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Feb 8, 2007 11:45 AM

Soapstone countertops

Does anyone have any experience using soapstone as a kitchen countertop material? I have heard that it is very durable but may dent since it is softer than other stones. I am considering it for me kitchen, but I don't know anyone who has ever had soapstone countertops. Thanks!

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  1. there was a thread a few weeks ago

    1. I can't seem to find that thread...has anyone else been having trouble with the "search" function since chowhound starting using this new website?

      1. Oh, and I had another it necessary to treat soapstone with mineral oil? Is there any advantage to doing this in terms of wear? Or is it purely for aesthetics, to deepen the gray coloring? Thanks!

        1. I'm looking at soapstone for a kitchen re-do just as you are. All that "denting, less durable, softer-than-granite" stuff is really relative and, in fact, not relative to the way I live. My 20-year-old Formica is still in perfect condition.
          Soapstone is what the chem lab counters were made of in my high school. They've seen more abuse in 75+ years than they'll ever see in my kitchen.
          How many marble floors have people been walking on for centuries in public buildings all over Europe?
          I'd like it if the color of soapstone could stay a little lighter and I'm looking at some limestone and marble as well for that reason.
          If I choose the soapstone, I plan to oil it so that it will darken evenly. I'm afraid that without the oil, spills will soak in randomly and it will darken in a splotchy pattern.

          7 Replies
          1. re: MakingSense

            Ooh, just saw this. No limestone! As I posted in the other thread, it gets etched by acid, which makes it useless in a kitchen.

            I type this while staring sadly at a 2-inches-in-diameter etched spot that showed up yesterday on my limestone floor......

            1. re: spigot

              That's the point of natural materials. They come with the small imperfections of their creation. They acquire patina. Like antique furniture. And historic houses. Not to mention the flaws of the people who live in them. They're not sad. They're reminders of things used and well-loved.

            2. re: MakingSense

              We are also looking at soapstone. We like the nonglossy look and are sick of everyone having granite. We also have an old home in which we feel it would better complement.

              Does anyone have soapstone in their home? We would love feedback.

              1. re: MakingSense

                LOL- about the chem labs...I've picked up several very nice pieces of soapstone counter tops from the local universities surplus store. I mean, when they have a 4'x4' pieces with one corner diagonally cut off, like it was a corner section, for $2, who can turn it down? I'm just kicking myself for not getting one of the lab cabinets with a small bar sink sized lab sink when they had them for $10 for a 6 ft to 8 ft counter with built in backspash (and they don't mind if you only take the top & not the cabinet). It would have been perfect in my dinette where I have a counter I want to put a bar sink into, but I didn't think about it at the time because I already had a Kohler bar sink waiting to be installed.

                Someday when I get around to redoing my current kitchen, I'm going to have some great counter tops- I may end up with an extra seam, but I can put up with that for the price I paid. Now just to find something I like for the flooring, as the ceramic tile have to go.

                1. re: anniemax

                  Anniemax - Where on earth did you find a school looking to get rid of old Soapstone counters? Local University surplus stores? I loved my soapstone laundry sink (we had it installed in our kitchen) when I lived in NJ. I am now trying to find something cost-effective for my small vanity in the half bath. Any help is appreciated. Thanks!

                  1. re: andreasimpson

                    It's a university surplus- you have to laugh at the things that show up there. I'm keeping my eyes out, because at the time I didn't realize it could be cut so easily.

                    I used the immersion circulator I bought for $5 to try Sous Vide sometime last week when the city decided to flush the fire hydrants & got rust in the water main. Why is it that you never notice it until after you put something in your hair you have to rinse out? I certainly didn't want any rust going in the water heater, so I filled up a 5 gallon bucket, stuck the immersion circulator in and had hot water in just a few minutes-lol.

                2. re: MakingSense

                  Making sense,
                  Hi, just saw your comment and wanted to let you know that without the oil, soapstone will not darken differently unless you get oil in one spot and never clean the counter. The material is Inert, which means it is totally solid and does not allow substances to seep in like granite and other stones.(that is the reason Soapstone does not need sealed.) The oil is purely aesthetic. Also wax can be better(than oil) as it does not need to be applied as often.

                3. I have soapstone counter tops in 90% of my kitchen, and I can't imagine loving anything else more. Its a historic Greek revival farmhouse, so the soapstone is correct for the period but they are also abuse proof. They might get scratched more if I cut on them, but I would never cut on any counter top.

                  They are impervious to any kitchen chemical and heat, and they work quite well for pastry work. I have a small(24x24) section of inlaid marble in my island but I might reconsider that if I was going to do it again.

                  I treat them once a month with mineral oil, but it only take a few minutes and yes, it is mostly for aesthetics.

                  12 Replies
                  1. re: Kelli2006

                    Thank you for your reply. I have been waiting for positive feedback. I plan on going ahead with my choice of soapstone. I also have an old house and want to retain the look. Does it age nicely? Do you also have a soapstone sink? We are also considering having one.

                    1. re: Barnalla

                      Barnalla. I have a large farmers sink that is fabricated from soapstone. We had considered having grooves for a drain board cut into the counter by the sink, but we decided against it.

                      I'm not sure what you mean by aging, but the counters have developed a bit of patina over time and they look like they have always been part of the home. Most people are shocked to learn that the counters aren't original.

