Natural marble used for floors and countertops adds elegance to the decor of homes and office buildings. However, it is pricey and requires a lot of maintenance. Two by-products of natural marble, cultured marble and engineered marble, are aesthetically pleasing, practical and cost-effective alternatives widely used for residential and commercial applications.
Cultured marble contains more than 75 percent natural marble, onyx, limestone or granite dust. It is available in many colors with assorted hues and sizes of veins running through it. Engineered marble is made from recycled pieces of marble discarded by quarries and includes various types of stone and rock.
After the materials of cultured marble are formed into slabs of different shapes and sizes, they are sealed and protected by a coat of polyester resin. To manufacture engineered marble, the chunks from the quarry are crushed, pressed, heated and bound together with just enough polyester resin to form slabs, which are then cut into pieces appropriate for counters, floors, tubs and sinks.
Engineered marble is environmentally friendly as it uses recycled materials that quarries have discarded. Conversely, cultured marble contains unrecycled petroleum products that bond the materials and create patterns and veins in the surface.
Usage and Care
Cultured marble is coated with gel and resin products that make it resistant to mildew and bacteria but it is not recommended for kitchens as it easily scratches. It adds a sleek, finished look to bathroom tubs, shower pans, walls and countertops as it has no grout lines like conventional tile but it requires regular cleaning and polishing. Engineered marble has a tougher surface than cultured marble and can be used for all applications including kitchen counters. Its stain- and scratch-resistant finish and anti-bacterial properties make engineered marble a top choice for decorating various surfaces throughout the home.
Pros and Cons
If you are concerned about the environment and prefer a green lifestyle, engineered marble is a better alternative than cultured marble since it is made from recycled materials. Engineered marble is also the more durable and easy to maintain of the two, so it is a better choice for environments with small children and homeowners with limited time for housework. Although cultured marble is more delicate than engineered varieties, it more closely resembles natural marble. Both cultured and engineered marble are less costly than natural marble and engineered is less expensive than cultured.