Marble’s Beauty: Lower Price Increases Use in Residences

(Featured in Chicago Tribune – By Chris Larson)

Kings and queens have long known the grandeur of marble. Corporate executives and the wealthy, too, have used the stone in their homes and office towers for many years. Marble and other fine stones add beauty, durability and value to a home.

And now, thanks to lower prices, marble is more and more common in middle-class homes.

But many new marble owners may not realize the special care the stone demands. For these people, there are many companies in the Chicago area that specialize in cleaning, polishing and maintaining marble.

One of them is Sungloss Marble Maintenance Co., 410 S. Michigan Ave. 5003 W Lawrence Ave

Twelve years after the company was created to serve commercial and office customers, Sungloss has seen steady expansion and now also maintains stone in churches, theaters and, increasingly, homes. General Manager Chris Kaporis said he has maintained marble in everything from floors and counter-tops to mantles and even bed headboards.

The range of Sungloss’ residential clients has gotten wider, as well. Where once the only homes they served were on Chicago’s Gold Coast or the suburbs of the North Shore, now Kaporis sees marble and work for his company more often in the city’s middle-class neighborhoods and suburbs.

The main reason for the spread of marble has been a sharp decline in price over the last 15 years, Kaporis said. New techniques make it quicker, easier and cheaper to cut and shape the stone. Also, traditional suppliers such as the U.S. and Italy are facing strong competition from new sources, including Canada, China, Latin America and, most recently, Vietnam.

Whether you’re remodeling or building a new home, a good way to ensure that your marble or other stone will last a long time is to choose the right type of stone for the application. A stark white entry floor, for example, may look impressive but dirt and grime tracked-in from outside can ruin its luster in a matter of months, Kaporis said.

For a kitchen counter, granite is recommended over most types of marble, he added. Marble is generally softer and more porous, so spills are much more likely to cause stains. If you ‘re working with an architect on design, make sure such factors are taken into consideration.

Once the marble is installed, well-meaning but uninformed owners can damage the stone. Oil-based cleaners, such as Murphy’s Oil Soap, leave a film that collects more dirt than it removes. Using glass cleaners is not recommended either, said Kaporis, since the ammonia in the cleanser can build up and bleach darker stones.

Environmental conditions can damage marble, as well. Moisture in the air can lead to oxidation within the stone, causing a deep tough stain.

Kaporis stressed the need for marble owners to not use wax on their stone, as it can trap moisture, speeding up the oxidation process and growth of damaging grout.

Sungloss offers full-service care for marble and other stones.

“Sometimes we’re called in for general maintenance, sometimes to rectify a bad situation,” said Mike Pavilon, Sungloss president.

Their procedures begin with consulting with the customer, finding out how the stone has been cared for in the past and advising how to care for it in the future.

Sungloss’ primary work is cleaning and polishing the stone. Grease and oil are chemically removed and industrial diamonds can be used to restore the natural shine to the stone.

Oxidation and other deep stains can be tricky, Kaporis said. Often a clay-like substance is placed over the stain and left for up to 72 hours. This may be repeated several times if the stain if stubborn. For the deepest stains, occasionally only 80 or 90 percent of it can be removed, leaving a shadow in the stone.

Sungloss uses various procedures to prevent stains and dirt build-up in the future. Vitrification, or crystallization, is a chemical polishing process that hardens the top layer of marble and quickly restores the stone’s shine. However, Kaporis said, the process may cause the marble to become brittle if it is done more than a few times per year.

Another method is the use of an impregnating seal on the marble. This fills the stone’s pores, similar to how wax is supposed to work, so that liquids and grease can’t collect and stain the marble. The difference, Kaporis said, is that an impregnating seal lets the stone breathe, thereby avoiding problems waxing can cause.

Sungloss’ fees depend on the type of stone, intricacies of the stone and the difficulty involved in cleaning and sealing. They generally charge between $1 and $2 per square foot, along with a minimum $190 service fee, Kaporis said.

Most of the company’s customers get their marble cleaned and sealed every 18 months or so, Kaporis said. Sungloss can be reached at (312) 461-9070. (773) 685-2500

Stay tuned for more tips and future care ideas! If you like what you read today, please email us for a complimentary Marble Care Educational Booklet from the Marble Institute Of America!