Stone countertops are very popular in the kitchen for their durability and natural beauty. Often, selection among the many choices is emotional, given the aesthetic allure that many natural stones possess.
Apart from the subjective considerations, there are reasons for choosing one over another. Let’s compare and contrast Granite and Marble materials.
Appearance and Basic Makeup
The two materials are easy to distinguish. Granite tends to have darker tones, while marble is characteristically white with grey-black swirls or veins.
Marble does actually come in other colors than white, such as black or green, but those are so rare in the countertop market, we’ll just stick to what is most common.
Pure marble, as evidenced by many famous statues is entirely white, and is available as a countertop choice, though most prefer the granular lines and vein look.
Granite is chock full of imperfections, or granular ingredients that make for diversity in just about every slab ever produced by it’s manufacturer, aka Mother Earth. It consistently has specks of many materials visible on its surface, with highly unique patterns. Packing all the materials together makes for a more dense, stronger stone than marble.
Both stones are porous, which means at the microscopic level they will allow air, water and other fluids to permeate their structure. Marble more so than granite. The porosity factor of both is an item that comes up in many ways when comparing stone countertops and we’ll address that further as we go along.
In general, marble is considered a luxurious, high end stone countertop, while granite is viewed as the strongest and fairly economical choice.
Costs and Installation Considerations
Buying stone in slabs invariably saves on costs for the material itself. Though transforming that slab into a suitable countertop is quite expensive. A slab of granite for example is say 10 by 6 feet, or 60 sq.ft. and would cost $30 to $60 per square foot. Marble runs about $40 to $100 per sq. ft.
Transforming a slab into a full finished kitchen countertop to be placed on a kitchen island or over kitchen cabinets is more expensive, though the prices are fairly similar. For granite, it is about $100 to $225 per sq. ft. installed, while marble runs $125 to $250 per sq. ft.
Installation includes proper measuring, determining weight or load for supporting pieces and re-enforcing those as may be needed. Plus there’s the finishing of the material, sealing, overcoming seams, general labor and costs for other materials. Additionally, there is edge design, which can be simply squared/flat. It may also be rounded, beveled or curved in unique finish.
Because of granite’s added durability, you’ll save on costs by using pre-fabricated slabs designed to fit standard patterns with sink cutouts and typical countertop layouts. Though many kitchens in especially older homes have unique layout designs, and thus custom fitting is necessary.
Granite installation is considered highly labor intensive, while marble is considered easier and less prone to chipping or damaging during installation.
Both materials may be installed as tiles or modular slabs. This changes the aesthetic appearance, but also impacts how sealants work on the material as the groves between each tile are needing different care. The grooves are also prone to different types of staining and possible wear and tear. But given the inherent problems of etching known for marble countertops, the tile approach may be the way to go, as problem areas would be localized to smaller pieces than large slabs.
Durability, Maintenance and Resistance Factors
Being stone, both materials are inherently durable. Lasting thousands of years in the earth’s crust means they’ll probably be fine with most things that humans will throw at it.
Granite is known to be stronger and in essence more durable. Though this has a drawback in installation as granite relies on precise measuring for custom fitting. Pre-fabricated designs are ideal as granite chips easier than marble, which is considered softer or more malleable. Though a significant drawback with marble is that it is easier to scratch, and thus shows more wear and tear.
Let’s address etching. Many think of etching as the way that stone countertops are stained, but it’s actually a change to the stone’s surface, much like scratching. When an acidic substance comes into contact with stone that is porous, a dulling of the stone occurs, leaving a mark. Due to the potential for etching, pores get sealed. Sealant materials help prevent anything getting through the surface layer, but they can’t exactly eliminate it, as sealants breakdown over time.
With granite, annual sealing is suggested, or if the countertop gets regular use, then twice a year. With marble, more than twice a year is often suggested, and even then, it is still prone to etching. Due to this known issue, some manufacturers will explicitly note that their marble material is not recommended for kitchen countertops. And yet, given the inherent beauty of marble, some homeowners can’t live without it in their kitchens.
Mild etching can be repaired with polishing powder. With marble, this would be a constant uphill battle, whereas with granite, it offers a viable way to overcome the problem. Deeper etches would require professional stone restoration to tackle the problem. Another solution is the matte, or finish that you go with for the stone. Polished or honed, can make the difference. Polish requires a bit more upkeep while hone tends to mask etching slightly better. Neither can eliminate the ongoing issues that etching presents.
Furthermore, cleaning with chemical products is another issue. It’s always best to clean immediately when something spills or splatters on either material. But if you need to clean tougher spots, mild soaps are suggested.