Soapstone is a natural rock found in several places around the world. The soft, warm feel of the stone combined with a subdued, minimal look means this natural stone fits as well in a traditional farmhouse kitchen as it does in the sleek, contemporary design aesthetic of an modern urban space. Click HERE and HERE to see photos of soapstone installed in kitchens. Click HERE and HERE to see fireplace surrounds made from soapstone.
Here are nine live slabs of soapstone available this summer. We’ve hand picked these selections our wholesale importer/supplier partners in the DC, MD, VA area. By working with about a dozen local importers, we can offer our clients the largest selection possible- if it’s available on the East Coast of the US, we can get it.
Soapstone is quarried in two basic types: high talc (artistic) and low talc (architectural). If you’ve heard that soapstone is too soft for countertops, that myth comes from not distinguishing between the two types. Artistic grade is better for carving and sculptures, but high quality architectural is what you want in your home. (Make sure to ask your fabricator about the grade of the soapstone you are purchasing.) In fact, soapstone is not only naturally antibacterial, but it is also naturally burn and stain resistant and requires very little maintenance. Most experts recommend that you do not seal soapstone, since it is not as porous as granite.
Soapstone has a limited palette of colors. It comes in grey, blue-ish gray, green, and black, depending on the mineral content of that particular deposit. Some are darker or lighter with more or less veining, as you might expect in a natural stone. Unlike granite, the colors in soapstone will darken or change appearance over a long period of time as the stone is exposed to oxygen. Soapstone can be oiled to produce a darker, richer look. This is different than mineral oil treatments and must be done during fabrication and prior to installation.
Because soapstone is a little softer than granite, small nicks and scratches may appear when used as a countertop, but they can either be sanded out with a bit of fine grained sandpaper or left intact for a weathered, rustic look. Most homeowners who choose soapstone say the beauty of the stone it’s completely worth any marginal risk of nicks or scratches.
Many homeowners choose to treat their soapstone regularly with mineral oil or special soapstone wax. This is a purely aesthetic treatment that keeps the stone more consistent in color. It can also help to blend any scratches that may occur over time. Left untreated, the soapstone will darken around the surface areas most frequently used, particularly in a kitchen or food service environment. Leaving the soapstone untreated will develop a patina of age that is actually considered attractive and desirable to many homeowners. If you change your mind, you can go back to oiling the stone. Experts recommend that you clean your soapstone with a mild soap (like clear dish soap) and water. Less is more with this stone, so stay away from harsh chemicals and expensive granite cleaners.
In the 18th and 19th centuries the durability and heat resistance of soapstone made it a popular choice for sinks, stoves, and exterior trim. In the 19th century was particularly popular for fireplaces and wood stoves because it holds heat and radiates it long after the fire is out. