Marble vs Porcelain Tile Flooring

Marble Tile

   PROS
  • Luxurious appearance
  • Wide variety of patterns and colors
  • Increases resale value
  • Suitable for radiant flooring
  • Smooth surface
  CONS
  • More expensive and easier to install
  • Harder to maintain
  • Needs regular maintenance
  • Easily scratched and damaged
  • Can’t be used in wet areas
$9 - $24

(sq. ft. installed)

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Porcelain Tile

   PROS
  • Easier to maintain
  • Highly durable
  • Wide variety of patterns and colors
  • Less susceptible to water damage
  • Suitable for radiant flooring
  CONS
  • Harder to install
  • No impact on resale value
  • Tough surface
$8 - $15

(sq. ft. installed)

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When choosing new tile for your floor, there are lots of products on the market. Beyond appearance there are other important features to think about like durability, ongoing maintenance, and regular cleaning. Marble and porcelain tile are two popular materials and both can be used in your next flooring project. In the sections below, we will explain the differences between them.

Installation

Any tiling project requires an assessment of the existing subfloor 1 and may require replacement or upgrading. In any floor installation project, the subfloor 1 must be clean, level, and sturdy enough to support the weight of the tile.

Marble tiles can be fragile and difficult to match and therefore should be laid out on your floor before installation to make sure you are happy with the overall design. Experts suggest mixing tiles from different boxes to achieve a more balanced look.

Porcelain tiles are heavy and require a special mortar 2, grout 3, and tools, which are different from those used for other ceramic tiles. This can make the installation process very time consuming and increase the cost.

Costs

Porcelain tiles cost on average between $3 and $5 per square foot for materials and between $5 and $10 per square foot for installation. Tiles cannot be installed directly onto a wooden subfloor 1 and may need cement backer boards installed at a cost of $4 to $7 per square foot. Expect average total costs to be between $8 and $15 dollars per square foot installed.

Marble tile is typically more expensive and cost on average between $5 and $15 per square foot for materials and installation averages between $4 and $9 per square foot. These tiles are especially prone to breaking so plan to buy between 10%–20% more than needed. Expect average total costs to be between $9 and $24 dollars per square foot installed.

Regardless of the tile choice, the shape of the floor, pattern or complexity of the design, and the size of the tiles will determine installation cost. Projects that require more detailed work or cutting of the tile will be more expensive. If the installation requires detailed work, expect costs to be 15% – 20% more.

Appearance

Marble is a natural stone product mined from quarries so each tile is unique in appearance. All tiles for your project should come from the same cut of stone in order to get the best match. Some white or light colored marbles can look translucent, making them a very attractive floor covering. Marble is well known for its use in high-end homes and buildings and can give a luxurious feel thanks to its smooth surface.

Porcelain tiles are manufactured from clay and offer a wide variety of colors, textures, and patterns to choose from. This allows porcelain tiles to have the look of natural stone or even hardwood but at a much lower price. Tiles can also be easily matched and even customized for your project.

Best Use

Marble tiles are not recommended for humid or wet areas like kitchens, bathrooms, or basements because marble will absorb moisture, which can lead to warping, dulling, and deterioration over time. Due to its polished finish, marble can be very slippery when wet.

Porcelain tile is extremely durable making it an excellent choice for areas with lots of traffic. Grout 3 used in porcelain tile installations in bathrooms, kitchens, and other damp or humid areas will need to be sealed to prevent damage and mold growth because grout 3 can absorb moisture.

Durability

With proper cleaning, maintenance, and regular sealing, marble tile will stand up to regular wear. However, it is easily scratched, broken if something heavy is dropped on it, and spills require immediate clean up. Highly-polished marble surfaces require regular sanding 4 and polishing, often best done by a professional, in order to maintain their look.

