Marble is back … in almost every room Essay

Marble is back . . . in almost every room A classic building material conjuring images of ancient Athens andRome, marble is enjoying a modern renaissance. As more homeowners arediscovering, its richness, durability, and range of color can enhancealmost any room. The examples here–in kitchens, living rooms, bathrooms, evenoutdoors–demonstrate just how versatile it is.

But cost andmaintenance must be taken into account. Our report can help you decideif marble is the right material for you. The stone that sparkles The word marble comes from the Greek marmaros, meaning sparklingstone. Marble is metamorphic rock, formed chiefly from limestone ordolomite. The presence of numerous minerals and fossils accounts forthe distinctive veins and dazzling colors of many marbles (see the largephotograph on page 105). Italy alone boasts at least 38 major quarrying centers.

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Othercountries that export marble include Belgium, France, Norway, Brazil,Mexico, and Taiwan. In the United States, Georgia, Vermont, Tennessee,Idaho, and New Mexico are among the states with active quarries.(Quarries in California and Colorado aren’t active.) Certain types are famous: Italy’s white, sculpture-qualityCarrara, the rose-colored stone of Norway, the black marble of Belgium,and the white Colorado marble used in the Lincoln Memorial. And serious candy makers know marble’s ability to absorb heatrapidly, allowing the quick cooling and easy working of chocolate,fondants, and taffy. Shopping for marble A visit to a marble yard can be like entering Ali Baba’s cave:a treasury of stone in lustrous colors surrounds you. Standing beside6- by 10-foot, 900-pound slabs of polished, 400-million-year-old stonehelps you appreciate why marble has captured the imaginations ofartisans and builders throughout history. To find a dealer, look in the yellow pages under Marble–Natural.

(You may also see Marble–Cultured. So-called cultured marble is asynthetic product made of polyester resin and dolomite dust.) You should see the stone first, because different companies usedifferent names for essentially the same stone. Even if the marblecomes from the same quarry, color and markings vary. Take project dimensions along so you and your dealer can accuratelyestimate how much you’ll need.

Some building supply stores and tile shops carry marble tiles.Sometimes you can find recycled marble at salvage yards (a marble yardcan repolish and recut older, worn pieces to look like new). If you’re looking for a small piece, say for a tabletop, tryto find an odd-lot fragment that comes close in size and shape to yourneeds, then design around it. Generally, you can buy a less-expensivepiece and save costly extra cuts. Don’t overlook “vanitycutouts’–oval, round, and sometimes polygonal pieces left overafter holes for sinks have been cut in counter slabs.

We show anoctagonal one on page 105. Tiles, slabs, and reinforced sheets Although blocks are sold for sculptural and architectural use, yourbasic choices in finished materials are tiles and slabs or panels. Tiles, typically 1/2 inch thick, come in three basic sizes: 6inches square, 6 by 12 inches, and 12 inches square. You’ll findslabs in a large variety of sizes, but the full slab is usually about 6by 10 feet and 3/4 inch thick. You can figure that such a slab willweigh at least 15 pounds per square foot, tiles about 5 pounds persquare foot. Recent breakthroughs have made it possible to producelighter-weight sheets.

For these, marble is sliced 1/4 inch thick andreinforced with a backing of epoxy and fiberglass, then cut into threesizes: 1 by 2 feet, 2 by 2 feet, and 2 by 4 feet. Several companiesnow market this product; cost for travertine, for example, can runaround $23.50 per square foot for a 2 by 4-foot sheet.

Finishes and edges There are two basic types of finishes: polished and honed.Polished marble has a glassy, reflective surface and shows off thestone’s color and veining. It’s traditionally used for tilesand furniture.

Professional polishing is done with a special powder and ahigh-speed electric polisher. (You can do touch-up work yourself: wetthe surface with water, sprinkle on polishing powder available from amarble dealer, then buff the powder onto the marble with a cloth or abuffing pad on a low-speed power drill. Do not use sandpaper.

) Honed marble has been partially sanded, producing a rougher surfacewith relatively little light reflection. It’s usually used forfloors or other areas where a polished surface might be too slippery,particularly when wet. If you’ll be walking on marble in abathroom or by a pool, buy the honed surface and exercise caution.

The surface of some types, such as travertine, contains smallholes. These are often filled by the dealer using Portland cementcolored to match the rest of the slab, or clear epoxy. There are three basic types of edges. Simplest and least expensiveis an arris edge, which means that the sharp top corners resulting fromthe cuts have been sanded down. The bull-nose edge is half-rounded.The ogee edge has a slightly more complex S-curve profile.

Prices: shop around and compare Marble isn’t inexpensive, but if well cared for, it will lastfor civilizations. Prices vary considerably, so shop around. We found slab prices ranging from $10 to $23 per square foot fortravertine, from $22 to $38 for dark green (verde antique). We foundtile prices ranging from $6 to $8.50 per 12-inch-square tile oftravertine, from $15 to $19 per 12-inch tile of dark green marble. In addition to the basic charge (usually per square foot), you willbe charged for each foot of cut required and for the type of edgespecified. The cost of cutting (from about $5 to about $15 a foot) caneasily surpass the price of the marble itself. Installation costs can bethe biggest bill of all.

Should you install it yourself? Though very hard, marble is relatively brittle and must be properlysupported. Slabs and panels require muscle and special handling duringinstallation; usually the job is best left to a professional. Installing marble tiles is similar to working with ceramic tiles.

However, the subsurface should be as rigid as possible to reduce therisk of cracking from vibration or flexing. If you don’t need apolished edge, you can cut tiles to fit with a carbide-tip masonry sawblade. A synthetic adhesive is best for applying marble. Oil-basedadhesives are not recommended because they tend to “bleed’through. Photo: Selecting a slab at a marble yard, she looks for color andgrain. Slabs are 3/4 inch thick, can measure up to 6 by 10 feet Photo: Carrara tile gives this tub enclosure and bathroom a cool,classic look. Architect: Daniel Solomon, San Francisco Photo: Deep green serpentine hearth and surround set off thiscentrally positioned fireplace. Architect: Terrence Schilling, Oakland Photo: Owner-installed Colombian gray tiles dress up small kitchenremodel.

Design: Shirley Peletz Photo: Marble countertop is ideal candy-making station on kitchenisland by Tucson designer Bill Gansline Photo: Installer first lays out 6-inch-square tiles to check forconsistency, breakage. Below, he presses them into mastic base forhearth Photo: Twelve choices show only some of marble’s vastvariation in color. Names given are commonest ones; you may findsimilar colors from other countries and with different names. A. BrownSan Remo, Italy.

B. Red Incarnate, Italy. C. Kristal Dark, Greece.

D. Perlato, Italy. E. Verde Alpe or Verde Antique, France, Italy,U.S.A. F.

Chassagne Violine, France. G. Pink and Green Campan,France. H. Rose Aurora, Portugal.

I. Red Verona, Italy. J.

Travertine, France, Italy, Mexico, U.S.A.

K. Gray Ste. Anne, France.L. Breiche Nouvelle, Italy, France Photo: By the acre or by the foot.

Pool terrace uses beigetravertine; honed surface makes it less slippery when wet. Architect:Hugh Newell Jacobsen. Tabletops are scraps of green, travertine, andSpanish red marble. Cost for all three, with refinishing, was $130.Bases are terra cotta drain tiles, concrete block, flue tile


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