Soapstone islands wider than 30"

AJinNHJune 19, 2013

We are seriously considering soapstone countertops. My dilemma is that the current configuration of our island is an 'L' shape that measures 9' long by 39" wide (both long & short arms of the L are 39" wide. So, SS comes in 30" widths. Do I have multiple seams, or do I incorporate another material, such as wood, into 9" of one side? Maybe where the seating is? Would that look funny? I should mention that the inside of the L is where the seating will be.

Has anyone else dealt with this issue? I'd love to hear your suggestions/solutions.

Thank you for all of the amazing information that you share on this website. SO helpful.

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With my eating overhang, my soapstone is about 50" deep.

    Bookmark   June 19, 2013 at 9:28PM
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Remodelfla, do you have seams? If so, are you happy with the look? The fabricator near me cautioned me that anything wider than 30" might not be real SS. Thanks for the reply.

    Bookmark   June 19, 2013 at 10:18PM
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AJinNH, may I ask, are you in New Hampshire? If so, I can recommend the soapstone contractor who did the soapstone countertop and island in our kitchen.

We were so pleased with his work we had him fabricate a countertop for our guest bath, and then a soapstone hearth for our parlor stove.

You can see an example of his work in my kitchen (amck's kitchen) in the Finished Kitchen Blog. We chose to do soapstone exclusively on our island but we saw some examples of amazing work he does combining wood and soapstone on islands.

Our work was done 6 summers ago and has held up beautifully. The nicest guy ever to work with - the company name is The Soapstone Works, if you'd like to look him up. He may be able to answer the questions you have about your project.

    Bookmark   June 19, 2013 at 10:41PM
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We have over 20 linear feet on our "L" so we needed 2 slabs. Our fabricator is the best there is so you can barely see our seams. He works exclusively in soapstone. I don't know where you're located but suggest you check with a supplier/fabricator who is very experienced in this medium.

    Bookmark   June 19, 2013 at 10:43PM
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I don't believe that soapstone is limited to 30". Here is a picture of a soapstone slab from M. Teixeira, one of the leading SS suppliers:

    Bookmark   June 19, 2013 at 10:46PM
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Amck, I know who you are talking about; I've met him and you're right, he is both very nice and knowledgeable. I'm tapping the wealth of knowledge on GW also, hoping to find a solution to the 39" width. Combining wood and SS is an option, but I have to admit, I like the look of all SS.

Thanks for the info.

    Bookmark   June 19, 2013 at 11:23PM
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Where did you get the idea that soapstone only comes in 30" widths? We just put in soapstone counters (no island) and the slab we used was 54" by 115". At the same time my son and DIL put in soapstone, and they have a peninsula island (wider than yours) that is cut from one slab. We both have real soapstone.

    Bookmark   June 20, 2013 at 9:18AM
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Thank you needinfo1. I was told this by a fabricator who has been working with and installing SS for a while. He does beautiful work. I saw examples of things that wholesalers were trying to pass off as SS. I'm sure that there are real SS slabs out there that are wider than 30", but I was told that many of them are not really SS. I'm not sure why most slabs are limited to 30", is it how they're quarried?

It's obvious that I need to educate myself more on this issue. What I need to do is find an unbiased source who can explain this to me. Why do most wholesalers only sell 30" widths? That has been the 'standard' width for a long time.

If/when I find out I'll let you know!

Thanks again for all of the input.

    Bookmark   June 20, 2013 at 9:35AM
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This is the first I have heard about SS only coming in 30" width. I have a 5' width SS island done with Original PA soapstone. Real soapstone honest to goodness.

    Bookmark   June 20, 2013 at 9:39AM
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AJ.... This is the first and only time I've heard of SS in 30"slabs and I did months and months of research before I committed. Once you check it out you'll see that there are definitely options available to you. Good luck!

    Bookmark   June 20, 2013 at 11:11AM
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Our island is 76" L x 42" W (cut down at least 10-12" in width) and is real soapstone. One slab. In fact, none of the stoneyards around here had any slabs that were smallish.

I have heard of slabs being short lengthwise, but not widthwise.

    Bookmark   June 20, 2013 at 12:01PM
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I got my slabs from M.tex in San Francisco. The 30" limitation is you buy a pre-finished counter. We purchased slabs that were cut to fit our countertops and they were huge.

    Bookmark   June 20, 2013 at 12:38PM
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Here is what I've learned so far about soapstone. Much of the "hard" soapstone, such as M. Teixeira's 'Belvedere' is actually Serpentine, not really soapstone, geologically speaking. Serpentine will eventually become soapstone as it acquires more talc with time. This was confirmed by a distrbutor of M. Teixeira as well as at a stone wholesale warehouse. The up side is that it is harder than soapstone. The downside is that it isn't as repairable or as heat tolerant as soapstone. So it's buyer beware, and be sure to ask. Perhaps Serpentine is exactly what you want. But know that Serpentine is still labeled as soapstone.

Some of the 'classic' soapstone, such as Barroca, does indeed come in larger slabs, but not typically as large as a granite slab. The typical size mined has been in 30" widths, but some distributors can get larger slabs and M. Teixeira appears to be one of them.

