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. It has a satisfying cold feel, and comes in many types, each with its own distinctive appearance.
Marble table tops are available in a wide range of standard shapes and sizes and are also often available in bespoke sizes and shapes. Almost all marble tops have a depth of 20mm (the standard thickness of cut marble sheets) and there are a number of edge profile options.
As with any natural material, every marble table top will be unique – sometimes there are considerable differences between marbles even from the same quarry.
Marble table tops are porous, so need to be correctly sealed (or lacquered). In use, they need to be carefully protected from staining, etching and marking.
Marble edge profiles
White marble table tops: Carrara, Calacatta & Arabescato
Most marble table tops in the hospitality industry are mainly white; of these, most are Carrara marble. But there are increasingly well-known alternatives - Calacatta and Arabescato. All three of these come from the same region of Italy.
As a general rule of thumb (and in order of price):
- Carrara marble typically has milder, muted markings, often on a greyer background.
- Arabsescato marble generally has more contrast between a whiter background and darker grey markings, but on a smaller scale than Calacatta.
- Calacatta marble is also high-contrast, but on a larger scale to Arabsescato. It can sometimes also have a more ivory hue. Of the three, it is the most expensive and also the type with the greatest variation of pattern between tops.
Please do ask us for samples of any of these…
For more on white marble types you can view large images of sheet marble in our blog: White Marble Table Tops.
Some marble tops will contain ‘sandspots’, areas of very slightly softer material, with a more matt appearance. This adds to the character of a top, underlining their unique characteristics; these sandspots need more regular re-sealing. The photo below shows both sandspots (the irregular patches) and acid etching (the ring and possibly some of the spots). It is a reasonably extreme example of what a table top in regular use can look like after a fairly short period – but please remember that the photo has been taken with light reflecting on the top to highlight the matt spots; without this reflection, the matt areas are generally invisible.
Fixing marble table tops to bases
Marble table tops cannot be directly fixed to table bases, which are normally connected together with screws. So a fixing plate (usually of MDF or plywood) has to be glued to the underside of the top. These fixing plates need to be big enough for the ‘spider’ (ie the top of the table base) but not too big to be visible to diners. If the tables are for outside use, the fixing plate must be of a waterproof material (usually water-resistant MDF or marine ply). Read more about connecting table tops and bases here
Heavy tops, not least of marble, should not really be paired with a flip top base; the mechanisms on the base are easily worn-out or broken as a result – they are also easily unbalanced.
Transporting marble table tops
Of any table top material, marble is the most vulnerable to damage in transit, really because of its weight and brittleness. The Contract Chair Co takes great care to protect marble tops, often ‘sandwiching’ them between sheets of plywood. If the tops are being delivered to a venue overseas, we usually create one-off timber packing cases. It is worth noting that this is likely to incur an extra charge.
What is Acid Etching?
Most hospitality operators will know well that table tops are vulnerable to chipping and staining. Etching is a further vulnerability particular to marble (and other stone) tops, caused by corrosive acids in commonplace items such as wine, tea, coffee, fruit juice, mustard and ketchup. Etching results in areas of rougher surface, which have a ‘matt’ appearance, contrasting with the original glossier sealed surface. Often the colour remains exactly the same. Etching can also be caused by using acid-based cleaning products such as hydrogen peroxide or bleach. See the photo above – the ‘ring’ is acid etching.
In our experience it is close to impossible to maintain marble table tops in mint condition, particularly to avoid any sort of staining or etching. If your tops might suffer from coffee staining, which often takes the form of dark rings, consider a darker colour marble such as grigio carnico, on which coffee stains are better disguised.
Staining/etching from wine on Carrara marble
Chipping and scratching
Marble is a brittle material, which can suffer from chipping – often when tables are pushed together for bigger parties. The corners of square and rectangular tops tend to be more vulnerable than circular tops, and some ‘sharper’ edge profiles are more prone to chipping.
Clean marble tops with warm water and soap, liquid detergent or Relay Spray. At all costs avoid sanitisers and similar products (including the popular D10 sanitiser). All liquids should be wiped from tops immediately to avoid staining and etching.
Difficult stains (maybe ink, wine, etc) can, with care, be cleaned off using white spirit (or a cleaning product such as Vanish Oxi Action Stain Remover). White spirit is also useful in removing grease and oil marks. We strongly recommend first testing the cleaning material on a non-visible area such as the underside of a table. It may be necessary to re-apply a stone sealer after deep cleaning, to recreate the original surface sheen.
Marble tops are supplied with a sealed surface. This seal provides light protection (note the provisos above) and also a gentle sheen (raw marble has a matt finish). The passage of time and cleaning will lessen the effectiveness of this thin layer of seal, which should be regularly re-applied, using a penetrating seal such as those sold by Premium Stone (following product instructions).
We cannot over-emphasise the care that must be taken to keep marble table tops in good condition.
If you love the look of marble table tops, but are worried about their vulnerability, view our blog 11 Alternatives To Marble Table Tops.