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Soapstone - Repair or Replace?

Posted by sweetbabyjames5 (My Page) on
Fri, Aug 17, 12 at 11:27

I am more confused about my soapstone counters than ever. At this point, I can say I made a mistake by not putting marble everywhere since it has been much easier to deal with. I am waiting on a quote to do exactly this - replace all of my soapstone with marble. Such a waste of money, but my soapstone is driving me crazy.

This morning, I spoke with a stone care guy in my area who came recommeded by several companies who sell soapstone. He thinks there is too much wax build up on my counters (probably - I didn't purposely used too much the first time I waxed, but had no choice as it was nearly impossible to wax and therefore ended up using way more than I ever anticipated). His recommendation was to chemically strip the counters to remove the wax and then seal them with something called Ager (or agar?) I have never heard of soapstone being sealed. Maybe I missed that in all of my research? I questioned him about the finish being too polished up, and we discussed sandpaper grit, but he said neither factored in. In fact, he said he recommends a final sanding of 6000 grit sandpaper??? He says the wax is the culprit - not the wax itself but how much build up there is. I don't doubt for a second that the wax is playing a part in my watermarks and numerous scratches, but wouldn't an improper finish really be the main culprit? With the Ager (sp?), he says I could get etching. So far, I have not had any etching - I thought soapstone was impervious to etching anyway. I don't know why I would trade one problem (water) for another (etching). I like my counters dark and don't mind waxing/oiling, not sure if sealing to keep dark is what I have in mind.

So, now I don't know what to do. Do I have my counters stripped and sealed? Do I find someone else to take a look? Do I rip them out and put marble down? I am so frustrated because I absolutely LOVE the way soapstone looks (well, minus all the water marks and tiny scratches everywhere). I know some of you are very knowledgable about soapstone, and I appreciate you weighing in. I'm lost.

Thanks in advance!


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Soapstone - Repair or Replace?

I thought scratches were a characteristic of Soapstone? It is notoriously soft and......waxed? Who told you to wax it?
I'd strip that wax off [myself, with approved solvent] and OIL it. Be prepared for it to need numerous applications. And I hate to be the barer of bad news but, it's going to scratch. It can be touched up with sandpaper[that's how soft it is] and then re-oiled, somewhat like a technique I'm familiar with on some floors.
Next reply...Marble? No, not in a kitchen, especially if you're already disenfranchised with the Soapstone and scratches. Some species of marble will do the same thing.


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RE: Soapstone - Repair or Replace?

I'm sorry you are so disappointed with your stone. But, if it were me, I'd contact Floridajoshua who is known to be the expert on soapstone. I'm not sure where you live, but if you could have him look at it, he could probably fix it or tell you how/who to do it.

I've read so many posts on this site (prior to purchasing my soapstone) about others' problems with their soapstone and how it was corrected. In my experience on the west coast, not many people know how to properly hone the stone. It's treated like granite in my neck of the woods, and the high polishing like granite, makes the scratches worse. I had to hone mine down with sandpaper, and I don't see it scratch at all since then, but before that, I wasn't thrilled with it. Being on the west coast, I couldn't find a soapstone expert here.

I love my stone, and I would say talk to the true experts. The local granite store that I've dealt with, thinks they are experts, but have no clue about what to do with the stone. It truly is an unusual product. Good luck!


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RE: Soapstone - Repair or Replace?

I was fully expecting the scratches and dings that would happen with a softer countertop. That patina is fine with me. That water marks, however, are not. The problem with sanding out scratches, is that I am left with a huge dull mark. Again, I feel this has to be related to the finish. Maybe I am wrong and it is a wax issue - but then, why are so many soapstone users waxing theirs if wax is no good? I have marble on my island. Yes, it etches and I was expecting that like I was expecting some scratches with the soapstone. I also have scratches on the marble but I am ok with that, too. The marble was been waaaaay easier to live with than the soapstone. THAT, I was not expecting.


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RE: Soapstone - Repair or Replace?

oldhouse - I have been in contact with FloridaJoshua, and am waiting to hear back from him when he has a break in his schedule. I really really love the look of my soapstone, and would be thriled if the problems could be corrected. I am in south Texas where soapstone isn't so common or popular either. Hopefully I can get it figured out.


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RE: Soapstone - Repair or Replace?

