Granite, laminate, solid surface, and marble are four materials that you hear a lot about when shopping for countertops. One material you may not have heard much about but have probably seen around is soapstone. The first place you probably saw soapstone was in your middle and high school science lab. Because it is so resistant to heat and flame, it is a top choice for school science classroom tables. However, soapstone is now moving to a bigger stage and becoming quite popular in residential applications.
What is it?
Soapstone is a natural, metamorphic rock that is found in several different locations across the world. Most notably, you can find soapstone in Virginia and Montana (there was a prominent quarry in Vermont, but it is now closed), Brazil, Finland, Canada, and India.
You might hear it called by its other names of soaprock and steatite as well. It got its name because it is mostly made up of talc, which is an extremely soft stone that feels similar to soap when you touch it. Because of its high talc content, soapstone is very easy to carve, and that property has made it the material of choice for artists throughout the ages. It has also been used for grave markers, cooking pots, amulets, lamps, smoking pipes, vases, and street pavers. In more recent times, people have discovered that carving and freezing small cubes of soapstone can chill whisky or other alcoholic beverages without diluting them.
What does it look like?
Soapstone varies in color a little bit, but you can expect to find it mostly dark grey, green, black, or blue. You won’t find soapstone in white, so if you do find someone passing a slab off as “white soapstone,” know that it’s most likely just marble. Many slabs have a slightly speckled or flecked appearance, though you’ll also find that white veining is somewhat common.
What can you do to change the appearance?
One of the things that homeowners like about soapstone is that you can change its appearance if you give it enough time. Soapstone will naturally develop a patina with consistent use, but you can also apply wax or mineral oil to darken the color immediately and give the slab dimension. Of course, if you want a lighter countertop, you can always stop treating the slab with oil or wax and let it lighten naturally over time.
What are some pros and cons?
Soapstone is an interesting stone in the sense that many of the pros could be considered cons depending on the person. Here are a few examples:
- Unique: Each slab of soapstone is completely unique, much like other natural stone. This individuality can be a major benefit if you would like to have a kitchen space unlike anyone else’s. The downside is that you will see variation between the slabs that you wouldn’t see from a manufactured product like quartz or solid surface. It may also be difficult to replace if it were to get damaged in the future.
- Patina: Some people love the idea of their countertops developing a patina over time, and soapstone scratches that itch. If you don’t like the look of a patina, you can prevent it through regular maintenance like waxing or oiling, but if a patina is what you’re after, just leave the counters alone and let them do their thing.
- Scratches easily: That might not sound like it could ever be a pro, but the scratches are easy to fix or cover up. Let’s face it: countertops are going to get scratched, so wouldn’t you rather have a countertop where you can easily fix the scratches? For light scratches, rubbing in a little bit of oil or countertop wax will make the scratch disappear, and for deeper scratches, a fine-grit sandpaper or steel wool should do the trick.
These next few qualities are 100% pros:
- Beautiful: Soapstone is just an altogether beautiful piece of stone. It can fit into almost any aesthetic as is, but waxing or oiling the counter can really bring a unique darkness and depth to your kitchen space.
- Easy to maintain: Soapstone doesn’t etch the way other natural stones do, and it’s non-absorbent. It doesn’t require sealing with harsh chemicals – just a food-safe mineral oil every so often or a specific wax for soapstone. As mentioned earlier, you can also buff away scratches with steel wool or sandpaper.
- Qualities: Heat-resistant, dense, and non-porous – what more could you want from natural stone?
- Possibilities: Due to the amount of talc in soapstone, it is very easy to carve. That quality yields itself to endless possibilities in the kitchen! Drainboards, pinch bowls, and soap holders are just a few things that can be integrated into your countertops to save space and give an overall more streamlined appearance in the kitchen.
Soapstone is a little more unique than some other stones on the market, but it’s not terribly expensive. You can expect to pay about $75-125 per square foot for soapstone compared to most granite that runs about $50-100 per square foot or marble that rings up at $60-180. Any way you look at it, soapstone is a gorgeous material with nearly endless possibilities for customization to fit your space. If you live in the greater Colorado Springs or Denver areas, contact us about soapstone countertops to fit your needs.