Classy, elegant, luxurious, and a statement -- those are just a few descriptors as to how a marble floor enhances your home. Marble is one of the most expensive flooring materials available, and where you lay it affects its longevity. Marble isn't as sturdy as wood or as hard as granite, but -- it's rock. It can last a lifetime, as evidenced in landmarks such as Union Station in New York City, with the thousands of feet traipsing through it daily. Some marble requires sealing, but the darkest colors usually don't. Laying marble isn't as easy as rolling out the carpet, but it adds value to your home and timeliness to your decor.
Polished stone or a floor with a honed finish: You can have both types of marble, and each has specific qualities. The shining, glassy surface of polished marble is smooth and glossy, typical of most marble flooring. The polish adds a layer of protection for the stone, but it reveals scratches. A polished marble floor is also slippery. If you have it laid in a main traffic aisle, use area rugs to avoid slips and slides. Honed marble is not shiny, and scratches aren't obvious in the soft patina. If you are laying marble in a high-traffic area, honed is the better choice.
General Marble Maintenance
Marble is porous, which means that it picks up stains, absorbs acids, and gets etching marks -- light, matte gray spots -- as a result of a chemical reaction that occurs when an acid such as lemon meets the calcium-based marble. Polished marble, once polished, needs sealing at least yearly, and moreso in high-traffic areas. Both marbles need vigilant monitoring for dirt that can grind the surface, sand, and detritus that makes it into your home from the front door. Even animal scratches can mar the surface, necessitating more frequent sealing. A wet mop used daily on the flooring keeps it looking good.
Cleaning Polished Marble
If you install marble floors in your bathroom, be especially cautious of toothpaste, which can easily etch the surface. Clean the floors with water, a mild bleach solution -- too much bleach can affect the stone -- and a soft brush. Avoid detergents containing ammonia, and don't use a harsh-bristle brush. An old toothbrush works perfectly. Polished marble scratches and shows wear more easily than honed marble.
Cleaning Honed Marble
Because honed marble is not sealed, it's important to wipe away any spill immediately. Be especially cautious if the flooring is in the kitchen and at the front door. Regular soap may damage honed marble, as it seeps through the surface of the stone and penetrates, leaving behind a darkened color. Instead, clean honed marble with with a mildly abrasive household detergent that contains a small amount of bleach.
Not all marble should be sealed. You can test your marble slab by pooling water on the surface. If it is absorbed, it needs sealing; if not, it doesn't.