Step #1 is to remove the wax. Get back to the basic stone. Everything else will start at 0 with the stone completely wax free. So, you might as well do that now.

I'd personally then take 80 grit sandpaper to it to give it a more honed finish. It is a ton more forgiving than when fabricators try to treat it like a granite and give it a high polish. The shineir and more polished anything is, the more it shows every bit of that "patina".

And keep wax away from it. Wax will lift in the presence of moisture, which is why you are getting water rings. It looks perfectly fine natural, without anything on the surface at all.


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RE: Soapstone - Repair or Replace?

Holly - to remove the wax, do I have to chemically strip the counters? While I know many love the natural look, I definitely prefer the dark color. It's why I wanted soapstone. Would oil be more forgiving than wax?


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RE: Soapstone - Repair or Replace?

sweetbabyjames5 He thinks there is too much wax build up on my counters (probably - I didn't purposely used too much the first time I waxed, but had no choice as it was nearly impossible to wax and therefore ended up using way more than I ever anticipated).

I'm curious as to what type of wax you used. I have oiled and waxed (and used an oil/wax combo) and have never had a problem. I actually prefer the way the counters look and feel when oiled/waxed. I have to clarify, though, that I have soapstone on my prep island and not near a sink, so I have never had water rings or the like.


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RE: Soapstone - Repair or Replace?

So sorry you are having such a hard time with your soapstone. I use either mineral oil or a bees wax/mineral oil mix on mine to keep it darker. I have never had a problem with watermarks staying as long as I re-oil it. I got my soapstone from Bucks County Soapstone in PA. I know you said you don't live near PA but they are incredible knowledgeable and amazingly nice. Maybe you can give them a call to ask for some advice while you wait for FloridaJoshua. Good luck and I hope you will be able to fix the problem soon and enjoy the beautiful soapstone!


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RE: Soapstone - Repair or Replace?

What kind of wax did you use? I've been experimenting with beeswax and it's certainly possible to get too much wax on the soapstone, but a little scrubbing, with a scouring pad and a little dish soap, gets it off. But I wouldn't worry about using a household wax stripper on it either.

Soapstone is impervious so there's no need for sealing -- you're just working with a very thin patina on the surface. I agree that you want to get back to the bare stone, plus a little light sanding to deal with scratches. (You could start with a coarse grit of 80 and work up to finer grits depending on your taste and stone -- if you search the forum you'll find people ending up anywhere between 80 and 320.)

Then a fresh application of mineral oil, wiped and buffed a little, will get you that jet-black look.

What I find is that after I scrub the counter during normal kitchen cleaning, the jet-black is gone and I have a very dark gray color, which is not unattractive but which will lighten a bit over time until I oil again.

Back to wax: there are advocates for beeswax on soapstone, though often mixed (melted) in with the mineral oil. I've been trying this out in different proportions, and so far I'm not persuaded -- it's more work to apply then straight oil, and you get the problems mentioned above with water.


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RE: Soapstone - Repair or Replace?

Strip it and seal it with an enhancing sealer, no water marks, stays dark, no oiliness. Look towards the bottom of the thread that I have linked and you will see Billy G's sealant tests on ss. My ss counters have been sealed since install which was over 3 years ago.

Here is a link that might be useful: past thread on sealing ss


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RE: Soapstone - Repair or Replace?

@athomeinva - do you counters have a "wet" look? The product the stone care man would use states that it will have a "wet" look, certainly not the look I want with my honed marble. I'm going to try to get a piece of my soapstone for him to sample and see what I think. He mentioned the possibility of etching. Have you had any? Do you feel like your color enhanced soapstone looks the same as soapstone that is oiled or waxed?

@hsw - my soapstone is Saratoga Soapstone in Mineral Black. The wax I used came with my slabs, made by Saratoga. I knew something wasn't right when I first applied it, still making me thing, though, that it's a finishing issue. My soapstone has always looked shinier than I anticipated. I had my marble honed because I was getting soapstone on my perimeter, yet my soapstone ended up looking shiny. I just wish I could find a knowledgable soapstone person in my area!


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RE: Soapstone - Repair or Replace?

a good washing with dawn dish soap typically removes the wax/oil if it is mineral oil or beeswax. I'd wait for Joshua to get back to you. And to be honest... if he was willing and had the time... I'd offer to fly him out there so he can repair the counters. It would be less money then replacing them.


