If you are contemplating a bathroom or kitchen remodel, you have probably thought about installing a natural stone countertop, but which one should you choose? With its distinctive characteristics, ease of installation, and warm colorings, soapstone countertops are some of the most sought after natural stone countertops on the market.
Soapstone offers numerous benefits, making it an excellent choice for kitchens and bathrooms in busy homes. Soapstone prices are comparable to other natural stone countertops; however, it is much easier to work with, and a savvy homeowner can install soapstone countertops themselves. Soapstone is available in a variety of colors and patterns.
Soapstone countertops are beautiful when they are first installed; however, they develop a fantastic patina, making them a prized countertop in any home. Installing soapstone counters in your home offer you a tremendous return on your investment. If you are thinking of selling your house, consider installing soapstone countertops to improve the aesthetics of your home and increase its overall value.
If the look of natural distress isn't your thing then consider a quartz alternative like Charcoal Soapstone or Eternal Marquina which mimics the soapstone look but doesn't require any maintenance as soapstone would.
Soapstone has been used for centuries by some of the most famous sculptors due to its chemical makeup. Soapstone contains mineral talc. Although mineral talc is soft, ranking between a 2.5 and a 3.5 on the Mohs scale, it is an excellent stone for countertops.
The hardness of soapstone is similar to marble; however, it is much denser. The particles in soapstone are compacted tightly, making soapstone countertops easy to clean and more sanitary than many other natural stone surfaces. Soapstone countertops naturally resist bacteria growth and stains; however, due to the softness of soapstone, soapstone countertops can scratch easily.
Soapstone is a metamorphic rock that has a soft feel. Soapstone is mined from the Appalachian Mountains, Finland, and Brazil. The soapstone used in countertops has a lower talc content. Although it is not as hard as other natural stones, it is not as porous, which means it is not as prone to staining. When soapstone is quarried, smaller slabs are cut, which means if you need a counter longer than seven feet, multiple pieces of soapstone must be put together, resulting in visible seams. However, an experienced stone professional will be able to make the seams virtually disappear.
Many people do not realize that they have seen soapstone countertops in the past. If you took chemistry, the tabletops used in the lab were soapstone. Soapstone countertops are the choice of most labs because the stone is not porous, and it is exceptionally durable. This time tested natural stone can withstand the accidental spills that occur in kitchens and bathrooms without staining. Furthermore, soapstone is temperature neutral, meaning hot pots and pans can be placed on the surface without worrying about damage.
Soapstone Countertops Pros and Cons
When you are considering natural stone countertops, you want to consider the advantages and disadvantages of each type of stone. Things that you should consider when deciding on a stone countertop include the porosity of the stone, the durability of the stone, how to clean the countertops, and how much maintenance is required.
- Stain Resistant Countertop – Soapstone has an almost impenetrable surface. Soapstone resists stains, and bacterial growth is minimized. If you spill a glass of wine or an acidic liquid, you do not need to worry about staining, simply wipe the spill up with a damp cloth.
- Heat Resistant Countertop – Soapstone is also a heat-resistant stone. You can set a hot pot or pan on your soapstone countertop with worrying about cracking the countertop. However, most homeowners prefer to use trivets for their hot pots and pans.
- The Durability of Sandstone Countertops – Soapstone is more pliable than other natural stone countertops, which means it will not crack when stressed or excess weight is placed on the countertop.
- How to Clean Soapstone Countertops – Cleanup is a breeze. Because soapstone is not porous, you can use a mild soap and a clean cloth to wipe down the countertops. Rinse with a clean cloth and buff dry for a beautiful finish.
- Soapstone Maintenance – Soapstone will develop a patina as it ages. If you would like to speed up the process, you can apply a small amount of mineral oil to your counters every couple of weeks. It typically takes nine months for your soapstone to develop its full patina. After the soapstone’s patina has developed, apply mineral oil a couple of times a year to restore the counter’s sheen and luster.
- Soapstone is Soft – Soapstone can be damaged if cookware is accidentally dropped. You must always use a cutting board to prevent damaging the surface of your countertops. The softest soapstone will have green colors throughout the slab. The hardest soapstone will primarily have gray colors throughout the piece.
- Texture – Soapstone is a naturally rough stone, which means your countertops may scuff glassware or dinnerware if care is not taken.
