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11 Alternatives To Marble Table Tops

mercure bowden hall marble laminate tables

Marble table tops have never been more popular in the hospitality industry – and why not; marble is a beautiful, tactile natural material; it is resistant to heat and, if you choose carefully, can also be reasonably priced.

But there are some why-nots. Despite its strength, marble is surprisingly vulnerable; it will stain, it is easily etched by common acids (wine, vinegar, tannin…) and it is prone to cracking and chipping edges. It is also heavy, which makes it expensive to ship and install. This weight also makes it unsuitable to be used on many lighter-weight and ‘flip-top’ table bases. It can also be expensive – Carrara is generally the only ‘budget’ marble option. Finally, some customers worry that marble is a ‘cold’ material.

We cannot over-emphasise the care that must be taken to keep marble table tops in good condition.

In response to this, very acceptable alternatives to marble for table tops are being developed. This is our list of eleven marble alternatives, with their pros & cons, to consider when specifying marble-type table tops for your projects.

terrazzo table top sea green

Terrazzo Table Tops

A popular material, terrazzo is a composite of stone chips (often marble) in cement. The main advantage of Terrazzo is the great range of finishes available; other than this, its characteristics are not unlike marble; it is heat-resistant, but is also a brittle material, vulnerable to chipping, staining and etching.

granite table top

Granite Table Tops

Often used for kitchen work surfaces, granite comes in a wide range of colours. It is a stronger stone than marble, so is less prone to scratching, staining and etching; but it is not invulnerable to any of these.

Silestone Table Tops

Silestone Table Tops

Silestone is a brand name for ‘manufactured quartz’; other manufacturers use different names. It is strong, resistant to damage and stain resistant; it is not particularly resistant to heat, though. It comes in a good range of finishes, polished or matt. A Silestone top is more expensive than a standard marble top.

lightweight marble table top

Lightweight Marble Table Tops

Thin slices of genuine marble are laminated on to a lighter core (eg. fibreglass) creating table tops that are light & ideal for projects which require big sizes of marble tops. The tops are extremely thin and perfect for flip top tables and large indoor tables that would traditionally be too big to install in a restaurant. As these tables use actual marble they will have exactly the same drawbacks - e.g. etching & chipping - but will be much lighter in weight.

DEKTON Table Top

Ceramic/Porcelain Table Tops

Another (expensive) alternative to marble is Dekton, a tough alternative to natural stone. Its main advantage is that it highly resistant to stains of any type.

corian table top on base

Corian Table Tops

Corian is an acrylic man-made material. It is stain resistant and hard to chip or break – this makes it more durable than marble (or granite). In addition, it can be moulded and invisibly repaired. It has a low(er) resistance to heat and is more easily scratched than marble (although scratches can be sanded away).

versital table top metal edge

Versital Table Tops

Versital is a man-made imitation marble, made of resin. It is stain and scratch-resistant, non-porous and slightly lighter than marble. It comes in a wide range of natural looking marble and granite finishes as well as RAL colours with sparkle effects.

marble laminate table top with brass abs edging

Laminate Table Tops

This option involves choosing a laminate (eg. Formica, Egger, Polyrey) with a marble effect to go on an MDF base. The tables will be much cheaper, lighter in weight, and stain resistant. The downside is that most laminates available have a shiny look to them. Though there are matt laminates becoming available. Laminates are also limited to a straight edge profile. If the edge is to be laminated it needs to be a minimum of 50m thick to stick, and the pattern won't match. 

Compact Laminate Table Tops

Compact Laminate Table Tops

So called ‘compact laminate’ table tops are of a man-made material, with a very solid (black) core, that can have a laminate top surface in various finishes (not yet one that mimics marble). The tops are cheaper, lighter (as they are thinner) and completely waterproof. They come in a limited range of finishes, including some with a 'natural feel'. They represent an extremely robust option.


Topalit Table Tops

A leading budget option for ‘marble-look’ tops is Topalit, the trade name for a chipboard table ‘wrapped’ in a sealed, waterproof membrane, that is available in a very wide range of (printed) finishes, including marble-look. Although it comes in a fixed range of sizes and looks less genuine than some alternatives, it is scratch & stain resistant, waterproof and lighter than most competition – it is ideal for flip-top bases.

marble look table top

MDF Marble Table Tops

MDF can be ‘painted’ with a finish that looks like marble; this combines the benefits of the appearance of natural stone with the lightness and durability (and warm feeling) of a wooden table. The finish is resistant to staining and etching and better for lighter table bases (including flip-top bases). It cannot (yet) be used outdoors.

Comparative properties of alternatives to marble

Click table to enlarge.

Marble Alternatives Decision Tree

Click image to enlarge.


Marble resources

For more info about the pros & cons to specifying marble & other stone read our blog: Restaurant Table Tops: Marble, Metal & More. Or learn about care & maintenance of a marble surface here. We also have a guide on terrazzo: 2 Golden Rules for Specifying Terrazzo.

Topics: Tables, Furniture knowledge

By Paula Stanbridge-Faircloth Paula Stanbridge-Faircloth on 18/04/19 11:40
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