Tiles vs Marble Flooring: The Pros and Cons of Each

Tiles vs Marble

Marble is luxury material that is quarried in large slabs and then broken down into tiles and mosaic pieces. By the time it makes it to a tile store, you may have forgotten about the large slabs, but they can still be used for flooring and countertops too. To help you figure out what the pros and cons are of using tiles vs marble slab, consider the following seven criteria.

#1 Aesthetics

This is the big reason people buy marble in the first place, right? Marble comes in different grades and the really high quality marble slabs, like Calacatta, have distinctive, bold, veins that literally take a person's breath away for their stunning, natural, beauty. The fact is that is if you use tile, instead of slab, those veins are less likely to match up. That's okay if the veins are light and feathery, as with Carrara marble, but when you want large expanses of uninterrupted veins, then go for the slab. In the same manner, if you want a large expanse of uninterrupted monochrome marble with no veining or grout lines, go for the slab. However, if you prefer to make mosaics or even herringbone patterns with marble, then use tiles.

#2 Installation

Tiles can take more work because they need to be cut and grouted. This can make a slab installation easier. Tiles also need to be matched and laid out ahead of time to make sure everything looks okay before the final installation, otherwise, the veining might seem off in different areas. Slabs basically look the same so don't need all that extra work. Take a look at this marble tile floor and imagine all the tile cutting, grouting, and floor layout that went into this project.

#3 Weight and Thickness

Despite not needing to be cut or grouted, there is still some preparation that needs to be done for a slab. Slabs are thicker and weigh more than tiles, so that the flooring underneath has to be prepared to not only support the weight, but to have enough space for the thickness of the slab and the mud underneath it. In addition, there is a slurry that needs to be added to make sure the slab adheres to the deck mud underneath. That all adds up and you can expect your slab floor to up to five inches thick! Here is a slab bathroom floor. Notice the way the veins match perfectly.

#4 Maintenance

Slabs do need to be sealed against accidental spills that might cause staining. Marble can be easily damaged with acidic liquids like fruit juice, wine, or vinegar without this type of maintenance. Marble needs to be gently cleaned at times, but when you use tiles you have the added stress of trying to clean the grout, which requires harsher cleaners than the tile. Thus, it can be difficult to keep both the marble and the grout in a tile layout looking at their best at the same time. The same is not true with a slab, which just needs periodic maintenance and gentle cleaners, making it a lot less of a hassle to keep looking clean. Here is an example of a marble floor that may require a little less maintenance simply because it is black and white.

#5 Durability

Since a slab is thicker, it tends to be stronger and more durable than thinner tiles. In fact, slabs are so durable they are said to be earthquake and fire resistant. The same cannot be said of tiles, which will chip and crack as the grout is pull out during an earthquake. Slabs not only survive these natural disasters, but also the test of time, as many ancient Roman tourist sites prove. Whereas mosaics and tile art may need to be re-grouted and put back together, slabs don't need any of that to be as good as new. Still, if you're not in earthquake territory, you can still opt for marble tiled floors that will be somewhat durable (just not as much as a slab), like in this design.

#6 Heat Transfer

Marble has a natural quality that makes it excellent for heat transfer. That's why chefs love marble slab countertops, so that they can work with either really hot or really cold foods on a very smooth surface. Marble tiles will not work as well because they have the grout interrupting the smooth surface. In fact, if you leave hair styling equipment on marble tiled countertops in your bathroom, you run the risk of tarnishing individual tiles. The heat transfer is also a wonderful quality for floors where you can feel a coolness coming off the marble in areas that might feel hot during hot weather or around cold water.

#7 Cost

Slabs are more expensive than tiles, but for good reason. They tend to last longer and be easier to maintain than tiled floors. They are appropriate for a grand lobby or a luxury home entryway, where you want to make a big impression. They are excellent for heat transfer and thus favored by chefs around the world for their kitchen countertops. Thus, it makes sense you would pay more for slabs than for marble tiles. But, how would you get such dramatic veining like in this countertop, unless you used slabs?

Which Would You Choose: Tiles Vs Marble Slab?

While slab has many, many, positives, there are times when you might want to opt for tile. If cost is a factor, tiles are cheaper than using slabs. Maintenance is also easier on a slab and may be the reason hotels tend to favor slabs for their entryways and grand lobbies. However, for the majority of luxury home owners, it will be more of a choice between one aesthetic or another. They simply might like the look of tile more than a slab or vice-versa. Both are excellent choices. However, slabs may be too heavy for some floors and do take up more space, when compared to tiles. Thus, this is also a factor that needs to be considered when choosing between tiles vs marble slabs.

Do you understand the difference now between marble slab and tiles? Where would you use one or the other for your next project? Please comment below.

About the Author

Nelson Londono founded Artsaics in 1998 after learning the ins and outs of designing custom artistic tiles and stone mosaics. The New York-based surfacing company specializes in producing stunning artistic tiles & stone designs with fine natural stone from around the world. Nelson and his team's passion lies in working with their hands, heads and hearts to make each and every space a unique reflection of self expression. You can learn more about Artsaics here.