Cultured marble is a blend of various stone particles and resin which manufacturers combine with an array of pigments to create realistic colors and patterns that simulate the real product. Unlike stone that comes from a quarry, cultured marble comes from a mold cast in a factory to create the specific shape and size that is needed for a project. This item is useful for sinks, bathtubs, counters, shower walls, backsplashes, and various trim pieces.
The factory lines each mold with a special gel coating that bonds to the mixture of the cultured marble. This process creates a transparent surface which is extremely durable. After each piece goes through the curing process, the items are removed from their molds, polished to a beautiful shine, or given a matte finish based on what the customer prefers.
Because cultured marble is a blended product, the final item provides a non-porous result which reduces the amount of maintenance that homeowners face each year. That means there are zero grout lines to maintain and fewer sealing chores to do over the lifetime of the product.
The pros and cons of cultured marble are essential to consider if you love the look and feel of polished stone, including onyx and granite, but you are unwilling to pay the added cost for the quarried item.
List of the Pros of Cultured Marble
1. Price is a significant advantage when considering cultured marble.
When you compare the cost of a cultured marble counter or fixture, then the price is considerably lower than what you would experience if you purchased a quarried product. It is one of the least expensive options for the home that you can find on the market right now. If you choose this material, then your remodeling or new construction project can be completed at a fraction of the price, allowing you to funnel more funds toward other projects that you want to tackle around the house.
The cost of cultured marble is about 40% less than the price you would pay for a natural quarried stone.
2. You will receive a solid surface when using cultured marble.
Cultured marble provides you with a solid surface that does not contain the same functional problems you can encounter when using tile. There are no grout joints that you will need to clean, surface variations to manage, or food preparation problems that can occur when choosing this option. This surface won’t force you to deal with the staining issues that other products can cause either. Once you receive the item from the factory and have it installed, you can use the item right away.
3. Cultured marble products can be made to order.
If you decide that cultured marble is the best solution for your remodeling or new construction project, then the manufacturer will want to receive a detailed measurement of your home to ensure that the product is fabricated to the specific size requirements you need. That means you can receive what amounts to a customized product for a fraction of the cost of what it would be using other materials.
Whether you decide to use cultured marble for a countertop in the kitchen or to create a sink in your bathroom, this advantage is always present with this product.
4. The look of cultured marble makes it look like you spent a fortune.
There is no denying the fact that your cultured marble countertops are going to look great. Most manufacturers can replicate the look of quarried stone with little difficulty. You’ll receive the clean, simple lines that only come from the molding process, simulating a direct cut out of a quarry. The item doesn’t contain much in the way of grain, but it will seem like it is the real deal for anyone looking at it closely. You’ll receive a high-end look while staying in your budget, adding to the overall value of your curb appeal.
5. Cultured marble is a product that is exceptionally easy to keep clean.
You will appreciate the fact that this product is so easy to clean the first time that you need to pick up your kitchen or bathroom. Most household cleaners are compatible with this surface, which means you don’t need to be afraid of damaging the surface while trying to disinfect it. This advantage is possible because the porous nature of regular stone is not present in this manufactured product.
All you need to do is wipe down the counter or fixture with a standard surface cleaner. Because the surface is so smooth, you’ll discover that the cleaning is simple and virtually effortless.
6. This product is also exceptionally durable.
Cultured marble products have the ability to stand up to a lot of wear-and-tear issues in the home. You won’t have the same worries about your edges or corners chipping after installation as you would with some of the quarried products that are on the market today. That’s not to say it is impervious to damage – you won’t want to drop heavy pans on it or place something exceptionally hot on its surface. It is still not as susceptible to damage issues as you will encounter with other materials that are popular for countertops, sinks, and bathtubs today.
7. Most of the stone components for cultured marble come from processed quarried products.
When you look at the typical volume of stone particles that are used to create cultured marble, about 75% of the entire item comes from ground-up marble dust. This quarried product is unusable in its cut state for a variety of reasons, but this counter and fixture option provides an opportunity to use it in a high-end way without charging an arm and a leg for the privilege. It even carries the same weight as the natural product, which makes it useful in situations where a substantial installation is necessary to create the desired results.
8. Cultured marble can be constructed into any shape.
Because of the unique manufacturing processes involved with the creation of cultured marble, this product can be produced into virtually any shape. That means you can take exact measurements of your space to create a specific mold that will create a counter or fixture that perfectly fits. Even if you have unusual spatial requirements in your home, the producers of this product can make something specific for your project so that it fits your needs. There is almost nothing else at this price point that can offer that level of customization without requiring a significant financial commitment.
When you combine this advantage with the seamless design of the product, you’ll avoid the unsightly lines that can sometimes develop in large kitchens or bathrooms when using quarried products.
List of the Cons of Cultured Marble
1. It can be challenging to remove any scratches that occur on its surface.
Because cultured marble is a 100% manufactured product, the molding process does give you repair limitations if something should happen. It can be a challenge to remove unsightly scratches from the surface of this material since it blends stone particles and resins. You’ll need to use a filler product and then seal the spot to make it useful once again. You would need to follow a similar process for most quarried materials as well, but it offers fewer overall repair options because there are fewer patterns, colors, and grains to consider with this material.
