Hi friends! This post has been a long time coming because, over the years, I’ve gotten so many questions about our carrara marble counters. Y’all wanted to know how do we like them; how do we keep them clean; have they scratched and stained; and would we get them again? Today, I answer all your questions and share our experience getting them restored recently.
Let me start by shouting from the rooftops that I love our marble counters! When we were building our home seven years ago, one thing I dreamed of was having gorgeous white carrara marble counters in the kitchen. The townhouse we lived in before had a teeny dark kitchen with black granite counters and dark brown cabinets. I fantasized about having a light, bright kitchen with white cabinets and natural carrara marble counters. Here is the first post I wrote about our new kitchen back in 2010!
I knew that carrara marble didn’t have the best reputation for being easy to care for and maintain, but my heart swayed me anyway. Truthfully, carrara marble counters are especially beautiful. Ours have gorgeous grey veining and are nice and bright, reflecting the natural light in the room. They are such a quality material that feels cool to the touch and still look great . . . if you don’t look too closely or from a certain angle across the room!
I knew from early on that I couldn’t be too precious with these counters because we had a life to live and a young child. I wanted a kitchen that could work for us and that we wouldn’t have to treat with kid gloves. So, I knew that I had to be okay with the scratches and stains and etch marks and water marks.
I didn’t even think about the fact that we’d be banging pots and pans on the counters by the sink, so there are lots of small chip marks there.
The big dent on the right of the sink (we must have really hit that hard with a heavy pot) was sanded smooth during our refinishing process.
Right after we moved in, a mimosa glass was left on the counter and it created a ring stain where the drink ate away at the counter. But, like all good things that age, it reminds me of that fun Easter brunch where that happened and James was just a baby then, so it kind of gives me that warm fuzzy memory when I see that stain. Kind of like when you get a scar on your body. You remember how that happened and it makes you part of who you are.
The scratches below were new. Unlike our fond mimosa ring, no one in our whole house has any knowledge of how these big scratches happened. Trust me, I’ve interrogated and their lips are sealed and I don’t even think water torture could get them to talk. Generally speaking, you shouldn’t get deep scratches like this unless there’s something sharp being pulled against the counter.
Even though some of our counter ‘imperfections’ are associated with fond memories, I’m all for a little maintenance! After 7 years of really not being careful with our counters, I wanted to see if there was anything that could be done to improve all the marks left because, even after wiping them clean, they still appeared dirty when you look from certain angles.
Our marble is polished, but wasn’t sealed.
Honed means the surface of the stone has been ground to a smooth, flat, consistent surface. For stones with a natural shine such as granite or marble, the polish or shine is removed leaving a matte (unpolished) surface with little to no reflection and no bumps or ridges. It is fairly porous and natural looking; the color will be visibly lighter than a polished finish. A honed finish may be preferred for floors, stairs and other areas that must easily withstand foot traffic.
A polished finish has a highly reflective surface, which will display the vibrancy of the stone’s colors as well as the “character” of the stone. The texture is very smooth and is not very porous. The full color, depth, and crystal structure is visible with a polished finish. It’s also easier to keep a polished stone with clean and free of stains because its seal closes the pores of the stone’s surface and repels moisture.
Most contractors don’t seal the
surfaces they install for various reasons. Primarily, it cannot be done until at
least 3 days following the installation, which means they’d have to come back. Most do not offer a protection service, so they don’t inform customers of the importance of the process.
If you want to seal your marble yourself with a store-bought sealer, I’ve heard it’s difficult to get an even application and that it can wash off easily with general maintenance products. Further, it may only protect against water-based stains.
It is possible to have your marble counters restored or refinished, which will help lift the appearance of stains, etch marks, chips, scratches and cracks.
The process begins by having the countertop sanded with resin diamond pads. Next, the countertop is buffed using a marble polishing paste to get a shiny finish (sealer is also applied to protect the countertop from stains). Finally, sealer is also used.
I looked online for a local company to come out and give us an evaluation and estimate for restoring our counters. The company had a great website and the person that came out seemed very knowledgeable about the whole process. He explained that it would take an entire day to complete the work and that they would spend hours just sealing off the kitchen from the rest of the house because as they do the sanding, fine particles get into the air and spread easily, making a mess.
Since we just got a new marble breakfast table, I asked for a quote to refinish all the kitchen counters and to seal the table. That company measured the counter surfaces and multiplied it by some figure and quoted me $3,000 to do all the refinishing work and seal the table. Ouch. But, maybe this is one of those situations where you get what you pay for.
My mom actually encouraged me to get a second opinion to see if we could find a less expensive option. So, I reached out to a friend that is a home builder and he recommended someone else, who came out, evaluated the counters and said he could do the job for $1,400. He cautioned me that they wouldn’t be perfect, but that they would be greatly improved. And I remember that the first person said that too, so I went with the lower quote.
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On the day of the job, I had to obviously clear everything from the counters so they could do the work. To make a long story short, there was a big improvement after they were done. The water marks, scratches and etching were barely visible at all. I can barely find the mimosa mark now.
But later, I realized there were big patches of sanding marks left on the counter under the glass shelving that were still visible. In particular, there was one big spot, probably 18 inches x 18 inches that you could see big sanding marks.
We ended up having to call a third company out to come and fix those portions of the work, but thankfully, we were reimbursed those costs from the original refinisher, so we didn’t have to come out of pocket.
Bottom line is ask for referrals from customers! I wish I would have done this up front. I found our beloved painter, Ruben, by asking around on Facebook for a recommendation and he came highly recommended from my friend. He painted Jordan’s nursery, the trim in my office, my closet, some of our doors and repainted the downstairs.
In retrospect, the first $3,000 company may have been the best choice because he probably would have done the job right the first time and we ended up being out three days and a headache trying to get our job done right. It’s a pretty loud process with the machine and also stinky from fumes, so I had to keep Jordan out of the house or away from the kitchen while the work was being done.
The first company that came out told me not to use paper towels to wipe the surfaces, instead only use a soft cloth. He said liquid Dawn and Palmolive are fine daily cleaners. I use the Daily Granite cleaner more like once a week.
Don’t use vinegar, bleach or ammonia for cleaning.
Don’t use store bought citrus brand (lemon or orange) solvent cleaners.
Don’t scrub hard surfaces. If properly sealed, light duty cleaning is all that is necessary.
Make sure to seal your countertop and protect from stains (vinegar, citrus and tomato will etch the marble).
Wipe up all your spills immediately.
Clean carefully (see above).
Try to prevent accidents with perfumes, toothpaste, and makeup. These contain harmful ingredients that may degrade your sealer.
Now I am careful to put felt pads on things that sit on our counters that could scratch them, like this candle or the laptop computer I keep on the counter.
I hope this helped answer your questions about our marble counters! The bottom line is I still love them and would choose them again, but I would try to take better care of them from the beginning and make sure they were properly sealed. And I would still invite friends and family over for mimosas!