As I’ve been focused on of our basement kitchen design, I’ve been keeping a list of running questions and topics to cover here on the blog. Today, I wanted to share some helpful tips and insight on how to choose a marble slab for your renovation. From cost and color to veining, finish, fabrication, and maintenance, there is a lot of thought & planning that goes into this expensive investment. Click through for my best interior design advice…
If you’re curious what my basement renovation design plan looks like, check out the linked post for a quick visual. I opted for two gorgeous slabs of Calacatta viola marble (pictured above), which is on the medium or higher-end range of the marble spectrum. Viola is a graphic looking marble with lots of high-contrast veining. So how exactly did I land there? Honestly, it was in my plan from the beginning and has been a stone I’ve coveted for quite some time, despite the fact that all marble requires maintenance. Read on to learn about the different marble types and how to select your own ideal slab.
Do Your Research
I’d advise going in with a plan, which requires a bit of research and a design vision. Knowing what you’re looking for can be helpful, as well as having a set budget- as marble pricing varies greatly.
What type of marble are you interested in? Using Italian marbles as an example… every origin has a long list of veining options- and then subtypes / colors within. There are plenty to choose from!
Recently, Calacatta, Viola, Breccia, Nero, and Statuario have been in high demand, which has increased prices. Carrara, on the other hand, is one of the less expensive marbles and is readily available. Once you’ve decided what type of marble you’re interested in, you can dive into the slab search.
Schedule an Appointment with A Local Stone Retailer or Slab Yard
Your first step in finding a great marble slab is to locate your local natural stone retailers or slab yards. Be sure to call in advance to confirm they’re open to the public- or arrange to visit with your interior designer, builder, or stone fabricator. You’ll also want to confirm they have the specific type of marble you’re looking for.
Arrive Equipped (What to Bring With You)
Don’t show up to your appointment empty-handed. You’ll want to bring the following with you:
- Rough dimensions
- Renderings or a layout with exact dimensions (if you have them)
- Samples or swatches from your interior design mood board (these are ideal for color matching and visualizing)
- Closed toe shoes (certain slab yards with heavy equipment won’t let you in without them- I’m always the forgetful designer in sandals… which is embarrassing because I know better)
- A tape measure (just in case you need to measure a remnant)
- Your phone for capturing slab images and taking notes (because you can’t take a marble swatch home with you)
Some slab yards are indoors, while others are outside- so you’ll want to dress accordingly.
Aesthetic Marble Considerations
While you hopefully have an idea of the type of marble you’re looking for, once you find a contending slab- you should consider the following aesthetic elements:
- Overall color
- Veining pattern
- Physical features
- Ease of fabrication (stone softness, edge profile influence, etc)
- Surface imperfections (free of staining and cracks)
- How it looks paired with your other materials & swatches
Understanding Marble Pricing
Marble slabs are one of a kind. They’re also a good investment and sought after material that is considered a classic & premium stone. All of these things certainly drive prices. Marble is also graded (A, B, C, and D). If a slab has few geological flaws, good coloring, and optimal veining- it’s considered grade A marble. As you might guess… those slabs are more expensive.
Origin is also a huge factor in pricing, which I discuss in greater depth below. Certain Italian marbles can really get expensive, while some of the lesser known quarries produce more affordable options. Popularity also comes into play. If everyone begins ordering and suddenly wants Breccia, those slabs are going to increase in price… classic supply and demand.
Your fabricator also influences the price. In addition to labor and fabrication, they often negotiate trade pricing. I had my viola slabs (pictured above) quoted with my interior design trade account, and my fabricator was able to get them for over $5k less. Crazy, right? They buy much more stone than I do, so their pricing is better. Make some friends in the stone industry!
How Marble Origin Drives Price
Believe it or not, not all marble is fairly priced. It’s actually an easy material to counterfeit. Why? Because origin highly influences cost. Here’s an example… a retailer may advertise a high quality, highly sought after Italian slab, only to sell a lower quality, less expensive Chinese slab. It’s important to do your homework, know what you’re looking for, ask about slab origin, and understand how different marbles from around the world are priced.
