What Is Calacatta & Carrara Marble - What’s the Difference?

Types of Calacatta Marble
If you're looking into a remodel or finishing a new home, the amount of choices for every little detail can be enough to make any sane person's eyes cross -- especially in cases like these where the differences between two choices can be incredibly subtle. This is what we lovingly refer to as option paralysis. With so many options to choose from, and such minute differences between them, it becomes difficult to make any decision at all. In the case of Carrara and Calacatta marble, the differences between the two is pretty subtle, and can be incredibly difficult to tell apart if the two examples aren't literally sitting side by side. With the two choices being so similar, it might be surprising why Calacatta tends to be so much more expensive than Carrara.

So, let's get into the differences between the two and how you can spot them:

Carrara Marble:

Named after the region in Northern Italy where it comes from, Carrara is often what first comes to mind for people when thinking about Italian marble. Carrara marble features a very light grey background with darker contrasting grey to blue-grey veining across it. The grey figuring tends to display in a lighter, almost feathery streaks. Of course, being a natural material, these variations can vary from piece to piece. Some feature wider or more defined veins, giving installers some interesting options in having the grains and veins run together to create some striking patterns.

Calacatta Marble:

Adding to the confusion between the two, Calacatta is even quarried from the same region of Italy. The most distinct difference of Calacatta is its brighter white field and more dramatic veining. The streaks also feature more color variation than Carrara, ranging from dark grey to brown and gold. This figuring stands against the white background with more of a stark contrast, often making for a dramatic scape across the surface. This vivid streaking across the more "pure" white backdrop is often considered more desirable, though an overly busy example might not work for everyone.

Why is Calacatta so much more expensive?

Calacatta is less abundant than Carrara, and many perceive the whiter field to be more high end than the less dramatic Carrara. Prices before installation for Carrara tend to sit in the $75-$100 per square foot range on average, while Calacatta can be upwards for $250. Of course, these prices can vary by supplier and on a piece by piece basis, so it really comes down to the individual slab.

Is there any difference in maintenance between the two?

Being that both marbles come from the same region of Italy, their compositions are incredibly similar, featuring virtually the same density and porosity. This means that maintenance, possibility of staining, and susceptibility to chipping is identical between the two. The difference in which is right for you really does just come down to aesthetics and budget.

What does marble maintenance look like?

Being a natural stone, there are a few precautions you need to take in order to keep the surface looking as sleek and brilliant as the day its installed. For one, marble is susceptible to chemical etching from acidic substances, like vinegar, citrus and even tomato sauce (ironic, considering its Italian origin). Also, due to the porosity of the stone, stains don't just stay on the surface, they can seep in below the surface, making them more difficult to remove. Even something as benign as water can leave a dark spot temporarily if left to sit. Cooking oil stains are common as well, requiring special care to remove, which we'll get into below.

Always Maintain a Good Seal on Your Marble:

SealerYour installers should apply a sealer upon installation, but that isn't enough to cover you for the lifetime of the stone. In order to help prevent etching, staining and liquids penetrating the surface of your shiny new marble, you will periodically need to reseal the stone -- especially in high trafficked areas, or anywhere that has suffered a spill from harsh or acidic chemicals that may strip away the seal. If you aren't sure how the seal is doing in any spot on your marble, you can do the water test: Pour water (about 3 inches in diameter) on the surface in several areas and let it sit for 30 minutes. If the marble darkens in any of these locations, the water is penetrating the stone and it’s time to apply a natural-stone sealer, such as the Granite Gold Sealer®.

Getting Rid of Stains:

If the sealer is stripped away and you find yourself with a stain that won't come up with natural-stone cleaner and a stone-safe scrubbing pad, there are a few things you can do. For oil or grease stains, try making a paste mixture of acetone and baking soda to the consistency of pancake batter and place onto the stained area. Allow the paste to sit for 24 hours, then remove and rinse with water. Repeat if necessary; some stains may require two or three attempts. Reseal the stone surface once this is completed. For organic stains like fruit juice, wine, coffee or tea, place a plain white paper towel over the stain and pour either solution (one-part laundry bleach with one-part water or 3 percent or 4 percent hydrogen peroxide) onto the paper towel to thoroughly saturate the paper towel. Allow this to sit for 24 hours; remove paper towel and rinse area with water and repeat if needed. Do not mix bleach or hydrogen peroxide together or any household chemicals together. Reseal the surface once complete.

Proactive Protection:

Always make sure to wipe up spills immediately after they happen to maintain the integrity of the seal and help prevent stains. It's also a good idea to always use a cutting board during food-prep, to use place mats under plates and coasters under drinks. For bathroom counters, it's good practice to use vanity trays under soap and toiletries in order to prevent build-up of soap scum and other chemicals. While marble is a resilient material, better safe than sorry is the name of the game. Use trivets and heat pads under hot pans, avoid standing on your countertops and be careful to not drag anything across the surface in order to maintain that sleek surface and seal integrity. If you'd like to learn more on what you need to know in order to properly care for your stone, give our stone experts a call at 1-800-475-STONE. Also, be sure to check out our store locator for where you can find our products locally, and take a look at our full line of stone care solutions ready to be shipped to your door!

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