Porcelain tile is one of the most durable products available for flooring because it is hard, thick, and solid. It does not absorb moisture so it is ideal for high-traffic areas which may come in contact with water. Spills, however, should be cleaned up as soon as possible to prevent staining or damaging the grout 3. As long as the tile is undamaged, expect porcelain tile flooring to last the lifetime of your home.

Maintenance

As marble is a natural stone product, it is porous, meaning it has tiny holes, requiring a surface sealant to prevent permanent stains. After the initial installation and sealing, it’s recommended that you reseal your marble tile every six to twelve months depending on how much foot traffic it gets. Mild acids found in the kitchen – like vinegar or lemon juice – can cause problems to the finish. Depending on the type of stain, specialized cleaning products may be necessary. Marble tile is also susceptible to chips, cracks, and breakage and can be scratched by vacuuming.

Porcelain tile is manufactured from clay and fired in a kiln, making it very hard and durable. It is moisture- and stain-resistant and easy to clean. While the tiles are durable, the mortar 2 and grout 3 used for installation is more vulnerable to moisture and requires a surface sealant in order to prevent water absorption. If the grout 3 or mortar 2 does get wet, it can compromise the flooring or lead to the growth of mold.

Resale Value

Marble tile floors can increase the resale value of a home, but only if they have been installed and maintained properly. Porcelain tile floors don't have a big impact on resale value because they are lower cost and much more common.

Radiant Floor Heating

Both marble and porcelain tile flooring can be installed over radiant floors 5, which is a roll-out mat set in thin concrete before the tile is installed.

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Remodeling Terms Cheat Sheet

Definitions in laymen's terms, cost considerations, pictures and things you need to know.
See full cheat sheet.
1 Subfloor: The bottom-most layer of a floor, supported by joists, over which finished flooring material is laid
2 Mortar: A mixture of Portland cement or lime or a combination of both, sand, and water used to bind bricks, stones, and concrete masonry units together
3 Grout: A fluid form of cement used to seal the joints between tiles. It also makes the surface stronger because it bonds the tiles together
4 Sanding: Process of removing the top surface of a material, such as wood, using sandpaper and/or a specialized sanding machine (for large surface areas)
5 Radiant floors: A heating system using tubes or electric wires installed underneath the flooring

Cost to install marble or porcelain tile flooring varies greatly by region (and even by zip code). To get free estimates from local contractors, please indicate yours.

Labor cost by city and zip code

Compared to national average
Akron, OH
-6%
Albuquerque, NM
-14%
Arlington, VA
+38%
Athens, GA
-9%
Atlanta, GA
+24%
Austin, TX
+13%
Baltimore, MD
+12%
Brockton, MA
+38%
Bronx, NY
+32%
Brooklyn, NY
+16%
Canton, GA
-5%
Charlotte, NC
+6%
Chicago, IL
+40%
Cincinnati, OH
+6%
Cleveland, OH
+7%
Colorado Springs, CO
-3%
Dallas, TX
+10%
Dayton, OH
-7%
Denver, CO
+1%
El Paso, TX
-28%
Elk Grove, CA
+6%
Ellenwood, GA
-4%
Fort Lauderdale, FL
+2%
Fort Worth, TX
+6%
Fremont, CA
+35%
Gardner, MA
+11%
Grove City, OH
+5%
Highlands, NJ
+32%
Houston, TX
+24%
Hudson, FL
-31%
Indianapolis, IN
+6%
Jacksonville, FL
-1%
Jersey City, NJ
+23%
Kansas City, MO
+4%
Las Vegas, NV
+7%
Los Angeles, CA
+11%
Louisville, MS
-51%
Memphis, TN
+11%
Meridian, ID
-11%
Mesa, AZ
-2%
Mesquite, TX
+7%
Miami, FL
+1%
Minneapolis, MN
+25%
Nashville, TN
+21%
New York, NY
+77%
Novi, MI
+37%
Oakland, CA
+36%
Ocala, FL
-25%
Philadelphia, PA
+40%
Phoenix, AZ
0%

Labor cost in your zip code

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