marble slabs tend to cut smaller than granite slabs since granite is more sturdy.
Scientists report that granite may contain trace amounts of naturally occurring, radioactive uranium, thorium, and radium. These elements eventually decay and emit radon, an inert gas, which can cause lung cancer at high levels. However, the EPA reports that granite countertops are usually safe.
What are the major issues with granite? Well, there are really no issues with granite. But, you have to get used to the fact that you won't be the only one using it. If you want your countertops to look new every day, there's no way to beat them – join the crowd, use granite.
Marble's hardness weighs in at 3 to 5 on the Mohs scale. It lacks the same durability as granite and will suffer damage from simple kitchen tasks such as cutting. Contact with hot pans and dishes can also inflict damage on marble. The marble surface is more suitable for low-traffic spots such as bathroom vanities, decorative accents, and fireplace surrounds.
It has become a new trend to use marble for kitchen countertops in the US. Dandy Marble from Vermont is particularly common. It has a superior absorption rate and better hardness, compared with traditional marble materials such as Calcutta or Carrara.
Homeowners should be diligent to know about maintenance and strictly follow the sealing application routine.
Dulling, scratching, and staining are easier to understand if you appreciate the underlying geology behind marbles. Marble comes from limestone (basically calcium carbonate) and ocean floor silt. The buckling and shifting of the earth's crust result in heat and pressure that softens the limestone and causes it to recrystallize as a harder, denser material.
Marble stains arise from watery or oily liquids seeping into the tiny microscopic spaces between the crystals. The crystals are impervious themselves. A penetrating sealer can help keep the voids narrow enough to prevent liquids from flowing in by capillary action.
Individual water molecules can still pass through, but any moisture within the stone can evaporate, which is a good thing.
Now, liquids can sink in, though not too quickly. This fact means that the stone can still stain. The sealer allows you 24 hours, as against 30 minutes, to wipe up spills before they lodge too deep that you can’t wipe them away.
Today’s sealers are so effective that stains are your least worries with marble. Note that it’s the most discussed issue, regardless. Chuck Muehlbauer, the Marble Institute of America's technical expert, tells us that marble staining isn't as big an issue as it's often made out to be. The industry group's representative says he gets calls from all around the US each week, and only one of those calls is about staining.
When marble stains, you can remove the marks (at least partially) by applying a poultice. A poultice is an absorbent material mixed with a chemical that will dissolve the stain and make it flow into the porous absorbent material.
The market has ready-made products that you can spread on like margarine and cover with plastic for a couple of days. But, anyone can make their own using blotter paper, a napkin, or whiting as the absorbent material. Use that with a liquid-like acetone or hydrogen peroxide that works well on the specific spill.
Dulling is not as easy to deal with. Marble is a carbonate. Thus spills of vinegar, lemon juice, or other acids result in a fizzy reaction similar to when you swallow calcium carbonate tabs.
On the countertop, the chemical reaction eats into the marble on the surface and leaves a dull mark. This is irreversible, and sealers are of no use because their only job is to fill spaces between crystals. They don’t coat the surface crystals themselves. A surface coating would coat surface crystals, but your work surface would now become plastic.
It’s technically possible to sand down a dull area, and repolish the marble, but if you prefer marble countertops, be willing to accept dull spots. Just like scratches on a new car, the first few dull marks will likely bother you more than the subsequent many that will eventually accumulate.
To make etching less noticeable, you could buy marble with a honed surface instead of one that is highly polished. The evenly dull surface – prevalent with Italian cooks – also dramatically dials down the formal look of polished marble.
Note that honed surfaces are more likely to present stains than polished surfaces. The stone itself does not stain more efficiently, according to Muehlbauer. Still, without a reflective surface, color differences are more noticeable.
It’s best to leave scratches to a company that understands stone. Geologists define marble quite narrowly, but the market sells several stone varieties under this name.
“Marble” may refer to almost any stone capable of taking a polish. Many are not suitable as kitchen countertops, but others work very well.
There's a rating system – A to D – from the Marble Institute of America that identifies stones from the "hardest" to the "least porous." But, most countertop marbles are unrated.
