In this article I will review my experience in care and maintenance of a brand-name marble product called Piedrafina. Piedrafina Marble is the brand name for a man-made marble product, touted by the manufacturer, to be uasable in a multitude of residential and commercial applications such as: Bathroom Vanities, Tub Decks, Shower Surrounds, Walls, Fireplace Surrounds, Furniture Tops, and Stairways. The manufactured stone is comprised of approximately 95% natural marble with polyester resin binders and pigments.
According to the manufacturer, the natural marble in Piedrafina allows for it to have exquisite colors while maintaining the elegance inherent with beautiful marble products. The manufacturer states that special resin binders give Piedrafina Marble the strength, consistency and durability that differentiate Piedrafina Marble from other products. The manufacturer also touts their marble product is eco-friendly and is easy to care for and maintain.
From my experience I have to disagree with their claim for "easy care and maintenance", and the following is my experience and review of the product.
In 2015, I purchased a new home from a home builder which came with Piedrafina on all our bathroom countertops. The Piedrafina marble product was standard installation in my home purchase, so I don't directly know the cost of the material or it's installation.
Upon installation, Piedrafina is a beautiful shiny marble product! It looks expensive because of its beautiful sheen and marble look. Lights reflect off of it's glass-like surface and my wife and I really felt that it made our bathrooms look quite elegant. It feels cool to the touch (like a stone product should) and when you knock on Piedrafina, it feels and sounds solid.
I loved it until a couple months into living in our house when I walked by and saw a dull spot on one of our bathroom countertops. The dull spot is not always extremely readily seen, you catch it in sunlight or from the distorted reflection of a ceiling or vanity light.
I thought the counter was dirty, so I tried to wipe the spot clean. But it didn't come clean.
I was still in my 1-year builder warranty, so I called the builder. They sent a technician from the installation company (see my article on how builders don't actually build your house) to my home to discuss the issue. The technician rubbed on a typical household kitchen and bathroom polish named "Rejuvenate" and tried to tell me he fixed the problem.
At that point our bathroom countertops only had a few of these marks and the one he "worked" on still seemed to be there for me. We argued a bit. He said that was the best he could do, that he sees it all the time in this product, and I should take it up with the builder. I won't get much further into how upset I was that the technician didn't understand this product or about my frustration with the builder for how they handled this issue as I'll leave that for part of my Touchstone Living Home Builder Review.
Not happy with how Touchstone Living, the builder of our home, handled my issue, I ultimately did some research and learned that the spot was actually an "etch". Etches happen when the highly polished top layer of the shiny stone gets damaged. The etch disrupts the reflection of light (like a crack in glass) and you see the spot.
According to my research, it mostly happens when an acidic product comes in contact with the surface. Apparently hard water also causes damage to the Piedrafina marble product, but we have a water softener, so I don't think hard water is causing our stains.
Looking around at the ingredients of many of the products in our bathroom, I discovered many of them contain acidic substances with the most commonly used bathroom product being hand soap. Just about every hand soap product contains Citric Acid.
One person I talked to during my research suggested I put plain unscented original dish soap in all our bathrooms, but c'mon... how silly is that to have to do (I actually did try it and its annoying to wash your hands with dish soap in the bathroom. My wife just gave me a look like I was insane so I didn't even make her use it).
So there's the big issue with Piedrafina: It's beautiful shine is easily damaged from common household products.
I've even got rings on some of our counter-tops from where glass candles and wooden trinket holders sat. I'm not sure why those rings happened.
Well, the next thing I needed to find out was how to get rid of the etches and get that brand new shine back. So I started looking into products.
At the time Piedrafina themselves sold a product named "Piedrafina Marble Etch Remover".
With this product I was able to remove some of the really light etches, and with multiple tries, I could mostly get rid of the slightly bigger etches. However the etch remover product was no match for the deeper, bigger etches.
From what I understand, the idea behind etch removers is that they themselves are mild acids that actually microscopically damage the surface even further but in a uniform correct-amount way that creates a shine (not very technical on my part I know; possibly not even fully accurate). But this acidic product doesn't seem to be strong enough to bring down surface enough to match the deeper etching, and no matter how many applications I tried, the bigger ones remained.
