How to Choose a Marble Slab for Your Renovation

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…

How to Choose a Marble Slab for Your Renovation -

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.

How to Choose a Marble Slab for Your Renovation -

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.

How to Choose a Marble Slab for Your Renovation -

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!

How to Choose a Marble Slab for Your Renovation -

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.

How to Choose a Marble Slab for Your Renovation -

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.

How to Choose a Marble Slab for Your Renovation -

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)
  • Originality
  • How it looks paired with your other materials & swatches
How to Choose a Marble Slab for Your Renovation -

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.

How to Choose a Marble Slab for Your Renovation -

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.

How to Choose a Marble Slab for Your Renovation -

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!

How to Choose a Marble Slab for Your Renovation -

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?
How to Choose a Marble Slab for Your Renovation -

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).

How to Choose a Marble Slab for Your Renovation -

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.

How to Choose a Marble Slab for Your Renovation -


Do all marble countertops need to be sealed?

They do. Check out this post I shared specific to marble maintenance.

Can nero marble be honed?

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!

What is the difference between marble and other natural stones- like granite?

Check out this post for the difference between natural stones!

How come you’re not using soapstone again, like you did in your main kitchen?

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…
How to Choose a Marble Slab for Your Renovation -

Which natural stone would you choose that has a marble look, but is less expensive?

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.

Is there a stone you would choose that looks like marble, but is more durable?

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.

Which marble is the most classic?

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.

How to Choose a Marble Slab for Your Renovation -

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.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


  1. Good morning! What a ton of useful information! Pinned this post immediately. Gah. What’s more gorgeous than big ol’ slabs of marble? I would be the WORST shopper, just walking around petting all the stone and generally being distracted by the pretty choices. Such a rube. In fact, I might need an initial trip just to get it out of my system. Ha. Not kidding. As for your advice, bringing along other item samples and taking photos seems key. Would choosing your marble *before* elements like backsplash tile ever be desirable? Considering the options for tile are more vast than stone. Also, some of your suggested questions are very specific; do you always find folks at the stone yards that helpful? The one time I went to look at countertops, I encountered more of a salesman than a tradesman. Admittedly, the venue was a strange combo of slabs and showroom. When I did buy countertops, I only worked with one guy. His shop sold, fabricated and installed the materials. Is that unusual? Otherwise, how do I find a fabricator? (Especially now that I need to be developing friends in the biz.🤣) So many questions! Regarding finishes- my current kitchen is polished, but I think I’m definitely entering my dull era. Ahem, I mean honed. I’ve heard of a leathered finish…is that somewhere in the middle shine wise? Lastly, you didn’t get into figuring out the pattern placement and layout. I’m guessing that’s done with the fabricator? That would seem to require a designer eye for sure if you’ve got a stone with lots of movement. Gulp. For such a big investment, I’m probably going to need professional help. Good thing I know a great designer. Anyway, I’m about to reread this post and obsess over green stone choices (or maybe the vino?). Not a bad start to a week imho! Cheers, friend! 💜
    (And many thanks as always for SUCH detailed, useful information!)

    1. Sarah Gibson says:

      Thanks, Peggi! That’s exactly what I do… walk around petting the marble, ha. You might have missed a career path in interior design! You could definitely select the marble first, and use that as a starting point… choosing the other items around it. That’s actually kind of what I did this time around. I still haven’t nailed down cabinetry paint. Maybe it’s because I have a trade account, but I feel like if you walk into the slab yard like you know what you’re doing and have specific questions, you’ll definitely get answers. I definitely prefer a peer to peer conversation as opposed to a sales rep / consumer vibe. It’s not unusual to have a one stop shop! Sometimes that’s really convenient. Most cabinetry companies can recommend their preferred stone fabricator. Luckily we know quite a few since Emmett works for a cabinet shop. I knew you’d love that Italian Vino marble! It’s stunning. Hope your week is off to an amazing start and you had the best weekend celebrating your Libra! xo

  2. Thanks for the informative post! I love the slabs you chose and can’t wait to see them installed!

    1. Sarah Gibson says:

      Sure thing, Brenda! Thank you so much. I’m very excited about the marble!

  3. Good morning! Oh how I love a stone yard! There’s nothing more fascinating than walking up and down seeing the different stone varieties, color variations and veining styles. How I long to renovate our kitchen just to be able to pick a gorgeous countertop! The slab you selected for the basement is stunning. The high contrast veining and subtle hints of your cabinetry color all move well throughout the slab and will be the perfect addition to the basement kitchen. Are you doing polished or honed? I’m going to assume you’re sticking with an ogee edge (drool), but my oh my, I could also see a waterfall edge being so gorgeous with the veining. Bianco is my favorite marble, but I also would consider Carrera, Calacatta gold, and Venatino. I don’t remember the ins and outs of how we found our fabricator for the last kitchen we renovated, and I’m certain we found him after we selected our slab- which is backwards. Ideally, one would select a fabricator first, right? What tips do you have for finding a fabricator? I’m so excited to see this basement kitchen unfold, and even more so after seeing this peak at your slab. Beautiful choice Sarah! Cheers to Monday- it’s bestie wedding week, so I’m having my calm before the hustle and bustle, haha! Have a good one! Xoxo

    1. Sarah Gibson says:

      Hi Lauren! Stone yards are definitely one of the more fun field trips. The counter will be honed. I’m still working on the edge profile, but I don’t think it will be a full ogee. You’ve got great taste in marble :) Interesting that you found your fabricator after the slab. Before is definitely ideal, but sometimes it’s simultaneous… if you’re using a fabricator associated with the stone retailer. I spent the weekend working on more flooring- it’s coming along slowly! Have such a fun time celebrating your bestie’s wedding this week- that’s so fun!

  4. Wow Sarah! Your basement kitchen is going to be so elegant and luxurious. That marble slab has incredible color and movement. I don’t think I’ve seen marble quite like that, I bet it’s even more beautiful in person. Have you decided polished or honed? That material is definitely splurge worthy for your project, your visitors will feel like they are in a fancy New York wine bar or a beautiful Italian villa or maybe even French bistro🍷 whoever gets to stay in the basement bedroom will definitely feel the vacation vibe. It’s going to be stunning 😍 Looks like everything is coming together really beautifully. Yay! and exciting!
    I’m anxious to see it complete now, no pressure ☺️ Great tips for those
    considering marble though. I could see that marble being used on an entryway console or even a bedroom nightstand. Would definitely add some pizzazz and wow factor to a space. Carrara marble is definitely more widely available here, although I haven’t shopped for natural stone countertops in quite some time. I think a field trip is in order to see whats out there 😉 The Nero would be stunning in our en-suite bathroom.
    I’ll be sure to take your advice for foot protection 👍
    Happy Monday and cheers to your productive weekend 🥂

    1. Sarah Gibson says:

      Thank you, Colleen! I went back and forth on the marble slabs, but ultimately decided they really make the room. I’m super excited about them! The countertop will be honed. I hope we have a little marble leftover so I can complete a furniture project of sorts. I love that idea! Nero is always a stunning choice- I could totally see that in your en suite. Hope your week is off to a good start! It’s surprisingly warm here today.