- Limited Color Selection – Soapstone colors and patterns are minimal. For homeowners looking for trendy colors, this may not be the best stone countertop. Soapstone is typically available in three colors – green, blue, and gray.
Soapstone countertops come in a variety of shades and color variations, which means you can find the perfect color combination for your kitchen and bath design. The neutral colors found in soapstone make it easy to coordinate with your décor.
Soapstone Countertop Costs
Soapstone is easier to work with than other natural stones; however, many people prefer to have an expert complete the installation. When a stone professional does the work, it will be done quickly and with minimal waste.
The cost of soapstone slabs ranges from $45 to $85 per square foot. Soapstone with a lower talc content will be more expensive, yet more durable and harder than slabs with higher talc content. In addition to this, the location where the soapstone was quarried can affect the overall cost per square foot.
Installation costs for soapstone countertops range from $50 to $65 per square foot, resulting in a total price for both materials and installation at $95 to $150 per square foot. Thicker slabs, elaborate edge profiles, and grooved drainage boards can further increase the total cost of installation.
Kitchen soapstone countertops are typically 1.25 inches thick. Because of the compacted minerals and the durability of soapstone, a sub-base is not required on cabinets. In addition to countertops, soapstone backsplashes are typically 1.25 inches thick. There is also a 2.5 inch thick soapstone slab; however, due to its weight, it is not typically used in kitchens or bathrooms.
Soapstone countertop slabs are typically 30 inches by 84 inches, which means if you have a run of cabinets longer than seven feet, multiple pieces of soapstone slabs will need to be joined together. To ensure the seam is virtually invisible, hire a stone specialist for installation.
If you decide to install soapstone countertops in your bathrooms or kitchen, you can make the cuts needed with power tools most homeowners have on hand, thanks to the softness of soapstone. Before beginning, you will need a circular saw, a drill, a jigsaw, a sander, and a grinder. You can make a template of your cabinet layout and send it to a fabricator to cut out your soapstone countertops, or you can cut out your countertop using the template you created.
Next, ensure all cabinets are level. If they are not level, place shims under your cabinet until totally level as an uneven base can put stress on the soapstone and result in cracks. When carrying the soapstone to install it, you will need help as a slab of soapstone weighs 20 pounds per square foot. Keep the top of the countertop vertical to decrease the risk of breakage.
You can find more tips and information on how to install soapstone countertops yourself by visiting a stone specialist or searching the internet. Sites like This Old House provide easy to follow directions for all your home repairs.
Soapstone Countertop Colors
Soapstone countertops are available in gray-green, gray-blue, and muted gray. A soapstone slab will have white veins and swirls running through it. These white veins are typically quartz. Soapstone quarries are located in North America, India, and Brazil. Each quarry provides unique soapstone slabs.
- Barocca Soapstone – The Barocca soapstone has a light gray background with thin white veins. These veins become more prominent when the soapstone is waxed or oiled. The simple yet beautiful soapstone is mined in Brazil.
- Black Venata Soapstone – The Black Venata soapstone features a dark gray background. Long veins extend through the slab along with a distribution of dapple colored. The much loved soapstone is quarried from mines in Brazil.
- Porto Allegre Soapstone – The Porto Allegre soapstone has a light blue-gray background. Strong veins run through this Brazilian soapstone.
- Python Soapstone – The Python Soapstone is a gray soapstone with subtle patterning throughout the slab. This soapstone is mined in India.
- Belvedere Soapstone – Belvedere soapstone is a Brazilian soapstone with a grayish green color. The durable soapstone resists scratches and provides a slicker surface.
- Fantasia Soapstone – Fantasia soapstone is a Brazilian soapstone featuring bold patterns with wide veins on a gray green background.
- Santa Rita Soapstone – Santa Rita soapstone is a Brazilian natural stone that features a blue-green background with strong veins reminiscent of marble.
- Indigo Soapstone – Indigo soapstone is dark green and gray and features intense dappled colors throughout the surface. It is mined in India.
- PA Soapstone – PA Soapstone is quarried in Brazil and is extremely dark with minimal veining or dappling.
- Churchill Soapstone – The Alberene quarry in Virginia has been mining Churchill Soapstone since 1883. The soapstone has a rich black background once oiled or waxed and features uncomplicated veins.