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RE: Soapstone - Repair or Replace?

Assuming real soapstone:

The rings are coming from the water damage to the wax. You can remove the was with any wax remover or scrubbing it with ammonia or maybe moineral spirits (depends on the wax you used).

If you like it dark, just OIL the stone with mineral oil - available in pharmacies everywhere as a laxative. Swab it on, wipe it off with a clean rag.

Repeat as needed.


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RE: Soapstone - Repair or Replace?

@remodelfla - I have definitely thought about this as a possibility. Hopefully I will hear from him soon.

@lazy - in addition to my perimeter counters, I have soapstone windowsills and on a counter in my adjoining keeping room, on my wetbar, and on my daughter's vanity (which is a different slab and the only one that is acting as it should!), so maybe I will try removing the wax with something in an inconspicuous area. But, if this finish was off, would I run into this same problem even with mineral oil?


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RE: Soapstone - Repair or Replace?

My stone does not look wet at all, in the fact that is why i like the sealant better than oil, it makes the stone dark but never looks greasy. There is a pic of my stone in the thread that i linked to above. The agar that your guy is suggesting you use is not a regular stone sealant, is it even food safe?


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RE: Soapstone - Repair or Replace?

For those of you with soapstone--are there any issues with preparing food directly on these various waxes/oils/sealers?


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RE: Soapstone - Repair or Replace?

If your guy is suggesting agar (seriously?), I just wanted to let you know that agar is the medium that we use in the microbiology lab to fill the petri dishes to facilitate the growth of bacteria and fungi. I don't think you want agar on your kitchen countertops. I don't.

I love my SS and agree with others above - it sounds like yours is too polished. Wait for Joshua. And read the fabulous thread linked below for tons of info and photos.

Here is a link that might be useful: Soapstone water ring problems thread


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ager

I looked up the sealant that he is suggesting, it is probably Tenax Ager, a stone sealant that is resin based. The product does create a wet look and is said to make the stone look polished. Typical stone sealer and enhancers do not create a polished look.


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RE: Soapstone - Repair or Replace?

My counter is barocca, and I don't have a problem with water rings. I did when the guys first installed it, and covered it with some "mystery" stuff. They said it wasn't mineral oil, but would actually last longer. Whatever! I wiped it down regularly over the next few days/weeks with regular kitchen cleaner until it probably stripped it good. Now I occasionally use mineral oil. Water rings have not been an issue since. Also, the guy who we dealt with said to use acetone to strip it, but after talking to Scott at Bucks County soapstone via email, he said not to. I'm not near Bucks County soapstone, but he was super nice to email me right away, and help me with my question. I'd email him and get his advice. Also, I'm thinking the guy I used said they used a 400 grit sandpaper, and it doesn't have a shiney finish. I hope you can resolve this and keep you soapstone!


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RE: Soapstone - Repair or Replace?

When I went to the stone yard here to look at the two soapstone slabs they had, the slabs were entirely too overpolished. So much so that I didn't even recognize them as soapstone (about which I could see the guy rolling his eyes since I said I had had soapstone and didn't want granite...how could I *possibly* walk right by the soapstone?)

I think you have a finishing problem that is your underlying issue. As result, your enhancer (be it mineral oil or beeswax) is performing incorrectly. You're going to have to have your SS resurfaced. After that happens, I'm sure you'll love your stone.


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RE: Soapstone - Repair or Replace?

As I said, the first step to anything is to remove the wax. Start there. Do that and report back as to the stone's appearance and behavior.


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RE: Soapstone - Repair or Replace?

Sorry sweetbabyjames, I never answered your question about etching! There is no etching. I used a solvent based sealant, Miracle 511 enhance and seal, in the kitchen and a water based sealer, TileLab enhance and seal, in my laundry room. The first application required 2 coats and maybe a quick coat the following day but after that my counters have been easy, just wash with soap and water and done.

Caseyrose- as far as preparing food directly on the surface, both water based and solvent based sealed counters are safe after the product has dried and the counters are cleaned with soap and water.


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RE: Soapstone - Repair or Replace?

