Limestone vs Marble: What Is the Difference?
When designing a space, interior designers and architects have a wide range of materials to choose from.
They can design a space with wood, steel, and glass. But without natural stone, the design would be incomplete.
- 1 Limestone vs Marble: What Is the Difference?
Because of their aesthetic value and durability, natural stones are used to make interior elements such as flooring, countertops, window sills, and even walls in some cases.
When we talk about natural stones there are also many options. However, the two most popular natural stones are limestone and marble.
Both limestone and marble have a lot in common, but there are also many differences between them.
In this post, we will explore limestone and marble to give you a better understanding of these two stones.
We will compare and contrast their features so that you can make an informed decision about which one is best for your project. Let’s get started.
Limestone and marble are both popular choices for floors, counters, and backsplashes. Each of them has its own unique characteristics that make it a popular choice for certain applications.
Here is the main difference between limestone and marble:
Limestone is a sedimentary rock made up of calcium carbonate fossils (shells, coral, etc) that settle at the bottom of a body of water over time.
While marble is a metamorphic rock created by altering sedimentary limestone grains under intense heat and pressure.
In fact, if you look closely at a limestone rock, you will notice that it contains fossil fragments (like seashells and corals) held together by a calcite matrix.
Limestone is a porous stone that is permeable due to the microscopic gaps between the fossil bits. However, marble has a denser composition since it is compressed under high pressure.
What is Limestone?
Limestone is a sedimentary rock composed of CaCO3 (calcium carbonate) fossils formed by the deposition and lithification of marine skeletons and shells.
Although CaCO3 is the main component of limestone, limestone can also contain other minerals such as dolomite and magnesite.
Limestone can be in different colors depending on the material composition (amount of iron, magnesium, dolomite, and other impurities) that it contains.
However, most limestone rocks are light to dark gray in color with red or yellow streaks and spots on them.
Limestone has poor mechanical strength, especially when compared to marble. It is only as durable as the fossils that make it and their level of cementation or recrystallization.
Uses of Limestone
Limestone is used extensively in construction, especially in the form of building blocks, flagstones, and roofing slates. It is also used to make cement, mortar, and plaster.
Another use of limestone is landscaping. It is used to create walls and walkways.
Limestone can be cut into stones or bricks for building construction, creating patios, fireplaces, and other landscape features. It is also used to stabilize roadbeds and as a railway track ballast.
There are also agricultural uses of limestone. It is used as a soil conditioner to increase the pH of acidic or sandy soils.
Once applied, limestone raises the soil’s pH and makes it more alkaline. This change in pH helps to improve the availability of nutrients for plants.
Limestone is often added to cement to improve its workability. With the addition of limestone, the cement becomes stronger and more durable.
Finally, limestone is widely used in the manufacturing of paper, glass, paint, plastics, asphalt, carpet backings, water treatment, and coal mining fire-prevention dust.
It is not surprising that limestone has a wide range of applications given that it is an abundant rock that can be found in most parts of the world.
What is Marble?
Marble is a metamorphic rock composed of calcite that is formed by the metamorphosis (alteration) of limestone under intense heat and pressure. It is primarily composed of calcite and dolomite.
It resembles limestone in appearance. However, it has a more compact and crystalline structure compared to limestone.
It is also denser, harder, more resistant to weathering, and less permeable due to the tight cementation process.
Marble comes in a variety of colors ranging from white to black. However, the most common colors are white, gray, green, and pink.
The color of each marble is determined by the composition of the minerals in the marble as well as the recrystallization process.
Uses of Marble
Marble is used both for decorative and structural applications. It is a popular choice for flooring, countertops, fireplace surrounds, and other architectural features.
Marble has a higher compressive strength than limestone. It can also withstand high temperatures and is therefore used for fireplace surrounds, ovens, and other applications that require heat resistance.
However, sudden heat changes in marble may still cause thermal shocks that lead to fractures and crazing.
