Marble I crazy?

piscesgirlMay 6, 2012

Torn between doing a marble shower or going with a basic white ceramic subway tile in the shower. My husband hates the white subway tile (says it looks cheap and boring). We saw crackle subway tile and he liked that...but then after doing more research I am thinking that may be worse than going with marble. We are doing our master bathroom in calacatta gold and are looking for a traditional, elegant, yet contemporary and clean look.

I am concerned with maintenance and what may be involved in putting marble in a shower. I know we will need to seal it and use special cleaning products, but what else? Can we use whatever shampoo and soap we typically use or would we need to change all of the products we use in the shower? What do we need to consider when putting marble in a shower?

If we do marble, should we do polished or honed in the shower? Concerned with water spots and etching on the polished and am thinking these wouldn't show as much with the honed. What are the pros and cons of honed vs polished in the shower. Ironiclly we are planning on putting polished on the rest of the bathroom floor...probably another mistake, but I am better about cleaning floors than showers :)

Also if we forgo the marble and go with ceramic tiles, we would still want to do a marble mosaic tile floor and niche. If we do the marble tile floor, does that negate the entire purpose of using ceramic wall tiles? In other words won't I still have the same issues of having to use special cleaners, and possibly shampoos, soaps, etc? Should the marble mosiac floor tile be honed or polished?

Any advise and input would be appreciated. I know ceramic would be the cheaper route, but if money was no object...curious as to what others would choose?

Also any other tile suggestions would be appreciated.


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I have not one, but two marble showers which I have been using for a year and six months, respectively. One is in the kids/guest bath and the other in the master bath. We have not changed any of the shower/shampoo products we use nor do we ask guests to be careful and we have a steady stream of those. We used honed carrara and it still looks as good as the day it was done. We use Stone Care international products to clean and they seem to work fine. I have resealed once since install (the one-year old bath) and am just thinking about sealing both showers again. Used honed marble on the rest of the bath floor as well. My 6-yo threw up on the floor and etched the marble, but a couple of days after I gave it a quick scrub with SCI's polishing compound (even though it states it isn't for use on honed marble) and took care of that. I only scrubbed for a minute or two since I was afraid of "polishing" the honed tile, but the etching is gone.

I love natural stone and just didn't want ceramic. That's my bias.
I'm just finishing up a powder room with slate floors so clearly, I tend to be a little less practical than many. I also have polished marble floors in the kitchen (installed 5 years ago) and, although I have scratches and etching galore on that, I think it is all starting to blend into a lovely patina.

My view is that the Taj Mahal looks lovely today, many hundreds of years after it was built, and it has been exposed to the elements, acid rain....nothing I can do to my kitchen and baths can top that so I expect them to look lovely for a long, long time. Of course, if you are the kind of person who can't stand to look at an imperfection then I would say natural stone of any kind is not for you.

    Bookmark   May 6, 2012 at 9:06AM
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I love marble. Especially polished marble. To me, nothing is more beautiful.
I put a marble floor in one bath and LOVE it. But it's my bath, so very little traffic, and nothing to make the marble any kind of issue.

For the bath we're doing now? I wanted marble, but it will get a lot more use, and I struggled with something that's going to need special care, however minimal. I reminded myself this is a bathroom FLOOR. Not an art installation. Not something precious. And ultimately, I really wanted to be able to use any disinfectant product I wanted, without reservation.

It took me months, but I did finally pick a tile. I was holding out for the ultimate, magical, one perfect option... to the point that all progress came to a halt. At which point I choose the best option so we could move on. My thoughts on choosing tile.

I'm going with porcelain tile. Polished, with a marbleish-look. (As much as not-stone can look like real-stone...) I'm happy with it. I will post some photos, maybe tomorrow? Husband has it down, but still needs to be grouted.

For what it's worth, I love subway tile. I think it's gorgeous and classic. Even if I didn't live in an old house, I would think it was beautiful. We put it in my bathroom, and will put it in the current project as well. Plus nothing brightens up a room like white tile...

Good luck! Bath decisions are enough to make you crazy!

