Soapstone problems... I think. Can you help?

dcclerkOctober 3, 2009

I am pretty crushed. I am one of those people that knew right away that soapstone was for me. I haven't waivered in the 2+ years that it took us to do the plan, and now we have finally installed the stone, and I don't think it is right. Can you please help talk me off of a cliff...

I checked out all of M. Texiera's samples and found that I loved the quietness of the Indian ones the most. So, when M. Texiera's So-Cal affiliate couldn't get any of the Indian ones (Cobra & Mumbai Gray), I found someone who could (and in fact, it was cheaper!-- score, right?) I had planned on using a local guy who only installs soapstone, but my GC much preferred that we use one of the guys that he usually uses. I even talked to the guy myself and directly asked him about his experience with soapstone-- he assured me he had a ton.

Fast forward to now, and the soapstone is in. I can't really explain it, but it doesn't look right. It seems too polished. It isn't really shiny, but it feels so smooth, that it is more like granite, rather than soapstone. It doesn't feel chalky. It reminds me much more of my old honed black absolute granite, than it does the matte, friendly texture of soapstone. There is no desire to touch it. No little ripples or undulations in the stone that feel really organic. Does that make sense? (As I say it, I realize I sound like a freak.)

And, I know it isn't that I just had hyped up soapstone in my mind, because I ADORE my friend's soapstone. Mine is different. And, I'm paranoid that my fabricator did something really wrong since he has told me in the last two weeks that (1) he would need to put an enhancer on one slab because it seemed lighter than the others, and that (2) I had to have my soapstone sealed. It honestly freaked me out. If ***I*** know that would be ineffective, he should DEFINITELY know this.

My primary worry, besides the lack of love for it, is that I am worried that with such high polishing, I'm going to end up having problems with rings and what not, more than the average soapstone. Isn't that what Bay Area Francey determined?

Can you put my concerns to rest? Is there something that I should tell the fabricator to do? Any authority that I can quote other than my internet friends? (I suspect that I would sound like a crazy lady for sure at that point.)


It doesn't look right because it is so smooth.

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My heart goes out to you. The finish on your soapstone is paramount to your becoming one of the GW posters who loves their soapstone vs. those of us who have had water rings and scratching from mild everyday use. I have spent the past 9 mos frustrated with my soapstone because it did not act like the soapstone I read about on GW.

I have posted about my problems with water rings and constant dinging that would take place just by moving a plate across the surface. Many wonderful posters have offered their suggestions and I had tried resanding my soapstone and various waxes and oils to no avail.

I had almost given up when thankfully, floridajoshua who works with soapstone and contributes on GW occasionally, was willing to look at my pics and offer his wise counsel and possible solutions. We determined that the polished finish that the granite fabricator's used was too high a grit for soapstone and that the 80 grit sanding I had done in trying to end my battle with water rings, etc. was too rough a finish to feel or act like soapstone.

I flew Josh and his lovely wife Mimi up to NH where I live and this very talented craftsman refinished my soapstone last weekend. The difference is amazing. My water rings are gone. After one week, I have no scratches or markings of any kind and I am no longer a waxing, oiling slave! The finish makes the difference! Please contact Josh at Creative Soapstone and talk to him about your soapstone.

I can now finally finish my kitchen by putting up my backsplash because I no longer wonder if the soapstone was going to end up as a temporary countertop. It is here to stay and I am loving it. And I can't stop touching it!

Here are some before Josh pics:

Here are some after Josh pics:

And here's Josh and Mimi, my rescuers!

Here is a link that might be useful: Creative Soapstone

    Bookmark   October 3, 2009 at 2:18AM
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Josh IS "Da Man" - Hands Down - HE's the guy I'd recommend when it comes to Soapstone!!!


    Bookmark   October 3, 2009 at 8:55AM
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DCCLERK..UGH..Your GC's self proclaimed "Granite Professional" is no such thing, I can assure you that. Seal Soapstone?? As I believe you already know, sealing your Soapstone with an "impregnator" may be your culprit. Not all stone is the same. Unfortunately your GC's contractor subscribes to the theory of "seal everything"! WRONG!

Soapstone, being so dense, will not allow the sealer to do its job. The sealer ends up drying on the face of the stone thus leaving a film. And he should of NEVER applied an enhancer! If one slab was lighter than the others, that brings up many other questions. But "doctoring" the stone, trying to make it appear the same color, is a band-aid at best and is not professional.

Regarding the high degree of polish. The polished face is a factory finish, not done by the fabricator. My first question is - Did you pick out the actual slabs? Do they seam darker now than when you selected them? Did they have the "Soapstone" feel when you selected them? Can you confirm it is the material you wanted? It sounds like you have a Soapstone with a residual film left over it from his sealer / enhancer. Get a scrap left over piece from the fabricator and compare it with your counters.

If you did not see the actual slabs, than all you can really do is tell your GC to use someone who knows what they are doing next time. Clearly, "Sealing Man" does not.

