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The word itself evokes a sense of elegance and antiquity, associated as it is with many famous sculptures such as “The Kiss” and “Pieta.”
Despite its quite distinctive look, many people confuse marble with granite, but they are not the same at all. For one thing, they are different kinds of rock with widely different origins. Granite comes from magma and is an igneous rock. Marble comes from limestone or dolomite, both sedimentary rocks, and is a non-foliated metamorphic rock. A metamorphic rock used to be something else, i.e. limestone, which over time and under intense heat and pressure broke down and reformed into another rock. Other examples of non-foliated metamorphic rocks include quartzite and hornfels. Slate and phyllite are examples of foliated metamorphic rocks.
As far as dimension stones go, marble is one of the softer ones, rating a three in the Mohs hardness scale (granite rates a 5, diamonds rate a 10). It is this softness that makes it ideal for use in sculptures and other forms of art the relies on details. Famous artists in ancient Rome and Greece would choose marble for its pliability and warm glow, attributed to a low refractive index. Sculptors today continue to favor marble for their best work.
As far as kitchen countertops go, marble requires a bit more TLC than other countertop stones. It is quite porous and reacts to heat and acids, so it can stain and etch easily, though with proper sealing it can still do well as a work sapce. This is particularly true when it comes to making pastry, because marble is very smooth, and it is typically a few degrees cooler than the surrounding temperature. Any pastry chef will tell you that this coolness factor makes it easier to produce fluffy and perfect pastries.
You may be surprised to learn that marble is not only for decoration. It has many industrial applications, primarily pure white marble dust as a whitening agent in fillers, cosmetics, paints, plastics, paper, and whitewash. However, as a dimension stone, it is unparalleled.
Most marble stones are from limestone, which is primarily white. Pure white marble comes from pure white limestone. However, pure white marble is rare because in the metamorphic process, other substances compromise the color of the protolith (original stone), resulting in off-white or even pink colors, and some veining. That said, the most common color for marble is whitish.
If you come across dark or black marble, chances are it is not marble at all, but a type of limestone. A good example is the Negro Marquina from Spain. It looks like marble, but it is much softer, and will be ruined if you use a crystallizer on it. In other instances, these dark colored marble are not natural stones.
The reason for installing marble in the home is very simple: it is beautiful and elegant. The esthetic factor is the main reason why most people like to have marble countertops, which is not to say they are just for display. Marble countertops are still durable stone despite being porous and relatively soft. With the proper sealing, it can do the job as a work space nicely, and make a hit with home buyers if you plan to sell your home..
Because it is so elegant, marble is guaranteed to increase the value of your home by at least as much as you invest in putting them in. To maximize its effect, you need to be smart about where you put it. Areas that experience little or no traffic yet command a lot of attention from visitors is the perfect place to put your marble surfaces, such as fireplace surrounds, entrance tables, and powder room vanities.
Knowing the problems you are likely to encounter with marble and you still want it for your heavily used areas such as kitchen counters, you should choose a honed finish. Highly polished marble may look more striking, but it is also more likely to show the slightest scratch and stain, even fingerprints. You can avoid many problems with marble if you choose the right finish.
It is also very important to seal your marble surfaces with the right sealer in order to keep your maintenance to a minimum. Marble is porous, so it will absorb liquids like a sponge if it is not sealed. This is particularly true if you use it in the bathroom, where the air is constantly moist, and the kitchen, where food debris that get stuck in the pores can harbor bacterial growth, as well as mold and mildew.
To clean your sealed marble countertops, use mild dishwashing soap, warm water, and a soft cloth to clean it up. Make sure you try it thoroughly after. If you want to disinfect it, you can dilute some bleach in water and use that to wipe down your marble surfaces.
Marble is a rock, but it is a soft rock compared to other dimension stones (with the possible exception of limestone), and it is porous. When you have marble surfaces, make it a habit to wipe up any spills immediately, especially anything acidic or oily, because these will definitely etch and stain your marble anywhere the seal is not intact. These include coffee, tea, any type of citrus fruit juice, toothpaste, perfume, and cosmetics. Tap water also has minerals that can eventually stain marble,
Check out these other tips for preventing damage to your marble:
• Do not use anything abrasive on marble, unless you’re sculpting something on it
• Ammonia will discolor marble, so make sure it is not an ingredient in your cleaner
• Annually resealing is a good idea
• Use only a dry mop on marble floors
• Avoid putting anything pointed, hot, or heavy on it without padding
• Keep anything with metallic or sharp edges from coming in direct contact with the surface
You may be surprised to learn that despite being the material of choice for sculptors, marble slabs for kitchen countertops are actually not the most expensive. Marble countertop prices start from $60 a square foot for the most common marble available locally. Add in installation and other costs, and you can expect to pay upwards of $100 per square foot. The prices go up when you choose rare or imported marble stones, some going for as much as $300 per square foot, not including installation.
If that last fact makes you sad, don’t worry. Even the most common marble colors and patterns are beautiful enough to make any room look much better, so you don’t really have to go out on a limb to get exotic stones if your budget is limited. Keep in mind the overall look of your kitchen and choose the marble that will blend in nicely with it.
Marble is hands-down the most attractive dimensions stone for the home. However, you should keep in mind that it is not always the best choice for certain situations. If you lead a busy life and have no time to go the extra mile for your marble surfaces, then choose it only for areas you don’t use on a daily basis.
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