Soapstone confusion

strayerdarbApril 21, 2013

Hi, I like the way soapstone looks in pictures, but everything I read about it from actual homeowners sounds terrible. I'm confused ... how can a company say the following statements about it and at the same time homeowners complain about the product? Here is what the local stone place's website says about soapstone. What is the truth?

"Soapstone is great for kitchen and bath countertops due to it's durability and good looks. Other features include:

Soapstone is a natural quarried stone.

Soapstone is very dense (non porous) more dense than marble, slate, limestone and even granite.

The only maintenance required for soapstone is the application of mineral oil: however, the oil is not "sealing" or protecting the stone, it merely speeds up the natural darkening process that soapstone goes through.

Soapstone is available in various thickness. 1 1/4" thickness is standard for countertops.

Soapstone has been used as sinks and wash tubs since the 1800's.

Soapstone will not burn or stain and is practically indestructable.

Quarried in Brazil, Finland and India."

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What have you been reading that makes you doubt the statements above? Our soapstone counters have been in since July 2010 and we love them, and have had no problems. We don't even oil them, so the only "maintenance" is wiping them down after use. We've placed hot pans from the stove or oven directly on them, spilled or dripped everything I've probably ever cooked or baked on them, and just generally used them hard for almost 3 years. We do have a somewhat softer variety, so it does scratch some, but that doesn't bother us as we can sand them out if we want. Those with harder varieties don't even have that issue.

I know others have had some problems, but most of what I've read here (and we decided on ss before we even found GW) has been very positive. Like any countertop material, nothing is "perfect", but ss is something that works very well for us.


    Bookmark   April 21, 2013 at 11:22AM
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The truth is some folks love it and others don't - just like any other product in existence.

I've had it in both my previous home and now this one and if I ever move again, I'll rip out whatever counter material is there and replace it with soapstone.

But having said that, it's not for everyone. What specifically are your concerns?


    Bookmark   April 21, 2013 at 11:29AM
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Mostly I have read on GW that people are unhappy with scatching.

    Bookmark   April 21, 2013 at 11:30AM
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I think most of the statements are pretty accurate, except that people's definition of "indestructible" may vary. Soapstone is soft, soft enough to be worked with woodworking tools (it is dense, though: those two things aren't contradictory). Soft means easily scratched, although some soapstones are harder than others. People who like soapstone call that patina; people who can't tolerate dings and scratches call it something else.

    Bookmark   April 21, 2013 at 11:33AM
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Mine are low maintenance. Installed in 2010, they seldom get oiled anymore. I have only one scratch--caused by the handyman dropping his circular saw blade on the counter. It is a small divot and could be sanded out.

I love how soapstone feels and looks.

    Bookmark   April 21, 2013 at 12:33PM
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I think a lot depends on what you can and can't live with. For some people, scratches, dings, and dents are things that they can't easily live with...and if that's you, then soapstone may not be a good choice.

For other people, they can't live with etching - marble and some quartzite may not be a good choice for them.

See where I'm going? Each choice for counters has advantages and disadvantages.

I think the best thing to do is to read up and recognize the benefits and limitations to the countertop you hope to use and decide if you can live with the tradeoffs that are necessary.

    Bookmark   April 21, 2013 at 12:40PM
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I like the patina which soapstone achieves. What I don't like is a high maintenance countertop which I need to be careful with. This is why I did not want granite or any other countertop which I would need to seal every year or be careful not to spill anything on (because it could stain) or be careful not to put anything hot on it (because it could crack or burn).

    Bookmark   April 21, 2013 at 3:46PM
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Holly- Kay

I have never sealed the granite in my other home. I never baby it, or worry about it staining. I use it, I love it, and I clean it easily with Windex. So even this is an example of how people differ. Itsallaboutfood thinks it is high maintenance, I think it is practically maintenance free. Same thing with ss! I knew it might not be for me because I like shine but next kitchen redo may just include ss.

    Bookmark   April 21, 2013 at 4:02PM
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Sophie Wheeler

The material itself IS the same, despite the differing opinions. It all depends on what you want and expect from your counter surface. If you want shiny and new and for it to always look shiny in new, then you are very far from being a "soapy".

If you can't wait until the years have given your cabinets enough abuse to look lived in and so you order them pre-distressed and hunt at antique shops for genuine vintage items to use in your home, then you might possibly be a soapy.

