Barroca soapstone-scratches with fingernail?!

littlesmokieDecember 5, 2010

I did a search here and see several posters saying they love their Barroca (a good sign!) I'm wondering-how are they're holding up, how often do you oil/how much you typically have to do to maintain this softer variety of soapstone?

I've read about soapstone here extensively here the past year and see that if you get bad scratches you can take them out with a green scrubbie or various grit sandpaper. But what about the harder veined areas? The barroca slabs we're looking at (why we love them) have thicker caramel/beige quartzite? veins. Wouldn't they be damaged-or possibly end up standing proud of the rest of the darker softer areas-if we're sanding other damage out of the countertops?

I've previously posted we planned a naturally darker, harder soapstone, but these slabs of Barroca make my heart sing. I was limiting myself to stones that passed the key test, that is I couldn't gouge them badly with my keys. Now I have fallen in love with a soapstone I can scratch with my fingernail?!

I am confident I could not find a more beautiful countertop-for me- and understand that the dinging/patina is part of the charm but I am worried that this variety is not going to hold up as well as the harder varieties we've seen. Please anyone who has barocca tell me it will be okay, or tell me to come to my senses now before I buy the slabs. Thank you!!

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I don't know if I can be a true help as I don't own Barrocca soapstone and, in fact, have never seen it in person! However, I do have Green Mountain Original PA countertops that sound very similar to your description of Barrocca. Hopefully, what I will share about it can be of some help to you.

My GMOPA is primarily a very hard, black and quiet stone that does not scratch easily, and certainly not with a fingernail. However, it does have occasional, very dramatic, very soft, multi-colored veins of caramel, green, blue black and white that look like dried river beds or snake skins. I love this stone! The veins are so unusual that they lend an exotic, striking touch to an otherwise low key. black countertop surface. BUT I must tell you -- those quirky, exotic veins are an extremely easy target for all kinds of nicks and dings that seem to suddenly appear out of nowhere! I wish that weren't the case but, so far, I haven't attempted to do anything about those dings except to wring my hands and sigh when I look at them. (Since these inclusions are not of soapstone, I'm afraid to just sandpaper them as I would the rest of the slab). The next step will probably be to call the fabricator (Jay at Garden State Soapstone) to see what he has to say. In the meantime, though, I live with my dings, accepting them as "patina" and proof of a working kitchen! And, again, the main body of the slabs are very hard and certainly not subject to scratching with fingernails. Bottom line? I do not regret this soapstone decision, dings and all!

Minus the bounce back from the flash, here's what my GMOPA veins look like:

Close-ups of veins with blemishes (note circular, white spots)


    Bookmark   December 5, 2010 at 9:06PM
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I've had my Barroca in since late August or so -- so not too long, but a few months. I can't say enough good things about them. I absolutely adore them. They've darkened up very nicely. We really only oil every month or so, unless we're having guests -- then we like to really show them off.

But, they are softer. I got mine from Buck's, and when I originally called asking for a harder soapstone, they clearly stated that the soapstone they carry is not the hardest. I can technically scratch the counters with my fingernail, but that buffs out even with just the oils from my finger (you can just rub it out). A quick rub of oil completely takes it away. I can't really say why, but the fingernail "scratches" don't really seem like scratches to me -- they really do become part of the counters. But they also rub out without a trace.

That being said, we do not baby out counters at all. I have an 8 year old son, and I don't worry at all. You have to be able to recognize that part of the beauty of any soapstone is that they'll develop a patina. The little scratches are part of that patina. Truly. The only thing I would consider sanding out would be a really deep gouge (sp? why can't I spell tonight?).

Soapstone, to me, does not look pristine. That's what I love about it. Major scratches would bug me, but the little things that happen don't seem to at all. I don't notice them, nor would anyone else. And if they bug you, the best thing of all about soapstone is that you can fix it yourself!

Hope this helps. I had never really heard about soapstone before reading about it on this forum. The decision to get ss counters was truly one of the best decisions in all our kitchen planning.

    Bookmark   December 5, 2010 at 10:06PM
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That's what we're getting too, mostly because it was the least expensive! :) It's soft, but not as soft as some (Santa Rita was much softer, it seemed). My husband spent a while at the store trying to scratch things up (I'm sure they loved him...) We considered springing for Julia, which the place we bought from had in a display (but no longer for sale there---would have had to get it from a different supplier that was more $$) because it did seem like a harder stone, but in the end, color/looks/cost won out. The upside to the softer stone is that it's relatively easy to sand out little dents if they occur---harder to do with harder stones.