Marble is also used in the manufacturing of electrical insulators as it has a low dielectric constant, high electrical resistance, and low thermal conductivity.
The high hardness and density of marble make it resistant to wear, which is why it is commonly used for stone carving by sculptors.
The Differences between Limestone and Marble
We can see that there are many differences between limestone and marble.
However, we still need to address some factors in order to make a fair comparison.
|Factors||🟤 Limestone||⚪ Marble|
|💪 Strength||Weaker than marble||Stronger than limestone|
|🛡️ Durability||Less resistant||More resistant than limestone|
|💰 Cost||Less expensive||More expensive than limestone|
|🏗️ Applications||Construction||Decorative and construction|
|🎨 Color||Beige, brown, yellow||Beige, brown, and yellow|
|🏖️ Surface Quality & Look||Beachy look with fossil fragments||Glossy, smooth, and even surface|
|🔒 Maintenance||Seal 4x a year||Seal 2x a year|
Here are the other differences between limestone and marble:
Limestone is a sedimentary rock while marble is metamorphic. This means that the minerals in limestone are cemented together by natural processes, while marble is a result of metamorphism which recrystallizes the calcite and dolomite.
The recrystallization process results in smaller grains and increases the overall strength of the marble.
Marble is stronger than limestone. This is due to the higher compressive strength and the tight cementation process that occurs during metamorphism.
Limestone tends to erode more easily than marble, especially when it is exposed to high levels of acid and moisture. Marble is less vulnerable to weathering when it has a high degree of recrystallization.
Limestone is less expensive than marble. This may be due to the abundance of limestone in many locations around the world under various geological conditions.
Marble on the other hand is a metamorphic rock, which only has limited deposits in specific areas under ideal conditions.
Therefore, it is rarer, and costlier to mine and transport since marble quarries are not as common as limestone quarries.
Marble has more decorative applications than limestone because of its varied colors, crystalline structure, and high compressive strength.
On the other hand, limestone is mostly used for construction purposes such as flooring, concrete aggregate, and road base.
Both limestone and marble have a wide range of natural colors. However, the most common colors for marble are white, gray, green, and pink. While the most common colors for limestone are beige, brown, and yellow.
Surface Quality & Look
Both limestone and marble are typically polished before they are used for various applications.
However, the surface quality and look of limestone will not be as good as marble.
Limestone gives a beachy look from impressions of seashells that are left on the surface. While marble has a glossy look that is more smooth and even along the entire surface.
Both marble and limestone should be treated with care since they are both prone to scratching.
They should be cleaned and polished regularly to remove dirt, stains, and other buildups on the surface.
Most marble requires to be sealed twice a year while limestone requires to be sealed four times a year to prevent it from getting stains and discoloration.
Limestone and marble have various properties that make them different. However, when the two are compared, we can see that the advantages of marble over limestone are its more elegant look, compressive strength, and durability.
On the other hand, limestone is less expensive and more abundant. Therefore, for the low-budget homeowner, limestone can be a better alternative for flooring, countertops, or fireplaces.
That said, there is always an option to design finishing touches that can make limestone look like marble. There are dedicated surface treatments that can enhance the natural color and texture of limestone, giving it a more polished look.
In places that require a high level of strength and durability (like building facades or architectural features), marble should be the material of choice.
Especially applications that are in constant contact with weathering should prefer marble over limestone.
However, limestone presents itself as an affordable landscaping material to stabilize soil, create pathways, and create raised garden beds.
Marble has more decorative applications that are suitable for high-end residential or commercial projects as well as artistic sculptures.
While limestone is mostly used for general construction purposes such as flooring, concrete aggregate, and road base.
Also, neither all limestone nor all marble is created equal. The properties of limestone and marble can vary greatly depending on the geographical location and how they were formed.
Certain forms and colors of marble are very rare and can be quite expensive. So, if you are looking for a unique and luxurious-looking marble floor, countertop, or facade be prepared to spend more.