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The basics: Marble is a natural stone composed of calcium carbonate; it's in the same stone family as limestone and travertine. Color variations occur in marble due to mineral impurities in the stone. Slabs, rather than tiles, are typically used for countertops, where the dramatic veining can be displayed.
Cost: $70 to $100 per square foot, installed.
Sustainability: While mining stone disrupts local ecosystems and depletes finite, nonrenewable resources, ecofriendly marble can be had with salvaged slabs. Also, you can choose marble that's mined in your region to reduce transportation-related energy.
Maintenance: There are more don'ts than dos when it comes to maintenance, where use of even mild detergents can dull your marble's finish. Routine care is best limited to a soft cloth and warm water or cleaners made specifically for marble. You'll want to seal your marble every year or two with an impregnating water-based sealer made for marble.
Special considerations: Opt for a honed surface to help hide any etching from acidic foods. And if you want to use your marble for working pastry or other foods, seek out nontoxic sealants.
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