Marble countertops have a reputation for being one of the most beautiful kitchen and bathroom surfaces, however, they can be quite costly. If you want the looks of this natural stone minus the cons of marble, cultured marble countertops are a great and much cheaper alternative, particularly for bathroom vanities and showers.
What Is Cultured Marble?
Cultured marble countertops aren’t carved out of natural stone. In fact, they are man-made, and that is why they are so cheap compared with the real thing. They are made by filling a mould with a mix of thermoplastic resin and crushed stone, pressed together under extremely high pressure to achieve a much denser and harder material that is not porous as marble but looks pretty similar.
The process is similar to other engineered stones, and the end results vary depending on the manufacturer’s technique and original material used. You will still get a similar marbling effect to natural marble, but some products can look very artificial and while they are beautiful they don’t look exactly like natural, high quality marble. You can usually request a gloss or matte finish.
Is There a Difference Between Cultured Marble and Engineered Marble?
It is important to note that engineered marble is not strictly the same as cultured marble. Cultured marble has a larger amount of polyester resins compared with the amount of actual stone. In fact, some culture marble has no marble at all, just pigments and fillers. However, this kind of surface looks pretty obviously fake, and it’s more similar to a solid surface countertop than an engineered stone countertop.
Engineered marble is also man made, but it uses a large proportion of recycled natural stone that is crushed, pressed, heated and bonded using a very small amount of resin. It looks more natural and similar to quarried marble, but it is non-porous and much more affordable. It is also eco-friendly, as it uses pieces of natural stone that would be discarded after cutting marble countertops. It is however more expensive than cultured marble.
Pros And Cons of Artificial Marble
The biggest pro of man-made engineered marble is the price. Compared with real marble countertops, artificial marble is cheaper than natural stone but more expensive than extremely budget-friendly laminate countertops with a marble pattern. You could probably save between 25% and 50% of the price, particularly if you shop around for offers.
Cultured marble can also be made into any shape, to fit any style of kitchen or bathroom. Since they are produced using a mould of your worktops, they will always fit perfectly. If your bathroom vanity has an unusual shape, or your shower tiles need to be shaped like waves instead of squares, cultured marble can do it without breaking the bank.
Cultured marble is also seamless, which means no unsightly seams even on very large bathroom vanities or tub surrounds. You can keep it clean with a soft sponge or a non-abrasive aerosol foam cleaner, no re-sealing or expensive cleaning products required.
Now, on the cons of cultured marble: this material is nowhere as hard or durable as the real thing, at least in regards to chips and scratches. It is non porous, which means it works great on a bathroom where stains and mildew are the real threats. However, as the main working surface of a busy kitchen it may be too delicate. This is why people often use them in bathrooms or shower walls.
Now, if you don’t expect your kitchen to be under a lot of wear and tear, and you love the look of marble, this kind of worktops can do the job perfectly well at a fraction of the cost. And for the bathroom, where chemicals and humidity would reduce the expected lifespan of natural stone, cultured marble is often the best and most elegant option.
Engineered marble is more resilient and as such can be used in kitchens and other high traffic surfaces, with properties similar to other engineered stones such as engineered quartz countertops. It is however less affordable.
How Long Do Engineered Marble Countertops Last?
Cultured marble is not designed for heavy usage, but with the right care and if you are careful to avoid things that could chip or scratch it (such as not cutting food on it without a cooking table) they can last years.
They are more expensive than really cheap marble alternatives such as laminated countertops or even fake-marble painted worktops, but they will last much longer and they have a higher quality feel to them. Your home value will be positively affected if you install a cultured marble bathroom vanity or shower wall, as buyers know that they won’t need to replace them in many years.
If you are looking for inexpensive marble countertop alternatives, cultured marble fits the bill perfectly. More durable than laminate surfaces, but still much more affordable than natural stone and reasonably durable, engineered marble is worth a closer look if your budget is a bit higher, as it can offer almost the same results as natural stone, minus the porosity and high maintenance issues.