Muehlbauer’s recommendation is that you ask the vendor which of the available marbles is best for kitchen countertops. To confirm the advice you get, collect samples of various types you like and run a scratch test using a pocket knife. Better still, you could use a countertop resource website to ascertain your findings.
It’s more difficult to scratch near-white marble than it’s to scratch highly colored or streaked marble. The colors come from impurities like clay and silt present in the original limestone. Pure white marble is the most vulnerable to staining.
These are the prominent issues with marble.
Granite and marble share a slight semblance. A closer look will expose differences in their appearance. The critical difference is in the natural color variations that appear in both granite and marble.
Variations in granite color look like flecking throughout the stone. In contrast, variations in marble color are akin to colorful veins swirling through the stone.
The natural geological processes that result in the formation of granite and marble have a direct correlation to the overall strength and durability of both materials.
Both materials are tough enough to last long and remain beautiful for many years. It's essential to choose the right material for the location to make sure that no damage occurs.
The natural granite stone is really hard and not porous. These two properties make it highly resistant to scratching and staining. It’s the most ideal material for virtually any kind of kitchen counter.
It’s possible to cut on granite using a knife blade, and not scratch the rock. However, you risk dulling and ruining your knives quickly if you continue this practice. You also risk metal transfer which will look like metal has rubbed onto your countertop.
The low porosity of granite means that even when you spill liquids on the countertop, you can simply wipe them off without leaving any stain.
Marble, on the other hand, is naturally softer than granite. It's also more porous than granite. Thus it's easier to scratch than granite. Kitchen knives are notorious for defacing marble quite easily. Stains from watery and oily liquids also have a longer-term impact on marble.
The porous nature of marble is due to the stone's metamorphic attributes. This porosity results in the absorption of some materials once there's contact.
If you apply a sealer to a marble countertop, you can provide it with a protective barrier to liquids. It makes them more hardy to stain until you wipe away the spill.
Granite, on the other hand, is incredibly dense. This enables it to resist virtually every stain from food or liquids. All you need to do is maintain an effective sealant barrier on the granite.
A granite countertop will show no signs that any such event occurred if you place a hot pan directly on the stone surface. There'll be neither melting nor burn marks.
Marble has some heat-resisting property. But, to prevent any possible discoloration of the surface, it's best to place a trivet beneath a hot pan.
Alcohol, ketchup, lemon juice, mustard, vinegar, and other acidic or citric liquids tend to etch marks in marble-topped counters. The etching appears as a dull, lackluster spot on the countertop. It's not easy to erase, either by anyone or with any chemical agent. A protective sealant is quite ineffective under such circumstances.
Granite is naturally resistant to chemicals and other acidic substances.
Any solid surface, including natural granite with its crystalline chemistry, is capable of cracking or chipping when in direct contact with high-impact blows from any hard, sharp object.
Chipping and cracking are highly unlikely under routine kitchen use. Daily use will not overstress the counter because the stone is hard and durable.
Because natural marble is much softer than granite, it’s more prone to chips and cracks under frequent, everyday applications like a kitchen countertop.
When your goal is a high-end, luxurious kitchen area, marble is your go-to stone. Granite also lends the kitchen some sophistication but not to the upscale extent that marble does.
You can seal a granite countertop by adding a layer of protection for the naturally tough stone. Manufacturers of marble kitchen counters strongly recommend that you seal this highly porous material. A quality sealant has a life expectancy of around ten to fifteen years.
Use a clean damp cloth to wipe both marble and granite countertops. Add some soapy water to your wet cloth to remove stubborn food residue, but avoid ammonia, bleach, or other stubborn cleaning agents.
Ensure that the cleaner is not abrasive to prevent dulling the finish. Use cleaning agents with a neutral pH. Also, take more exceptional care when cleaning marble, to avoid causing damage to the porous stone.
With a marble countertop, it’s imperative to thoroughly dry the wet surface while you clean.
You need to apply a fresh sealant coating every year or once in 3 years, depending on the type of sealer you use.
