Please help! Inexperienced soapstone fabricator woes :-(

aokiApril 23, 2011

Ack! I'm totally freaking out and I'm hoping you guys can help me. I've learned so much from this forum over the years, and you guys seem to know everything!

After researching and looking for the perfect soapstone slabs for over a year, we *finally* purchased Green Mountain soapstone slabs (3 cm) for our kitchen a couple weeks ago. We were super excited to find them, and the anticipation of seeing them in our finished kitchen has been killing us. We just can't wait!

But now we are extremely nervous, and agonizing over how badly our inexperienced soapstone fabricator might mess up our dream (not to mention $$$) slabs! We're doing a whole house remodel and the price of the fabrication has already been included in our overall contract which includes a 3 cm laminate edge (for a total of 6 cm edge) for all the counters. The problem is our GC sent us to a fabricator that is unfamiliar with soapstone. Needless to say, this makes us very nervous.

Today, he has asked a question that I had no idea how to answer. He is the fabricator -- I figured he should know right?! Alas, he's never worked with soapstone and says he doesn't want to be responsible for doing something really wrong...

So now here I am, asking you guys for help/advice, in the hopes of guiding him so he doesn't mess up our slabs too badly. Sigh :-(

Anyway, here is what he asked after looking at the slabs today:

He wants to know if the slabs were already finished at the factory? In other words, were already sanded to the correct grit like granite slabs come with their finish already applied? Does he only need to sand the edges of the slab to make the eased laminate edge, or does he need to sand the entire face of the slab with an orbital sander? Naturally, he's worried about messing up the slabs.

Also, what grit should he use to do the sanding? 80 grit, 120 grit, or 220 grit? Higher than that? Our slabs are a very hard variety of Green Mountain slabs that are a dark black/charcoal with white & rust veining (along with some quartz chunks in the stone.)

Any assistance or advice you guys can offer would be greatly appreciated. I'm so nervous that our beautiful slabs are about to be ruined :-( Thanks in advance.

Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Run. Don't let him do it. Your GC needs his head examined.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2011 at 10:44PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

What pinch me said. Let us know what part of the country you're located in and someone might be able to suggest a fabricator. OR... ask the supplier who they recommend. If the GC won't give you a credit, charge him back at final payment... or not. But either way, I wouldn't let this guy do the work.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2011 at 10:52PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Find a SOAPSTONE fabricator and accept nothing less. You will ruin your stone. If he's asking YOU you should run, screaming.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2011 at 11:06PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

As is the case with most household projects, the fabrication and installation are as -- if not more -- important than the materials themselves. (Case in point, for the past 13 years I've been lamenting my beautiful and functional, but badly installed, Corian counters.)

As everyone else has advised, please find the most experienced soapstone fabricator you can find. We are also leaning toward soapstone for our new kitchen and have picked our potential soapstone supplier based on the wonderful reviews of their fabrication and installation.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2011 at 9:39AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I'd no more use a soapstone "fabricator" who asked such questions than I'd use an electrician who wanted to know why those wires behind the outlet were of different colors. Or a plumber who asked me, "Do you have any masking tape? You have a small leak under your bathroom sink that I'll fix while I'm here."

Really....why are you even asking us??? I'm reading what you said...."really nervous", "freaking out", "agonizing"'ve already answered your own question! You're not "so nervous" that your soapstone is going to be ruined. You KNOW it will.

I like remodelfla's advice -- to contact the supplier for names of fabricators. That sounds like a promising first step. And BTW, we have soapstone counters, installed by the company that cut them. A gorgeous, perfect job worth every penny. I was at a Christmas party at a place with really lovely soapstone in the kitchen; turns out a contractor in the area installed these counters. Probably for far less than what we paid....but the issue is, could one have known ahead of time that they'd turn out so well? Me? I would have been afraid to take a chance and would rather have paid more to have a soapstone expert do the job.

Get yourself an expert -- and then enjoy your new counters for years to come.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2011 at 11:04AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

aoki it is still very possible that the guy who asked the question you posted was asking a simple honest (and easy) question that one asks when one receives a stone that is somehow deemed to be different, and that he is honest, down to earth, and able to do a great job. It's not rocket science and he already has experience with all the necessary functions, as his question pointed out. HE can call the supplier and ask that questions and the two or three normal secondary questions that refine the answer. The fact that he spoke to you is not a bad sign. It means he is treating you respectfully, not hiding anything from you and not figuring he or anyone else will make arbitrary decisions on your behalf.