I've had my soapstone countertops for 6 months now and love them. Mine started out too highly polished (from the granite company in spite of my explicit instructions about finishing down to 200) but it was really easy to bring the polish down. Mine is now down to 320...a higher polish still than originally planned but we like it and I know we can come down more if I want to later. I definitely found more issues with things like rings and scratches before the rehoning, but likely you have a 2 part problem with the wax lifting as part of the issue just as others have said. If you like the finish from the wax I guess it just depends how often you want to touch up the areas where you get rings. Personally I love the softness of the finish from wax, but I use a combo of beeswax and mineral oil which performs a bit better for me. I also like my naked soapstone too, so I don't always treat it with my oil/wax mix.

I've heard tonnes of great stuff about Florida Joshua on this site, but depending how busy he is or how easy he can get to you it might not be unreasonable to get some advice on rehoning then DIY or hire someone who is reasonably handy to do it. It really wasn't hard. That's one of the great things about soapstone!

Dull areas after sanding would be the finish again. You might need to get to a higher grit to finish the dull spot up to the same shine as the original finish - either your supplier or the fabricator should be able to tell you how highly polished the stone is. The higher the grit, the shinier it will be. But don't forget that sanding also removes the wax from the area sanded, so to get the same look you'd need to finish with the same grit sandpaper as the finish on the rest of the stone, then wax the area again.

I wouldn't put sealer on myself, but that's a personal choice. I prefer mineral oil/bees wax on my countertop rather than some mystery chemical soup. And any "etching" would be the sealer coming off because true soapstone doesn't etch. Scratch, yes. Etch, no.

Good luck! Hope you can either love your soapstone again or find something that works better for you in the end.


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RE: Soapstone - Repair or Replace?

mmhmmgood- if you are concerned about the chemicals within sealants just be aware that mineral oil is not necessarily good either

Here is a link that might be useful: mineral oil contamination


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RE: Soapstone - Repair or Replace?

Thanks athome. I appreciate the article. I'm pretty cynical about most of this stuff - one says it's bad for you, the next says it's fine. Meh. The nice thing about soapstone is that treating it with anything is totally optional! I like my stone naked,so it doesn't get treated too often anyway. At least I know what I'm Into with the mineral oil. Occasional oil/wax still seems like the lesser of two evils vis a vis chemical sealer which would be there day in and day out..
Cheers!

Sorry to high jack sweetbaby. If there are more comments about mineral oil safety perhaps we should open a new thread so this one can stay on topic for our sweetbaby.


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RE: Soapstone - Repair or Replace?

Seriously, did you read the article? Ingesting high concentrations
of mineral oil from (Ukranian) sunflower oil hardly equates with
applying mineral oil to soapstone counters. Unless, of course,
you plan on licking the mineral oil off your counters, daily.

Given that the oil dissipates quickly, and most people don't oil
their counters every week, even if you roll out dough a couple
of times a week, the amount of mineral oil possibly ingested
from this will be minuscule.

This reminds me of the many articles about granite counters
emitting radon gas. Fear mongers are everywhere.


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RE: Soapstone - Repair or Replace?

sweetbabyjames,
our ss counters were sold to us by Dorado Soapstone, as was the wax they recommended. The counters were installed by their subcontractors, but I don't know how long the Massachusetts Dorado people had worked with these installers. I believe the installers over-polished the soapstone, which then took up far more wax than I would have expected. The counters easily showed scratches and watermarks. I consulted with Florida Joshua of Creative Soapstone, who put me in touch with a Pennsylvania colleague, who rehoned our counters in a few hours on his way through town one day (this is all described in an earlier thread with photos). He then oiled them with mineral oil, and we have had no soapstone problems since that happy day. It's easy to reapply oil whenever a splash of detergent or a hot pot or rubber feet on appliances take up oil and create light spots: just keep an oily cloth in a baggie. We don't see the inevitable scratches once they are oiled. Watermarks are easily cleaned away. You can let the counters lighten up as much as you want, or oil them as much as you want, or some combination in different areas of the kitchen. Don't rip out your soapstone counters. Don't seal them either: soapstone shouldn't require sealing, since it does not stain or etch. The combination of marble and soapstone should be lovely: stick with your original vision! I'll bet Florida Joshua knows a Soapstone Whisperer near you! If I can find my original thread on the subject of rehoning soapstone counters, I'll post a link.
Lynn

Here is a link that might be useful: soapstone before and after rehoning, oil replacing wax


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RE: Soapstone - Repair or Replace?

