Cultured Marble TIPS
- Made from real marble dust
- Order any shape and color
- Scratches and chips can be repaired
- DIY repairs are possible
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DEAR TIM: I'm really fed up with the constant care that my ceramic tile bathtub and shower surround requires. I'd love to have a single piece of marble on each wall.
I've not won the lottery, do you think the cultured marble products will suffice?
Will these synthetic products loose their shine over time? Is it possible for the average person to install cultured marble products? Can you repair pieces that are damaged? Mack T., Liberty, IN
DEAR MACK: Let's set the record straight before we go any further. Cultured marble is really not a totally synthetic product.
Real Marble Dust is Used
Real natural marble dust is used to make cultured marble. This ground-up marble dust accounts for over 75 percent of the volume of a typical cultured marble product.
The marble dust and liquid polyester resin form an attractive and durable bathroom and kitchen product.
I can attest to how cultured marble has rock in it because the sink and countertops made from it are quite heavy!
It's important to realize, real marble can be a nightmare in a bathroom or kitchen environment. It's naturally porous and as such can stain easily. Hair coloring products, chemically reactive shampoos and conditioners, and many colored liquids can cause staining problems with natural marble.
High-quality cultured marble can withstand stains that might otherwise harm natural marble. The resin in the composite marble gives it this quality. This synthetic marble can stain so you don't want to be careless with any personal-care liquid or food item that's acidic.
History Of Cultured Marble
Another key point is the cultured marble industry is now quite mature and very interesting. It got its start in the late 1960's as a "garage" business. Small volume local fabricators sold their products to plumbing and building supply houses.
The industry continues to be quite fragmented and there are hundreds, if not thousands, of small companies who produce cultured marble all over the United States.
For this reason the quality of the finished product can vary widely from one manufacturer to another. Since the marble dust and polyester resin are mixed at the small factories, there can be errors or a fabricator may decide to use less of the most expensive ingredient to lower his costs.
Years ago, many of the leaders in the industry founded the International Cast Polymer Association. This group, at one time, had a certification process so consumers could tell what members made great products.
Certified members of the association are committed to making a high-quality cultured marble, granite, onyx and solid surface product. Cultured marble made by a certified manufacturer, should maintain its brilliance for many, many years as long as you care for it.
Cultured marble can be used to create many bathroom and kitchen products. Sinks with integral tops, bathtubs, whirlpool baths, shower basins, back splashes, wall panels, etc. are all possible.
Since it's a molded product, manufacturers can create an infinite amount of designs tinted to any color. The clear finish can be ordered high gloss or satin from many manufacturers.
Cultured marble that has lost its shine can be restored by using Gel-Gloss or Counter Top Magic once a year.
It's possible to repair scratches, chips, and minor blemishes. A certified repair person can re-buff the surface with a special mixed gel-coat compound.
You can also use a DIY repair kit that can often make scratches or chips disappear.
Cracks and broken pieces are virtually impossible to repair. It's not possible to apply a complete new clear finish to a cultured marble product once it's left the factory.
Installation of cultured marble tub and shower surrounds is really simple. The process goes quickly if the wall surfaces are plumb, square, and flat.
The walls behind the cultured marble should be flat white. Colored drywall or gray cement board can show through some light-colored marble products.
Dry Fit First
With this in mind dry fit each piece to make sure they are sized correctly. Remove dust from the back of each piece with rubbing alcohol before you apply clear 100-percent clear silicone caulk adhesive.
Three-Piece Tub & Showers
I prefer to start my installations with the piece that goes on the wall I face as I enter the tub or shower. If you install the side wall pieces first, your cuts on the final piece have to be perfect.
That can be tough for a beginner. Caulk all seams with a colored 100-percent silicone caulk that will closely match the cultured marble.
No Abrasive Cleaners
Cultured marble is easy to care for once installed. Avoid any cleaning product that contains abrasives. Use a squeegee after each shower to quickly remove water drops from walls.
Hard water deposits can be dissolved easily with white vinegar applied from a spray bottle. Apply the vinegar and wait for 45 minutes to an hour.
Rinse the softened deposits with clear water and a sponge or cleaning rag. Heavy hard-water deposits may require multiple vinegar spray applications.