One of the main components of the Brooklyn kitchen renovation I am working on is white stone countertops of some sort. In the Sheila Bridges inspiration photos, heck, all of our inspiration photos, the counters are white marble. My clients are amazing cooks – or shall we say “he” is an amazing cook – a hard working and hard wearing cook – who doesn’t always worry about spills along the way. Their current counter is a dark man-made material, so there has been no need to worry about wiping up that turmeric right away or stressing over the coffee and red wine served daily. That said, spills against a dark surface don’t show so you don’t feel as prompted to wipe them up immediately. The “she” of the household is a wonderful baker and marble counters are perfect for rolling out dough. So while we love the look of white marble countertops, and know they are great for baking, we worry whether they are actually functional for cooking? Won’t they stain, etch, show every little imperfection? Don’t they demand slavish care?
In the home decorating world these questions rank up there with other biggies like “What is the meaning of life?”
As a result, many have addressed this topic already and addressed it very well. The folks over at Apartment Therapy have wrestled with it numerous times and have hundreds of pro and con comments on their site. A low-key looking site called The Garden Web is an outstanding source of information with numerous threads on the topic (for instance here,). Searching the web I found amazing posts such as the one from Greg at The Petch House (he’s restoring an 1895 Victorian) in which he tests a piece of marble, both sealed and unsealed, with the its classic nemeses – red wine, acidic fruit and tomato sauce. Two years later, he reports that his counters have held up extremely well without a lot of special care.
So while white marble has a bad rap as being hard to care for, my instincts tell me that while this can be true, it can’t be the whole truth. Marble has been used for centuries for counters, tables and floors and held up extremely well during that time. Personally, a little patina makes everything better in my book. Research around the web, particularly the many first hand accounts in this vein on Garden Web…
“You need to do a search on Marble threads in this forum – there are MANY of us who have marble countertops (mostly honed) and LOVE them and have no staining issues at all.”
…make me optimistic about considering a white marble. Marble is simply calcium carbonate, just like chalk, but in a compressed and crystallized form. It’s the calcium in it that makes it easily etched by acid. But it does seem that sealants have come a long way in the last few years in preventing etching and staining. Honing the counter which is the matte finish I prefer, rather than polishing it to a shine, also helps in the battle against marks.
But before we rush into the choice, it’s a big enough decision that full research is necessary. As I am not a geologist, it has taken me a while to understand the differences between marble, granite, quartzite and manmade quartz materials such as Silestone, Cambria and Caesarstone. Granite is the hardest of the stones and the most resistant to staining and etching. But it doesn’t come in a true white and tends to be very busy and speckled, as opposed to veined. Quartzite is a metamorphic rock formed from sandstone and tends to be white and greys. It is more stain resistant than marble, but has been known to etch if calcium is present and it is unsealed. That said, when sealed it looks to be a very good option. The different brands of engineered quartz all seem good and hold up to the staining and etching tests, but they look artificial to my eye, certainly in a more traditional kitchen. Cate at Girl Cooks World has done a fantastic (and very recent) post comparing many of the stone and stone like options currently available out there, but we will need to go see them all in person ourselves.
Even after choosing the material we want, in the end, the choice will come down to seeing the exact slab for this kitchen. The variations in the marbles and quartz are so extreme that samples are only indicative, not conclusive. One Garden Web forum poster chose to use Bianco Macabus quartzite because of this exact slab at their stone yard. I can see why.
I’ll keep you up to date on what we discover, but I am hoping to hear from all of you too. The comments on my previous post about the sink and faucet were so helpful.