Experience with Nucrete, Earthcrete or Squak Mountain Stone?

sloane529June 24, 2011

Remodeling a 1910 Foursquare kitchen, family of 4 with two small kids. I want countertops with a warm, simple feel and minimal maintenance. I do not like granite, except perhaps honed black. Wary about maintenance and cost issues of soapstone. Seriously considering Paperstone. But I was recently told about these three products and am wondering if anyone has any experience with them. In particular: installation (visible seams in Nucrete or Earthcrete?) and maintenance. And do you think the concrete look is too contemporary for traditional style kitchen (will be doing shaker cabs, apron farmhouse sink etc)? TIA!

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littlesmokie

Hi, I could have written your post (similar home/family circumstances, same aesthetic preferences.)

I do not think concrete counters would read as too contemporary with Shaker cabs and other old house details. I think they can be "quiet" countertops that just fade into the background and let other aspects of kitchen be the focal point "stars."

The problem with nucrete/earthcrete/"cement elegance" type of products is that (much like a poured in place concrete countertop) they can, and probably will, crack. One of those products-I'm sorry I don't remember which-advertises that it guarantees against cracking and I got all excited, then read that the "guarantee" is for one year. I don't know about you, but I want my counters crack-free for longer than one year!

A KD we consulted with who had concrete countertops herself and stated while she loved the look, they were a high maintenance choice and advised us to steer clear of them, given our desire for low/no maintenance.

These cast concrete countertops share the same drawbacks as regular concrete countertops-they are porous and so can stain (except the one nucrete product which is coated and bit more...plasticky than the other cast concrete products.) Since they are porous they need to be waxed like regular concrete countertops which can also mean problems with water rings, etc. (Perhaps some of the same concerns you have with soapstone...?)

I still got a quote from Sonoma on the nucrete: $130-150/sq. ft. PLUS the cost of crating/shipping, PLUS finding/paying a local fabricator to install. Zoikes.

I never got a sample of the squak mountain, but I assume it performs similarly to richelite and paperstone (which I did get samples of) they scratched very easily and needed to be oiled. My feeling was that if I was going to oil a countertop, I'd prefer to get soapstone.

I sampled ~7? different soapstones (and I was surprised they were not necessarily more expensive than other choices we were looking at, depending on supplier and pricing. Whether they charge for a whole slab or just what you need fabricated can make a difference.)

After first purchasing soapstone, I ended up switching at the last minute to leathered absolute black granite with a wood island. I haven't even been living with/using them yet, but already have concerns about scratches/oil marks. Sigh.

I looked into dozens of countertop options looking for what you're looking for and there just is no perfect choice.

In short, countertops can be maddening. :)

Well I've already written a novel, but I'd be glad to chat further if I can provide input on other choices you might be considering. (Sadly I have several dozen countertop samples here-I sampled several other more obscure materials from schist to slate to anthracite and lots of the better known choices too.) Good luck!

    Bookmark   June 25, 2011 at 12:02PM
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sloane529

littlesmokie - thank you so much for your post! Wow, what a lot of thought and work you did. I had just read your post on bluekitten's thread too and was about to thank you for the research that benefits the rest of us, when I saw you posted here too. So, thank you! We have narrowed it down to Paperstone or soapstone, with similar maintenance issues we'll probably go with Paperstone - I love its warmth and the indigo is really beautiful. Cost for us (near Seattle) is better than soapstone, plus we like the green, local quality. But I did surprise myself and actually liked some honed granite, Nebula Satin in particular, so I can see the appeal (so much better than the cold, boring, polished stuff we've seen in all new construction around here). I have been agonizing over this and appreciated your encouragement that there is no perfect countertop out there. Hopefully we'll be happy with it, whatever it turns out to be . . .

    Bookmark   June 30, 2011 at 1:18AM
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Circus Peanut

hi Sloane,
If you're considering Paperstone/Richlite, one thing you could do is get a cutting board made of it. They sell a number of sizes and colors and you could do your worst to the board to make sure it will hold up to your standards.

I hate to be a killjoy, but will say that I have a Paperstone cutting board and it decided me against the material as counters -- it scratches very easily and soon looks beat up. Then again, of course you won't be using knives directly on your counter to cut bread etc.

Have you thought about stainless or other metals? I wound up putting DIY copper counters into my 1921 bungalow and we are quite happy with them. Stainless would be about the most bulletproof material I can imagine for counters, besides being historically appropriate.
Here is a picture of forum member Theresse's gorgeous stainless counters in her foursquare:

Best of luck and happy deciding!

    Bookmark   June 30, 2011 at 7:42AM
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artemis78

If it helps any, we were debating between soapstone and Paperstone and were ultimately swayed to soapstone by the pricing being reversed where we are (SF Bay Area)---about $1K more for Paperstone---but I still wish we'd gone with that. There are things I love about our soapstone, but also some things I hate---ours is a very soft stone---and every time I'm at our friends' house where they have Paperstone, I wish we'd picked it. The maintenance on the two is quite similar, though---main difference is that their counters don't dent in the same way that ours do. (Both scratch and must be oiled to stay looking black/pretty, but that comes with the territory.)

Also make sure the Paperstone quotes you get are for the actual area you have---the initial quotes we got were based on calculating our square footage and then multiplying by the "cost per square foot," which put it in our price range...but when we headed back to buy it, we suddenly got very different quotes because they had to use two slabs of it to do our kitchen, and we had to buy whole slabs. It was a really frustrating experience, given that both times they had the actual plans in front of them. However, we only have a few dealers here and you probably have a lot more to choose from up there!

We also looked at Squak Mountain but couldn't find any actual people who had it locally where we could see---just the dealer---and I wanted to be able to see it in use after time. Like littlesmokie, though, we really didn't find any "perfect" counter materials. Ironically I think we are happiest with our cheap IKEA butcherblock wood section, but I wasn't comfortable using that near sink or stove (and one of the "loves" about the soapstone is that I can set hot things on it and not give it a second thought, so I don't regret skipping the wood there!) I love the wood on our trying-to-look-vaguely-period-ish cabinets, though. (We put the soapstone on our sink/stove L that is frameless and not trying as hard to look period because it's not visible from other rooms, so that section---the kitchen workhorse---has a more contemporary retro vintage thing going on.)

    Bookmark   June 30, 2011 at 12:12PM
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sloane529

Thanks for the great advice, and the pictures of that gorgeous kitchen! I have been using a Paperstone cutting board for a while - trying to do as much damage as we can. :) Soaked it, hot pots sat on it, moved counter appliances across it, and of course cutting. Like all cutting boards it has knife scratches, which I wouldn't do right on the counter surface. Otherwise, it held up great and the only marks was from my crock pot. These sand and oil out though. The board seems much denser, less colorful, and not as warm to the touch as the countertops. I appreciate your feedback artemis78, esp about getting quotes, and your friend's experience. Being close to Seattle and having a contractor who can install it makes it a more reasonable choice for us, so I think we may go for it.

    Bookmark   July 3, 2011 at 4:33PM
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Mary Ann Boffey

Careful of the supplier in Seattle... horrible reviews on Google for ecohaus (now GreenDepot) doing Paperstone.
Check out GreenhouseSolutions in Ballard/Queen Anne, went there yesterday and they have "ecotop" (made my originator of Paperstone) and the Squak Mtn stuff.

I'm with you that there is no perfect countertop, having a heck of a time deciding!!

    Bookmark   August 11, 2011 at 2:26PM
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