If you’re considering a kitchen or bathroom remodel in your home, you may be considering new marble countertops, marble flooring or marble-tiled wainscoting. Marble has regained popularity in the last decade, and now is one of the most popular natural stone choices on the market.
Why is it so popular? For starters, marble offers a premium upgrade over dated laminate, tile or concrete. Additionally, the stone’s natural beauty can completely transform an interior space, adding a touch of sophistication to any room.
As you shop for marble tile or marble countertops, you may have noticed that not all marble is the same. There are different varieties, but do all of those variations offer the same quality? The short answer is no.
Although all marble stone choices offer great durability, unique colour patterning and that premium stone feel, variations in quality do exist. In fact, marble stone is typically available on a graded scale, much like you’d find for diamonds. Factors like the stone’s mineral composition, its country of origin, and the stone’s abundance can all affect pricing and, in some cases, the quality of the marble.
Marble Stone Grading Scales: What’s the Difference?
Marble tile is traditionally sold according to a grade scale, but unfortunately, an industry-wide or international grading scale does not exist. Most commonly, though, marble stone is available in three grade levels: Level I, Level II and Level III or commercial grade, mid-grade and high-grade marble.
Each of these three grades refers to the quality of the stone, and there are quality variations between each of the grades. They include:
Commercial Grade Marble: Also called Level I, or second choice marble, this type of marble is generally the more affordable cuts of the stone. Compared to mid- and high-grade marble stone, commercial grade marble tends to be less thick and has less colour variation. The stone’s composition likely also includes a higher concentration of soft minerals, which can reduce its durability. This type of marble is typically mass produced in Asian markets.
Mid-Grade Marble: In recent years, marble imported from Brazil, India and Asian markets has been labelled mid-grade marble. These stones are typically thicker, have more colour variation, and can be harder and more durable than commercial grade stone. Mid-range stone may have imperfections like pitting.
High-Grade Marble: Top-tier marble has been fabricated to the highest standards. Its surfaces are free of pitting, and typically, this type of stone has the rarest and most unique colour variations. High-grade marble is generally sourced from European markets like Italy, Norway or Spain.
Additional Factors That Affect the Quality of Marble Stone
Beyond the grading scale, a range of factors can affect the durability, appearance and feel of marble stone. The most common factors include:
Pocks, Cracks or Fissures: Marble stone may have natural cracks, pockmarks, pits and fissures. These imperfections may be reduced with polishing, or repaired with epoxy fillings. In some cases, cracks and fissures can affect the structural integrity of the stone.
Unusual Colouration: Discolouration, spotting and other unusual colour markings can affect the quality of the stone. Unusual coloration tends to affect the stone’s overall price.
Rarity and Country of Origin: Rare stones and the country where the marble is processed can also affect price, and in some cases, quality. Rare marble stones are typically mined and processed according to higher standards. Countries in Europe also tend to have higher fabrication standards.
Fabrication Methods: Production and processing also affect the quality of the marble. Mass-produced marble slabs tend to have more imperfections. Marble from European markets tends to have higher qualities.
Determining Marble Quality: Know Your Source
Ultimately, marble – whether the commercial grade or high-grade – is a premium building material. It’s highly durable, offers a luxury natural stone look, and it will add value to your home or commercial property.
Yet, remember: The quality of the stone can vary. Some marble sellers may misrepresent the stone’s quality, overcharging for commercial grade marble. You can avoid this problem by choosing a reputable marble wholesaler.
Bottom line: The quality of your marble is dependent on a number of factors, including production methods, its appearance and the slab’s thickness.