The Barroca we chose did not have much in the way of veins, though, so it may be a slightly different stone than what you're looking at....

    Bookmark   December 6, 2010 at 3:38AM
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I just picked out my Monsoon Wave SS. It is GLORIOUS! It's a harder stone with much veining and sea glass colored inclusions. I don't now if you are looking for something quieter. This isn't quieter but looks equally beutifully unoiled as it does oiled.... different looks.

    Bookmark   December 6, 2010 at 5:13AM
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Thank you for these responses!

Martha, your counters are beautiful, I enjoyed all those close up photos of the different colors in the veins in your soapstone! God's art. Ironically before we found the Barroca we were planning to choose the Green Mountain Original PA! Your soapstone is one of the hardest we sampled, you cannot gouge it with a key at all. The available slabs of GMOPA we've been shown photos of do not have that kind of veining but are much "quieter." You are lucky :)

julie, thank you for writing, I was hoping someone with barroca would see this. Have you posted any photos of your counters (if so I missed them and they're not popping up with a search)? I'm really encouraged that even with a young child and not being especially "careful" you're not finding the stone to be high maintenance. I like the idea that I could just rub little scratches to blend in. I'm just worried I'll have a pile of talc at my feet if someone slides something sharp absent-mindedly over my countertop!

artemis, I think you and I are in the same boat that we both "planned harder, but then color/looks/cost won out" LOL We really wanted a traditional black/white veins or a a gray/blue toned soapstone with no green. But every harder stone we looked at (including Green Mountain original PA, Julia, Black Amazon, Belvedere, and something at one slab place that was simply labeled "Green soapstone" but I'm pretty sure was probably serpentine) all had a lot of green tones coming through.

remodelfla, wow look at your stone! I think I remember you posting that was the stone you loved but weren't sure you should spring for it. How exciting for you that you have-congrats!!

From what I've read/been told barroca is the classic soapstone. Classically, soapstone is soft hence my concern.

An interesting aside--when they oiled these Barroca slabs for us, I commented that the veining reminded me of Paula Deen's soapstone counters and the owner said "Oh yeah, her counters are Barroca-they came from Roger (Texeria) too." Don't know whether that's true, but thought I'd mention if anyone is familiar with her kitchen.)

I guess since I first posted I realized part of my dilemma. Yes, I am confident I will never find more beautiful slabs. (That's huge in and of itself because I always wonder "will something better come along?")

My hesitation is that I am a big proponent of the philosophy that the "everything in your kitchen can't be the star." This soapstone-nature's art-is a star. I never intended for someone to walk into my kitchen and look counters! I think they're gorgeous and appreciate their beauty/majesty, but do I want to see art every day on my counters as I'm buttering toast or chopping an onion? Maybe with all the assorted appliances/kitchen stuff on top it will just look busy/frenetic? (Does that sound weird?)

Attention-grabbing counters were not my original vision and I guess I'm having some trouble picturing it. I'm also trying to trust that visions can, and sometimes must, evolve as all the other elements begin coming together.

    Bookmark   December 7, 2010 at 1:33AM
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Littlesmokie -- I've heard similar things to you -- that Barroca is a classic soapstone in that it is the charcoal grey with white veining, but not tons and tons of veining. I didn't want a green soapstone (they're lovely, just not what I was looking for). I wanted a muted charcoal. Barroca is a perfect fit for us.

And I get what you mean by trying to have one star in the kitchen. I have to say, though, that while I love my ss counters (and still can't believe they're mine), they sort of recede into the background when looking at the kitchen overall. When you focus on them, they're beautiful. But I don't think that they're showy or in your face, if that makes any sense.

Here are some pictures and the link to my "reveal" post:


    Bookmark   December 7, 2010 at 6:57AM
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I totaly agree that the soapstone counters are pretty subtle, not attention-hogs. For visitors, at least.

But I find that *I* love love love their complex (and subtle) beauty. The larger white veins have a slight greenish cast to them that gives them depth, and the mica chips will surprise me with their little bit of shine, so when I'm working in the kitchen and have stuff strewn everywhere, they still give ME a visual and tactical charge that makes it fun be where I am, doing what I'm doing.

