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What to look for when selecting marble for your kitchen.

When selecting a material for your kitchen countertops, among the traditional granite and laminate options is marble. Marble is created by the physical or chemical alteration of sediment into a denser form through heat and/or pressure. The resulting rock has a crystalline nature enabling it to take a polish. It also has veins of mineral deposits that pattern it, no two slabs are exactly alike.

While not as hard as its metamorphic cousin granite (which comes from deeper in the earth where it’s exposed to more heat), marble is not as soft as soapstone. It generally has a low abrasion rating, meaning it scratches quite easily. The stone’s chemical makeup (calcium carbonate) makes it particularly sensitive to acidic solutions, which can result in etching on the surface (see below to learn to manage this). On the plus side, marble is heat resistant, strong, and generally doesn’t chip or dent which makes it a great selection for using in your kitchen or on a kitchen island.

But what exactly should you look for and have ready when purchasing marble for your kitchen?

Buying marble can be a time-consuming and complicated process. Advance preparation and research are key. Before starting the selection process, consider getting help from a fabrication professional and working closely with your contractor. Some additional tips:

Know your size specifications. Marble is purchased in slabs that are already finished and cut to a certain thickness. Most slabs are 0.75- to 1.25-inches thick, though thicker cuts are available. That said, those wanting an extra-wide counter are often advised to laminate the edge of the slab with a piece of marble to achieve the thick look (while keeping the cost and weight under control).

Do your research. There are a lot of choices; entering the warehouse with an idea of the color and the amount of patterning you’re after will make the process faster and more focused. Understand, however, that marble is a natural product and can’t be ordered to exact color and patterning specs.

Give yourself plenty of time to take in all the local options. Unless you’re willing to buy sight unseen (not recommended), or drive considerable distances, marble purchases are limited to what’s on hand at your local stone supplier’s warehouse.

Pricing is not transparent, so ask the salesperson how the pricing works. This is not the grocery aisle; slabs are not affixed with price tags. Many suppliers have price bands that will help you narrow your search; final pricing is typically worked out via your fabricator working with the supplier.

Ask if the marble should be sealed.

The short answer to whether marble should be sealed is yes. Because of its porous nature and vulnerability to acids, sealing marble used for countertops is an almost certain must. Perfectionists take note: Even with a sealer, the stone will absorb stains over time and develop a patina (which many people like). There are two types of sealants: topical and penetrating.