Straight from the Shop: Marble's Not Scary

For the last decade, marble hasn’t been all that popular as granite became more affordable than ever. Granite’s ease of maintenance and scratch resistance made it easy for buyers to leave marble in the dust.

The momentum is swinging back, though, as more customers are asking for marble countertops, especially in kitchens. This isn’t the time to be scared of dealing with marble; it’s time to be ready. 


The problem is that, no matter how many times you try and educate someone on the stone they are picking out for a functional kitchen, they don’t listen. They want what they want, and – especially with marble – all of the vital information you’re offering takes the express through one ear and out the other. 

Marble is great for a kitchen, as long as you and your client know the limitations. Low scratch resistance, acid sensitivity and other peculiarities aren’t issues that many homeowners are willing to put up with, but many of them don’t know the difference between marble and granite. And, when I say marble and granite, by the way, I mean marble, limestone, travertine, serpentine and, well, granite. 

We’ve all had that client who picks a stone that doesn’t rank with the more-durable varieties of quartzite and granite. They pay no mind to the warnings and cautions you offer. Then, you get the frantic phone call one week after installation about the “water stains” and the questions about why their sealer, for which they paid so much, for isn’t working. 

Now they’re listening; they need you to fix a problem they created. Are you ready to deal with this problem? Do you know how to properly repair and refinish this stone you’ve just installed? What good are you to the client if you cannot service your own installations? 

You can’t just go in the house and rub some magic powder on the stone and fix it ... or can you? This is when it pays off to have at least one person on your staff capable of performing refinishing and restoration services. The initial problem is usually something small, but often right in the middle of the counter. The repair needs to blend in and be the same as the original finish, because that’s the proper way to do it. 

If you or someone on your payroll cannot perform these tasks, the client will find someone who can. And, if that ends up as a good repair, you’ve lost a good opportunity to provide continual service and generate repeat clients. (This isn’t exclusive to marble, either.) 

And, if you start to see more marble jobs in your shop, you’re likely to need these refinishing skills before countertops start going out the door. Our shop re-polishes or re-hones every calcite-based stone that comes through before we deliver it to the client. Most of the time, the factory finish isn’t even acceptable and it doesn’t take much to make it significantly better.

Proper training is critical if you are just venturing into the refinishing world. Get started on the wrong foot and you’re in trouble –not because you won’t get paid, but that the guys that really know what they’re doing will make your work look silly. 

As my friend Ted McFadden says, “Stone refinishing is a science, not an art.” The majority of stones can be refinished with the same process and materials to yield the same results every time. Since it’s a scientific method, it can be taught. 

To be fair, there is an art to refinishing – it lies in the ability to adapt to the small percentage of problem stones and properly execute the proper technique for each to achieve the proper finish.

Speed (rpms), pressure, the amount of water, type of polishing compound and the type of polishing pad being used will all have an important role in how the final product will look. While this may sound like it is a lot to take in and learn, it doesn’t have to be that difficult.

Starting with your basic process, you can add pressure, increase speed, change the way the materials are used and go from there. The process of elimination is your friend. If something isn’t working, it isn’t working; move on until you find something that makes it better. Move on from there until you eventually get what you’re looking for. This is the skill needed to diagnose the problem stones. 

Whether you attend a class or are trained on the job, you’ll develop a technique slightly different than the trainer. Everyone has certain details that make their process unique to them. This is one of the reasons why no single product will work for everything.