    Bookmark   December 7, 2010 at 8:26AM
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I don't have Barroca, but Santa Rita Venata, which is also one of the softer stones, I believe? I definitely chose it for the looks! It does ding, and easier than I would like, but one plus of having a "wilder" stone is that I really can't tell what is a ding and what is a natural part of the stone!

I love looking at them while I butter my toast :-)

In the end you have to go with your gut; I knew this was probably the only kitchen I would ever do in my life, so perhaps I went overboard and went for things I loved, not caring if they competed with each other or stood out too much...I do know the soapstone is perhaps our favorite thing about the new kitchen!

    Bookmark   December 7, 2010 at 9:57AM
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I'm so happy to have you all to talk about this with, it's very helpful.

julie-I don't know how I missed your reveal. What a beautiful kitchen and I am SO impressed to read that much of it was DIY'ed!! Your barroca looks very much like the slabs we saw, the vein distribution patterns look extremely similar, including corners of the slabs that had those solitary larger veins, and one corner with very little veining and lots of wispy veining at the other end (just like the surfaces near your cooktop.) I bet ours are from the lots that were quarried near (maybe after) yours. In the photos, it looks like your veins are mostly white or are they also more ivory/caramel colored?

I'm surprised to hear that so many of you don't think of soapstone as "showy"! To me not showy is concrete/paperstone/absolute black granite, LOL. I think marthavilla's and honeychurch's soapstones are certainly very showy. True the barroca, not as much by comparison.

marytw I love what you wrote, you were so eloquent in the way you described your affection for your soapstone. I am hesitant to have veins that you can see from across the room (I'd planned something more subtle) yet when I am looking closely at the stone I just think it is so beautiful and enjoy it so much. A visual and tactical charge, as you say :)

Hi honeychurch, when you posted I had to look for your kitchen reveal, too. congratulations on completing your "star" filled kitchen!! You make a good point about "wildness" helping to mask dings, I'm worried the barroca will not be very good in that regard.

honeychurch, I really identify with what you about feeling that this is the only kitchen you're ever going to do & getting what you love. I remember posting on a thread together about this before, the notion of whether to settle for a few things you objectively like less because it somehow "goes" better.

I'm struggling because there are a few things now that we're loving and have gotten attached to that I'm having trouble seeing together. We've got period inset cabinetry and planned all polished nickel hardware icebox latches, bin pulls, exposed barrel hinges etc and now I worry whether the PN is too...formal? for the soapstone, fir floors, and oil rubbed bronze schoolhouse fixtures we'd picked. Ah, decisions decisions :)

Well we mailed the check for the slabs today. Ridiculously impractical soft counters, here we come!

    Bookmark   December 8, 2010 at 6:45PM
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Sounds like you went with the Barroca??? If so, I think you'll be really happy. They're visually gorgeous and they feel sooo good. There's really nothing like it. I also think you'll find that, once they're in, your fears will be eased. Sounds like soapstone, in whatever variety, will be a perfect match for your period cabinetry, latches, pulls, etc. Sounds gorgeous!

I think that the matte finish helps make ss not showy at all. Even with the veins, even with the more dramatic ss we've seen in people's pictures here, I don't find ss to be showy at all. To me, granite is showier/fancier -- which can be drop dead gorgeous. I just knew that for the look we were trying to get, which really matches our personalities and lifestyle, ss or a honed finish would be the match. I heard too many scary things about honed black granite. Then found ss and couldn't be happier. Truly.

(and they're really not soft -- can't wait for you to join the club:)

    Bookmark   December 8, 2010 at 7:02PM
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I love the photos of all the soapstones on this thread! But, Julieh, I must agree: your c-tops are over the top beautiful!

BTW, I also agree with you, Julieh, that even with what looks like very showy veins in my GMOPA, my countertops do not make for a really showy presentation in person. Indeed, when one first enters my kitchen, my countertops looks like plain black surfaces. It is only when you come up very close to them that you then see those incredible multi-colored veins which are very sparingly distributed in the slabs. Now granted, once you see them, they are remarkable! But, I believe that the close-up photos, taken with a flash that I've provided, gives them much more emphasis than exists in real life. Of course, proud SS owner that I am, that was for the purpose of showing the color and veining details. :-)

    Bookmark   December 8, 2010 at 9:11PM
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Barocca is so so beautiful! I really favor it unoiled. I have a bunch of large tiles that I use as pizza stone. Love the light gray and all the sparkles! It is soft but completely lovable.

