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Using Marble, Granite, Quartz and Stone in the Bathroom

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Few things make a custom bathroom stand out like the beauty of natural stone surfaces. Marble, granite, quartz and other natural stones offer a wide variety of colors and textures that can give your bathroom a distinctive, sophisticated appearance that can't be duplicated with ceramic, porcelain, wallpaper or other manmade materials.

Because it's mined from the earth, stone is conditioned to resist heat, erosion and pressure, making it the perfect answer to the moisture and temperature fluctuations in your bathroom. Choosing the right natural stone surfaces for your bathroom renovation can provide your home with years of durability and functionality and increase its property value.

Bathroom upgrades, however, represent an investment of both time and money. According to a 2012 study by Consumer Reports, "mid-range bathroom remodels cost an average of $16,552," and an upscale bathroom renovation can exceed $50,000. That's why, if you're considering a full or partial bathroom renovation, you need to know the advantages and drawbacks of the materials you're considering. For instance, marble might be the right choice for your backsplash and walls, but you may want to select a harder surface, like quartz, for your sink.

As bathroom remodeling contractors in Central PA, we've tailored many unique designer bathroom items for our clients using marble, quartz, granite and other gorgeous natural stones.

We want our customers to enjoy an exciting, carefree experience as they watch us build the bathroom of their dreams. That's why we educate our clients about the materials they pick. Here are some of our favorite types of natural stone surfaces and some of the pros and cons of using each.


What You Need to Know About Using Marble in the Bathroom

When compared to other types of natural stone, marble is a relatively soft metamorphic rock that has been a favorite of architects, decorators and sculptors for centuries. The veiny streaks running through marble give each piece a unique appearance, which may be why marble is such a popular raw material for residential bathrooms.

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Marble is one of the least expensive natural stones for bathroom renovations, with a cost of approximately $60 to $100 per square foot installed (depending on type and quality). But some of the same traits that make marble so singular and beautiful are problematic for some bathroom surfaces.

The softer texture of marble allows it to absorb colors and chemicals, so something like hair dye can discolor marble sinks, baths and backsplashes. Marble can also have a high iron content, which means that the metallic traces can react with water and rust, giving the marble a yellowish color. Marble cut from different slabs can match poorly. For that reason, we recommend laying out and examining all of your marble tiles before beginning installation.

  • Custom Marble Bathroom Countertops and Vanities: Marble can be used for countertops in bathrooms as long as they are sealed properly and wiped down with some regularity. Any liquid makeup or other discoloration liquid should be wiped up immediately.

  • Custom Marble Bathroom Backsplash and Walls: This is probably where marble performs best in a bathroom. While marble walls and backsplashes are exposed to moisture, if the material is of good quality and properly sealed, steam moisture shouldn't discolor it, so backsplashes are not as susceptible to staining as sinks and bathtubs.

  • Custom Marble Bathroom Sinks: Marble sinks should be cleaned regularly with a non-abrasive cleanser. If someone in your household uses the sink for hair-dying, you may want to consider another type of surface. There are, however, a number of non-marble sink types that can match with your marble tiles or even stand out as statement pieces (see below).

  • Custom Marble Bathroom Showers and Baths: Marble is often used for showers and baths with visually striking results, but there are some drawbacks. As previously mentioned, hair dyes and other chemicals can be absorbed into the porous surface of the marble and discolor its whiteness or even the veining. Because most people don't wipe down their baths and showers as frequently as their sinks and counters, marble baths and showers can create additional housework.

  • Custom Marble Bathroom Tiles and Floors: Because your bathroom is prone to excessive moisture, it's important that you use high-quality, carefully selected marble tiles with low iron content. Marble walls and floors require a bit more maintenance than some other types of natural stone, but as long as it's properly sealed, it should hold its natural color and luster. Because of its softness, marble is easily scratched and can be marred by hard shoe heels.

The Marble Bathroom Summary

While marble is distinctive and elegant, it's important to know that you're not overpaying for the type of marble that you're purchasing. Because marble is more likely to discolor, consider another natural stone material in places that are likely to be exposed to hair dye, standing water or chemicals.


