How to determine what type of soapstone?

junicbNovember 12, 2012

We've just started our countertop search in earnest. The first slab yard that our fabricator referred us to had soapstone, but the sales person would only say, "It's black soapstone." When pressed, she said it came from Brazil, but she wasn't able to offer any additional info.

Can anyone offer tips on how to figure out more info? Are there other questions I should be asking to elicit the right info? I have my GW notes on soapstone varieties and hardness to reference, but without names I was stymied. When I started mentioning Belvedere versus Anastacia, I got a blank look.

I will, of course, take home a sample to test, too, but there weren't any available last week. The other slab yard gave us a sample of Mirasol, which we could scratch with our fingernails...

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If they or their distributor don't know, then keep moving. But, since so many stone distributors just make up their own names, knowing what name they are calling it could be pointless. The only way to know if it will work for you is to first of all, wet it down. That will let you know what it looks like oiled. Second, get a chunk of it and test it by treating it like you would your counters. Third, if it passes those two tests, get it in writing that they will not use any sanding finer than about 400 grit. The biggest issue with granite people doing soapstone is that they over polish it.

    Bookmark   November 13, 2012 at 1:41AM
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junicb, I'm in the same position as you. Buying soapstone is like buying a mattress. Serta v. Simmons v. Sealy is pointless because stores don't sell those brands side by side. Just have to go, look, and find what you like. (My husband says it's like buying that wacky stuff kids smoke in college. "It's Columbian. No, it's Hawaiian. No, it's Jamaican!" Whatev!)

I've tried asking the stoneyards who their importers are. But that doesn't really get very far. Some don't know. Some say it doesn't matter because "all soapstone is the same." Sigh.

I'm really at the breaking point. I've found what I want after visiting 6 distributors and 8 fabricators. Unfortunately my stoneyard and the fabricator hate each other. Now the fabricator wants me look at one more supply. I will, if it's convenient. But, really. This is taking toooo long.

It's a needle in the haystack for people who know what they want.

    Bookmark   November 13, 2012 at 9:12AM
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I think a very good investment is to buy a sampler set of the varieties that M. Teixeira carries. This will set you back about $25, but then you get 6 or so samples of soapstone of the names you have seen over and over on GW. You can then compare relative hardnesses between whatever you find locally and the "known" samples. (I devised a test where I bashed the edges of two samples together to judge their relative hardness. It was pretty definitive.) This way, you can pretty confidently judge your local stone against the known standards.

    Bookmark   November 13, 2012 at 9:30AM
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Alberene also does a sample pack of the soapstones they offer.

    Bookmark   November 13, 2012 at 11:58AM
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Thanks for the input. I will keep looking and test test test.

After falling in love with soapstone from afar (on GW), I neglected to consider that the St. Louis soapstone market may not be as robust as in other parts of the country.

Once again, Gardenweb has put me ahead of the kitchen curve...

    Bookmark   November 13, 2012 at 7:30PM
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