We spent at least a year debating our countertop material for our new kitchen (as you do), where it was between quartz, quartzite, and marble. I’ll dig in to our argument for each now and what were the final deciding factors in choosing to move forward with marble.
I want to stress that this is a personal and lifestyle choice. None of these are bad options by any means, it’s all about what you prioritize for your home and needs.
This has quickly become the standard for kitchens right now and I get it! The low-maintenance appeal is definitely there, with no need to seal and no potential staining. That’s so appealing! But despite that, three things swayed me away from quartz being my top choice:
- I love veining on countertops so very much. And while I know that there are some marble-look options in quartz, the pattern is digitally printed on to the surface. As someone who will obsess over the tiny details, the idea of looking at a digital print every day would inevitably drive me crazy. I’m just being honest here. It doesn’t bother my husband in the same way, but I know myself enough on this one.
- When we went to a stone yard, we learned a ton about another reason why quartz is so popular and also one of its downsides (shout-out to Alex at DiPietro Trading for the most educational visit). Quartz is made by a few big companies who have a ton of money to spend on marketing to homeowners. This can’t be said for natural stone, which is usually sold primarily by small independent companies, so it’s hard to find a lot out there about downsides to the material. One big thing we discovered is that because of the way it’s fabricated it’s very hard to repair chips or cracks in quartz, which do happen, making it a potentially very costly material if you happen to damage it. Conversely, natural stone can be buffed out or repaired locally without too much hassle.
- Finally, reading this article on NPR about the health hazards faced by engineered countertop fabricators made me pretty upset and definitely put the industry in a concerning light.
This is not to hate on quartz at all, I get why it’s gained such mass appeal and I see all the upsides, but I did want to explain my train of thought on how we arrived where we did, in case it’s helpful to you too. But, if you want countertops that likely look exactly the same over time as they did on the day they were installed with minimal upkeep, quartz is a good choice.
In my research I discovered quartzite, a naturally occurring stone that has only reached the mass market in recent years, where it’s primarily quarried in Brazil. What I read on the internet stated that it was the perfect material: harder and more dense than granite, but with the aesthetics of marble. Sign me up!
So, we fully went to the stone yard thinking quartzite was going to be our material. And Alex, quickly schooled us here that everyone comes in thinking the same thing, but as laymen, we assume that entire categories of stone share the same attributes, but that isn’t true. There’s marble that’s harder than some types of quartzite and there’s marble that looks like quartzite, and there’s quartzite that stains more than some types of marble. It isn’t all black and white when it comes to stone and there’s a lot of nuance.
So, he told us that the challenge with what we were looking for is that generally speaking, the lighter quartzite is in color (of course we were looking for as close to white as possible), the more likely it is to stain inconsistently. Unlike most light marble, where you can predict exactly how it will respond to stains and the patterns look natural, quartzite is all over the place and can vary tremendously (on the flip side, we had friends with gorgeous quartzite countertops that never experienced staining, so it’s a coin toss). Plus, it’s much more expensive than marble, so why don’t we just get what we wanted in the first place? At this point you already know where this is headed. But to cap it off, darker quartzite are generally the miracle stone, but that doesn’t work for all aesthetics, so it’s important to do your research.
I’ve always wanted marble but heard from so many people that it can stain, the patina drives them crazy, and it’s high maintenance. I hear all of this, but also recognize that I love that marble is organic and that it will show some age, and that doesn’t scare me. It’s been used for centuries, so that has to mean something, right?
I wrote a controversial blog post this year about whether we regretted using all marble in our shower, and having lived with it for a year and a half, we know we can handle it. At the end of the day, if I’m just trying to find things that look like marble, and marble isn’t more expensive, I should just get the marble. I love how marble feels to the touch and as a tactile person, I know that going for the real deal will make me happier every day. We honed the marble to help mask etching and scratches, and Alex also let us know that it’s not a big deal to hire a stone shop to come out and refinish the marble so it looks brand new.
One other note: the lighter your marble, the easier it will be to hide etching. On black marble, the etches will be white, so it’s a much more visible marble when it patinas.
If you’re on the fence about marble, I’d recommend getting a big piece of honed marble tile and putting it out on your counter for a month or two before deciding. Cook as you normally would on it and see how you feel about the patina at the end.
So, after that long essay on countertop materials, you already know where we landed, on the ever popular carrara marble, or so our stone fabricators refer to as ‘baker’s marble’. Carrara Marble comes in various grades, where the higher the grade, the more white the stone. Cory wanted it to be whiter, like the countertop in our guest bathroom (the overly grey countertop in our master bathroom is not our favourite), so we picked out a AAA Select slab that has gorgeous grey veining.
First off, you have to seal your countertops. I suspect that many of the people who complain about their marble counters haven’t properly sealed them. We have been using this Bulletproof Sealer in our kitchen and have been pretty happy with it. You need to seal it every 6-12 months and it’s a bit of a process, but the rest of the time it protects your counters from staining, but not etching or scratching.
For day to day cleaning, we’re obsessed with this marble cleaner, it smells like apples and is non-toxic. We use it constantly and it really makes wiping down the counters a joy.
Beyond that, there’s some day to day best practices:
- Don’t cut directly on your countertops
- Don’t put anything acidic directly on your marble counters (lemons, vinegar, etc.)
- Try to clean up spills quickly (though to be honest, I’ve wiped down coffee marks the next day in our coffee bar and they haven’t stained)
- Don’t put hot pots and pans down directly on your counters
So, would we do it again?
Absolutely. We are obsessed with how our counters look and feel. Yes, there are etch marks and scratches that I fixated on when they first happened, but now I hardly even notice them. We’re still in a weird in-between phase where there aren’t many etch marks and the surface hasn’t really patina-ed yet, but they also aren’t brand new, and I still love them so much. I watch everyone who comes over run their hands over the marble at the island, and it makes me so happy.
Other materials to consider
There are lots of countertop materials that we didn’t consider because stylistically they weren’t right for our kitchen, but I think they’re worth mentioning: our friends at the Grit and Polish, recently installed gorgeous walnut butcher block counters with a DIY ogee edge that we’re dying to replicate in our laundry room and Sarah swears by soapstone counters in her kitchen.