Stoneyard Experience and Soapstone Substitute

msl511August 7, 2013

I can't find a Part IV to Karin's fabulous Countertop Geology series of threads, so I thought I'd come put a couple of things here.

I love soapstone, but want to have a sense of the granite alternatives, so this morning, I went to a dealer (AKDO in Bridgeport, CT, for those of you local and playing along at home) with my designer.

First, I looked at several things that have a similar look to soapstone and my favorite was one called Negresco that does look quite like soapstone in many ways. The stoneyard had it only in a leathered finish. They like that finish for it because it brings out the texture, which is actually what I'm not crazy about. It has some white veins, which are flush with the rest of the dark grey surface. It also has what I guess would best be described as black veins that are shallower than the dark grey surface. I've decided they bug me, but I'm sure other people would love them. In general, I'm concluding that I usually prefer the truly smooth, even surface of a honed stone to the more variegated surface you get with leathered. Purely a matter of personal preference, of course.

AKDO had general price ranges on the stones (low, moderate, medium, luxury), but won't give the actual price. I know there's been some discussion of this in Karin's threads and my first reaction was not to like the idea that they wouldn't tell me the price of something. I said something to my designer about it. She said that it's because they wholesale only, they won't sell to me, only to the fabricator. My response was ok, but they could tell me what they're charging the fabricator. She said they won't because the fabricators mark them up. So, while I still don't love this practice and obviously some stoneyards will just tell you, I at least now understand what's going on. The fabricators don't want the consumers to know the wholesale price they're paying and the stoneyards are protecting their relationships with the fabricators. Let me be clear, I'm not defending this practice, but at least now I understand what's going on.

But my designer is getting me quotes from the fabricator on a couple of the stones I saw, so at least I'll have a sense of what we're talking about.

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Make sure that you find a fabricator that you are happy with. The fabricator my GC recommended never returned my calls and quoted prices that were really inflated. Eventually I got so annoyed with them that I shopped around for the fabricator on my own. I can tell you that different fabricators will give you wildly different prices for the same job. I am not suggesting that you go with the lowest bidder, but you can find someone who is well regarded and also doesn't treat you like their personal ATM. Also, many fabricators will include the price of the slabs in their bid as a separate line item, so you will have a better idea of the cost of fabrication vs. material.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2013 at 4:03PM
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Well, many merchants will not reveal what they pay for material. I sure don't for my business (not in any way related to home improvement). Many people may balk at the markup, but don't stop to consider that the merchant has labor and overhead costs to pay with that markup and a reasonable amount of profit. From what I've seen of granite fabrication, due to our kitchen reno, it is a very labor intensive process (moving slabs around, cutting, edging, polishing, templating, installation), so I can see much of their markup going to labor.

Make sure to get quotes from multiple fabricators. We got quotes ranging from $4K to $7K, which was rather surprising. Some fabricators may not be as price competitive as others, but some might be worth a bit of extra expense if they have really good customer service.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2013 at 4:09PM
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Hi Marcia,

I can't add anything to the pricing discussion (except to agree with you that it's an annoying arrangement) but I can comment on the stone. I googled up some pictures of Negresco and it looks like it could be limestone. Actually, some images looked more like an igneous/metamorphic rock but I found an image with both white veins and black veins and it looked like it could be limestone. So do the scratch test for sure!

Good luck!

    Bookmark   August 7, 2013 at 4:56PM
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There is a granite called "Virginia Mist" that people sometimes use for a soapstone substitute. There are examples/pictures on this forum. If the link below doesn't work, google "Gardenweb Virginia Mist."

Here is a link that might be useful: Virginia Mist thread on GW

    Bookmark   August 7, 2013 at 9:22PM
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I'm glad in our area that the slabyards will give a grade bracket or retail price for a material. Not knowing a material is way out of your budget is a waste of your time and the fabricator's time. It would be like shopping for wallpaper (high material cost variation) and having to have the installer (large labor contribution) quote the total price.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2013 at 9:36PM
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I've been to AKDO (twice). Nice selection though found the sales people to be a bit snooty. There are several other stone places in the same area if you want recommendations. I did end up finding my slab in New Jersey however. Also, I will say that I was very happy with my fabricator.

    Bookmark   August 8, 2013 at 7:41AM
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Rocks #4 Marble, Granite, and Quartz. Just search Rocks #4 for that thread.

Sometimes, the fabricators won't even give you a price, unless it is in the bone yard.

Karen in Ohio

    Bookmark   August 10, 2013 at 9:09PM
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Also nothing to add about the price, but several people have commented that my quartzite looks like soapstone, so maybe it's worth looking at. Called (at least here in Chicago) Ocean Stone. Sorry the photo isn't more helpful.

    Bookmark   August 11, 2013 at 12:30AM
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