Most people will be in the middle. They like the idea of it being heat resistant, and they like the look, but they are scared by the possibility of scratched up counters and wasting a great deal of money on something that won't hold up.

You have to realize that soapstone is "self healing" counter. You just sand it a bit with the right grit, oil it, and the scratches go away. Not gouges, mind you, so no one should be cutting on the counters.

But then, there isn't a counter out there that should be abused with cutting on it or sitting hot pots on it. Get used to using trivets and cutting boards, and pretty much any counter will look good and you will be able to live with it.

    Bookmark   April 21, 2013 at 4:17PM
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OK, thanks for all this info. Based on what you are saying I think I am closer to being a "soapy" than not. I can live with the scratches you have described, but I think if the edges and corners started to look bad, that would bother me. Do the edges have any problems like if you bump it with something? I'm thinking like if someone walks in with a backpack or briefcase and walks by and bumps/drags it along the edge, or you bonk it with a pot or a wine bottle or something, or drop something that hits the edge or corner. I cook A LOT but I am not abusive towards the appliances or counters by any definition.

Also, what is that desired thickness of the ss countertop?

    Bookmark   April 21, 2013 at 7:34PM
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I don't think anyone has mentioned that some soapstones are softer than others. If you get a very hard one, it does not scratch easily. When I got a sample of mine, I had to try really hard to scratch it by cutting it (not on it) by a knife. The scratches were hardly visible and practically disappeared after I sanded them.

Just get a harder variety and you will be fine. I wouldn't trade mine for any exotic granite. LOL. In terms of the looks, at least, as I have not yet had a chance to actually use it (waiting for the floor tile grout to cure).


    Bookmark   April 21, 2013 at 8:13PM
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I hope my earlier post about issues I'm having didn't contribute to your concerns. We love soapstone and wouldn't trade it. Our problem is getting the surface to look and feel like the dozens of others that we've seen. The only thing I'd do differently is I'd tell the fabricator much more specifically what I wanted.

Our stone is relatively hard. We don't baby it at all. Hot pans from the oven go directly to the surface. Spills are easily cleaned up with just soap and water or any cleaner. No concerns about damaging it at all. We haven't had any issues with scratching with our use.

Some of our friends wanted their counter to look more like a jewlery store than a working kitchen. They've gone with granite and quartz products. Those are much too glitzy for me. I don't want the high gloss finish. I want the smooth silky feel of soapstone. We actually cook in our kitchen! As others have said, it is all about personal taste.

    Bookmark   April 21, 2013 at 9:39PM
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strayer-eleena is exactly right in that you would do well to get samples and abuse them, as there are harder and softer varieties. We didn't know to do that, plus we had to drive across state (350+ miles) to even look at any. That said, and as I said above, ours is a softer variety, but not overly so. We have some dings along the edge-mostly the interior of the sink. Nothing too tragic. And we soooo love the way it looks and feels. And as ERacine said, we're not glitzy, shiny kind of people, so this fits our lifestyle (and us) much more than a shiny (and pretty) granite.

    Bookmark   April 21, 2013 at 9:50PM
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Okay gottcha.

Mine is a harder variety and I can scratch it if I try but with normal, day to day use, no scratches. Just so you know, I bang my pots and pans around pretty good.

If you whack the edges with a cast iron frying pan you, most likely, will chip the soapstone. That would also chip granite or dent a wood counter top. But I can't imagine hitting it with briefcases, backpacks and the like would harm them.

My two teens are rough as they come and so far have not caused any nicks or chips in the SS. When they wash the dishes or the pots and pans in my SS sink they are not careful at all. It does make me cringe but, as I said, no damage as of yet.

My countertops are 1 1/8 inch thick.

As some others have mentioned, buy some samples so you can see what we love about the material.

Good luck,

    Bookmark   April 21, 2013 at 10:22PM
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Maybe you can ask your dealer if you could see one of their installations. When I was searching for a reputable dealer I emailed one of the posters from a SS thread and they emailed me photos and told me I was welcome to come over to see the counters since they live in the same area(so nice to offer). I didn't go to see their counters since the photos and their experience with the dealer was enough.
And yes hollysprings is correct, the first things I put on the counters after the install were my "vintage" items. :)
good luck with your decision

    Bookmark   April 21, 2013 at 11:06PM
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My soapstone is a fairly soft variety. It's 3 centimeters thick.