Here is a link that might be useful: Our Bath Renovation

    Bookmark   May 6, 2012 at 9:31AM
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We are living in an 18 year old townhouse, which we have owned for 10 years. We have a grey 12x12" marble tile throughout our one full bathroom (including the combined tub surround/shower). I honed it myself before moving in, and sealed it at the time with 511. I haven't sealed it since.

We have not changed our habits re: shampoo, special cleaning products, etc. My husband and I use this bathroom along with our three young kids (all under 4).

We have had no problems. I'm sure the grey hides a lot more than a white marble. Yes, there are etch marks on our countertop (which is a matching slab), and probably some on the floor, too, but the marble is a pretty busy one, and honestly, it is not noticeable other than one etch on the countertop that I notice (from a drinking glass that contained something acidic). Marcolo has posted photos here before on etch marks. Honestly, mine look nowhere near that bad -- but again, this marble is busier and darker than Calacutta Gold.

We are renovating a house now, and I am putting Calacutta Gold in our master bath. All honed. The floor is a mosaic, and the walls (wainscoting) and shower are 6x12" bricks. We will seal, but I don't plan on any specific day-to-day maintenance other than the typical weekly cleaning. I will try to seal more often, say once a year, though.

My mom has had her white (statuary) marble bathroom for 18 years, too. Her marble is polished. The etch marks are very noticeable, and one of the reasons I like honed better. (I am a clean-freak, but honed also hides soap scum better than polished.) One of two issues she's had is some stains where she was using hair coloring products. But I think that likely could have been avoided if her marble had been properly sealed. She also has a few dark spots in her shower area on the ceiling -- it almost looks like the marble got wet and never dried out. But again, I don't think the marble in her bathroom was ever sealed or cleaned with any speciality marble products since it was installed. She does clean her bathroom weekly and keeps it pretty pristine.

I think you either love marble -- and have a gut positive reaction to it, and thus can life with the faults, or don't. So, no, I don't think you're crazy :-) Calacutta Gold can be absolutely beautiful!

P.S. Here's my floor mosaic that will be installed in about a month or so.

    Bookmark   May 6, 2012 at 9:37AM
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Jmcgowan- your floor tile is beautiful! Where was this purchased. I would love to use this on my bedroom fireplace.
VictoriaElizabeth- I enjoyed reading your blog about picking tile and the frustrations that go along with it. I could not have put it any better!
Firsthome- I say go with marble and just make sure its sealed

    Bookmark   May 6, 2012 at 11:46AM
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I think marble is fine if you have the time and enjoy doing chores around the house. I live on two acres and my house is 4500 sq foot. I love my marble subway backsplash in my kitchen but I would shoot myself if I had to maintain marble in the shower.

I realize most people do not manage to maintain as large of a yard or home but you need to be realistic about your habits. I have good habits but also want a life outside of maintaining my house.YMMV.

    Bookmark   May 6, 2012 at 11:53AM
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Firstthome - I've been struggling with this same issue for over a month now. Loved the marble look, got terrified abt the maintenance, scraped it all in favor of crackle subway and then like you, found out that may be much worse than the marble, so I'm back to square one. Doing 18 x 18 honed marble floors and 12 x 12s and 6x 6s in my shower, with a mosaic shower floor and accent. I figure I should just get what I like. Also, every hotel I stay in has marble bathrooms and they all look great and I know guests aren't treating those with kid gloves. My vote is to just get what you like - it's a big project and lots of money and you'll be less happy if it lasts but you don't really love it than if you get what you love and just be somewhat more careful with it.

    Bookmark   May 6, 2012 at 3:53PM
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We use our usual shampoo, conditioners, etc., BUT we did have to convert to dye-free bar soap. The green Irish Spring was leaving stains -- they came out, but it took a lot of scrubbing.

    Bookmark   May 6, 2012 at 8:58PM
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Kamkar, thank you. The tile is made by New Ravenna. They have a great web site, with lots of images -- have fun viewing!

P.S. Lots of public museums/restrooms in D.C. have marble floors. Small patterns and a slightly darker grout help.

    Bookmark   May 7, 2012 at 1:12AM
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You are not crazy in my opinion....I love marble.

