Marble vs Granite Countertops: Comparison Guide

Marble and granite countertops are two of the most popular natural stone options for kitchen and bathroom countertops. Both offer beauty and durability, but they differ in appearance, texture, maintenance needs, and cost. This guide compares marble vs granite to help you choose the right countertop material for your space and lifestyle.

Appearance and Patterns

Marble Countertop Patterns

Marble is a metamorphic stone that originates from limestone and dolomite. The swirls, veins, and specks that give it visual appeal occur as mineral deposits form throughout the stone over time. No two marble slabs are exactly alike.

Popular marble varieties for countertops include:

  • Carrara: White or blue-gray background with thin gray veining. Gives a classic, timeless look.
  • Calacatta: White background with dramatic thick gray veining. Provides luxurious styling.
  • Statuario: White with subtle gray veining. Has a very uniform, clean appearance.
  • Emperador: Dark brown background with white veining. Creates an elegant, moody aesthetic.

Marble comes in tile format but is more commonly used as countertop slabs. The distinctive patterns and colors allow you to make a bold design statement.

Granite Countertop Patterns

Granite forms as molten rock or magma cools far below the earth’s surface. The specks and patterns result from the different mineral crystals in the stone. Granite comes in a wider range of colors than marble.

Common granite varieties for countertops are:

  • Black granite: Provides a dramatic, sophisticated look.
  • White granite: Gives an elegant, timeless appearance.
  • Gray granite: Offers a stylish, neutral palette.
  • Brown granite: Provides rich, earthy tones.
  • Blue granite: Supplies a unique pop of color.
  • Green granite: Delivers a refreshing, nature-inspired look.

The flecks in the granite can be small or large. The overall look ranges from uniform speckling to bold, dramatic patterns. Granite tile is available, but slabs are more frequently used for countertops.

Appearance Comparison

Marble and granite both have abundant visual interest but differ in overall look:

  • Marble has a more refined, neoclassic appearance defined by delicate veining.
  • Granite offers greater color variety and makes more of a bold, statement with larger specks and patterns.

Granite provides a busier look while marble has a more streamlined aesthetic. Both natural stones can work in a range of kitchen or bathroom designs.

Texture and Feel

The texture of marble and granite also differs:

  • Marble has a smooth, cool, soft touch. The fine grain has less texture for fingers to grab onto.
  • Granite has a rougher texture with more defined grains and crystals. The coarse texture provides more friction.

Granite can feel abrasive on bare feet in the kitchen or bathroom. Marble offers a gentler surface while still providing durability.

Both marble and granite are hard, natural stones. However, marble is slightly softer and more prone to etching from acids. Granite has a tougher composition and resists scratching better.

For kitchen countertops frequently used for meal prep, granite holds up better over time. Marble can work well in bathrooms or formal dining areas not subjected to heavy use.

Maintenance and Care

Proper care is essential for both granite and marble countertops. Follow these tips:

Marble Maintenance

  • Seal marble every 1-2 years using a penetrating sealer formulated for marble. This prevents stains from penetrating pores.
  • Use coasters under glasses and avoid spills. Liquids can etch and stain marble.
  • Clean frequently using pH neutral stone soap and water. Avoid abrasive cleaners or pads.
  • Don’t use vinegar, lemon juice, wine or harsh cleaners that can etch marble.
  • Re-polish marble yearly using a marble polishing compound. This maintains the smooth sheen.

Granite Maintenance

  • Seal granite yearly with a stone sealer suitable for granite. This prevents stains.
  • Blot spills quickly to avoid discoloration in the stone pores.
  • Clean with mild dishwasher soap and water. Avoid acidic or abrasive cleaners.
  • Disinfect granite periodically using a stone-safe disinfectant.
  • Re-polish granite every few years using a granite polishing kit. This removes etch marks and restores shine.

Granite is less prone to damage from spills than marble. But both stones need re-sealing and occasional polishing to keep them looking like new.

Heat Tolerance

Marble and granite react differently when subjected to heat:

  • Marble is vulnerable to scorching or discoloration from hot pans or objects straight from the oven. Always use trivets.
  • Granite withstands heat well. Pans or trays straight from the oven usually don’t damage granite.

