As our Orchard Project moves forward I need to start thinking about kitchen countertops. I have (forever!) wanted Carrara marble. I even visited Carrara, Italy back in 2015 on a trip with my dad. It’s an amazing place that looks almost like something out of a Star Wars movie with giant white mountains cut into perfect squares. If you’re visiting Tuscany, I highly recommend the half-day trip through the quarries, it’s something you’ll never forget.
So to stay I want Carrara marble is a bit of an understatement, as it even has sentimental value to me. However, I know that marble has it’s pitfalls and I really want to make the right decision for our house. In this post I want to review all of the alternatives to Carrara marble that offer the same look at lower price points and with less maintenance.
I thought I’d include a section about marble to give you a baseline so everything else has something to be compared to. The average cost in our area for marble is $80/sf, which is not cheap. There are different types of marble and the most similar style to Carrara is Calcutta, as they are both white with grey veining (and often mistaken for one another). The easiest way to tell the difference between the two is in the veining. Calcutta marble has thicker veining and Carrara, but less of it. Carrara on the other hand has more veining, but it is much smaller and often described as ‘feather-like.”
Marble typically comes in two different finishes, polished (shiny) or honed (dull). It’s important to know that marble is considered a ‘soft’ stone much like soapstone. This means that it stains and scratches relatively easily. Things like lemon juice, red wine and coffee don’t play well with white marbles. And unlike soapstone, you cannot sand down the stretches and dents because marble has a sealant making that impossible. Bottom line: marble will patina over (a relatively short amount of) time. If you’re ok with this, then go for it! But for those of us who are a little hesitant, here are a few other options…
Quartzite is a naturally occurring stone that’s created when sandstone is exposed to extreme amounts of pressure. It actually costs about the same as marble and in some cases more, coming in at $70/sf to $100/sf. Most quartzite countertops range from white to gray with occasional variations (like pink or red tones), but those are more rare. The look is similar to Carrara marble because of the color, however the way the stone is made (with various layers of pressure resulting in different shades of gray) the look has a more ‘streaky’ effect rather than a ‘feathering’ like marble. Quartzite is harder than marble (and even granite!) and withstands heat, chipping and scratching better than marble – although trivets and cutting boards should always be used just to be safe. Like all natural stone, quartzite does require sealing 1-2 times a year, similar to marble. There are two types of quartzite that have a look similar to Carrara marble…
Victoria Falls Quartzite
Bianco Macabus Quartzite
Most quartz countertops are typically an engineered material made of 95% natural quartz stone and 5% of a polymer risen blended together. Quartz countertops range anywhere from $50/sf to $70/sf. Unlike marble, they do not require monthly polishing, but daily maintenance cleaning is the same as it would be on any countertop with a mild cleaner and non-abrasive sponge. For more difficult spills a degreaser or even Goo-Gone would be fine. Like marble, always use a trivet when removing hot things from the stove or oven. And never use a knife directly on the quartz, as it could scratch (although it is more difficult to scratch than marble). There are many different kinds of quartz that have a Carrara marble look. Below is a small sampling…
Nouveau Calcutta Quartz
Dekton Aura Quartz
Bella Statuario Quartz
Granite is a good choice if you’re looking for something that’s substantially harder and more durable than marble that’s also much less expensive, but still a natural stone. The average cost is $50/sf to $60/sf and since it’s the most popular countertop material in a crowded and competitive market, it is worth shopping around for the best price. As granite is a natural product, there will be some yearly sealing maintenance, but the daily wear and tear should be minimal. Additionally, there are tons of different white granite styles available – I recommend googling ‘white granite’ and clicking on a style that appeals most to you (when I searched about 50 different choices came up). As far as looks go, granite will appear grainy when compared to marble’s feathery look and quartz’s streaky appearance, but the overall dynamic will be similar if you stay within the ‘white’ granites.