Marble vs. Granite: What’s the Difference?

Among the great battles—Batman vs. Superman, Freddy vs. Jason, Man vs. Food—one that has been raging for millennia still rages today: marble vs. granite.

The question, however, isn’t so much which is better than the other—they both have their pros and cons for different applications. No, the debate we encounter most often is how to tell the difference between marble and granite.

After all, they’re both natural stones. They both make gorgeous countertops and floors (and renaissance sculptures). They both command a premium at the home improvement store. 

But for most people, the subtle differences between marble and granite make identifying these distinct stones a challenge. We’re here to tell you, it shouldn’t be.

Forged in Fire

Granite is a type of what’s called igneous rock, from the Greek word for “fire.” It is formed when molten (i.e. liquified) rock cools and hardens. 

Granite forms underground, where it takes longer to cool than does molten rock above the surface, such as lava from a volcano. This allows granite time to form large crystals, which is one of the most appealing aspects of granite.

Granite forms when molten rock cools beneath the Earth’s surface, forming grainy, crystalline patters in a wide spectrum of colors.

Granite can usually be identified as a grainy stone made of large minerals, or crystals, that fit together tightly. Typically, granite has a “speckled” pattern that distinguishes it from the much smoother marble, although this is not always the case.

Unlike marble, granite forms into a wide spectrum of sometimes vibrant colors, from off-whites to yellows and even blues, greens, browns and, of course, granite’s signature hue: black. Granite’s dramatic color spectrum is a result of the many combinations of minerals that can constitute it, which primarily includes feldspar, quartz, mica and amphibole. 

Actually, “black granite” is something of a misnomer, as the stone must contain at least 20% quartzto be considered true granite. What many suppliers call black granite is actually a stone called gabbro, which is very similar in composition and appearance to granite. But don’t let the nomenclature steer you away—gabbro is as good a choice as any natural stone, if it’s what fits your taste and budget. 

What most people call “black granite” is actually a similar stone called gabbro, which has a far lower quartz content than granite.

Probably the most famous use of granite is Mount Rushmore, which was sculpted from a granite outcrop in South Dakota. For an example of the beauty of gabbro, the Vietnam Veterans Memorialin Washington, D.C. is a striking example.

Mount Rushmore was sculpted between 1927 and 1941 out of an outcrop of granite near Keystone, South Dakota.

Under Pressure

Marble is a type of metamorphic rock, which means it’s forged when intense heat and pressure deep in the Earth squeeze soft clay into solid stone. Over tens of thousands of years, it works its way up to the surface, where humans eventually dig it out.

Between marble and granite, marble is the more porous of the two, meaning it has more pockets of empty space (kind of like a kitchen sponge, only on a microscopic level). That results in a stone that is softer and more pliable, as well as more absorbent of liquids.

Marble can be identified by its veiny structure and soft, sometimes pastel colors.

Visually, whereas granite reveals its mineral composition as a grainy blend of various colors, marble is typically veiny instead. Also, the mineral composition of marble—predominantly calcite—is such that the colors are typically lighter and more pastel, with long, thin, sometimes dark streaks running through them.

Famous marble buildings include the United States Supreme Court, Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial and, far, far away from Washington, D.C., the Taj Mahal in India.

The great facade and dome of the Taj Mahal in Agra, India was carved out of marble in the 1600s.

Choosing Between Marble and Granite

For the most part, the choice comes down to a matter of taste. Some folks prefer the soft, sweeping luxury of marble. Others, the robust, saturated hues of granite. 

When looking at countertops, marble may work better in bathrooms, as it is more likely to stain in the kitchen if dark liquid such as red wine or tomato sauce were to be spilled on it. 

The light, creamy patterns of marble look especially great in bathrooms.

Same goes for flooring—marble is also softer and chips more easily than granite, making it great for low-traffic areas such as bathrooms and parlors, but possibly not as well suited for entryways, first floor hallways and living/family rooms.

One of the advantages of granite, whether considering it for countertops, floors or both, is the wide range of patterns and colors available. Using granite allows for a wider color palate for the rest of your home or business. Whether your style is light and airy or dark and moody, there’s a type of granite that will fit well with your design scheme.

The bold colors of granite create floor tiles that really stand out.

The Wildcard: Engineered Stone

As far as we’re concerned, the jury’s still out on the various “engineered” stone tiles and slabs available. Most use an epoxy base to bind fragments of glass, quartz and natural stone into a mold, the results of which are more predictable and uniform than purely natural product. 

Another, newer technique uses a blend of vinyl and ceramic to create a resilient yet sturdy material that the manufacturer claims works for both counters and floors. 

As we continue to investigate these and other innovations in flooring and home remodeling we will add to our repertoire those products and techniques that emerge as the best. Stay tuned to this blog for our latest discoveries. 

Still can’t decide whether marble or granite will look best in your home or business? Call or email Flooring Masters & Professional Remodelers today for a free consultation. We know you only want the best in flooring. That’s why it’s important to hire the best in the business, and at Flooring Masters & Professional Remodelers, we’re pretty sure that’s us. Flooring Masters & Professional Remodelers have been flooring and remodeling Kentuckiana for over 30 years. Our certified installers have the ingenuity and know-how to assist you in choosing the perfect floors for your home. Don’t take matters into your own hands—let usguide your next project.

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