On Youtube and elsewhere one can see videos showing how-to, and these videos say clearly that neophytes can do it too. This guy is highly experienced and he asked the right question to the right person. Your not knowing the answer is not a problem. One phone call gives him the answer. His question is about the starting point in the process. It's not a sign he is bad or out to lunch.

Many people have posted here that ultimately it doesn't matter if the grit for final sanding is 100 or 150 or 200... and this information about what "range" will be acceptable is good to share with him too.

Give it all one more try. This is not a case of standing your ground against someone who is wrong.

now, that is my opinion. It goes against the current breathing of this morning's posts.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2011 at 11:21AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Ask your contractor for the name of someone who is familiar with soapstone fabrication. It will just be easier and better and smarter to use an experienced fabricator. Why take chances?

However, if your contractor refuses or doesn't know an experienced fabricator, you should try to find one and see if your GC will give you a credit for hiring your own guy.

If you end up having to work with this fabricator because you can't find anyone else, make sure that he calls Green Mountain soapstone for detailed instructions on what he needs to do. I think that installing soapstone is probably an easier process than installing granite since the stone is softer than granite and easier to work with. In fact, I have read about some homeowners who have installed soapstone as a DIY project. If this guy is a talented granite fabricator then he should be able to handle soapstone too. The fact that he is asking questions is not necessarily a bad sign - it's a good sign since he's being honest and he is trying to learn. Just think - he could have bluffed and acted as if he installed soapstone every day.

But of course the first option is the best: it's preferable to get someone who is experienced right off the bat. You have be comfortable with your installer.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2011 at 11:28AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

run don't walk to find another fabricator who knows what they are doing. keep us posted!

    Bookmark   April 24, 2011 at 1:41PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

A couple of folks on here have DIYed soapstone. Advice to run may be good but I have to say just because he hasn't worked with soapstone doesn't make him an idiot or incompetent. Investigate your options but don't assume this is the worst one available to you.

Here is a link that might be useful: Canadian Soapstone - link to videos

    Bookmark   April 24, 2011 at 2:34PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

If you are anywhere near the Florida area, I strongly urge you to contact Joshua from Creative Soapstone. They work with M. Texiera products but Joshua is genius. I'm 3 hours away and I paid extra to have him come down (2x) to template, fabricate and install my soapstone. This is all he does and I'm guessing he knows people in the industry. If you strike out with your slab supplier, he may be able to steer you in the right direction. It was worth every extra penny I paid to have Joshua. My soapstone is like silk, you can't see the seams, and it's absolutely bulletproof.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2011 at 3:29PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

A little off topic, but I just have to ask...Why do people always say installing soapstone is so easy that almost any homeowner can DIY it, yet when an experienced stone fabricator hasn't worked with this specific stone, folks are advised, "Run. Get someone experienced" etc.? The advice on this forum is often very contradictory. If the average Joe can go out and purchase the tools and self teach himself how to install soapstone, then why can't someone who cuts and seams stone for a living not learn how to do it? I'm not trying to be snarky, but I do want to know why it is often touted as "an easy stone to work with" if it's not? I know it is expensive, but it's either easy to work with or it's not. It can't be both (or can it???)

Because of budgetary reasons my DH and I have briefly discussed the possibility of fabricating our own slabs. Then along comes a post like this and it scares me off!

    Bookmark   April 24, 2011 at 5:00PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

this is my message too.

within 48 hours we shall know.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2011 at 5:03PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I'm with davidro1 and others who suggest you get him to call your soapstone supplier. They should have all the answers to his questions. I wouldn't "run" unless he still feels uncomfortable after he talks to them. Stone fabrication is the guys business after all, and just as no two granites are alike, he's probably capable of adapting, especially if DIY homeowners can do it.

