The Difference Between Carrara and Calacatta Marble

In the Carrara vs Calacatta debate, understanding their cost, maintenance, design, and best applications is key

Image of a renovated kitchen with Calacatta marble backsplash

Above) Sweeten homeowner Dan’s kitchen with Calacatta marble 

The names are similar, and the products are even quarried from the same region. Yet Carrara and Calacatta marble are so different, that you won’t ever mistake the two once you see them side-by-side. Carrara and Calacatta marble are highly valued as building products in bathrooms, kitchens, and in other areas of the home. To help clarify the distinction between these two Italian marbles, Sweeten lays out the pros and cons of Carrara vs. Calacatta, and why you might choose one over the other.

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Carrara vs Calacatta Marble: What are they?

Carrara marble

Carrara marble is an off-white or blue-gray softly veined marble from the Apuan Alps in northwest Italy, near Carrara. Historically, Carrara marble can be seen in statues and in large public and commercial buildings. However, Carrara marble is now more commonplace in residential homes.

The core, or field, of Carrara marble is light-gray, with vague bluish tones. The streaks, called veins, are light-gray, too. The veins are slightly darker than the field. 

The veins found in Carrara marble are subtle, not pronounced. Instead, they are soft, watery, or feathery. Carrara marble veins seem to continue and dissipate into the field.

Image of a kitchen sink with Carrara marble backsplash

Above) Sweeten homeowners Tina and Andrew’s kitchen with Carrara marble

Calacatta marble

Calacatta marble is a type of Carrara marble. It comes from the same overall region of Tuscany, Italy.

Calacatta marble tends to have a white field. Usually, the whiter the field, the more expensive the marble.

The feature that distinguishes Calacatta marble is its veining. Calacatta’s veins are thick, bold, defined, and often colorful. Calacatta marble’s veins range from dark-gray and beige up to darker browns and even gold.

Calacatta has few veins, but those veins stand out in sharp contrast to the white field.

Should you choose Carrara or Calacatta marble?

Carrara marble

Homeowners who desire the overall look of marble, but want a more understated look, should choose Carrara marble. 

Carrara marble does an excellent job of blending into the room as a whole rather than calling attention to itself. Because Carrara takes more of a backseat, it can be used across large expanses for walls and flooring.

Calacatta vs Carrara Cost: Which is more expensive?

Nobody can call marble a “bargain” building material. However, Carrara marble is far less expensive than Calacatta marble; around half the price.

Calacatta marble

Calacatta marble is for homeowners who want to show off this unique, gorgeous stone. It’s a marble that truly looks the way marble should look.

Because Calacatta marble is all about its veins, it is well-suited to bookmatching. Bookmatching pairs two marble slabs from the same cut so that adjacent slabs mirror each other. This gives the appearance of an open book. 

Calacatta marble’s distinctive veins make bookmatching possible. With Carrara marble, you can bookmatch slabs, but the effect may not be evident.

Image of a renovated bathroom with Calacatta marble walls

Above) Sweeten homeowner Tatiana’s bath with Calacatta marble

Pros and cons of marble

Pros

Premium building material
High resale value
Unique, every slab is different
Natural building material
Lasts long with proper maintenance

Cons

Expensive
Soft, chips easily
Heavy
Stains
Requires maintenance

Why is marble popular?

All building materials have their trends. But marble’s popularity remains more stable than other materials. In fact, no other material looks quite like it. 

For some homes, marble isn’t just the best choice, it’s the only choice. Marble is frequently the go-to pick for high-end houses with a classic or traditional style. It doesn’t hurt that marble’s history is rich and deep, as marble is associated with Roman buildings and classic sculptures.

Functionally, marble is dense, heavy, and permanent. It resists heat well. It’s also more commonly found than one might think. Italy produces Carrara and Calacatta marble, but Spain, India, China, Turkey, Greece, and the U.S. also produce other types of marble.

Image of a bathtub with Calacatta marble walls

Above) Sweeten homeowner Kristen’s bath with Calacatta marble 

Best uses of marble in the home: 

Kitchen counters: Use marble as your main kitchen countertop material.
Kitchen island counters: Pair the main kitchen counters with a slab of marble on the kitchen island. Or use marble alone here.
Kitchen or bathroom backsplashes: Marble works well for backsplashes in the kitchen (though not behind the stove) or behind the bathroom sink.
Entry or foyer hallways: Marble has long been used in foyers, lobbies, and other entry rooms as a show-stopper to welcome visitors.
Bathtub or shower surrounds: Marble is waterproof when sealed, making it a perfect fit for shower or bathtub wall surrounds.
Bathroom floor tile: Marble is a hardy floor covering for bathrooms, plus it stands up well to water.
Fireplace surrounds: Polished marble can be used for fireplace surrounds as it can be wiped clean.

How to clean marble and maintain it

You should always seal marble used around the home. Keep the stone regularly sealed. When drops of water no longer bead up on the surface, it’s time to seal the stone again.

Acidic liquids can etch marble. Avoid having vinegar, citrus, or tomatoes sit on the marble for very long. Clean them up quickly. Use cutting boards.

Clean marble with gentle methods. Vacuum or sweep up crumbs or dirt. Every so often, use a damp mop or cloth. Look for a good cleaner designed just for marble. Never use abrasive powders or abrasive materials on the marble.

Sweeten handpicks the best general contractors to match each project’s location, budget, scope, and style. Follow the blog, Sweeten Stories, for renovation ideas and inspiration and when you’re ready to renovate, start your renovation with Sweeten

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Felicity Lynch