Lynn - Your kitchen is so beautiful! The difference is impressive, leaves my wondering if my countertops would be even better with Joshua! I hope sweetbabyjames is able to make her SS work. Would it be possible to see a pic of sweetbaby's kitchen?


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RE: Soapstone - Repair or Replace?

Wax?? I had my soapstone put in from Green Mtn Soapstone in Cambridge, NY back in 2006 and no one ever mentioned putting wax on them. They sold a wonderful product for soapstone while is mineral oil but MUCH thinner than the kind you buy at the drugstore. I did it a lot in the beginning when I HAD to have it black-black, but now I very rarely do it. The stone doesn't need it and the surface is buttery smooth and warm feeling compared to granite. No water rings, no stains, no problems.
I really hope you find a good solution--I can almost guarantee it is not the stone itself--just whatever product is sitting on top of it!
Good luck!
Sarah from Albany


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Soapstone

Darbuka- No need to be rude. Reread the article and you will see that the Ukranian sunflower oil incident was in part what increased the concern for having limits on the amount of mineral oil allowed within certain products. The main idea of the article is that "Presently there is insufficient knowledge about potential negative effects of mineral oil on human health. We are heading for data regarding the material we are exposed to and which is accumulated in our bodies"

I am not a fear monger, I was simply saying that if a person wants to avoid chemical exposure from sealants be aware that mineral oil which is defined as "consisting of mixtures of hydrocarbons obtained from petroleum by distillation" is not necessarily an all natural, healthy alternative. Obviously I am fine with taking risks on chemicals and such as I use sealants on my stone.

There is a bit of misinformation about sealants and soapstone, the advantages that I have found to using a sealant is that it makes water bead up and it keeps the stone dark, I know that staining and etching are non issues. Using a color enhancing sealant may be a cheaper, easier alternative to refinishing stone when the issue is water marks. Plus you do not have to deal with oils or waxes which I found to be a pita.


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RE: Soapstone - Repair or Replace?

Sweetbabyjames,

Can you post some pictures of your problem areas.


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RE: Soapstone - Repair or Replace?

I agree no oils waxes on mine. No sealers either for that matter. I oiled a grand total of once, realized the PITA it would be to maintain (and why, really?) so I have been bare for 5 years. Within 9 months of natural oxidation, the soapstone had achieved a natural dark gray color, which has continued to darken, So to clean it gets wiped off, and greasy spots removed with "simple green" and a magic eraser. Not a care in the world and it looks great "au naturale"
I'm in the "let soapstone be soapstone" camp.
Oilless Soapstone thr33, I white balanced this as accurately as I could.
Casey


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RE: Soapstone - Repair or Replace?

Darbuka is right. The question is about *amounts*. Nobody is talking about swigging down mineral oil here (though the current bottle of mineral oil I have is FDA-approved as a laxative). The trace amounts of mineral oil that might get from the counter to food and into you are going to be well below your background exposure from other sources.

People commonly confuse trace exposures with large doses in these discussions. Alcohol for example is reliably lethal in large doses.

(And the bit about "not necessarily an all natural, healthy alternative" is not carefully thought through. There are plenty of natural substances that will kill you, plenty of human-made things that do you no harm at all.)


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sorry all

Sweetbabyjames, I am sorry that I side tracked this discussion.

Please let me be clear, I am not against using mineral oil and I am not against using sealants. I am not worried about harm from either. I know that it is hard sometimes to read through a thread and really follow a person's thought process so it is understandable that the the comments made were a bit off from the idea that I was trying to convey.


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RE: Soapstone - Repair or Replace?

we have a soapstone sink and granite counters in our kitchen. We have used both "dry wax" by Dorado soapstone as well as regular drug store mineral oil. Both are really easy to apply, but the dry wax seems to last a whole lot longer than the mineral oil. We never get water rings and our sink is constantly left with wet glasses in the bottom of it.


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RE: Soapstone - Repair or Replace?

Sombreuil Mongrel, do you remember what kind of soapstone you have? It looks like it might be either Beliza or Indigo...

Thanks!


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RE: Soapstone - Repair or Replace?

I'll answer for Casey, in case he does not read this. He used Alberene. See this post for details.