I do not believe the water rings will become an issue. Having a darker, deeper polish, will actually work for you in that regard.

Good luck!

    Bookmark   October 3, 2009 at 9:02AM
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Pluckymama - I had no idea you were still have such problems in your kitchen. I thought you had at least solved the island issues after Dave came out to refinish. I'm so glad you have this resolved!!! and can move on with the finishing touches. So what grit did Josh use? I can't believe you flew him up to NH! But certainly better than new countertops. Priscilla

    Bookmark   October 3, 2009 at 9:16AM
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I can't help but comment on what an ADORABLE couple Joshua and Mimi are. Back when I was considering soapstone (still love it but the wildly veiny kind I adore is just too soft for me) they were incredibly helpful and generous with their time. Their beauty must come from the inside out... if you want SS and are anywhere near the Fl. area, you MUST use them.

    Bookmark   October 3, 2009 at 9:48AM
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May I please jump in with more accolades for the wonderful Joshua and Mimi? All the local soapstone advice I got was completely clueless. Luckily, I had done enough reading on my own to know they were full of BS, but I had no idea what to do. Then, I lucked into finding Joshua at Creative Soapstone. He was only about 3 hours away from me, but if I had known then what I know now, I would not have hesitated to fly him from wherever in the world he was to do my counters.

My GC and cabinetmaker were both skeptical about my choice of soapstone, because they had heard from all the same clueless local people I had. When they saw him at work, though, they raved about him. They said he was one of the best craftsmen they had ever seen. Throughout the rest of the job, I would catch them caressing my countertops in admiration. :)

    Bookmark   October 3, 2009 at 1:18PM
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Thank you for the commiseration and advice-- I really appreciate it. Pluckymama, your pictures help me a lot. My soapstone hasn't been used yet, so it doesn't have the rings, but it has the same highly polished look that yours has in the first picture. I had read enough to think that it was probably the finish that was the problem, but seeing your pictures really solidifies it for me.

I want to call Joshua & Mimi, but I'm almost certain that I do not have the funds to fly him out (I live in California) to fix it, so I don't want to take up his time. It is obvious that he was a miracle worker for Pluckymama, and I am afraid I may need that, though.

I think that my fabricator did not seal or enhance the stone, because I specifically told him not to do it when he mentioned it, but who knows, maybe it was too late. I am not sure and will probably need to ask him point blank. (Not a conversation that I relish since he is already offended that I am unhappy with his work.)

I did see the slabs, but it was in such a different context, I'm not sure that I would recognize whether they were the same or not.

All that to say, I just know it isn't right and I sure hope that it gets fixed properly. When I mentioned it to the installer, he started talking about how that would be a "change order." I'm thinking that I will need to insist to the GC that he make sure that it get done right and not make me pay more for the privilege.

    Bookmark   October 4, 2009 at 3:20AM
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dcclerk, at the very least call Joshua and speak to him about your soapstone. He may be able to help you over the phone.

    Bookmark   October 4, 2009 at 9:27AM
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I just took some pictures to get your opinions. Here are some pictures of my soapstone countertop. What do you think?

    Bookmark   October 5, 2009 at 2:08AM
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You're right that the finish you got looks much more polished than soapstone should. In fact, it looks more polished than I thought soapstone could.

    Bookmark   October 5, 2009 at 9:39AM
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Circus Peanut

It looks to me like they sealed it already? Can you ask them for the scraps? Seeing bits of the original stone would help you determine what was done to it on the counters.

    Bookmark   October 5, 2009 at 11:10AM
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WOW! That looks like granite!

    Bookmark   October 5, 2009 at 11:11AM
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I have to agree, the pics don't even look like soapstone - you should definitely call Josh and send pics.

    Bookmark   October 5, 2009 at 12:01PM
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I did as suggested and spoke with Joshua who is, as you all know, spectacular. I learned all kinds of things in speaking with him. For example, I learned that my soapstone is one of the harder varieties (we think it is Cobra), so I may never get the really soft, chalky soapstone look & feel. I am bummed about that, but at least I know. He confirmed, however, that it could be broken down so that it is matte and not shiny. It won't be as simple as sanding it down, though, and it may need to be honed with a honing powder.

I also got the news from our site supervisor that the fabricator is not taking this well at all, and is totally offended that I don't like his work. I don't think this is going to be fun at all. :(

    Bookmark   October 5, 2009 at 2:30PM
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ugh - I just went through something similar (and still am) with my cabinet painter. So I know what you're going through. Best of luck. Hopefully it will work out in the end and you'll love your soapstone as many others do here.

    Bookmark   October 5, 2009 at 4:21PM
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I'm so glad you spoke to Joshua. Most contractors don't like to have their work questioned, but if you word it carefully and place it more on the look and feel you had anticipated rather than his work, hopefully, he will be willing to incorporate Joshua's recommendations into finishing the stone so that you have a more matte look and chalky feel.