                      1. re: Kelli2006

                        Hi Kelli, I am fine with a bit of Patina. I believe it adds character. I just heard that the sink chips because of pots and that the counter also chips and it is white and sticks out. I don't mind chips and marks as it adds character and it is real stone. I just don't want white spots that draws your attention the minute you walk into the kitchen. I guess what I am saying is that it looks natural and blends with the soapstone.
                        Thank you for all your help. no one around here ( long island, ny) has soapstone and I value your opnion.

                        1. re: Barnalla

                          Barnalla, I have never seen any chips in the sink. I use a grey Rubbermaid mat in my sink to protect any glassware.

                          Soapstone does chip but it isn't easy to do and the chips are a medium grey color. You can camouflage the chipped region with a bit of mineral oil, or they will weather to the natural grey of soapstone in a few weeks.

                          1. re: Kelli2006

                            Thank you Kelli, My fears are gone and I feel comfortable having a soapstone counter and sink installed. I am so excited as Soapstone was my first choice.

                            what kind of Soapstone do you have? Is one kind stronger than another?

                            1. re: Barnalla

                              Barnalla, We had a local dealer sub-contract from Vermont soapstone do our kitchen. We have the original (green tinted) stone , but I don't think there is any strength difference. The cabinets are maple, so the color works quite well and isn't too dark.


                              1. re: Kelli2006

                                Thank you for the recommendation. We will ask them for an estimate. We have received 2 estimates which were very diiferent..

                                One from Green Mountain Fabricators of Soapstone ( it is on the ny/vt border) which was reasonable and another one from another Vermont fabricator, which wanted $2000 just for installation and delivery ( I have a small kitchen). We will check out Vermontsoapstone. You are obviously happy with their work. Did they deliver from Vermont to Ohio for you?

                                1. re: Barnalla

                                  Did you get your soapstone countertops? We are getting ready to build and I'm really leaning toward soapstone. We just moved to Florida and are very remote. Everyone that I mention soapstone to gives me negative feedback, but I don't think they're familar it. So then I saw black honed granite in a magazine, but there's so much negative feedback about that so I'm back to soapstone,but I'm not sure if there is anyone around here that would know how to install it.

                                  I would really appreciate any and all feedback.

                                  1. re: Kelliq81

                                    we have had soapstone for about a year and love it! yes, it scratches if you cut on it or scrape something across it (like, say, a 1950 kitchenaid mixer), but eventually the scratches just disappear. I don't understand what KaimukiMan is saying below because #1, they are dark grey so it's very hard to see any dirt on them and 2. they are impervious to staining. One time we put a wet bottomed cast iron pot on them, and it left a rust mark, but that easily came off. They simply do not stain.

                                    We also have a country sink fabricated from Soapstone, and I love it. My only issue is that I've dropped a few heavy class lids in it and it has dinged the bottom...but you can't see the dings, and frankly I was being clumsy and if it had been an enamel sink I probably would have taken a much more obvious divet out of it.

                                    1. re: cheetobrain

                                      A frequent source of stains on soapstone countertops are thin, dark liquids, such as wines and sauces. Red wine and barbecue sauce are common culprits. Vinegar and other acidic materials can also stain your countertop, especially since the mineral oil regularly applied over the countertop can react with these acids.

                                      Even water can stain your soapstone countertop. Prolonged exposure to moist environments or surfaces can cause large, dark spots to appear on the countertop. These cannot be scrubber away, since they are below the surface, but they usually disappear in a few weeks.


                                    2. re: Kelliq81

                                      I'm in Florida, too, and I also got a lot of negative feedback when inquiring about soapstone--of course, all this feedback was from people trying to sell me granite! It's still difficult to find people in the southeast who are knowledgeable about soapstone.

                                      After much searching, I found an extremely reputable soapstone fabricator in Punta Gorda, which is about 3 hours from me. He charged a little extra for the mileage, but I am so glad to have found him. He was a true craftsman (his seams are invisible), and I LOVE my soapstone counters. We had the counters installed two years ago and have been thrilled with them. It fits perfectly in our 1942 home.

                                      Yes, they scratch, but not with a fingernail--and I have one of the softer varieties (Black Venata). And, unlike granite counters that, when damaged, usually require professional repair, I can sand out scratches in my counter myself (my fabricator even left me a piece of sandpaper of the proper grit), although in two years, this has not been necessary.

                                      Despite what granite folks will try to tell you, soapstone does NOT stain. It is perhaps the most non-porous countertop material available, so it can't stain. Improper finishing can lead to problems with water marks, but this can be remedied by someone who understands how to finish the stone properly. Some people are confused about the staining issue because of the oiling process that many people use to darken the stone. The oil doesn't soak into the stone. Instead, it oxidizes and changes the color of the stone's surface.

                                      I prefer the very dark, oiled look, but it is only an aesthetic preference. I know someone who does not oil her soapstone at all, and she has very little trouble maintaining the lighter color she prefers. My stone has a lot of white veins, and the veins show up much better when the stone is oiled. I oiled them weekly for the first six months or so, and monthly for the rest of the first year. This established a dark color that can now be maintained with very infrequent oilings.

                                      Soapstone is not for everyone, and it's extremely important to get someone who is experienced with soapstone to install it or to at least advise if you plan to DIY. Using the proper methods for finishing can make a huge difference in your satisfaction with soapstone counters.

                                      1. re: babysis

                                        I too used the Punta Gorda fabricator and felt he did a great job. However, my soapstone is VERY blotchy. I had hoped not to oil it all and keep the flat, grey original look but the more I used the counters the more noticeable it became that heavy use produced darker stone, while other areas were lighter so I gave in and started oiling. I have frequent water marks. I'm wondering what your friend has done to keep her original lighter color. Thanks.