What You Need to Know If You're Using Granite in the Bathroom

Granite is an igneous hard rock formed from solidified volcanic lava. In home decorating, it can be found in a variety of earthy browns and beiges, which can be used to achieve a rustic or modern look. Because of the density of the rock, once it's polished to a high sheen and sealed, it is resilient and scratch-resistant. Starting at $50 per square foot, it's slightly more affordable than marble.

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  • Custom Granite Bathroom Countertops and Vanities: As a hard, non-porous stone, granite is ideal for countertops. While sealant should be applied every six months to a year, granite countertops are not as susceptible to staining as some of the other natural stones. As with any natural stone surface, however, you should wipe down spills or build up as soon as possible.

  • Custom Granite Bathroom Backsplash and Walls: Granite is not reactive with moisture - again, because of its solid composition. Your walls and backsplash should be wiped down with a cleaning solution designed for that purpose, but granite cleaners are available at most grocery and discount stores. Check out our very own recipe for homemade granite cleaner.

  • Custom Granite Bathroom Sinks: While there are multiple styles and colors, granite sinks come in two varieties: Custom made granite sinks and composite granite sinks. Custom made granite sinks can be made from regular slabs or extra thick slabs. (Note for Will - Include 2 photos that represent an example of a sink being made from an extra thick slabe of granite.) Composite granite sinks are made from compressed particles of crushed granite. Both are excellent, low maintenance surfaces, and you can make your decision based on price and style. For instance, a black composite granite sink can make a bold contrast to a natural granite countertop or tiling.

  • Custom Granite Bathroom Showers and Baths: Granite isn't prone to staining or discoloration, and mold and mildew are easily prevented or wiped away with a bleach solution. For this reason, even if you're looking at other surfaces for the rest of the bathroom, you may want to consider granite for the shower.

  • Custom Granite Bathroom Tiles and Floors: The most important considerations for floors are durability, aesthetic appeal and maintenance. Whether you choose large blocks of granite or smaller tiles, this resilient stone wins in all three categories.

The Granite Bathroom Summary

While all natural stones have their strengths and weaknesses, granite has mostly strengths. With a comparatively low cost, low maintenance and brilliant finishes, it really comes down to deciding whether the color and texture match your vision for your bathroom remodeling project.


What You Need to Know if You're Using Quartz in the Bathroom

Available in a virtually unlimited variety of shapes, colors and levels of transparency, quartz may be one of our most versatile stone bathroom surface materials. Unlike marble, granite and other natural stones, quartz is a processed material, manufactured from crushed quartz ore and molded to specifications. The finished product is a hard, scratch-resistant, low-maintenance surface material for bathrooms.

With a price tag of $65 to $120 per square foot installed, it's one of the more expensive bathroom stones on average. Still, if your bathroom remodeling plans require a color or design not available in marble, granite or other natural stones, quartz may be your best option.

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  • Custom Quartz Bathroom Countertops and Vanities: Quartz has a hard surface that's resistant to stains and scratches. This makes it perfect for vanity and bathroom counter surfaces.

  • Custom Quartz Bathroom Backsplash and Walls: As a solid piece or as part of a tile mosaic, quartz is an excellent surface for bathroom walls and backsplashes. Quartz walls are resistant to moisture, which is why this material has made its way into so many residential bathrooms.

  • Custom Quartz Sinks: Standing water shouldn't affect a quartz surface, so it passes the sink and bathtub test. Like any custom stone bathroom surface, you should avoid using harsh chemicals or abrasives when cleaning the basin, but quartz is an easy surface to wipe down with milder cleansers.

  • Custom Quartz Bathroom Showers and Baths: If you are considering quartz for your shower or bath, you won't be disappointed with its functionality or appearance. The uniformity of quartz gives the large surfaces of a bathroom a clean and modern look. Even if you're considering another material for your bathroom components, you may want to think about matching or even contrasting them with a quartz shower and tub.