2. There can be issues of quality control between manufacturers.
The quality control of the finished products can vary between manufacturers, so most homeowners find that it is useful to stick with one factory for multiple needs instead of purchasing the cheapest item from any factory. Smaller facilities are responsible for mixing the resin and marble dust together, and the profit margins can be tight. It is not unusual to see errors form in some of the cultured marble products on the market today because other stone materials were used to create the final counter or fixture.
3. It is not the most durable product that is available in today’s market.
If durability is your primary purchasing point when searching for fixtures or counters, then cultured marble shouldn’t be your first choice. Quartz provides a superior surface because it is naturally non-porous, providing you with many of the same advantages that you’ll find with the manufactured product. Even if you use heat resistance and scratch protection, there are better products (at a higher cost) that you can find for your home. If you shop around for a quartz product, you may be able to find something that is still within your budget.
4. The finish on cultured marble is weaker than it is on other products.
Cultured marble comes with your choice of a glossy or matte finish. Although this layer of protection is tough and can guard against scratches or damage, it is weaker because of the nature of the manufacturing process than it is for natural products. That means homes that experience high levels of use with their counters or fixtures could see their product degrade faster over time.
That means you may need to re-seal your cultured marble counters and bathroom fixtures periodically to maximize their lifespan.
5. You must use non-scratch cleaning tools to care for your cultured marble.
Cultured marble is susceptible to damage from extreme temperatures, and it can also be scratched rather easily. When it comes time to clean your counters or fixtures, you will need to use cleaning tools which do not contain abrasives. You will also need to avoid the use of corrosive cleaning products to prevent damage from occurring. The sensitivity of this product is so high that you must always use protection, such as hot pads, when there are high-temperature pots and pans that you are managing in the kitchen.
6. Cultured marble can sometimes provide you with an inconsistent color experience.
Natural stone tends to be fairly consistent with its colors and grains because of its mineral make up. If you have seen marble come out of a quarry in the past, and you know what to expect from that product. Cultured marble attempts to replicate this result, but the type and amount of crushed stone which gets added to the product can change that outcome or increase your overall maintenance needs. There can also be impacts on the consistent and quality of the color if you want a single tone to complement the seamless look.
7. Some manufacturers do not provide a warranty on their cultured marble.
It is important to remember that not every cultured marble product is manufactured using the same processes and procedures. Some items are of a much higher quality than others. Before you decide to purchase anything, make sure that you find out if a warranty exists so that you can recoup some of your losses if there are issues with the item’s craftsmanship.
You also want to find out if any tests have been performed to determine how easily the cultured marble will scratch, burn, or chip. If one of the vendors you work with admits to a lower warranty, product problems, or additional maintenance, then it would be best to avoid that product.
8. Some cultured marble products can stain very easily.
Although one of the critical benefits of cultured marble is that it doesn’t stain very easily, that advantage only applies to the high-quality products in this category. All cultured stones have a problem with staining at some level. The material can be sensitive enough at times that even hard water scale can cause a problem with this surface. It can also stain when there is toothpaste, juice, or other debris on the surface.
Although these marks will eventually come out when you put in enough elbow grease, the cost of your polishing compounds and the time involved with the work can reduce the savings you receive with cultured marble over time.
9. Some materials can permanently stain cultured marble products.
The reason why cultured marble is not usually installed in the bathroom, even though manufacturers can cast a sink or toilet to meet specific dimensions, is because there are some items that can permanently stain the surface. The most common problem that owners face with this product is the presence of urine. Not only can it leave a permanent yellow mark, but it can also damage the product. If you have small children in your home, then you may want to look for something a little more durable to make sure your showers, tubs, and sinks can continue to look great.
10. The gel coating for the cultured marble eventually cracks with age.
When you use cultured marble over an extended time, then the gel coating on the product will eventually wear down to the point that it no longer protects the manufactured surface. When this happens, an issue called “crazing” occurs with the product. Small cracks begin to develop in the surface. They begin to slowly expand as moisture enters the product, working its way through the surface.
You can also see cracking occur around the drain with cultured marble if the drain was screwed in too tightly. Even an extreme temperature range can damage the surface, including boiling water, to create more cracks as well. You can fix minor problems with a rubbing compound and remove bad stains with a 600-grit sandpaper, but there will still be the risk of creating more damage on the surface as well.
Verdict on the Pros and Cons of Cultured Marble
Cultured marble is a product which is constructed by the manufacturer to fit the needs of each project. That means you have a guarantee that it will seamlessly install into a specific space if your measurements are correct. That means you can achieve a seamless look, but it comes at the expense of a greater susceptibility to scratching and heat damage when compared to quarried products.
Cultured marble can require more care in some situations, but it can also save you a lot of money on your project. If you have a high-traffic kitchen, then this might become a disadvantage over time. When you use it infrequently, this product can give you high-end value at a budget price.
The pros and cons of cultured marble eventually come down to your personal preference and budget. Make sure that you start working with a manufacturer which has a history of providing quality results to ensure your kitchen and bathroom can maintain the look you love over time.
Brandon Miller has a B.A. from the University of Texas at Austin. He is a seasoned writer who has written over one hundred articles, which have been read by over 500,000 people. If you have any comments or concerns about this blog post, then please contact the Green Garage team here.