If you are shopping for soapstone be sure to ask if it's Serpentine. I've been surprised at how often the answer has been "Yes".

    Bookmark   July 7, 2013 at 3:01PM
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I've never heard of a 30" width limit on Soapstone slabs?My stone yard had dozens of slabs that were approx. 5' x 9'. Here's ours, it is "Mariana" from Brazil, and yes it is real Soapstone. This was at Walker - Zanger in Southern California.

    Bookmark   July 7, 2013 at 3:38PM
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Ctycdm, I don't doubt that your slab is real. It looks very pretty, I hope that you have been happy with it.

My question arose after I found that many of the local dealers, companies who have been in business here in New England for a long time, and only deal in soapstone, have the narrower width slabs only. Perhaps the need for wider slabs has been more recent, or perhaps they don't like working with the larger slabs. Who knows!

So, back to my question. If you have seams in your soapstone, how does it look and how many seams do you have?

Also, how have the edges of your soapstone held up?

    Bookmark   July 7, 2013 at 4:08PM
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When we put in our Mariana soapstone counters back in 2005, Walker-Zanger only had the 30" slabs here near San Jose, CA. We have a sink island an it worked out just fine for us. Just do you clean those really wide islands. Do you walk around them reaching into the middle?


    Bookmark   July 7, 2013 at 9:12PM
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Babka (love your tag, I'm part polish), we currently have an island that is small, 30"x36". When we finish our remodel we'll have a much larger island that will accommodate seating. It will be 9' long x 39" wide. We need the extra width for the seating. You're right about cleaning, I'll probably have to either walk around it or really reach out. Fortunately I'm tall.

Your post confirms a suspicion that the need for wider slabs is more recent as soapstone has become more popular. I also think that some fabricators prefer dealing with the smaller slabs.

The dilemma that this poses is, do you do business with someone who knows soapstone well and is an excellent fabricator even if it means more seams, or do you deal with someone who is taking advantage of the current demand, and who offers larger, granite-like slabs, but who may not know how to fabricate them correctly? I've heard of people getting soapstone that has been sealed! They obviously treated it like granite.

It's an awful lot of uncertainty for such a large expense. We're still trying to decide on the right material. They all have their pluses and minuses. We do a lot of cooking, canning and such and need a good countertop material that will hold up well. I'm a little nervous about SS tendency to chip on the edges. I know DH would be hovering over each one, which is the real issue.

    Bookmark   July 7, 2013 at 9:56PM
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All four of my grandparents were Polish. When we got some grandchildren, there was a question about what to call me. Their other grandmother is "Grandma" so I am "Babka"

If you choose soapstone II would go for the larger slab, and the fabricator who does mostly granite. It seams beautifully, BUT because of the design in soapstone, you will certainly see the seams no matter how tight. We had to have one because we have an L-shaped kitchen. I haven't oiled this in months and you can see the seam. We wanted a matte finish on our counters.

We had ours done by an outfit that had no clue (we found out too late). So we ended up wet sanding (orbital sander) it to 120 grit ourselves. No problem with soapstone. Similar to sanding wood.
I cook a lot and put hot things down on the countertop w/o worry. I can drip paint thinner or vinegar, or anything on it w/o a care. We've had some miniscule chips on the soapstone around the edge undermounted sink, but a little sandpaper did the trick.

Can you get a sample to experiment with from the same batch of stone? That way you can drop some pointy heavy stuff and cans on it and see how it chips, and otherwise abuse it. Walker-Zanger gave us a 6" square to play with. Soapstone comes in a lot of "flavors" and some are more veiny or swirly. The first stuff I saw was solid black, mine looks a little like granite with just a few veins.

We just put Cesarstone in our new bathroom in a design that shows no seams. That surface is supposed to take a lot of abuse too. You will need to oil the soapstone if you like that dark color especially around a sink where soapy water and constant wiping will remove it. If you want your countertop to look pristine and new all the time then think about a quartz product. I oil my sink island when I know company is coming and I want it to look like brand new.

My best advice would be to get some samples of several products and abuse the hell out of them and that will help you decide.

Good Luck!


    Bookmark   July 7, 2013 at 11:47PM
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New England - CT -- We looked around at fabricators when we did our kitchen and I know one that did beautiful work only had small slabs. I figured he got slabs that way for easier handling.

    Bookmark   July 8, 2013 at 8:15AM
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Babka, thank you very much for the photos and tips. I do intend to get a variety of samples, including granite and quartz too. I like the softer, matte finish, but I'm not sure how honed or leathered granite or quartz hold up.

You have a beautiful kitchen! It looks like a cooks kitchen, which is what I'm hoping for too. Once I decide and get it done I'll post some photos. We don't expect to be completed until late fall. I still have time to make a decision, but that means that I also have time to change my mind, unfortunately.

Thank you again.

    Bookmark   July 8, 2013 at 11:28AM
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A portion of our kitchen is L-shaped and we were able to get it done without a seam. I don't remember the exact dimensions of our slabs, but that part measures 48''. We are in WA state and got our slabs on the west side. I do know for sure that it is ss and not a serpentine; it is called smoke:

    Bookmark   July 8, 2013 at 12:04PM
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