I have been so happy since Joshua refinished my soapstone. I walk by and touch the countertops over and over. Before, I never did. Good luck and let us know how it turns out.

    Bookmark   October 5, 2009 at 8:13PM
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I am looking at having soapstone installed in our new kitchen and this is very helpful. I got a sample piece of soapstone from one of the dealers with my estimate. After looking at the Creative Soapstone site where Joshua works I followed the "care & maintenance" suggestions and used 150 then 220 grit sandpaper using their directions and it has a nice soft finish. Of course it depends on the hardness and type of soapstone. Good luck to dcclerk, you are the customer and deserve to be satisfied, I hope your GC works with you to get te look and feel you want.

    Bookmark   October 24, 2009 at 1:14PM
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I started with 40 grit and moved up to 220 on my DIY soapstone. 220 was a nice place to end.

I'm curious why this would required honing powder when sanding just takes the top off altogether?

    Bookmark   October 24, 2009 at 2:07PM
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DC -- any resolution on your soapstone??? Hopefully your kitchen is done -- you need to share pictures!
What pulls did you go with -- did you ever find anything that was a match for the RH Asbury pulls? (You've started me on a quest to find a less expense version of those -- love them)

    Bookmark   January 10, 2010 at 7:35AM
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I believe Florida-Joshua considers his techniques proprietary so an answer from him on why honing is desirable might be too revealing. So let me take a stab at your question from a materials point of view, since I don't have any proprietary knowledge.

Most soapstone types sold today have various inclusions in them. They aren't pure talc. Belvedere, for example, seems to have quartz inclusions. To sand quartz and talc together without causing waves requires a "sandpaper" with a cutting material good for quartz, such as silicon carbide or diamond, and a very flat platen to sand with, and no pressure mistakes. Sometimes, as in car body finishing (at least in the lacquer days), better results are obtained by using a fine grit in a carrier liquid than using wet sandpaper.

I can imagine the following. To get good oil retention on the talc, a fairly coarse grit is needed. But for the inclusions a finer grit is needed to keep them shiny. If a final honing with fine grit is used over the coarser sanded talc portions, it will not take down the grooves in the talc very much, and one gets the desired results -- a polish on the quartz and little degradation of the talc surface pattern. This assumes that the final coarse sanding was brief enough to not cut deep grooves into the quartz.

I wouldn't expect to get this process, if it is even valid, to work well without a lot of experience.


    Bookmark   January 10, 2010 at 12:15PM
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There are certain things I stay away from in a public forum. I did have the chance to talk with DC and her contractor who was very kind. Because I did not know where or what variety her stone was (I think the newer cobra), we did discuss a couple options to get good results. I do not talk about the way I do things because of 2 reasons. One is I feel that the finishing process I use took a few of us soapstone guys a long time to come up with and I feel I should keep it close to me, this is primarily with the more traditional varieties. Depending on the soapstone I use different techniques as well. The second and I think more important reason is that I do not want to present only one process to get good results. This would harm other wonder fabricators. I do talk about the sheen, or texture and other things to look for in a good finish, but I do this in hopes of educating people to make the right decision.


    Bookmark   January 10, 2010 at 1:33PM
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I am in need of your assitance. Are you heading back up to Boston? I would be happy to share expenses with someone else that may need your help. Could you email me?
Thanks a million!

    Bookmark   January 10, 2010 at 2:33PM
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Could you email me I have a hard time making the connections between the forum names and names of people that email me. . . so I'm not 100% sure of what email to respond to. . . your email is not set up on the forum here as well. I've also been having some trouble with my email and did lose all my emails and contacts a little while ago. So I know I didn't respond to some people that asked me questions. I didn't realize how fast you can lose so much needed info.

Sorry my last post the word wonder should have read wonderful.

    Bookmark   January 11, 2010 at 8:18AM
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In case I seemed ambiguous on this point, I do support your desire to refrain from commenting on whatever you want to refrain from commenting on. Proprietary information is something all businesses have to protect, whether their own or someone else's that they have agreed to protect. And avoiding a fabricator fight is always a good idea.

Also, I was trying to provide some closure to fern4's relatively generic technical question. It had piqued my interest.

Best wishes


    Bookmark   January 11, 2010 at 11:10AM
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Babka NorCal 9b

Relax folks! Soapstone is so wonderful at forgiving mistakes...I've messed with 80 grit and 220 grit, with some fun results. Mine has been in place for 5 years. Try it all, you have nothing to lose, and see what works for you. This stone is just so much fun, as you can not hurt it. Unlike some other stones.


    Bookmark   February 17, 2010 at 1:38AM
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Sorry to hear about your soapstone. This is a common problem with fabricators or granite guys who do not know how to finish soapstone.
However, it is an easy fix, no worries. Have your fabricator or any compident contractor sand the countertops with 80 grit and then finish with 120 grit. Then apply your oil or soapstone wax. This should do it:)
If you have any further questions don't hesitate to call or e-mail,

Good Luck

    Bookmark   November 19, 2011 at 8:36PM
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