Soapstone Countertops |
Everything You Need to Know

By: Beth Krietsch and Kealia Reynolds

With a timeless look that’s both classic and weathered, soapstone countertops are a good choice for homeowners looking for a kitchen countertop that has a nice feel, is easy to care for, and is fairly durable. Many are drawn to soapstone for its soft and somewhat silky surface feel.

To help you decide if soapstone countertops are right for you, we’ve drafted up a list of pros and cons for your consideration.

What is soapstone?

Soapstone is a natural quarried stone, originally formed from metamorphic rock. The talc mineral in soapstone gives it a soft, smooth texture and the finished surface feels like a dry bar of soap. Soapstone can be found in Vermont, Brazil, Finland, and several other places around the world.

This natural stone comes in a variety of colors including light gray, bluish gray, black, and green with lighter veining, but the starting color will get much darker over time due to applications of mineral oil and exposure to oxygen. These countertops usually pair well with wooden or white cabinets and a variety of backsplashes.

Soapstone is quarried in two basic types: high talc (artistic grade) and low talc (architectural grade). These two types are differentiated by talc content. When installing soapstone countertops in your house, make sure you use architectural grade soapstone, which is harder and more suitable for countertop use.

Pros of soapstone countertops

1. Stain resistance

Unlike marble, the non-porous and dense nature of soapstone countertops makes them extremely stain resistant. Spill a glass of red wine or coffee? Not an issue. Acids like lemon juice and some cleaning products won’t be a problem either. Soapstone may appear to stain when something is first spilled, but will almost always return to its usual color after the liquid is cleaned from the surface.

2. Low maintenance

Compared to other countertop materials, soapstone is fairly low maintenance and doesn’t need to be sealed. It doesn’t demand a ton of upkeep, is easy to clean, and is fairly resistant to damage.

You’ll want to apply mineral oil about once a month for the first year, and then about once each year thereafter. This will cause the soapstone to oxidize, enhancing the natural darkening process and adding a nice luster, or patina, to the countertop. Since water and grease also contribute to the oxidation of soapstone, apply a regular mineral oil application as a way of keeping the oxidation uniform across the surface.

Another added benefit of applying mineral oil is its ability to minimize the appearance of scratches. To reduce the appearance of deep scratches, a combination of sanding and mineral oil will usually do the trick.

3. Durability

Because of soapstone’s non-porous properties, you can use most types of cleaning products without harming your countertops, though mild soap and water is the recommended option. Because it’s a softer stone, stay away from abrasive sponges and use cutting boards when slicing and chopping foods rather than cutting directly on the countertop. When cared for properly, soapstone can last for more than 100 years.

4. Heat resistance

Another great perk of soapstone countertops is that they’re highly heat resistant, meaning you can set down hot pans without damaging the stone. However, you’ll still want to avoid setting extreme temperatures on the counter, as this could damage the surface. Repeated exposure to very high temperatures can be problematic and contribute to cracking.

5. Environmentally friendliness

Soapstone is often seen as an environmentally friendly countertop—the stone is used in its natural state and doesn’t require sealing or the use of toxic chemicals to prepare it for installation. Soapstone countertops can also be recycled.

6. Wide texture variety

Unlike other natural stone surfaces, soapstone is offered in a wide variety of textures. Natural soapstone is rougher, while oiled or aged soapstone provides a smoother finish.

Cons of soapstone countertops

1. Cost

Soapstone is pretty expensive as far as countertops go (though still cheaper than marble), with costs coming in around $100–$150 per square foot, including installation. The price can be lower depending on where you buy the soapstone from and the thickness of the stone.

2. Imperfections

Soapstone is fairly resistant to damage, but it’s not as hard as some other forms of stone countertops, making it more prone to denting, chipping, and scratching. Because soapstone darkens in color when it comes in contact with water, grease, and oil, there’s no guarantee that it will always have a uniform appearance. However, imperfections can be sanded down to minimize their appearance or left for a rustic, weathered look.

3. Size

Unlike other stone countertops, soapstone cannot typically be acquired in blocks larger than six or seven feet. If your countertop is longer than seven feet, know that you’ll most likely see a seam.

4. Prone to cracking

As a natural and fairly soft material, soapstone may crack over time, especially as a result of pressure, weight, or moisture buildup. Most day-to-day activities are not likely to crack or damage soapstone, but damage may occur with excessive weight as the soapstone softens over time. Use sandpaper to buff out small scratches and nicks. Applying mineral oil is also a great way to protect soapstone from cracking.

Where to buy soapstone countertops

You can buy soapstone countertops at a local stoneyard, quarry, or online. If you choose to visit a local stoneyard, assess the inventory, pick out the soapstone slabs you want, and then hire a fabricator to install the stone in your home.

If there isn’t a stoneyard or quarry nearby, visit online websites like Vermont Soapstone or M. Teixeira Soapstone. Browse the soapstone selections on either website, order the slabs you want, and have it shipped to your home. The downside to buying from an online vendor is that you won’t be able to assess the actual stone before purchase.

 

DIY or Hire?

We recommend installing soapstone countertops on your own.

DIY

  • Soapstone doesn't require special tools and is softer than marble or granite, making it easier to handle and install
  • Installing your countertop on your own could save you time and money

Hire

  • If you have more of a complex countertop layout or are a renovation novice, a fabricator will ensure that your soapstone is cut and installed to your liking

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