More than 50% of marble comes from Italy, Spain, India, and China. Italian marble is typically most expensive. I was torn between viola slabs from Italy versus Turkey. I liked the look of the Italian slabs best, but the Turkish slabs were a much better value. There are domestic marble options as well. Remember when I was designing our custom fireplace with gorgeous Georgia marble? It really depends on the look you’re going for, and your budget.
Money Saving Tips
If the slab size you need is on the smaller side, be sure to ask if any remnants are available in the marble type you’re looking for. These are great for bathroom vanities, sink countertops, small islands, a bar top, or kitchen carts.
You can also ask if there are other marble (or non marble) slabs that are similar looking, but less expensive. Maybe something from a different origin? Or perhaps a different natural stone altogether? For example, when searching for my viola slabs, I also considered a gorgeous atypical macaubas quartzite that had a similar veining pattern- it was half the price. Ultimately, I went with my initial selection, but having options to weigh is never a bad idea. Check out this post for 10 ways to save money on major home buys!
See those smaller pieces in front of the larger slab, pictured above? Those are remnants and they’re heavily discounted.
Questions to Ask
Here are some guided questions to ask as you’re narrowing down your slab search:
- Is this slab available? You’d be surprised how many sit in the yard on hold or sold.
- Is the slab size large enough for my project?
- Will my project require multiple slabs? If so- are there more available and do they match (are they cut from the same area in the same quarry, etc)?
- What is the slab origin?
- What is the cost?
- What is the fabrication lead time?
- Are there any noticeable oddities, imperfections, or abnormalities? Example- is it a dirty or dusty spot versus a deep set stain? Will that area lift or should you expect it to stay?
After You’ve Found Your Marble Slab
Once you’ve found the right slab for your renovation, be sure to ask to put a hold on the slab. Sometimes this requires a deposit, sometimes a verbal hold is sufficient, and other times your designer, fabricator, or builder can do it for you (with their trade account).
Marble Fabrication & Finish (Honed vs Polished)
The last step is to specify fabrication, so you can receive your formal estimate and pay. You’ll need to select an edge profile (eased, ogee, cove, waterfall, bevel, bullnose, etc) and specific the finish (honed or polished).
Polished // Polished marble has a glossy slick finish. It’s more reflective, is high shine, it enhances the veining & contrast, and it can deepen or darken the slab.
Honed // A honed marble finish has a soft matte look, is silky to touch, and is more organic appearing. With a flat finish, this softer natural option gives the stone a lighter look that will easily patina with time.
They do. Check out this post I shared specific to marble maintenance.
Absolutely! Just because it’s a darker marble, it can still take on either a honed or polished finish. If you’d like a peek at the process, last year- we were honing our guest bathroom nero marble countertops… which were remnants, by the way!
Check out this post for the difference between natural stones!
I absolutely love soapstone… in fact, this is why we used soapstone in our kitchen again. We installed it in our previous home as well. For our basement kitchen, I wanted something visually lighter with an interesting, high contrast pattern. It was purely an aesthetic choice. In case you’re interested, here is everything you need to know about soapstone though. It’s a fantastic countertop material! This was one of my soapstone slabs in the yard…
Quartzite… it looks and feels like marble (it’s actually a bit more durable), and it’s lower priced. It’s still a gorgeous natural stone and a great countertop choice.
Definitely quartz, which is a man-made stone that is created using ground quartz, resin, and pigment. The durability of quartz is much greater than marble- as it is resistant to scratching & staining. For an example of how it looks, check out this budget friendly tuxedo kitchen I designed for my friends years ago.
I’m a firm believer that ALL marble is classic. This is why I opted for more expensive viola slabs instead of porcelain that looks like viola at a quarter of the price. Marble is a timeless material choice. In terms of popularity and trends, graphic marbles are certainly having a moment. Basic or neutral marbles are always a safe bet- like Calacatta and Carrara. I also believe if you love a material and it makes you happy, installing it in your home is never a bad idea.
I hope this post is really helpful if you find yourself shopping for a marble slab… which is my preferred kind of renovation shopping! I can’t wait to reveal my viola slabs installed in our basement later on… most likely post holidays. They’re being picked up by our fabricator this week and I’m anxiously awaiting photo updates during fab. Here’s to a productive week ahead! Be sure to leave any questions for me in the comment section below.