Marble can add a touch of luxury to any home. However, it doesn’t always have to come with a big price tag. More homeowners are opting for cheaper engineered marble over traditional natural marble. But there’s more to consider than just the price tag when comparing these two materials.
How are they created
Natural marble, as you would expect, occurs naturally. When limestone is subjected to intense geological pressure and heat, it forms marble. The colours and veins in the stone are a result of other minerals present within or around the stone. Natural marble occurs and is quarried around the world. The most famous marbles, however, are quarried around the Carrara region of Italy and include statuario marble and calacatta.
Engineered marble, on the other hand, is created by mixing marble dust with resin polymers and colour pigments. As the stone is manufactured, colours and veins can be manipulated for a desired result.
If you’re an eco-conscious person, you might want to weigh up the environmental impacts of engineered and natural marble. For instance, natural marble has a low embodied energy, which means it doesn’t require much energy to manufacture the finished product. However, since most natural marble is quarried overseas, it does require significant transport resources and energy to get the slabs from the quarry to the end user.
Engineered marble, on the other hand, has a much higher embodied energy. It also requires more chemical inputs during the manufacturing process. While it can be made locally, cutting down on transport resources, the crushed stone may still need to be imported.
Style and aesthetics
Natural marble has long been associated with luxury and sophistication. While engineered marble comes close to replicating the real thing, it can never quite look and feel the same. For instance, since the engineered product is mass produced, the patterns will not be as unique or deep as natural stone.
Engineered stone usually comes in a range of preset sizes and shapes. Natural stone, on the other hand, can be ordered to a wider range of size and shape specifications. As a result, you could potentially source a single large slab as a benchtop. However, since engineered marble is only made to certain sizes you may need to join a number of slabs to get the size you want. And that means visible joins in your benchtops.
Compared to other natural stones, marble is a porous, soft material. It can be easily chipped or scratched and is easily stained.
Engineered marble is typically more scratch- and stain-resistant. Therefore, you may need to consider where your marble will go and how it will be used. In heavily trafficked areas or high-use kitchens, engineered marble may be the better option as it’s more durable and less prone to damage.
In general, marble is not the best choice for outside use. It does not weather well and is prone to staining and damage. Engineered marble may be tougher, but it is not completely UV stable and can fade in sunlight.
The factors above may sway you when it comes to choosing either natural or engineered marble. There are certainly pros and cons for both, but it’s up to you to decide exactly what you want to get out of your marble. Whatever you choose, remember to look after it well so you can enjoy it for years to come.