  • Custom Quartz Bathroom Tiles and Floors: Quartz tiles offer you a much wider range of colors than other natural stones, so it can give you a chance to be much bolder with your bathroom redesign project. Whether you choose a monochromatic floor with large, fitted sections, or a vivid array of smaller tiles of different hues, the hardness of this material will resist scuffing, scratching and discoloration.

The Quartz Bathroom Summary

Quartz is hard, non-porous, low-maintenance and doesn't chip or scratch. Furthermore, you can find quartz in almost any color and texture. The only drawback is that the cost tends to be higher. Still, decorators and homeowners on a budget can incorporate quartz by making it a smaller part of an overall design scheme.


Other Natural Stones for the Bathroom

Quartz, marble and granite are by far the most popular natural bathroom surface materials, but they are by no means alone. Because of their natural invulnerability to moisture, staining and scratches, several other types of stone have found their way into the bathroom remodeler's repertoire.

These include metaphoric stones like onyx, soapstone and serpentine, and sedimentary stones like sandstone, slate and travertine. As is the case with their more popular counterparts, each of these alternatives has their advantages and disadvantages.

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  • Onyx: If you were concerned about the extra maintenance issues associated with marble, onyx may not be the right stone for you. While offering the beauty of marble, onyx is soft and fragile for a stone and requires frequent cleaning. For this reason, as well as the higher price point, we recommend using onyx sparingly, as a trim or for bathroom backsplashes and walls. Avoid it with surfaces that are prone to scratching and scuffing, like floors.

  • Soapstone: With a name like soapstone, you'd expect to find it adorning the walls, floors and other surfaces of custom bathrooms - and it does. Soapstone is only moderately expensive, is relatively scratch-proof and stain-proof, and exhibits a pleasing change in color when shower water runs over it - it returns to its natural color as it dries. custom-soapstone-bathroom-sinks
    The texture is warm and inviting, and can be used on all bathroom surfaces. Soapstone is usually installed in its natural color, which may be a drawback if you aren't seeking an earthier look.

  • Serpentine: This is actually a collection of compressed minerals, as opposed to a true natural rock formation. Oftentimes, serpentine passes for green marble because of the veins running through it, which follow a more uniform, overlapping pattern. Serpentine is a soft material, and it's susceptible to scratching, so it isn't a good match for a custom natural stone bathroom countertop or sink. Even properly sealed and in areas not as prone to scratches, serpentine can require additional polishing and maintenance. If you're looking for a green or brown surface material, however, the mesmerizing discolorations of serpentine may appeal to you.

  • Sandstone: Sandstone is a somewhat hard but porous rock. It has a rustic brown or beige color and a unique texture. Because of its porous nature, sandstone absorbs water, which is a consideration with custom bathroom sinks and bathtubs. Sandstone can be scratched and stained, so it works best in areas where splashes and scuffing are less likely.

  • Slate: If onyx’s susceptibility to damage concerns you, you may consider slate as an alternative. Slate is a much harder material, and with its dark gray hue, it pairs well with onyx. Scratches may occasionally appear, but they can be disguised by applying mineral oil. Due to its hardiness, slate performs well on all bathroom surfaces, including floors.

  • Travertine: If you're unfamiliar with travertine, it's not because it hasn't been around. The ancient Romans used travertine as a cheaper substitute for marble. Beautiful, like marble, travertine also has marble's vulnerability to staining, scratching and oxidization. The good news is that travertine tiles are still less expensive than marble.travertine-bathroom-sink

Ask for Guidance - Consult an Installer

Interior decorators specializing in bathroom renovations love natural stone for its simplicity, stylishness and suitability, but before you commit to any plan for your bathroom project, you should talk to someone who knows about the costs and features of the natural stone surfaces you're considering.

Don't purchase any materials before speaking to an installer. Most contractors include materials in the price of their estimates and can order your stone at discounted rates. If you're remodeling your bathroom in Central Pennsylvania, contact the bathroom remodeling contractors at Lesher Natural Stone, Quartz, & Tile with any questions or ideas you might have.


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