Marble countertops can be an elegant addition to any space. A timeless classic, marble is a material of renowned luxury that can transform the feel of any space in your home. Deciding to go with marble can be a big choice, it can require more maintenance than other types of stone and it is not cheap. Yet, the benefits of marble are undeniable. It’s clean and crisp aesthetic, subtle modeling, and elegant depth have yet to be truly replicated by any man-made alternative. To the trained eye, there simply is no substitute. Regardless of why you choose to install this iconic surface, simply selecting “marble” for your project won’t do. You’ll need to consider the type of marble as well.
Italy’s mountains have long been the source of the opulent, world-famous stone. Italian marble has long been the choice for artistic and architectural mediums from sculptures and cathedrals to flooring and countertops. There are two main types of Italian marble, Carrara and Calacatta, so which of the two should you use to furnish your space?
Let’s look at Italian marble and decide if Carrara marble or Calacatta marble is better for your project.
Originally sourced in the Italian Alps, Carrara marble is the most common type of marble in the world. This type of marble is named for Carrara, Italy, a mountainous city in sun baked Tuscany. Carrara is known for its subtle grey appearance and softer veins and its status as the most abundant marble on the market makes it more affordable than other, less easily obtained varieties. Like every natural stone, no two slabs of Carrara will be identical in aesthetic and depending on the quarry from which the marble is obtained, the look from slab to slab can be stunningly different. Add to the fact that India has become a major exporter of “Carrara” marble and you’ll understand why so many various shades and patterns of Carrara are available to choose from. Understood broadly, Carrara should come in at a more appealing price point than Calacatta and if you take your time, you should be able to locate the perfect slab for your project.
Like Carrara, Calacatta is also quarried throughout the various mountain ranges of Italy and the difference is simply in the look which is a result of the specific geographic area of formation. Calacatta marble is less widely available than Carrara and as such you should expect to pay more. In addition, Calacatta marble is known for a bright white base color and thick, well-defined veining. Another popular feature of Calacatta marble is the wide variety of colors that can appear in the marble’s veining. You’ll find shades of grey, gold and even tones of blue and aqua. It’s a rare marble and can often run twice the cost of its Carrara cousin.
WHICH IS EASIER TO MAINTAIN?
Marble has a well-deserved reputation of being difficult to maintain. Marble is a calcareous stone formed over time and through the accumulation and compaction of calcium carbonate. Put simply, it’s like a really compacted chalk. It lacks the hardness of stones like Granite which are formed through an igneous process of intense heat and pressure. Marble can easily stain and scratch and if you drop a cast-iron pan on it, expect it to chip. But back to the topic… when comparing Calacatta marble and Carrara Marble, is one more durable than the other?
Unfortunately, across the board, marble is a high maintenance stone. Regardless, of what type you choose you must be ready to re-seal your surface to protect against acidic liquids that can etch through the seal and seep into the pours of the stone. The two types of marble will perform the same so the most important consideration you can make when selecting either option is, what type of household do you live in? Do you throw frequent house parties? Are you a wine enthusiast? Do you have children that blow through the house like a hurricane? If so, maybe you should look elsewhere. Marble is better suited for the “museum curators” among us.
IS THERE A DIFFERENCE IN PRICE?
Marble is a material synonymous with refinement, and refinement comes at a cost. Marble is not a cheap material, yet, the price of marble can vary based on the type you choose to install. Like many natural materials, the cost of marble is dependent on its availability. Carrara marble is the most common type of marble and its price reflects that. It is considered to be the marble for the masses and is in high supply in here in the United States, though as we mentioned above, the quality from slab to slab is highly variable and can play into the cost. Carrara marble typically ranges from $75 to $100 per square foot installed so by no means is it an affordable option in the grand scheme of stone surfacing. On the other hand, Calacatta marble is the lap of luxury. Calacatta is far rarer than Carrara marble resulting in a higher cost per square foot. It’s probably the most sought-after stone in the world so prices can run as high as $250 per square foot.
WHICH IS BETTER FOR HIGH-USE AREAS?
Marble is a popular choice for kitchen and bathroom surfaces (definitely not for the kid’s bath though!). The regal, spa-like essence of marble can outweigh the constant maintenance associated with the material and since we’ve already established that both Carrara and Calacatta perform comparably as a surface, the question of which one to use in your high-use areas is more a question of theory than practice. We’ll explain…
While neither is a very durable material, the darker complexion of Carrara marble makes it slightly harder to see wear and tear. In fact, it’s the less defined veining and patterns associated with Carrara that help hide unsightly scratches and minor stains such as water marks. The cracks, scratches, and stains that can plague marble countertops are much more apparent on the pure, white surfaces of a Calacatta marble countertop. The good news is that stone-care products exist to not only protect your marble from staining but also remove stains. We’ve yet to see a stain completely removed by some of these products but they can certainly lessen the severity. Ultimately, the question may be, can you better stomach a stain on a $75/sf countertop or a $150/sf countertop? Believe it or not, some people insist the stains on a marble countertop add character to the surface, almost as if the history of a household is recorded right there in the stone for all to see. We, however, think that some clever countertop salesperson came up with that.
In conclusion, the choice between Carrara and Calacatta marble comes down to the following factors: price and aesthetic. If you have the budget and if your design calls for it, you can be certain your house guests will swoon over your Calacatta marble counters. If you’re looking for a countertop that completes the look of your elegant design but would prefer to spend your budget on other aspects of your interior, go with Carrara marble.