Stone is one of the most popular kitchen surfaces and among all the options, soapstone countertops may be the most durable and generally care-free. These totally natural countertops develop their own patina and character over time. As with most countertop materials, it’s important to research the pros and cons before investing in a particular type of material.
What is soapstone?
Soapstone is a natural, metamorphic rock whose geologic name is steatite. It gets its moniker and soapy feel from the talc in the stone. In fact, it is this talc content that distinguishes the two main types of soapstone: architectural and artistic. Artistic soapstone is softer and is very easy to carve thanks to its high talc content. Architectural-grade soapstone contains less talc, which makes it harder, tougher and better for surfaces like countertops. According to TheKitchn, the type of soapstone used for countertops also contains a higher percentage of quartz. This stone is most often sold with a smooth finish called a honed finish, which is still matte and not at all shiny like granite.
Speaking of granite, soapstone is a softer stone and is cut into smaller slabs. Consequently, large areas – typically more than 7 feet — will require more than one piece and will have seams. The larger slabs of architectural grade come from Brazil, according to Sierra Soapstone, but it is also quarried in India and parts of the east coast of the US, such as Appalachia and Vermont.
Soapstone doesn’t stain.
It is a very dense, nonporous rock and, so liquids will not penetrate the surface. That said, if liquid collects on the stone, it turns a darker color. After you wipe up the liquid and the moisture evaporates, the lighter color returns. Soapstone is also great for sinks and other parts of the kitchen.
Soapstone is resistant to heat and acids.
You already know it’s a dense stone, and this makes it heat resistant. Go ahead – plop down a hot pot and know that your countertop will be fine. Soapstone can take the heat is because it’s a great heat conductor, according to Geology. The chemical composition of soapstone also renders it impervious to acids like lemon juice and vinegar. Spill red wine? No problem – just wipe it up. In fact, it’s so resistant that is used for scientific laboratory countertops.
It’s a very sanitary surface
The same qualities that keep liquids from harming your soapstone countertop are the same ones that prevent it from harboring bacteria and germs. It’s a family-friendly countertop material that helps keep the kitchen safe and sanitary.
No sealing is necessary
That same marvelous density means that you don’t need to seal soapstone countertops!
They’re an environmentally friendly choice
Because no chemicals are used to manufacture the countertops or to maintain them, many people consider them more environmentally friendly than other countertop surface materials. Remember that it’s natural, quarried stone with no added fabrication besides the cutting and sanding. Moreover, soapstone is totally recyclable.
Soapstone has great aesthetics
The characteristic gray color of soapstone is one of it’s major pluses. The various shades, some of which have a greenish cast, are highly prized for their versatility in all styles of kitchen design. Similar to other types of stone, no two slabs of soapstone are alike. Natural tones range from very pale to light gray, and some can have more prominent veining that looks a little like marble. In some cases, the greener slabs are a bit softer. (This comes from the quartz content.) Texture is also an option with soapstone, so you don’t have to have a countertop that’s completely smooth.
There are a few caveats with soapstone
As with any countertop surface material, there are some downsides. That said, most are typically not deal breakers for those who like the look of soapstone countertops.
It dents and scratches – Being one of the softer stones used for kitchen countertops, soapstone is prone to scratches and dents. While some homeowners feel this adds to the patina and charm, it might bother others. If you don’t like this aspect of the stone, explore other options. Soapstone doesn’t often chip because of the softness. Because it is solid stone, however, dents and scratches can be sight sanded down, which is not possible with other natural materials like granite and quartz.
It’s not trendy and color choice is very limited – Soapstone has been around for centuries. In fact, you can find some examples still around from the 1800’s. Its geologic nature limits the number of colors available. If you want a countertop that has a lot of color or lots of pattern choices, soapstone might not be for you.
Slab size is smaller – If you want a very large expanse of seamless countertop, soapstone is not for you. Because the size of the slabs is smaller, seaming is often necessary. The nature of soapstone makes those joints very smooth and tight, so this may not be an issue for many homeowners.
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