What Is the Difference Between a Marble & Cultured Marble Shower?

When you are renovating a bathroom and getting ready to install a shower, you have several material options. If you've expressed an interest in marble, your contractor will likely discuss marble and cultured marble with you. Understanding the difference between these two popular building materials can help you make the right decision for your home.

Rain shower with herringbone marble feature tile wall
credit: jodiejohnson/iStock/GettyImages
A genuine marble shower looks elegant but is difficult to maintain.

Marble Overview

Marble is a natural stone material composed mostly of calcite. A metamorphic stone, marble is actually limestone that has been changed through tremendous amounts of heat and pressure. The different minerals that were present in the limestone at the time it became marble give different types of marble their coloration and veining. Because marble is a natural product, it can vary widely in color and pattern from piece to piece and from lot to lot.

Cultured Marble Overview

Cultured marble is a man-made product that contains polyester resins and crushed marble dust. The finished cultured marble product gets sealed with a gel coat. As a result, cultured marble is glossy in appearance with subtle, uniform veins and color. Cultured marble is formed inside heated molds into vanity tops and shower surrounds.

Care of Marble in a Shower

As a natural stone, marble is porous. Marble in a shower should be well sealed to avoid staining from water absorption. Shower floors should never be made of white marble because of the likelihood that the stone will wick up impurities from the shower drain and discolor over time. All marble in showers needs to be cleaned regularly with stone cleansers, sealed periodically and squeegeed dry after each use to prevent stains and etching.

Care of Cultured Marble in the Shower

Cultured marble is a nonporous material, so it does not have to be sealed. It is easily cleaned with any nonabrasive bathroom cleanser and left to dry naturally. If the surface does become scratched or abraded, it can be repolished with an application of automotive polish and a soft cloth. Because it is easy to care for, most homeowners prefer cultured marble to natural marble.

Price and Appearance of Marble

As of 2017, the average price for a marble shower was about $40 a square foot. The price may vary, of course, depending on the stone. No two marble showers will ever look exactly alike, as no two marble tiles will ever look exactly alike. A marble shower can be built to any size or specification, allowing for customization of the design.

Price and Appearance of Cultured Marble

Cultured marble shower wall panels ranged from $8 a square foot to $24 a square foot in 2017, depending on color and finish. A cultured marble shower will be fairly uniform in appearance with a high-gloss finish. The veining is subtle, and there is little variation from panel to panel.