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It all begins at the quarry. Granite, onyx, limestone, sandstone, marble, and other stones are mined for a myriad of uses. After slicing, chiseling and polishing, one of the most admired of these stones is marble; often used to enhance home kitchens and baths. It's easy to understand why; it's exquisite, strong, and has an ancient mystique about it. Marble can be used in numerous ways in the home, most frequently as a kitchen counter, a bathroom vanity, or a vessel basin. But is it the right stone for your needs? You should be aware of marble's benefits, as well as some of its quirks.

Everyone longs for marble because it has beautiful, intricate veins running through various colored backgrounds. Its remarkable beauty and durability has made it a premier building, sculpture, and decorative stone throughout time. Just visit a museum.

Marble resists heat. Any pastry chef, amateur or pro, knows that this stone stays cool and therefore makes a great surface for working dough, or even the signature product of a fudge shop.

And, with all this beauty and functionality, depending on its type, marble usually is less expensive than most granite or quartz stones.

But, please understand that marble is semi-porous. It looks quite heavy compared to some stones; but not as dense as others, like granite. It will absorb moisture. That means it can readily stain. If that spill is the least bit acidic, it will certainly etch the surface, creating a visible dull spot when viewed from certain angles, with just the right light.

These inevitable marks can be lessened by sealing the marble. This is not a difficult process, but may be required every six months or so, depending on use. Most manufacturers seal their marble products. Sometimes the company doing the initial installation will seal it. No matter who does the sealing, it is not a cure-all. Regular re-sealing and/or polishing will be needed to restore luster to the surface.

Another concern with marble is its softness; leaving it vulnerable to scratches and chips. Care must be taken not to bang a heavy object against an edge, or to slice foods without a cutting board.

These negative traits lead many experts to advise away from using marble in the kitchen, where spills of all kinds are likely to occur. As a bathroom vanity top, scarring is a little less likely; but only if you clean up after use. Cosmetics, splattered toothpaste, and hard water can leave their mark if not removed quickly.

The best use of marble might be as a bathroom vessel sink. A basin of marble will certainly draw attention and admiration as it rests high upon the vanity. It can be polished to a high gloss or honed to a matte finish; or a combination of both. Many new models are left roughly hewn on their exteriors, in sharp contrast to their smooth interiors. Sealing is usually done at the factory, but can be repeated as necessary. Polishing and the regular use with running water to wash down abusive substances usually keeps maintenance to a minimum.

In the end, marble is a stunner no matter how it's used in the kitchen or bath; but if your personality is one that doesn't tolerate imperfections and a bit of tedious maintenance, another stone may be a better option.