Pros and Cons of Marble Flooring in Kitchens

White kitchen interior

 KatarzynaBialasiewicz / Getty Images

Marble is one of the most elegant flooring materials you can choose for your kitchen. All natural, it is harvested from the belly of a mountain in great slabs of stone, which are then sliced down and refined into the individual tiles, slabs, and mosaic sheets that are used in standard construction processes, including floor and wall tiles, and countertop slabs.

Historically, marble flooring has been associated with a sense of wealth and opulence. It is a material that has adorned the palaces of kings and queens, and it been used in some of the great works of art and architecture produced throughout human history. When installed in a kitchen, it can create a sense of sophistication that will carry throughout the atmosphere of the room.

Benefits of Marble Floors in Kitchens

There are a number of notable advantages to using marble as a flooring material in kitchens:

  • Unique color and pattern: Marble tiles and slabs are available in a wide variety of colors, but the quarrying and manufacturing process is such that each piece of marble varies slightly in color and veining. While tiles manufactured from the same large slabs will have an overall uniformity of color and similarity of pattern, no two marble floors ever look exactly the same. The uniqueness of each marble floor is one of the main reasons why marble is so highly prized as a building material.
  • Polish: Unlike many other stone flooring materials, marble can take that take an extremely high polish. This allows manufacturers to hone the surface of marble to a very smooth and shiny that is extremely attractive. Polishing also tends to bring out the colors in the stone, making them more noticeable and dramatic.
  • Light transmission: One of the reasons that marble has so often been used in great works of sculpture is that it has a slightly translucent quality. When used for flooring, this quality allows illumination to penetrate the surface of some lighter-colored marble materials, giving the material a slight glow. Even in darker marbles, the play of light across the surface of the stone can be quite lovely.
  • Natural material: Marble is an all-natural material that is created in the earth. This quality is much appreciated by those who prefer natural over synthetic materials. Marble cannot be said to be biodegradable, but as a natural material it can be recycled and does not create environmental pollution at the end of its life.

Drawbacks of Marble Kitchen Floors

  • High cost: Marble is one of the more expensive kitchen flooring materials on the market, and individual 12 x 12-inch tiles can cost upwards of $5 to $10 per square foot. When dealing with designer mosaics, larger tiles, slabs, and non-standard sizes, the price can be even higher.
  • Slippery surfaces: When polished, marble flooring has a very low coefficient of friction, meaning that it may present a slipping hazard. This is especially true in a kitchen, where water and other liquids may occasionally spill. To some extent, this can be addressed with the use of floor mats.
  • Can be scratched: Marble is a relatively soft stone, and polished marble tile is relatively easy to scratch. Over time, a marble floor can be marred by the moving of furniture, or even by pets. Repairing a scratched marble tile is a difficult job and usually requires the assistance of a professional to repolish it.
  • Can be stained: Marble is somewhat porous and it has a slightly alkaline composition, which means that whenever an acidic substance interacts with it, a chemical reaction will occur in the form of a rather noticeable stain. In a kitchen, you may have acidic liquids such as sauces and fruit juices splashing and spilling onto the floor, putting the marble in danger of permanently staining.
  • Complicated maintenance: In order to prevent stains, a marble kitchen floor will have to be properly sealed with a manufacturer-recommended surface-barrier sealing chemical. This creates an invisible layer over the marble, protecting it from staining agents and acidic materials. You will have to reapply this sealant to the marble floor periodically, every 6 to 12 months, in order to maintain the appearance of the tiles.
  • Expensive and difficult to replace: Marble tile is expensive to install and relatively difficult to remove. While proper maintenance should ensure that your marble kitchen floor lasts for years, when it does come time to replace it, you may find that installing a new floor directly over the marble is easier than trying to remove and replace it.
  • Coldness, hardness. Marble flooring, like ceramic tile, is an inherently cold building material. The feeling underfoot can be somewhat unpleasant in colder climates, unless the marble floor is integrated with some kind of radiant heating system. Marble floors are also very hard, which means that any breakable object that falls will instantly shatter. Or, even worse, the marble tile itself may break.
  • Environmental concerns: While marble is an all-natural product, environmental purists point out that the use of mining equipment and quarrying saws causes carbon emissions, and that the transportation of these heavy materials over long overseas distances comes at the cost of high fossil-fuel consumption.

An Alternative to Natural Marble

If the expense and drawbacks of marble cause you to think again, you can consider using porcelain tile as a flooring alternative. Modern porcelains can be fabricated to look remarkably similar to other building materials, such as wood, marble, granite, and other forms of stone. Faux-marble porcelain tiles are available in large sizes and a variety of colors and vein patterns, and a porcelain tile floor can be almost indistinguishable from a true marble floor costing much, much more. Porcelain tile does not stain easily, and it is usually much less slippery underfoot. Because it does not involve quarrying and can be manufactured locally, porcelain tile has fewer environmental concerns.