    Bookmark   May 7, 2012 at 11:33AM
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Firsthome I don't want to scare you but for my opinion a marble is not best choice for shower, bathroom and kitchen. There are always chemically aggressive substances that can easy etch or stain a marble, especially for white kinds like White Carrara, White Thassos, Crystal White and so on. And fortunately now there are a lot of porcelain tiles that looks identical to marble and much more durable.

Here is a link that might be useful: Shower damages

    Bookmark   June 25, 2013 at 1:46AM
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I have a tumbled marble shower and floor in our master bath, now going on 10. The "tumbled" is basically honed and chipped and it's very pretty. The shower has curbs and a bench of limestone and while marble and limestone are similar, I made the mistake of accepting very dark limestone.

If etching on the marble can be accepted -- that is you will see spots in certain light -- then think about marble. If you also don't mind resealing once each year, then marble is ok, too. Certainly it is beautiful. I would not go with polished unless you have a staff or don't mind having it refinished by a pro frequently.

When marble gets tricky is if grout develops mold and you need to go in there with a Clorox pen on that. That can etch the marble. I've even accepted that though I can't see etching on the tumbled.

Having said all that, if I had it to do over I would not use marble or limestone. I would spend the same money on some really gorgeous glass, ceramic tile or porcelain tile. And not subways. I'm sick of those.

There is a gigantic amount of tile product out there and so much is reasonably priced. Porcelain tile -- which is basically bulletproof -- also is now being digitally printed. I'm starting to see people using wood-look porcelain tile on kitchen floors. They have it with faux-calacatta marble printing and you'd need to be an expert to tell the difference. I saw a bath installation with that and it was drop dead.

Ten years ago that didn't exist. But today there can be a marble bath with porcelain tile upkeep which, basically, is minimal.

A lot of us tend to sit at our computers but the thing to do with tile is visit the showrooms to get ideas and see colors and styles.

    Bookmark   June 25, 2013 at 11:54AM
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We have had tumbled white marble in the shower for 7 years. Seal it once a year and wipe down after shower. That is all we have done and it still looks new

    Bookmark   June 29, 2013 at 12:21PM
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We have had a marble shower for 3 years... I use it daily. I have never sealed it, don't use special cleaning products, haven't changed my cleaning products, and don't have any stains or problems!

    Bookmark   July 1, 2013 at 3:57PM
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Just wondering what you ended up going with? Are you happy with your choice? We are leaning toward a marble shower as well.

    Bookmark   July 25, 2013 at 8:54PM
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Where does one buy a Marble wall for a shower?
Having trouble in my search.

    Bookmark   October 7, 2013 at 1:38PM
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We went with ceramic subway tile with a very large niche that has marble inset and marble floor. Our remodel took forever. Hope to post pictures soon, but the shower floor may need to be redone as it is not draining correctly.

As for a marble wall, Scott are you referring to a full marble slab? That would be purchased at a Granite/Marble supplier.

    Bookmark   October 7, 2013 at 4:25PM
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There are guys that make a living regrouting and maintaining marble showers. I'd put them out of work by using an engineered stone or solid surface in the shower. In vertical applications solid surface can be glossy and will outperform any stone on the planet. You can have a pan built to match too.

    Bookmark   October 8, 2013 at 1:54AM
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While marble is more "maintenance intensive" as it is a natural material and IS porous, two things will make it trouble-free. First is to use only a liquid soap as bar soap contains animal fat as "fillers," and the second is to DRY it after use. If you follow those two "Golden Rules," it will look good forever...

    Bookmark   October 9, 2013 at 7:25PM
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Has anyone used polished marble rather than honed marble on shower walls? I've found polished grey Grecian for 40% less than the price of the honed product, and this is for a tub/shower surround in which the tub will be used more frequently than the shower.... (non master bedroom).
If SO, then how has it held up?

    Bookmark   November 4, 2013 at 11:59PM
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My shower is polished marble. I squeegee it every time we shower and a year and a half later it still looks good as new.

    Bookmark   November 5, 2013 at 12:12AM
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