The differences between marble and quartz, for instance, are varied and complex, with each material excelling in different applications and under different conditions. The choice between engineered or natural surfaces is more than an issue of performance; it’s still about the look.
Today we’ll take a look at quartz vs marble, offer some comparisons, plus give you some examples of how the two materials play best together.
Organic vs uniformQuartz is a good choice when designs call for consistency and uniformity like in kitchens with ultra modern lacquered cabinetry. The unbroken surface of say a high polished gray or white quartz has a sleek formal appearance. It’s also available in a wide variety of shades.
It’s also a good foil for a marble or granite island with an activated vein pattern. Or as a pairing for a unique handcrafted material like Vetrazzo’s crushed glass slabs. Here the uniformity of perimeter counters allows the upper bar top to stand out as a feature.
Vetrazzo recycled glass countertop in Martini Flint. Design by Stephanie Rothbauer.
In designs where you’re looking for an organic quality, the natural variations of veining in American marble like Georgia Marble - Pearl Grey® work to support a natural feel. Like the figuring in a live edge wood slab, the vein pattern in a slab of US marble, for instance, is completely unique to that piece. Each block of marble from the quarry has its own character, not a predefined print pattern. If that’s your kitchen island, there will never be another one just like it.
Some quartz manufacturers like Caesarstone have developed countertops to mimic the veining (though not the depth) of natural marble. Whether they achieve a convincing effect is in the eye of the viewer. Obviously for us as quarrier of natural stone, we find the luxury of a material lies in it’s authentic, naturally occurring characteristics. Because marble is made of minerals, by the earth and for the earth, it has an internal crystal structure that gives the surface depth and dimension - you can literally look into the stone and see its layers. (Given the choice between the stone and a picture of stone, I’d take the real thing.)
The feel and depth of genuine marble, and the uniqueness in it's natural arrangement of veining, are incomparable
This especially appeals to clients who are art collectors or who want to curate a home with bespoke fixtures and furnishings. April Graves of Aria Stone Gallery in Texas told shared with us that her clients are now designing entire living spaces around one showpiece slab of natural stone, and even hanging it as art. You could do the same with quartz, but the difference is like walking into a gallery to choose an artist’s unique piece or buying a screen print at TJ Maxx. With quartz surfaces, they are printed each one exactly like the one before.
Stamped artificial veining of quartz slabs can come off as contrived, and redundant - not to mention copied by many new manufacturers coming into the market.
Texture of course is a consideration with spec’ing a countertop material. Both honed and polished finishes can be achieved with marble and quartz (though the usually stain and scratch resistant quartz is prone to staining and scratching with a honed finish). Where natural look and feel are a priority, marble tends to win out for it’s touchability - a honed marble countertop feels and looks like a wind-worn rock.
Durability of marble countertops compared to quartz counterops
The durability of marble versus quartz is probably one of the most misunderstood subjects to those inside and outside the trade.Marble is luxurious, but requires maintenance. True. But does its need for maintenance mean it’s fragile or impractical? Actually, no.
Back to our illustration of the Sunday supper. That red wine and tomato sauce (and lemon juice too) can stain or etch marble are known facts. However, there are some marbles that stand up better than others to acidic agents and more forgiving when selected with honed or antiqued finishes. For this post I’ll be referring specifically to US marble which has a higher resistance to stains than Italian or Turkish marble.
Here’s why:Every material has its own absorption rate. It’s a good indicator of how quickly something will penetrate the surface. The lower the absorption rate, the more density it has, and the more time to wipe up spills.
Granite for instance has a very low absorption rate, which makes a good choice for any surface. Quartz also has a low absorption rate because it’s engineered surface is made with a resin made from petrochemicals. Marble is known for staining because when left unsealed many varieties can absorb liquids more quickly. American marbles like Pearl Grey and White Cherokee are an exception though. Their crystalline make-up gives them an absorption rate of just .09, and that’s before a sealer. Quartz is a manufactured surface and therefore doesn’t need a sealer.
And quartz is durable. True. But does durable mean indestructible? Again, no.
There are two things that can damage quartz irreparably - direct sunlight and heat. Any exposure to direct sunlight and high UV rays will cause it to yellow, warp and discolor. Similarly a very hot pot placed on its surface can scorch, burn it or sear an impression of the bottom of a hot pan into its surface.
There’s no cleaner for that.
Quartz is harder than marble, and that it’s surface is resistant to scratching is well known. Lesser known is its lack of dimensional strength which can place limitations on design. For instance, in quartz surfaces inside radius corners (anywhere there is a directional change in the stone, like sinks and L-shape or U-shape counters) must be rounded to maintain their integrity. Where the intersecting angles come together, if they are left too square (at 90 degrees), there's an inherent weak portion that results which can crack and break. If your design calls for a zero radius, square sink it can void the warranty on the quartz. Marble can be left square and not have weak spots because there is less surface tension. Both marble and quartz can chip on the edges as well, neither are immune to that depending on the situation.
So where does granite come in to all this?
In the quartz vs granite vs marble discussion granite is tried and true with a definite stronghold in the comparison. Like quartz, and often times more so, granite has incredible density (typically more than marble). Being igneous, formed from incredible geologic heat and pressure over millions of years, it is one of nature's hardest materials. It is chemical-free and has no embodied carbon because it was made by the earth. Whereas quartz requires the addition of petroleum-based resin to artificially bind the quartz particles together, granite and marble have a crystalline structure naturally bound together by the forces of nature. Granite should be sealed as a preventative (an ounce of preservation is worth a pound of cure concept), but only once a year at the most - a half hour job tops.
Ultra-thin slabs for wall and floor installs
Marble and quartz both can be produced in ultra-thin slabs for cabinet facing and modern look countertops, full slab showers and backsplashes. Currently Polycor is the only company producing ultra-thin natural stone slabs in 1 cm thickness that also have a reinforced back which gives them 10x flexural strength.
An ultra-thin marble kitchen countertop in GEORGIA MARBLE.- WHITE CHEROKEE®.
Appropriately spec’ed, US marble, granite and engineered quartz can be beautiful, durable materials for kitchens and baths. Knowing their strengths and limitations can help you tailor your design to your client’s lifestyle without restricting your design based on myths of material choices.
Now instead of asking, “What are you cooking and how often do you clean?” you can ask, “What’s the look you want to achieve?”
For more details on all of Polycor's American marbles, download our spec sheet catalog.