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interiors & styling: Marble Maintenance & The Truth About Natural Stone

I get this question ALL the time, “Why marble, when you can install a look alike product- such as quartz?” For some reason, marble and natural stone gets a bad rep and seems like a scary investment to a lot of homeowners. It etches, it stains, it can be scratched, it changes over time, and naturally patinas as it ages. All of those things sound intimidating, but they’re honestly a big part of why I personally love using natural stone throughout our home. I’ll be the first to say- it’s not for everyone, but I wanted to provide you with a helpful post to weigh the pros, cons, and make an educated decision for yourself! Click through for my thoughts on natural stone, how I live with it on a daily basis, facts (the negative AND positive), and how I care for it- including marble maintenance. I’ve also got a fun quiz at the end of the post for you to take! 

First of all- I’m no stranger to using natural stone. Each of our home renovations has included natural stone materials, such as soapstone, limestone, granite, and marble. Aside from living with natural stone for over a decade, I’ve also visited the quarries where the stone comes from, and have taken multiple interior design courses and continued learning seminars in regards to natural stone. It’s safe to say, I’m well versed in the subject matter and definitely have a personal preference (I’m a natural stone gal through and through)! I wanted to share my knowledge if you’re trying to decide on the best stone or tile for your home.

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Natural stone isn’t the top choice for everyone, but it’s always best to know what to expect before making the investment. I’ve talked about soapstone a lot in the past, so if you’re interested in that specific type of stone, check out the following posts…


NATURAL STONE v. MANUFACTURED PRODUCTS

Let’s begin with a quick comparison of natural stone and man made, or manufactured products, such as quartz! First up, let’s chat about natural stone…

soapstone in our previous kitchen

NATURAL STONE PROS…

  • Aesthetic // Natural stone is one-of-a-kind, beautiful, original, and typically provides a higher-end look.
  • Touch // Natural stone has a really nice hand or feel, and typically regulates temperature better (there is a reason bakers love marble countertops to keep their pastry dough cool).
  • Composition // Natural stone is an organic, natural material that comes directly from nature- specifically, from a quarry. The below photo is an image I took of the Polycor quarry in Georgia. You can see how they cut away to expose and extract the marble slabs.
  • Historic // Natural stone has been around forever and is still just as beautiful today. Have you ever travelled to different (older) areas in the world to admire churches, cathedrals, statues, and other works dating back past the Renaissance? Natural stone certainly has a historic presence and stature.
  • Repair // Natural stone is relatively easy to repair, since it is softer and absorbent. You can pull out stains using a poultice, you can buff, sand, polish, or oil out scratches, and you can even reshape the material or edge profile if it gets chipped.

NATURAL STONE CONS…

  • Maintenance // Natural stone does require regular maintenance. It should be sealed or enhanced once or twice a year, and cleaned properly.
  • Aging Process // While I personally believe the aging process for natural stone makes it better with time, patina often bothers people. Natural stone WILL change throughout its lifetime. It’s just a fact. The areas of your countertops you use most often will look more used eventually.
  • Durability // While natural stones are very durable and have literally withstood the test of time (again, think of those ancient cathedrals), it isn’t as durable as certain man made stones. It is absorbent, “softer”, and prone to etching, staining, and scratching.

Time to move onto manufactured stone products. We’ll use quartz as the primary example in this category, because it’s known as the higher-end, superior man made stone… and is most comparable to natural stone, like granite.

quartz in our first kitchen

QUARTZ PROS…

  • Durability // Quartz is extremely durable, doesn’t stain or scratch, and is totally heat resistant.
  • Maintenance // Quartz requires zero maintenance… no need to worry about sealing or special cleaners.
  • Family Friendly // Quartz is essentially a worry-free material and is very family friendly. You don’t have to worry about spills or accidents.

