Granite vs. Marble: Pros and Cons

We're comparing two of the most popular natural stone countertop materials, granite and marble, to help you decide which one best fits the needs of your busy kitchen.

Modern White Kitchen with White Marble Backsplash

Modern White Kitchen with White Marble Backsplash

Marble countertops bring an elegant look to any kitchen, but they're susceptible to stains and scratches. Read on to learn how marble stacks up to granite.

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Photo by: Jennifer Boomer/Verbatim Photo Agency

Jennifer Boomer/Verbatim Photo Agency

Marble countertops bring an elegant look to any kitchen, but they're susceptible to stains and scratches. Read on to learn how marble stacks up to granite.

Natural stone is a good choice for updating your home's kitchen and bathroom countertops. It lends beauty to the room, is available in a wide range of colors, can be customized to nearly any shape and size, and is easy to blend with any type of home decor, making it versatile no matter what the style of your home is.

Granite and marble are the most popular choices when it comes to natural stone countertops. There are pros and cons to using each material, so it's just a matter of deciding what’s right for your needs as well as your budget. Marble, for example, is elegant in appearance, while granite offers a more natural look. Both options can be costly, with marble generally being more expensive than granite, and their size and weight typically require professional installation.

While granite and marble share many common characteristics, they are very different in appearance and function. Let’s look closer at the good and bad of the two most popular options in the stone countertop arena.

Granite at a Glance

The Good:

  • Less expensive
  • Lots of colors and styles
  • Very durable
  • Less maintenance
  • Heat-resistant

The Bad:

  • Composition varies in different slabs
  • Potential to stain
  • Susceptible to scratches

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Marble at a Glance

The Good:

  • Elegant vein patterns
  • Lots of colors and styles
  • Heat-resistant

The Bad:

  • More expensive
  • Not as durable
  • Susceptible to staining and scratches
  • Requires more maintenance

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Appearance

Marble is metamorphic or sedimentary in origin, with a smooth surface typically striated with veins of minerals. Some marble is quartz-based, while others are composed of serpentine, a greenish mineral. Commercial marble is typically available in variations of black and white.

Granite is metamorphic or igneous, made up of silica, mica, feldspar and quartz, generally with a packed, granular surface. Color varies from light to dark, presented in flecks, veins or solid patterns.

Keep in mind that appearance in both types of stone varies between slabs depending on its natural source and cut location.

Installation

When it comes to installing granite or marble countertops, both types of stone are installed the same way, starting with a template transferred to a slab, which is then cut to fit and finished. The slab is set into place (directly onto cabinets or a plywood substrate) and secured with silicone adhesive. Holes for sinks and faucets must be cut, and these stone slabs are tough to handle. Both tasks should be performed by a professional.

Maintenance

All natural stone requires different levels of maintenance, and homeowners should remain vigilant to the condition of their bathroom or kitchen countertops. In general, granite is very durable, stain-resistant and lower maintenance than marble. Granite should be sealed after installation, and if done properly, water will bead on the surface. Resealing should be completed every year to ensure a solid and efficient surface.

Minor scratches or even small chips can be repaired with stone epoxy. Note, however, that very busy or hardworking kitchens may need extra attention.

Marble should be thoroughly and regularly protected with a sealant designed specifically for porous stone surfaces. Keep in mind that marble’s composition is naturally prone to stain, even if sealed, so be sure to clean up spills as they happen. Acidic liquids, such as lemon juice, tomato sauce and citrus are unfriendly to marble and can etch into the stone.

Long-Term Durability

While it’s easy to believe that all stone by nature is super strong and nearly indestructible, it’s important to know the full story. Granite and marble are both very durable but must be sealed at least annually to ensure liquids do not gradually seep into the stone. Granite and marble are resistant to heat, but you should always be careful (i.e. don’t set red-hot pans directly on the countertop surface). Granite is a harder stone than marble and holds up better to chips and scratches.

Cost

While definitely not a cheap countertop option, the look and endurance of stone make it well worth the cost. Granite is less expensive than marble, starting at roughly $75/square foot installed and $100 more than that for higher-end stone. Installed marble countertops start at around $100/square foot and can go over $200. Prices fluctuate, so check your local supplier for up-to-date prices.

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