Marble: Characteristics, uses and problems.

We all love having marble flooring and wall tiles in our homes. The use of marble is also very popular in Asia. So do you know enough about marble and maintaining it considering it can be a expensive investment for your home. 

Some boring facts about marble: 

Marble is an extremely hard, metamorphic stone composed of calcite (CaCO3).  It is formed as a result of the recrystallization of limestone under the intense pressure and heat of geologic processes.
The effect of this process is the creation of a stone with a very tight crystalline structure and small but definite porosity. Marble itself can be of two types, one composed of calcite and the other of dolomite. The colour of marble ranges from the brilliant white of calcite to black, including blue-grey, red, yellow and green, depending upon the mineral composition. 

Typical uses for marble 

Marble is used for outdoor sculpture as well as for sculpture bases; in architecture it is used in exterior walls and veneers, flooring, decorative features, stairways and walkways. 

Some problems you my experience with marble: 

Weathering: Marble is extremely durable and because of its limited porosity does not absorb large amounts of water. It does, however, absorb some water and, since it is highly reactive when exposed to acids or even mildly acidic rain water, it can suffer substantial deterioration. The most common symptoms of weathering are a loss of the highly polished surface  and loss edging detail. Little can be done to restore edge detailing short of re-carving the stone which is usually infeasible. Polishing and buffing can restore the marble to some degree. By polishing marble regular is a preventive measure in maintaining the marble. 

Erosion: Wind driven, airborne abrasives such as dirt, grit, and other "particles" may selectively wear away detailing. The symptoms of erosion can be as simple as the general loss of polish and edge sharpness, or it can be very localized, specific wear due to contact with landscaping and mowing equipment. One of the few effective ways to address this problem is by landscaping where plantings and/or landscape grade can deflect the wind 

Staining: Discolouration of the marble, whether general or localized, is staining. 

Some of the most common types of staining and the causative agents are:
  1. Oil/grease stains:  The appearance of grease/oil stains will usually consist of a darkening of the stone at the area of contact.
  2. Dyes and inks:  The staining can be any colour depending on the type and source of the dye. The liquid containing the colouration may be absorbed into the stone and during the normal process of evaporation, the colouring pigment is deposited within the stone.
  3. Organic stains:  Organic stains are caused by direct contact with decomposing organic matter, such as leaves, bird or animal droppings, flowers, tea or coffee.
  4. Metallic stains:  Two major categories of metallic staining are based on either iron or copper. A common source is the water wash, or run-off, from adjacent metallic elements, especially bronze. Rust stains, these stains are reddish-orange and are caused by the oxidation (rusting) of iron. Copper stains are coursed from water run-off from bronze. The stains can range in colour from a light green to a dark brown.
  5. General dirt, soot and pollution: The visual appearance is usually a dulling or greying effect which mutes or obscures the original colour and gloss.
Crumbling: Crumbling may be caused by an inherent weakness in the stone or gradual breakdown of the binder or crystalline structure, or it may be the result of external factors affecting the strength and durability of the marble. This condition may be caused by the use of de-icing salts, or any other source of salts, such as that which can occur when rising damp is present. There is currently little which can be done to repair the damage once this condition has developed. Regular preservation maintenance may eliminate the causes that promote crumbling. 

Chipping: The separation of small pieces or larger fragments of marble, frequently at the corners, edges or mortar joints is known as chipping. These fractures are generally caused by deterioration and re-pointing, especially due to the use of too hard a pointing mortar, or by accident or vandalism. Repairs include detachment repairs, patching and splicing. 

Cracking: This condition is manifested by the appearance of narrow fissures ranging from less than 1/16 to 1/2 inch wide or more in the stone.  It results from a variety of causes, such as structural overloading due to settlement, the use of too hard a mortar mix or a flaw in the material. Minor cracking may be no problem, in and of itself, but it can be an indication of structural problems and the cracks can be a source of entry of water into the interior of the stone, promoting salt migration. Repairs include patching and replacement.

Efflorescence: The appearance of a whitish deposit locally or uniformly over the surface may be efflorescence, the surface deposition of soluble salts. There are numerous sources for the soluble salts which create the hazy appearance; salts can come from mortar, improper cleaning agents, rising damp, de-icing salts, chemical landscaping treatments, air pollution or from improper chemical cleaning, i.e. too strong a chemical cleaner or inadequate rinsing. 

Flaking: This is an early stage of peeling, exfoliation, delamination or spalling evidenced by the detachment of small flat thin pieces of the outer layers of stone from a larger piece of stone. Flaking is usually caused by capillary moisture or freeze-thaw cycles which occur within the masonry. The problem can also occur due to sub-florescence, so that if flaking occurs, the area should be examined to determine if salt crystallization is occurring in the flaked areas. 

Peeling: Peeling is flaking away of the surface from the substrate in strips or layers. It may result from the improper application of masonry coatings which result in failure of the coating and/or stone surface. It may also result from a defect in the stone, or from weathering. Encrustation of the surface caused by chemical reactions with environmental elements may also peel or flake along the bedding plane. 

If you have discovered you have any of these problems and need to get them fixed, always consult a expert before proceeding with any cleaning or repairs. When using cleaning products always read the instructions to ensure that you are using the correct product and procedures for you problem.

If you need a expert to clean or repair a marble problem you can post your job on

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