I ended up talking to one of the product engineers at Piedrafina and he said the only way I could get rid of the deeper etches is to start getting into sanding the surface with a fine sand paper. With that, I was told, I'd need to be careful, however, as it apparently takes some skill to uniformly sand the surface.
I never got into the sanding but I fought for a few months to try and keep the countertops shiny with etch removal products, but the etches just became too many and too deep. I was spending an hour every other weekend working on the problem. The amount of work it took to just keep up with the little etches became too cumbersome and I wasn't even getting rid of the bigger etches.
So I gave up. My countertops have marks all over them but it's to the point where there are so many that the overall surface has become dulled enough that the individual spots don't necessarily stand out as much; as a whole, the surface just looks duller. The overall countertops still look decent but they don't have a that shiny elegant crystal clean pop they used to have.
If you were to see my countertops for the first time while having never seen Piedrafina marble before you likely wouldn't notice the etching. It's one of those things you don't really notice until you live with it and see it every day. Having never lived with the product you'd probably see my countertops as a decent looking marble countertop. But... if half of it were shiny new and the other half in its current state, you'd instantly see the difference and say to yourself, "WOW" what a difference. It's sort of like when you look at diamonds. You can look at one diamond and think its beautiful and sparkly, but when you see it right next to a much higher grade diamond, you can really see the difference in beauty and sparkle. Or maybe it can be likened to dirty glasses. You don't realize how much the world is dulled until you clean your glasses.
Someone told me this product is used in Europe and they don't try to keep the marble surface shiny. From what I understood in the conversation, they call it "Patina" and the etching is something they are proud of in that it represents how much love they have for their house by living in it. The more "Patina" in your Pietrafina marble, the more you've loved your home. Personally, I just think it's cognitive dissonance setting in which creates an easy way to dissociate from the extensive maintenance this product requires to keep it looking shiny brand-new.
Luckily, from what I understand, my Piedrafina marble countertops are composite marble all the way through (as opposed to having some type of material in the center to cheaply add bulk, like say a laminate countertop) and someday, likely when we go to sell the house, we can spend the (likely) significant expense to have a good marble restoration company come in and restore the product by sanding it down and polishing it back to a beautiful shine. I haven't looked into the expense or if it can really be done, but I assume it can be done and that it would be quite expensive.
Finally, as a quick note, my wife has all kinds of products on her side, many with color, and I haven't seen any staining yet (ie nail polish stains). In fact other than the etching I haven't seen any staining on any of the countertops in any of the bathrooms. I asked my contact at Piedrafina if sealing the countertops would help fight against the etching and he said that no, a penetrating sealer seeps into the product to prevent staining, it doesn't protect the surface shine.
In conclusion, I don't fully love the Piedrafina Marble product and I don't find it to be easy to care for and maintain. It looks amazing with its beautiful shine upon installation, but the shine gives way quickly to an overwhelming amount of etching from every day products. I don't think it's a good idea to use the product on any surface that has daily use (like a bathroom countertop). After a year or two the etching takes over and the entire top looks dull relative to its brand new shine. After a significant amount of etching, the marble still looks decent, but it doesn't pop the way it originally did; after all a majority of it is dulled from etching.
Even with the stains, because I know most people don't see the etching upon first experiencing the product, I do still like it better than the white porcelain countertops we had in the bathrooms of our previous house. If I had another chance to choose a premium product, however, I'd probably choose something different (maybe granite or quartz).
Possibly my etching issues are so readily apparent due to the light color in our countertops. As you can see in the pictures, I have a light color (I think it's the "Glacier" color). It's possible that the darker colors don't show the etching as much, but I doubt it.
I have found that the care and maintenance it takes to keep Piedrafina marble shiny and looking brand new is too time consuming and expensive.
Below are some pictures showing the etching in my Piedrafina Marble countertops. If you don't readily see the areas that look like "smudges" in the counter top shine, look for them in the reflection of the pictures lights source. As I wrote previously, the etches really stand out when you catch them in the reflection of a light.