Enhance the Beauty of Your Soapstone Countertops with Mineral Oil
Soapstone is a natural stone that is nonporous and durable. The stone is naturally stain resistant and impervious to heat, chemicals, acids. The durable stone is quite forgiving. If an item is dropped on a soapstone countertop, it will typically dent rather than chip or crack. These dents can be sanded out, or they can be left to add to the uniqueness and charm of soapstone countertops.
Soapstone, when first quarried, is pale in color; however, over time, it will develop a gorgeous patina as it is exposed to oils, grease, and water. Liquids cause soapstone to oxidize, darkening the stone’s color and bring out the natural beauty of soapstone.
You can expedite the oxidation process of soapstone by applying mineral oil to your soapstone countertops. Oiling your soapstone with the best mineral oil for soapstone countertops will ensure the patina develops uniformly across the entire soapstone slab.
Allow the adhesives used to install your soapstone countertops to dry overnight before applying mineral oil. After a soapstone countertop has been installed, it will typically have a coat of dust. Use a clean damp sponge and remove all dust before applying the mineral oil. To ensure an even layer, use a clean soft cloth to dry the countertop before proceeding.
The initial oiling of a soapstone countertop will take more time and effort than subsequent oilings. You will need several clean cloths for the initial oiling. Pour the mineral oil out and use either a small paintbrush or a clean cloth to spread the mineral oil across the entire surface of the soapstone countertops. Once the countertop is completely saturated with oil, allow it to remain on the soapstone for a half of an hour. Then, remove the excess oil using a clean cloth.
The mineral oil moisturizes the surface of the soapstone countertops to bring out the distinct colorations found in the slab of soapstone. The stone does not actually absorb the mineral oil, which means the mineral oil will evaporate and need to be replenished from time to time.
When shopping for the best mineral oil for soapstone countertops in the kitchen, choose one that is food grade. Food grade mineral oil is food safe, which means that if you accidentally drop a piece of food on your countertop, it will be safe for consumption. If a non-food grade mineral oil is applied to a soapstone countertop in the kitchen, the dropped food would need to be disposed of.
Sealing Soapstone Countertops
The most common way to care for a soapstone countertop is to oil it regularly using mineral oil; however, over the decade, manufacturers have developed soapstone sealers to replace mineral oil. Sealing a soapstone countertop with wax provides a low luster finish without the need for continuous reapplication.
The food grade wax is safe for use in the kitchen and is more environmentally friendly than mineral oil. Mineral oil is created from petroleum, whereas a soapstone sealer is made using carnauba wax and walnut oil.
To apply a soapstone sealer, scoop some wax out onto a clean, soft cloth or a clean sock. Apply the wax using a circular motion until the entire surface is coated in the wax. Allow the wax to sit on the countertop for no less than 15 minutes and no more than 30 minutes.
Use a lint free cloth like a t-shirt to wipe off the excess was. Then buff the surface, applying pressure as needed to remove excess wax from the soapstone countertop. The next day, take a look at your soapstone countertops. If there are areas that look uneven or splotchy, an additional coat of wax can be applied.
Once the soapstone countertops appear uniform and even, allow the wax to cure for a week before using. During days 7 to 15, do not allow liquids to remain on the surface of the soapstone. After 15 days, the wax will have fully cured, and you can use your soapstone countertops to their maximum capabilities.
The wax sealer will last for several years before a reapplication is needed. When the soapstone begins to lose its depth of color, you will need to apply a fresh coat of wax. Follow the instructions listed above for reapplication.
Soapstone Countertop Shopping Tips
Soapstone countertop slabs are available for purchase from a local stone yard, or at a home improvement store. When shopping for natural stone countertops, there are a few things to remember. Most of today’s homeowners and prospective homebuyers want the countertops throughout the home to match; therefore, purchase enough soapstone countertops to cover kitchen and all bathrooms in your home.
Soapstone countertops are the perfect choice for a home due to their neutral background and vein colors. Soapstone counters can be cut with a variety of edge profiles. Most homeowners prefer a simple edge profile due to the softness of soapstone. As soapstone ages, the edges will naturally round, so choosing a rounded edge countertop is typically best.
There are many different types of natural stone countertops on the market. If you love the depth of color that granite offers and the veining found in marble, you should consider soapstone countertops. Soapstone takes the benefits of these two natural stones and combines them into a beautiful countertop that is durable, provides an old world feel, and is low maintenance.