Here is a link that might be useful: Casey's Alberene soapstone


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RE: Soapstone - Repair or Replace?

I don't know where you are in Texas but I ran across a guy who seems to be quite the soapstone expert in Austin and, from the company's website, it looks like they also now work out of Dallas and Houston. He didn't install the soapstone in my kitchen but I did later buy a remnant piece of soapstone for a bathroom project from him (which he fabricated for me) and talked to him at some length about my kitchen soapstone.

I have never had any watermark trouble with my kitchen stone (which is Beleza, purchased from Dorado Soapstone in Austin) but I have some small chips around my sink and a not-so-great seam, both of which he said he could easily fix. In fact he said he'd come out and show me how to fix them myself (I just haven't gotten around to setting it up).

He trained in soapstone finishing and fabrication with someone in the northeast and Dorado Soapstone in Austin thinks he's the best in Central Texas, maybe even all of Texas, when it comes to dealing with soapstone.

His name is Jason Yates and his company is Ecofabrication.

Good luck with your stone. I love mine; it's my favorite thing in my kitchen by far.

Here is a link that might be useful: Ecofabrication


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RE: Soapstone - Repair or Replace?

Sweetbabyjames, Did you get any resolution on your soapstone problem?

I have a different problem. My Beleza soapstone slabs were just installed. After installation I noticed that the surface is uneven. Some areas are smooth, others are rough. The fabricator is not very experienced with soapstone. I am told that this is the finish that came from Brazil.

They are telling me that the stone needs to be removed and resurfaced in their facility. If it gets damaged, we will need to get more slabs from Dorado in Colorado. This leaves me without countertops for at least three weeks. This kitchen project has already taken 4 months and I am out of patience. Ugh.

I was really expecting that some onsite sanding would resolve the issue. I just emailed Florida Joshua, but haven't heard back. I live in Cleveland Ohio.

Soapstone experts, I would love some advice here. Thank you!


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RE: Soapstone - Repair or Replace?

I am no "soapstone expert," but I cannot believe that it would need to be removed to be reworked. If you cannot get a hold of Fla Jo, I would try to find someone experienced in soapstone that is local (or try to do it yourself!).


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RE: Soapstone - Repair or Replace?

Hi everyone. It's me again. A lot has happened since I posted this. First - a big THANK YOU to sw_in_austin for connecting me with Jason at EcoFabrication. He came to San Antonio from Austin to look at my counters. Everything he told me echoed all I had learned here, so I felt completely confident having him refinish my counters a week later. His guys removed a few of my slabs and sanded them outside in order to minimize the dust, but left the longer runs (in kitchen and wetbar) in place so as not to damage them. My counters are exactly as they should be now. I am using mineral oil - no more wax for me - to keep them dark. I love that they fade over time - this is what I expected to happen. The scratching isn't nearly as bad. When I do get a scratch (I've only had two), I just wipe some oil on it, and it disappears. I am amazed!!! Absolutely NO water marks. No stickiness. No shiniess. They feel awesome and look exactly as they should. I cannot tell you how happy I am. The cost of refinishing was very reasonable. The dust took days/weeks for me to get rid of - but that was a small price to pay for funcationable counters. if you are in Texas, I would highly encourage you to give Jason a call if you are struggling with your counters. I can FINALLY say I love my soapstone and am moving ahead with a backsplash now that I know the soapstone is here to stay!!!


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RE: Soapstone - Repair or Replace?

So glad to hear that you got that straightened out! Good to know that GW advice was helpful to you.


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RE: Soapstone - Repair or Replace?

Yay! I love happy endings!


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RE: Soapstone - Repair or Replace?

Sweetbabyjames5,

Sorry for not being able to help or respond earlier with your soapstone issues. This is Jay w/ GSS. After many years of research and experimenting we developed the best soapstone oil and wax, that are organic. These products The Original Soapstone Wax & The Original Soapstone Oil will be available on our website in the next couple weeks. However, I would love to send you a sample to try. Please contact me at my e-mail jay@gardenstatesoapstone.com and I will ship you a sample.
Looking forward to hearing from you.

JAY


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RE: Soapstone - Repair or Replace?

Why would you name something "Original" when it was the result of "many years of research and experimenting"?

kas


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RE: Soapstone - Repair or Replace?

Whoohoo!!!!!!


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