Natural stone is a great addition to any home renovation project. From flooring to kitchen or bathroom countertops, stone can add an elegant look and even increase the resale value of your home. When choosing a finish for you home, there are several choices, with granite and marble being two of the top ones. So, what’s the difference?
On This Page
- Flooring & Countertop Care
- Installation & DIY
- Hardness, Strength, & Durability
- Repair & Maintenance
- Environmentally Friendly
- Moisture Resistance
- Heat Resistance
- Resale Value
- Which is Best For…
- Vs. Quartz
- Compared to Vitrified Tiles & Travertine
- Top Stone Fabricators
Granite: Types, Geology, & Uses
Granite forms when magma cools slowly underground allowing large crystals of individual minerals to develop. These crystals are what gives it its characteristic grains of color. Quartz, potassium feldspar, mica, and amphiboles are what primarily comprise it along with other trace minerals.
It can come in a variety of colors
- White is the most common choice. It will contain flecks or veins of color to give it some character.
- Green or Blue slabs are available and add an eye-catching accent to your kitchen or bathroom.
- Brown Fantasy is one of the more popular colors, it is white with translucent gray swirls. Each slab will be unique, so work with your supplier to find one you like.
In home construction and remodeling, this material is popular in countertops for bathrooms and kitchens, as well as flooring.
Marble: Types, Geology, & Uses
Marble begins as limestone subjected to intense heat and pressure that recrystallizes the calcite and changes the texture of the rock. The process incorporates other minerals which give it its color and characteristic veining. The main component is calcium carbonate which is softer than the minerals that make up granite.
Here are some common types of marble:
- Carrara – the most commonly used type. Has a similar cost to granite.
- Calacatta – rarer and more expensive . Has darker veining in large, thick patterns. Typically considered more luxurious and is therefore more expensive.
- Emperador – originating in Spain, it comes in varying shades of brown.
- Crema Marfil – also originating in Spain, it can have a light beige or yellowish color. There is wide market availability for this type, making it a popular choice.
It has a wide variety of uses in the home including countertops, flooring, backsplashes, window and flooring trim, and accent furniture or statuary.
Slab vs. Tile
In construction, natural stone takes one of two forms.
- Slab refers to large pieces used to cover an entire countertop or other area. Typically, they are custom cut for countertops so that there will be no seams.
- Tiles are small, uniform pieces laid side by side to cover a space. Installers often use them for flooring because of the larger area to be covered. Countertops and backsplashes also use tiles with grout lines visible between each piece.
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Which is Better for Countertops, Flooring, or Tables?
- Pros– There is a wider variety of colors available including whites, pinks, and reds, as well as more exotic and darker colors.
- Cons– It is becoming more commonplace in new construction and renovation and is sometimes considered less luxurious. Also, if you pick an unusual color it may become less popular over time.
- Pros– If you’re wanting a classic, timeless look, then this is the choice. With its elegant veining and rich, deep feel, marble will bring class and beauty to any space.
- Cons– There are fewer color choices here; mostly whites and off-whites. There can be some variation in the colors of the veining. Other colors are available, but may be difficult to find in slabs large enough for countertops.
Most Luxurious Look: Marble
- Granite runs in the $40-$100 per square foot range. Unusual colors and larger slabs can push the price up. To reduce cost, smaller pieces or tiles can be more affordable.
- Marble ranges from $50-$150 per square foot installed. Calacatta and other rare types can be more expensive than the more common Carrara. Also, the size and shape of the slab can affect the cost.
For the Cost-Conscious Consumer: Granite
Do not use regular household cleaners as they can dull the finish of both granite and marble. Also, do not use abrasive cleaners or cleaning implements. Clean stone flooring with mild soap and water.
Take care to not place furniture or plant pots on your stone flooring that will scratch them. Add felt or rubber pads to furniture legs and use rubber mats under pots.
Winner: Tie. Same Treatment for Both Materials
- Pros– Can last a long time if properly cared for with simple but frequent cleaning.
- Cons– Needs regularly cleaning with mild soap and water. Spills left sitting eventually absorb into the stone and cause staining. Oil based liquids are especially bad for staining. Abrasive cleaners can scratch and dull the finish.
- Pros– Can also last for years with simple but frequent cleaning.
- Cons– It is more prone to staining and etching so wipe spills up quickly. Clean with products designed specifically for natural stone. Never use abrasive cleaners.
Best for Ease of Care: Granite
All types of natural stone get installed basically in the same way. The main difference is whether you are using slabs or tiles.
- Pros– This is usually a cheaper option. Tiles are better for experienced DIYers. They’re are a great option for natural stone flooring and come in a variety of sizes.
- Cons– If you’re using them on a countertop, the grout lines can take away from the overall look of the natural stone.
- Pros– When properly installed, it will have minimal seams and a consistent look.
- Cons– Installing them yourself is not recommended. Reinforcement of your cabinets may be necessary to hold the weight. Also, a mistake in measurement can be costly. Transporting and moving the slab into place requires special equipment. Slabs are too thick for flooring in most cases.
DIY Winner: Granite or Marble Tiles.