Granite has higher heat tolerance thanks to its dense composition. Marble requires more protection from hot items.

Cost Comparison

Marble and granite have the following cost differences:

  • Marble is more expensive than most granite. Carrara marble starts around $80 per square foot installed. Calacatta can cost over $200 per square foot.
  • Granite has a wide cost range depending on color and pattern. It starts around $40 per square foot for basic granite. Unique varieties can cost up to $150 per square foot installed.
  • Edges and backslashsplashes also affect overall price. Marble and granite both allow polished, rounded, or other edge designs. Backsplashes add labor and material costs.
  • Sale discounts may be available for granite remnants or marble end pieces. Granite is more commonly discounted.
  • Labor factors into the total price. Custom cutting and installation adds to project costs.

Both marble and granite require professional installation for seams to be tight and properly bonded. This adds a significant labor charge.

Choosing Between Marble and Granite

Deciding between marble and granite countertops depends on:

  • Style – Do you want classic marble patterns or bold granite flecks? What fits your overall decor?
  • Texture – Is the smooth feel of marble or the grippy texture of granite preferable?
  • Use – Will the surface need to withstand heavy prep work or hot items from the oven?
  • Maintenance – Are you willing to regularly seal and polish to prevent etching or discoloration?
  • Budget – How much are you able to spend on natural stone countertop materials and professional installation?

Both marble and granite make timeless choices for elegant kitchens and bathrooms. Assess your needs, tastes and budget to determine if marble or granite is the better choice.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are answers to some common questions about marble and granite countertops:

Is marble or granite better for kitchen countertops?

Granite is the better choice for most kitchens because it stands up well to heavy use, cuts, scratches, heat and spills. Marble requires more frequent sealing and care to prevent damage in a busy kitchen.

Is marble high maintenance?

Marble requires more regular sealing and polishing than granite. It also needs special care to prevent etching and stains from acidic liquids. Marble provides beauty but does need some maintenance to keep it looking its best.

Is granite a good choice for bathrooms?

Yes. The rough texture provides good traction when wet. Granite resists water damage and stains well with proper sealing. Darker colors hide soap scum and hard water deposits better than lighter granite.

Does marble stain easily?

Marble is prone to stains because it is porous. Acids in drinks like lemon juice or wine etch and discolor marble. Sealant provides some protection but spills need quick cleanup. Marble can become stained without careful maintenance.

Is granite scratch resistant?

Granite resists scratches well thanks to its hard, dense composition. Proper sealing also helps prevent scratches by keeping surface oils out of the microscopic pores. Granite holds up to heavy use and scratching better than most other natural stones.

Does marble need to be sealed?

Yes. Sealing is critical for marble countertops. The sealer fills the natural pores and prevents liquid penetration that leads to stains. Marble should be sealed upon installation and refreshed every 1-2 years.

Is marble cold to the touch?

Marble tends to feel cool and maintain that temperature because it is dense and nonporous. Granite also feels cool but not quite as cold as polished marble. Both stones are safe for food preparation.

Does granite stain permanently?

Granite resists staining when properly sealed. Oils, spills and liquids cannot easily penetrate the tight pores. Any residual stains after cleanup can often be removed with a poultice. Permanent discoloration is rare unless the sealant wears off over time.

Is white or black granite better?

This depends on your style. White granite provides a bright, elegant look. Black granite makes a bold statement and hides scratches well. Both resist staining equally. Choose based on the overall look you want to achieve.


Marble and granite each have their pros and cons for kitchen and bathroom countertops. Key differences include:

  • Appearance: Marble has delicate veining while granite has speckled patterns. Marble comes in fewer colors.
  • Texture: Marble is smooth and granite is coarse. Granite provides more friction.
  • Heat tolerance: Marble can scorch or stain. Granite withstands heat well.
  • Care: Marble needs frequent sealing and polishing. Granite is lower maintenance.
  • Cost: Marble is usually a more expensive option than granite.

For a classic, sophisticated look with a cool smooth texture, marble counters can create a timeless kitchen or bath. If you want to make a bold design statement and have a tougher surface, granite is an excellent choice.

Consider how the pros and cons of marble and granite align with your own goals, lifestyle and budget. Either of these natural stones can provide years of functionality and enduring beauty.