The elegance and classic look of marble will always make it one of the top choices for interior designers and homeowners, but cultured marble is a nice alternative. More and more people are discovering the value of this manufactured polymer blend of marble dust, plastic, pigments, and gel coating.
Natural marble is a high-end product. The cost of quarrying, cutting, and type availability is always factored into the price. Average slab prices range from $10 to $38 per square foot. Additional charges for the cutting of each foot ranges from $5 to $15 per square foot.
Cultured marble is less expensive. It is not found in a quarry but is a combined mix of superior strength polymers, marble dust, pigments, and a gel coat that is poured into a mold to meet the specifications of the buyer. Since a mold provides the shape, chosen pigments provide the coloring and impressively realistic looking veining, costs are surprisingly low.
Natural marble is high maintenance. Though the brilliant colors and spectacular veining give marble a reputation for elegance and quality, it is a porous stone that requires constant care and maintenance. Marble can be stained, chipped, cracked, or discolored. Experts suggest sealing the marble surface every 6 months to a year. Coasters, trivets, and placemats must be used to prevent stains. Avoiding any spillage of oil on the surface is also important. Discretion must be used when applying household cleaners since they can damage the surface.
Cultured marble is easy to care for. It's a non-porous surface finished with a gel coat to provide even further protection. The manufacturing process has been scientifically designed to fortify against the absorption of oils and staining. Manufacturing defects would be the only cause for chipping and cracking (with normal use). Standard household cleaners will work fine.
To select your natural marble, you'll need to go to the marble yard where you will be surrounded by 6- to 10-foot, 900-pound slabs of stone. Many decisions need to be made in respect to color, size, and slice thickness. Consistency of grain and color cannot be guaranteed.
Choosing cultured marble is a process of creative design. Cultured marble is poured to the specifications of the client. Because of the customization element, the creative options are unlimited including color and veining preferences.
Natural marble is very hard, but brittle. These factors combined with the weight of the finished slab require supportive muscle power when installing. Improper installation can cause curling, discoloration, cracking, and vein "popping" (moisture-induced swelling).
Installing cultured marble requires a different application. The molding process makes the finished surface strong and seam free. Cutting and adjusting pieces can be done on site. Single piece surfaces can be created for ease of installation. For example, a sink can be included into the vanity top creating one piece with no separate sink installation.