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Marble vs Quartzite

If you are a stone professional then you already know that there are a wide range of materials used for countertops. You also likely know that each material varies from one stone to the next. Because of this, there is a need for consumers to work closely with professionals that are familiar with the materials being used for any given project. In the realm of natural stone, two specific materials sometimes give rise to confusion. They are marble and quartzite. In this article we are going to consider marble vs quartzite in the context of countertop surfaces. Along the way we will examine the properties of each of these materials and look at how these affect the use of the material being discussed.

What is Marble

The question, "What is marble?" may sound like an easy one to answer. Yet, when talking about a material used in the stone industry it can get a bit more challenging. Why is that the case?

Stone industry terms tend to focus more on the practical nature of the material being discussed. On the other hand, scientific or geological classifications have a tendency to focus more on the details regarding the properties of a material. Because of these differing approaches, it is not very difficult to find seemingly conflicting names, descriptions, and even use and care instructions for many of the materials used for countertops. So what is marble? Geologically speaking, it has a very precise definition. Geology.com defines the material this way:

Marble is a metamorphic rock that forms when limestone is subjected to the heat and pressure of metamorphism. It is composed primarily of the mineral calcite (CaCO3) and usually contains other minerals, such as clay minerals, micas, quartz, pyrite, iron oxides, and graphite.

The scientific definition above involves how the rock is formed and what is in it. Yet, other materials have many of the same properties and contian the same kinds of minerals. As a result, some of these stones are often called 'marble' for practical purposes.

The Many Faces of Marble

One of the potentially confusing materials out there is marble. There are many materials that are geologically not marble but function like geological marble and thus are sold under the name 'marble'. So in the stone industry, marble has many different 'faces'. Here though, we will stick to the definition that is more strict; the geologic one. So as we progress through the comparisons, just remember that this is the perspective from which we are speaking.

What is Quartzite

Answering the question, "What is quartzite?" is also not as simple as one might think. Again, this is due to the practical approach the stone industry takes when defining what a particular stone is. Geologically though, quartzite has a specific definition. The quartzite page on Wikipedia.org defines quartzite this way:

Quartzite is a hard, non-foliated metamorphic rock which was originally pure quartz sandstone.

As with the scientific definition of marble, quartzite (geologically speaking) too has specific traits that classify it.

What's in a 'Quartzite' Name?

In the case of natural quartzite, the name has strong implications. The primary mineral of which geologic quartzite is composed, is right in its name. Quartz sandstone is what a quartzite slab was before being transformed. By definition, again, the scientific definition, the sandstone that a quartzite slab was previously was "pure" quartz sandstone. Thus, it easy to see that quartzite, speaking in the geological context, would be completely composed of the mineral quartz. This is the quartzite about which we will speak in this article comparing it with marble.

Even though the name indicates the primary composition of this natural stone, materials are labeled with the quartzite name that are actually scientifically classified as some other stone. The lesson then is this: be familiar with the properties of the material you are working with so that you know how it will perform.

Comparing Marble and Quartzite Properties

It is easy to see from the definitions above that marble and quartzite are both metamorphic rock. Each of the two stones existed previously as another kind of stone. Marble as limestone, and quartzite as sandstone. The minerals in these natural stone materials affects the properties of each. Marble is primarily made up of calcite and quartzite is completely composed of quartz. How does the mineral content of these materials affect their properties?

Comparing Marble vs Quartzite Hardness

In our comparison of these materials, we are going to look at two fundamental aspects of them. The first aspect of these materials that we will consider is their hardness. Calcite is a mineral that resides on the soft end of the Mohs scale of mineral hardness. Since marble is composed primarily of calcite, then it stands to reason that marble would be a relatively soft stone. And that is, in fact, the case. Marble is softer than other countertop surfaces.

On the other hand, quartzite is composed almost completely of the mineral quartz. Quartz is a very hard mineral and lives on the upper end of the Mohs scale. Thus, it is considered to be a hard stone. Natural quartzite is harder than many other natural countertop surfaces. Even granite is not harder than natural quartzite.

Why a Stone's Hardness Matters

The hardness of countertop surface's plays an important role in the material's appeal to consumers. For example, a kitchen surface that is hard is less likely to scratch than a material that is soft. On the other hand a softer material will be easier to shape and cut. That is not to say that only hard materials make good countertop surfaces. In fact, sculptors like working with soft stones such as marble because it is easily shaped. So in the context of countertops, no matter what material you select, there are tools designed for use with it. For cutting marble, a blade designed for cutting calcareous stone will perform well. And for natural quartzite, a hard stone blade will do the trick.

Porosity of Marble vs Quartzite

The second aspect of comparison that we are going to look at in our marble vs quartzite matchup is the porosity of each of these materials. First, let us start by saying that every type of natural stone will vary in porosity from one slab to the next. But as a general rule, all natural stone materials will be somewhat porous. For some natural stone, you can get different grades of material. But why is it important to note the porosity of a natural stone no matter which one it is?

Absorption - Marble vs Quartzite

Knowing how absorbent a stone is important because this is the rate at which stain-causing liquids can penetrate the material. The faster and deeper the discoloration goes into the stone, the more difficult it is to remove. The key to fortifying a countertop slab against staining that is caused from oil-based and water-based liquids is to treat it periodically using a natural stone sealer designed to reduce the stone's absorption rate. A stone sealer designed for natural stone keeps the liquid on top of the stone longer so that spills can be cleaned up more easily. They come in varying specifications and each sealer will have a bit of an advantage in one particular aspect compared to other ones. But the idea here is that sealers be used to boost the resistance of absorption.

The Role of Cleaner

Natural stone cleaners play an important role in the absorption of liquids. How so? Well, using the wrong cleaner on a natural stone's surface will destroy the sealer that you applied. Thus, removing the barrier and reducing the performance of the sealer. All the effort invested in keeping the countertop looking its best can be completely nullified by simply using the wrong cleaner.

The summary here regarding the absorption of quartzite vs marble is, it depends on the stone, how actively it is treated and what cleaner is used on the material.

In conclusion then, both of these materials have properties and features that make each one a good choice for various projects. It simply depends on the preference of the consumer and what kind of care and attention the material will be given. The materials are similar in that each of these labels is at times used to describe a material that is, in reality, a different geologically classified material. Also, both materials vary in porosity from one stone to the next. Contrariwise, these materials differ in that one is a soft stone and the other one a hard stone. Although, these are differences, as we saw this may or may not have a bearing on the stone's appeal. That decision will be made by the consumer. No matter which of these materials is used, the important thing is that the professional be familiar with the material as well as the consumer so that all are on the same page.