If you've recently been shopping around for tile you may have realized that tile prices vary widely. One of the questions we get quite often is why a similar type of tile can vary so greatly in price from one manufacturer to another. A great example of this is in a marble mosaic tile. Clients will come to us having seen a marble mosaic for $13/sqft and wonder why a (seemingly) similar mosaic costs upwards of $65/sqft. The difference in price is truly reflected in the quality of the product from the earth to the mine to your home.
Marble Is Metamorphic
Some marble is in it's original form, is better quality than other marble. Marble is metamorphic, meaning that it is created through heat and pressure applied to other forms of rock - limestone or dolomite. This heat and pressure causes calcite in the limestone or dolomite to recrystallize, changing the structure of the stone and resulting in a new type of stone - marble. This process is what makes marble the beautiful product that has been admired for centuries. During the formation of marble, the stone can be exposed to different metals. This is where the difference between "good" marble and lesser marble starts - in the earth. Good marble is quarried in areas where it has not been exposed to metals. Lesser marble may have been exposed to metals (particularly iron) in its formation process. This exposure means that the marble could actually have metal in the stone, which over time, and especially with exposure to moisture, could yellow or rust. When purchasing lower quality marble mosaics, it is important to notice that the marble may already have some yellowing or rusting, but even if it doesn't now, it may in the future. For some people this is a deal breaker, because they are hoping for a light gray marble that will continue to look the same long into the future. For others, the potential for yellowing or rusting is not a concern. Marble mosaic is more likely than larger format marble tile to be lower quality marble, so finding out about the source of the marble you are considering is a good idea.
Marble Quality Starts At the Quarry
Once marble is quarried it is cut into slabs. The gage, or thickness, of the slab impacts the strength of the tile. Thinner tile is more fragile for cutting, installation and wear. The evenness of the gage of the tile throughout is also a factor in the quality of the tile and therefore the price. For a mosaic pattern, the marble must be cut precisely and the crispness of those cuts will impact the overall sturdiness of the tile as well as the look of the tile.
Standards Impact Marble Tile Creation, Selection & Care
Companies selling marble mosaic at the higher price range (around 65/sqft) will have paid attention to all of the details that make your tile strong and beautiful. Starting with selection, the companies producing the most expensive marble mosaic tile are choosy when it comes to what stone makes the cut for their mosaics. They look specifically for staining, off colors and authenticity to the type of marble. Even the quality of the mesh used to hold the mosaic tile together impacts the end result. In shipping, the type of surface preservation used could be the difference between a shiny surface and a marred surface, or stunned (damaged) edges and crisp edges. Damage in shipping often cannot be repaired because marble is a softer stone.
Why does marble tile vary in price?
The quality of the stone itself, the way that the stone is cut and finally the care of the stone from the quarry to your home - all impact the cost per square foot of your marble mosaic. When taking these things into consideration, you may choose to purchase a less expensive tile knowing that it will not be exposed to moisture or deciding that some potential for change in the stone is not objectionable. If you decide that you want the benefits of choosing a high quality stone from a company who has carefully selected and handled your stone, you will feel your money is well spent. There's no right or wrong answer when choosing the quality of your marble mosaic - it's all about your budget, your preferences and your expectations.