- Pros– The material is a hard stone that resists chipping and cracking. It also stands up well to the wear introduced on flooring in areas of high traffic. It can resist scratches from kitchen implements, though the surface should not become a cutting board.
- Cons– There is still the possibility of chipping if hard objects fall on it. Countertop edges and corners are areas that are especially vulnerable to chipping. Rounded edges on counters can help alleviate this risk.
- Pros– Like all-natural stone, it will last a long time if you take care not to damage it.
- Cons– It is softer than other stone and is prone to scratching and chipping. Acidic foods can etch the surface, making it appear dull.
- Pros– You can repair small chips or scratches can with a DIY epoxy kit found at most hardware stores. Repaired chips are less visible because of the natural flecked pattern.
- Cons– Requires resealing against moisture every year or two years. Large cracks will require professional help.
- Pros– DIY kits are available for repairing chips.
- Cons– Repaired chips may be more visible against the natural pattern. You will need to hire someone for large repairs or resurfacing when damaged. Twice yearly sealing is necessary.
Easiest to Repair & Maintain: Granite
Mining, transporting and preparing large fragments of natural stone requires a substantial amount of fuel and energy. For this reason, neither are commonly considered environmentally friendly. However, sometimes you can rescue a piece of recycled stone or use remnant stone if you are willing to be a little flexible with color and/or size. Using previously owned stone will stop it from ending up in the landfill.
Most Environmental Choice: It’s a Tie
- Pros– When polished well and sealed with a compound, it’s resistant to moisture and staining.
- Cons– The sealant can wear down over time making the stone more susceptible to moisture wicking. Moisture absorbed by the stone can cause staining. Water left sitting too long may even cause some discoloration. Reapply sealant every two to three years.
- Pros– When sealed, it’s also resistant to moisture.
- Cons – Regular sealing is necessary. Manufacturers recommend reapplying sealant twice per year. It’s is especially susceptible to acidic liquids, which can damage the polished surface; a process called “etching” that leaves the once glossy surface dulled.
Most Wet-Proof: Granite
- Pros– Due to its formation through the cooling of molten rock, it’s very heat resistant. A hot pot placed on a countertop will not discolor the stone.
- Cons– There is a small possibility of cracking due to thermal shock. Use a trivet.
- Pros– Can handle some heat.
- Cons– Prone to discoloration from hot pots or still warm hair appliances laying on it. You should take care to not place hot items down without a trivet or other barrier. Cracking from thermal shock is also a possibility.
Better for Handling Heat: Granite
- Pros– Natural stone will add value to your home, usually recovering 100% or more than the cost of its installation when it comes time to sell.
- Cons– There is some in the real estate industry that say it has become more commonplace and even expected in new home construction or renovation and therefore may be losing its edge as a high-end finish. Also, if you choose a dark or an unusual color, there is the possibility of it going out of style. Stick with whites or neutrals if you want to maintain the value in the future.
- Pros– Countertops, flooring, and accents made from this beautiful and classic stone will give your home and elegant feel which reflects in its value at sale time.
- Cons– To maintain the value of the marble, you will have to make sure you keep up with the care. Worn looking or damaged marble will not provide the same resale value as when first installed. Also, if buyers are aware of the care it requires, it may put them off.
Best for Resale Value: Close Enough to be a Tie!
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Either stone works well for bathroom countertop applications. Because it won’t normally face spills from acidic foods, the bathroom is a great place to leverage marble, although you will have to make sure that you keep it sealed to resist the moisture that it will face.
Granite is the better choice for kitchens. With its resistance to heat and higher tolerance for acidic food spills, it will continue to look good and require less diligent care than marble. Marble is an option, but make an informed choice understanding that it will require more frequent care and a diligence in wiping up spills.
Depending on the traffic flow, either stone could be a good choice for flooring. Use granite in hallways and entryways where there is a lot of pass through traffic due to its durability. In lower traffic areas, like a bathroom, the look of marble adds an elegant touch.
Marble has been used to make decorative furniture for thousands of years. For a great looking accent piece, it really shines. If it’s a table you’re going to eat or prepare food on, granite is a better choice.
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Quartz, although a natural stone, cannot be found in nature in the large blocks or slabs like other natural stone. Quartz used for countertops comes from crushed rock mixed with resin and then formed into slabs. Caesarstone is one of the top suppliers of quartz in the US. Unlike other natural stone, quartz countertops are non-porous and therefore will not stain. Quartz is stronger than granite because of its flexibility, which makes it resistant to cracking.
Travertine, like marble, is a naturally occurring limestone. However, it is softer and will not hold a shine, but rather settle to a matte finish. It is suitable for flooring and fireplace surrounds, but not typically used in countertops.
Vitrified tiles, on the other hand, are man-made from clay, porcelain, or ceramic. They are non-porous and non-staining and are an economical alternative to natural stone.
Finding a good stone fabricator/supplier is critical when looking to add either material in your home. It’s imperative that you do your research to locate a company in your area with an excellent reputation. Don’t shy away from doing background checks and calling references. A good supplier will walk you through the ins and outs of selecting the right stone for your home and will be there through the installation process.
|Popular Granite Suppliers||Popular Marble Suppliers|
|Helios||USA Marble & Granite|
|Granite Granite Inc.||Southland Stone|
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