QUARTZ CONS…

  • Aesthetic // Though technology has come a long way, you can typically spot a man made stone due to its consistency. Imperfections in natural stone add to its beauty, but man made products typically look more perfect and are less varied.
  • Touch // In my personal opinion, quartz does not feel as good, to the touch, as natural stone. It’s pretty ordinary and manufactured feeling… whereas, my soapstone countertops have a velvety touch.
  • Composition // Quartz is a man made product, composed of a variety of materials that are not all-natural or organic. While they are typically not a direct threat to your health, the workers who create them have been known to have serious health complications, called silicosis (for more info, listen to this NPR article).
  • Marketing // Given quartz is a relatively new man made product that is competing with natural stones… it has been marketed as “indestructible.” I’m here to tell you it is not. While it is extremely durable, it can chip. In our first kitchen, pictured above, I chipped the countertop by dropping a glass olive oil bottle onto the radius corner, a week after the counters were installed. I was incredibly bummed and let down. This can happen, but quartz is advertised as indestructible so most people don’t know this is even a possibility.
  • Repair // Quartz is more difficult to repair if it does end up getting scratched or chipped.

MARBLE MAINTENANCE

Marble is probably the most popular natural stone in design these days… and it’s the stone I get the most questions about. Emmett and I have lived with a marble backsplash, plenty of marble countertops, a marble fireplace, marble flooring, a couple marble showers (the basement bath being our most recent renovation), and plenty of marble furniture (both indoors and out).

Before chatting about my personal marble maintenance routine, I want to share the mindset you have to adapt if you’re going to embrace and love marble in your home…

Marble will age, change, patina, and show wear over time. It just will. Remember that a home is meant to be LIVED in- it isn’t a showroom. Patina adds character, tells a story, and definitely makes natural stone better with time. My advice is this… embrace marble for what it is. Holding marble to quartz standards isn’t fair and you’ll be setting yourself up to be disappointed. Love marble for being marble! It’s a pretty special stone.

Alright- hopping off of my (hopefully marble, ha!) soapbox to move into maintenance chat. BTW- that’s me at a marble quarry, pictured above!

  • Seal It // Apply sealer every 6-8 months… I use this one. Sealing marble feels just like cleaning or wiping a surface. It’s incredibly easy, doesn’t take much time, and can be done with a regular sponge.
  • Keep It Clean // Like any other surface in your home, cleaning is important. I use this natural stone cleaner.
  • Lift Stains // Marble is prone to staining, but you can easily remove stains by making a poultice. Mix baking soda and water to create a paste, then smear the paste over the stain, and cover it with plastic wrap to keep the poultice in place. Allow it to sit for 12-24 hours before scraping it off. The stain should have magically disappeared… it’s pretty crazy, but it actually works!
  • Clean Up Messes // I feel like this goes for any surface in your home, but if you spill something or make a mess, clean it up in a timely manner rather than allowing it to sit overnight.
  • Live With It // Lastly, don’t panic when something “messes up” your marble. It’s honestly inevitable and that’s what we call “character”. The first time is always a little difficult, but remember my voice telling you to accept marble for marble! If it really bothers you, keep in mind marble is easy to repair, fix, and polish. Just live with it and embrace it!

These maintenance tips apply to both architectural features (like countertops), as well as marble furniture found throughout your home.

I also want to note that the suggested marble maintenance is the same for all types of marble… from carrara (white and gray marble) to black nero marble, like pictured below in our guest bath!

QUIZ : WHAT TYPE OF STONE FITS YOUR HOME & LIFESTYLE?

Ready for some fun? I created this little graphic quiz, so you could follow the road to the stone that best fits your lifestyle and home! We’ll see how it works. Also… there are no wrong answers here- it’s just for fun! Because I’m partial to natural stone, doesn’t mean that quartz isn’t an amazing option for you. Variety is the spice of life, my friends!

Tell me what stone you got in the comment section below! Do you think the quiz was accurate? If not- I hope it was at least fun? Haha! I’m also happy to answer any questions below. I hope this post was informative and helpful!

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