You have to schedule marble sealing a bit differently to protect the porous surface. Reseal marble no less than twice a year. You need to do it more often once you notice water absorbing into the marble, instead of pooling on its surface.
To test marble or granite to determine if you need to apply a fresh sealant, place a small pool of water on the surface. The existing sealant is still effective if the water remains beaded. If the water absorbs into the stone, you should reapply the sealant.
To understand which is the better of the two, we have to consider longevity and hardness. Granite is a stronger and harder natural stone than marble, probably because of the process of its formation.
Granite has a reputation for being one of the world’s strongest natural stones.
Granite is resistant to heat. It can withstand the heat you'll produce while preparing food. This is why a granite top is a much better option for your kitchen.
However, marble is vulnerable concerning the fading of color. This means a marble countertop will lose its shine after a short while. It's almost impossible to get back the original shine of a dull marble countertop. You can say it's irreversible. Therefore, you'll have plenty to contend with in the long run.
This really boils down to preference. Most people would prefer the look of marble but tend to prefer granite due to the fact that it requires less maintenance. Both stones have their flaws and beautiful natural characteristics and both stones have maintenance requirements.
Both granite and marble have amazing beauty but the decision is really based on your preference and kitchen style.
Marble requires more maintenance while granite is less of a hassle. Marble is usually more expensive than its equivalent grade of granite.
The actual spend depends on the complexity of the job, quality of the stone, and the style of laying out the tiles.
We've looked at the role of sealants in keeping both granite and marble intact and in top shape for years to come. Because of its nature, marble requires more applications of sealants – at least two times yearly. With granite, though, you only have to worry about maintenance only about once in two years. The difference in periods is because granite is the hardier of the two stones.
Just like any other solid surface, high-impact blows can be lethal to granite. Its crystalline nature makes it vulnerable to chipping under the force of sharp objects.
Granite without sealing can absorb stains such as oil, which can ultimately result in discoloration or dark spots. The heat from burning liquids, pans, or pots will not affect granite under normal conditions.
We can't repeat this enough. The reason many have high regard for granite counters is that they can withstand heat, whether from a cooktop or a frying pan. After all, granite comes from years of extreme heat and pressure within the earth's crust. The use of trivets for your countertop is recommended.
Lighting a flame under granite will not melt it. Besides, it won’t leave any burned or scarred marks.
Regular use in a home will not crack granite. Most cracks in granite occur in the course of shipping and installation. Regular use will not put undue stress on this durable material.
A typical kitchen countertop is one and one-quarter inches inch thick for structural purposes. Bathroom vanity tops can use thinner granite.
Granite can hold almost any hot or cold element. It’s stain-resistant up to 95 to 98 percent. Yet, all-natural stone products need sealing to provide beauty and longevity.
Polished granite should be treated equally as polished marble. It's preferable to use unique granite cleaner formulations. You can also use a mild phosphate-free, biodegradable liquid dish-soap that contains no aromatics.
After you clean the granite surface, rinse the countertop thoroughly by rinsing and drying with chamois or cotton flannel. When using a granite cleaner, allow it to sit for around 30 seconds before wiping it off with a soft cloth for best results.
Marble is not a good choice for a kitchen countertop. While it can be sealed, it’s not as dense as granite.
Because of its lower density, it’s more porous and susceptible to stain in a high-traffic area like your kitchen. It’s also much softer than granite and will easily chip and crack with frequent use.
You do need to seal marble after fabrication. Sealing your marble countertops every 6 months to a year is almost a requirement. If you want your countertops to last longer and stay new-looking then be sure to seal as often as you can using the Dry-Treat Stain Proof Plus product.
We can apply marble to various projects within the bathroom area. This includes floor areas, Jacuzzi surrounds shower paneling, and vanities.
You can also use marble for other applications, such as fireplace surrounds, saddles, shelves, and tabletops. In all, you can safely use marble in low-traffic areas.
Marble and granite countertops have many similar applications. However, only a small number of consumers really understand the best use cases for each one. This guide has covered some of these, highlighting the significant differences between granite and marble. Now, you know more than enough to tell the difference between marble vs granite and to choose the best material for your kitchen countertop.