After 2 years, we have a 2 very small chips on the edges (1 in the sink and 1 near the silverware drawer). About the size of a grain of barley. Hitting the counter with a backpack won't cause this...most like these were due to accidental banging with a pot or can or something. It's just part of the patina.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2013 at 12:31AM
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I don't have soapstone in my kitchen but I have a 6' long piece in my MB and love it. It has been in use since 2005 and there are 2-3 small dents/dings. IMO, glass containers or metal objects that I carelessly drop makes a small dent. I never notice them.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2013 at 6:51PM
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i have had finnish soapstone in my kitchen since august 2006. Six years later and I would do it all again. are there scratches? yes Could I sand them out? I guess. Most have just disappeared over the years. Ok so the chip from dropping the hammer on the piece that covers the radiator isn't going to sand out. The cat doesn't seem to mind why should I. It never was so polished you could see yourself in it like some granites I have seen . I never wanted Granite I wanted soapstone and got it. As I said I would do it again.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2013 at 9:04PM
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Thanks guys. I am going on Thursday to look and get samples.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2013 at 10:21PM
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Soapstone experts -- does this look like soapstone to you, or does it look more like fireslate or maybe something else? They were in high school science labs. The poster says they belong to his dad, who says they are soapstone. The poster sounds very honest and is talking to his dad today about whether he is sure it is soapstone. I am a novice when it comes to soapstone but have been looking to put it in my kitchen,a DIY job due to money. I can have all 5 of these countertops for $175, supposed to go late today, but I am concerned I won't be able to tell if it is soapstone or not. Please help!

Here is a link that might be useful: craigslist countertops

    Bookmark   June 22, 2013 at 11:47AM
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We are waiting for our cabinets to be finished and have decided soapstone is for us. We prefer the flat finish and texture of SS. We looked at probably 40 different slabs of differing types of soapstone. Ours job will be about 95 sq ft of Cinza Verde, a greenish stone. I know soapstone from the woodstove world and we are both excited to see how it comes out with the cherry cabinets.

Not sure if this is so, but our new kitchen is quite large and lots of natural lighting. That said I think the soapstone will show really well. I think...a glossy granite would be to reflective. We were visitng friends recently who had redone their kitchen with an etched granite and that had a softer look to it. The boss felt better about the granite once she had seen theirs, but fortunately I was able to carry the day with a decision "all ready made". Amazingly, I was able to get away with that.

You can get your edges fabricated in a number of ways. You can ask your fabricator. The can double the stone at the edge and give it a rough edge texture. I like that, but don't want to pay for it, so we are going plane edge.

    Bookmark   June 22, 2013 at 2:46PM
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Bunnerrunner- my soapstone fabricator was here and he thinks they are soapstone indeed. He thinks the surface was sealed but the edges are a giveaway. If ou like them unoiled, you can sand it off. Do post and let us k ow if you decide to get it.

    Bookmark   June 22, 2013 at 4:59PM
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Thank you, CWlolo! I saw your message literally right before walking out the door to go see this soapstone. We felt a lot more confident driving for an hour after hearing your fabricator's opinion. And when we got there there was no doubt it was soapstone, and I am so happy!! Turns out the guy had three table tops in addition to the countertops, and these are the absolute perfect size! I have a peninsula in my kitchen which is the largest single area and the table tops are the exact correct length and wider than the peninsula, so I will have to cut just one side. So we got the 3 table tops and 2 of the counter tops, which will all be more than enough to do all of my kitchen! For $200 total! This is all so exciting! I was seriously considering driving to Alberene Soapstone in Virginia to buy their kitchen in a box kit because they were going to charge me $550 for shipping. And this is so much better since the pieces are bigger! I've included a picture of the soapstone in my I have to get moving on painting my cabinets so I can do the countertops. -- exciting and yet kind of scary, too...lots of research to do!

    Bookmark   June 22, 2013 at 11:31PM
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I am also in a dilemma about soapstone. Love the look of Barroca (sp) but there is no way it would last in our house. I can scratch it with my nails. Got a sample of Belvedere as well, and it was very tough BUT no veining. Basically it looked like honed granite. Nice enough, but not what I was looking for. Then I found a Dorado Noire, with some veining (not too much) and the sample appears impervious. Anyone know anything about this? Despite the risks, I really want to take the plunge and go soapstone, but really don't want to end up hating my countertops in a year or less; particularly given the amount this kitchen is costing me!

    Bookmark   June 27, 2013 at 5:30PM
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