I'd be especially encouraged to carry on with him if the stone is sanded and 'factory finished' and all he needs to take care of is the edges. If that's not the case, I might be inclined to look elsewhere though.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2011 at 5:20PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I think one of the reasons why granite fabricators often flub a soapstone installation whereas DIYers(like DH & myself) can handle it, is because DIYers tend to learn about the soapstone and watch copious videos before doing the install. Many granite fabricators(not this guy,) just treat it like granite, and then fail badly. Ideally you'd be using a soapstone fabricator, but this guy seems to be acknowledging that this is not granite, not his particular expertise, and willing to learn. I'd talk to him a bit more before running.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2011 at 8:47PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

aoki, I'll be getting a piece of soapstone, and I had a question about what you meant by a laminate edge - is your soapstone going to be edged with laminate, or were you just referring to how thick your soapstone edge will be - I was confused reading that, thanks.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2011 at 9:08PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Please call this guy (512) 820-0100 he is a soapstone fabricator expert and knows what to do regarding your case ask for his help his name is Bo Barkley.

    Bookmark   June 3, 2011 at 4:02AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Circus Peanut

ncamy, as I read it after years on this forum, the contradctory advice generally seems to stem from two different perspectives on home remodeling.

One perspective tends to be from folks who are not by nature handy, uncomfortable taking on home projects themselves, and who are aware that there can be myriad rules and restrictions regarding installation (I include most professional kitchen designers in this group), and this group tends to be more conservative and cautious in their advice.

The other perspective tends to be from folks who are handy, have done a lot of home projects, are familiar with power tools and aware that some rules can be judiciously broken (and importantly, which rules those are). This group tends to be less rule-oriented and more laissez-faire in their advice.

Neither is "right", it's all about your personal comfort level, both with the quality of the finished product and the financial investment involved. I myself belong to the latter group, because I'm willing to risk a slightly less than perfect finished product to DIY and save thousands (and possibly still get a better job than some so-called professionals). I'd enthusiastically point out brickton's, sombreil's and many others' gorgeous DIY soapstone counters as inspiration for you.

I helped a carpenter friend install some soapstone from Maine Soapstone (gorgeous stuff!) and please don't take this as gospel, but he used the large-sized Festool random orbital sander (claims that it's the only orbital that really doesn't leave circles) and only sanded up to around 120 grit or so, then went up to 180 by hand using wet sandpaper. If you search this forum for Joshua + soapstone, you'll find his soapstone sanding grit recommendations in various threads.

    Bookmark   June 3, 2011 at 9:53AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I am totally inexperienced with soapstone, but am going to have some installed soon. I am curious about the original question; how does the stone come from the stone yard? If it is smooth, as it looks to me when I've looked at stone, why does it still need to be sanded on installation? May sound like a stupid question, but I'd really like to know before I start interviewing installers. What kind of questions should I ask and what should I be looking for?

    Bookmark   June 3, 2011 at 10:03AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

ncamy said "... contradictory. If the average Joe can go out and purchase the tools and self teach himself how to install soapstone, then why can't someone who cuts and seams stone for a living not learn how to do it?

To which circuspeanut responded very well.

I'd like to add that the wisdom of crowds is not always wise. Crowds can be wrong. HEre are a couple of examples.

1./ when respected participants write things out that may have just been musings or idle surmising (or a seriously held viewpoint) and then that opinion becomes The Word to follow.

2./ when panic sets in. This thread had a bit of that in the beginning. At first, five people posted to say the exact opposite of what seems to have become a different conclusion. So, ncamy used this split in the responses to raise the question.

An example of a case of #1. might be a few statements made a couple years ago about "negative reveal" sink cutouts. Even to call it a negative reveal. It's a small overhang. The counter overhangs over the sink. It's not a problem and it's not a source of problems. But a couple years ago the consensus was different. Another example might be the use of the NKBA guidelines: these days we all write that they are good but not to be taken seriously if you have to break one or two of the guidelines. Perhaps ncamy was thinking of this kind of group contradiction.

    Bookmark   June 3, 2011 at 2:06PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

We just had soapstone cut and installed last week by a highly skilled man who usually fabricates and installs granite (among other things). He'd never done soapstone, but he did a fabulous job! We are doing a majority DIY kitchen remodel (with lots of lurking here for advice!) and purchased soapstone slabs straight from the Alberene Soapstone quarry in Schuyler, VA. What a deal!! However, now that I've been actually using the kitchen for the last few days, I've got water rings! Apparently I didn't do enough research because this never came up as an issue. In all my searching this site this morning, though, it seems it can be an issue for some, but may have more to do with the way the top is finished?? It's going to make me crazy! Can anyone recommend someone in VA that can finish soapstone so that it doesn't have these water ring issues? Or is Florida Joshua still around? Maybe he's making another tour up north and can stop by my house :)

    Bookmark   June 9, 2011 at 11:07AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

You need to work with a Fabricator that HAS worked with Soapstone.