Re: your polished nickel hardware...SWOON! I think the contrast between the PN and the more rustic elements will have a really nice effect.

    Bookmark   December 9, 2010 at 9:19AM
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Thank you for these additional messages, especially the reassurance that all these "stars" will still come together ok. I hope I will swoon :)

I wanted to ask what others think of sabjimata's comment about leaving the barroca unoiled?

I've been playing around with my two barroca samples for these past couple weeks: I oiled one sample 1x and then let it go natural, but oil the other regularly to keep it dark. Like Sabjimata, I really prefer the unoiled: I love the softer coloring and it hides all the little scratches better. Scratches on the oiled really stand out and compel me to oil more. I think that could get really tiring.

Here's my new problem-how to pick other colors when I don't know day to day if my counters will be light or dark? I'd like to leave the counters unoiled, but concerned that if I get the really big gouges/dents I'll need to sand/oil and then will find myself with dark counters when I planned all the color choices around light/unoiled.

Oiling them really brings out the contrast of the caramel veins and only looks good with other warm/ivory/caramel tones around it which is a huge problem for picking out cabinet color-ugh

Darker/oiled Barroca makes me lean towards darker warmer ivory (SW Antique White or BM Simply Irresistible/Palace White.)

Unoiled Barroca looks better with lighter colors like BM Calming Cream or SW Dover White/Alabaster. Farrow & Ball House White seems to go equally well with both (probably because of all the extra pigment/undertones?), but while I've heard raves about F&B I'd prefer to stick to Benjamin Moore for our cabinet paint.

The unoiled barocca looks classically beautifu/ crisp with a white apron front sink, but the oiled looks SO much better with the Kohler bisque sink (we're going to check out a Barclay biscuit sink today)

I'm still really nervous about the softness-just carrying around my samples wrapped in a thick wool sock, the corners have chipped off of both samples. The Green Mountain Original PA that I banged around for months never got so much as a scratch. Yikes.

Given the extra cost and long lead times for speciality bisque/biscuit colored sinks, I briefly considered yesterday going back to Original PA which goes better with everything so I could get a harder soapstone and a cheaper white sink! Seriously, even if we lost the deposit on our Barroca slabs to instead get the Original PA we'd still come out ahead because these specialty colored sinks are so much more expensive.

Shoot me now.

    Bookmark   December 21, 2010 at 1:35PM
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I didn't oil my Belvedere sink and I have to say it is getting quite dark on its own and it is only in for about 7 or 8 months. Now, a sink is different than countertops. Oil in the sink. Oil from bodies against sink (okay, I don't know if that is true because we do wear clothes but I am trying to figure it out). I had a Cobra Soapstone sink that held the oil better than the countertops did.

I am not sure of your layout but if one of the sinks is on a separate run (island?) than maybe you can do that one stretch of countertop oiled or un, depending on what you like.

So did you buy the Barocca? This part I am not clear on.

    Bookmark   December 21, 2010 at 8:03PM
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little smokie -- we just about went with Barocca, but went with an even softer Black Venata. Scratches smatches. They happen, and then they disappear. part of the beauty of SS. And I don't oil, thought I would but the family prefers it au naturale. Considered doing it for xmas eve open house . . . . and nah, it's beautiful enough.

Oh, and Marytw, I need to walk down and see your counters!

    Bookmark   December 21, 2010 at 9:10PM
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Our Jucca soapstone countertops were installed just a few weeks ago -- beautiful, after oiling they are charcoal with some streaks of caramel iron deposits-- scratches very easily (fingernails, undersides of some dishes and pans) but the Dorado dry wax makes the scratches disappear. I keep a waxy cloth under the sink and swipe at any scratch or nick that bothers me. It will be interesting to see how they wear with time, seems likely that there will be some major dings but I doubt this will bother us much because the stone is so pretty. But: this material is not for sissies -- a perfectionist should not install soapstone, unless their idea of perfection is very wabi sabi (sp?) -- that Japanese concept of beauty in imperfection.

    Bookmark   December 30, 2010 at 12:31AM
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