Having been in this Industry for 33 years, I will say this - IMHO, a guy would have to be a total doofus to NOT be able to work with Soapstone, but - I admire the guy for admitting to you that he has reservations.

Soapstone is prolly THE EASIEST NATURAL STONE TO WORK WITH ON THE PLANET. However, if the guy has his reservations - thank him for his candor and move on. You gotta respect him for his honesty.

Find a guy that DOES know how to fab it and get'r done - no real need to live through all of this anxiety - life's too short......

Heck - I'd even come and do the Fab and the stick - so if you've got the "Green" - I can be "on the scene".......

    Bookmark   June 9, 2011 at 11:53AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo


and true information about the stone.

since it's easy to work with, it will work for the granite guy who is asking the most normal and expectable questions you and I can imagine.

As you said, he is honest.

    Bookmark   June 9, 2011 at 12:11PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

FWIW, I'd like to chime in with support for the calmer-minds faction here.

*deep breath*.

Maybe -- can you ask the fabricator to hold off for a day or two while you get grounded and more information and importantly, a fuller sense of the guy's capabilities? I'm not really sure that this question is terribly easy to get a grasp on, a person's capabilities. But if you're allowed to interact with the guy - that is if he's willing to talk with you and your GC is Ok with the conversation, could you feel out his willingness to watch some of those DIY youtube videos and the like? If the difference between DIY and professionals is that the former is a little more humble and willing to learn, and your fabricator has already demonstrated some willingness to learn inasmuch as that he asked that "dumb" question, maybe you can still yet get the best of both worlds. I'm sure, for example, the fabricator knows that's a "dumb" question that he asked, but he needed to know it and is letting on to you his non-experience with this particular stone. That's not a crime or certainty that he can't do a good job .... just, as you say and others make very clear, a warning sign. But maybe not a game-changer?

So, can you buy yourself a little time to see whether the fab's willing to continue staying open to learning? I think his attitude is really key. If he's exasperated by the requirement to cut this exotic, and all that he will need to learn and the necessity of interacting with the pesky owner, etc -- then I'd hazard that those are important data that suggest you start, as they say here 'running'. But if you feel this guys is like a professional version of the DIY's, open and willing and eager to learn, then you're golden. Hopefully he'll see this as a great getting-paid learning experience on a new, hot material that he's likely to have more opportunities to cut some of in the near future. That's the sort of "can-do" attitude you can really benefit from.

But if it's just grumbling and complaining and resentment, then, well ...

    Bookmark   June 9, 2011 at 2:34PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Fori is not pleased

Sounds like he just doesn't know what you want it to look like. Is it supposed to be rough like this or slick like that? Perfectly reasonable.

I'd get more info about the guy. Talk to him. And if there is enough slab for practice, by all means have him PRACTICE.

    Bookmark   June 9, 2011 at 3:58PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

bumpity bump

    Bookmark   June 20, 2011 at 3:17PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I know it's been a while, but did you ever find out the answer to your original question? Did the stone come with the surface finished, or did it need to be sanded?

    Bookmark   June 4, 2013 at 9:40PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I know it's been a while, but did you ever find out the answer to your original question? Did the stone come with the surface finished, or did it need to be sanded?

    Bookmark   June 4, 2013 at 9:41PM
Sign Up to comment
More Discussions
White on White & other (mis) Matched Kitchens
I was at a friend's house, an artist, last week showing...
Carrie B
Old, Deep Cast Iron Sink or New Sink? I can't decide
Hello, would love to hear from those of you who have...
Cindy McMahon
Please help with Kitchen floorplan
Hello everyone, My husband and I are building a new...
Strategies for washing dishes in a large single sink vs double sink
Hi all, We have in our plans to get a large (33 inch)...
Sexist or Fun?
Trouble from young feminists over this billboard.
Joseph Corlett, LLC
© 2015 Houzz Inc. Houzz® The new way to design your home™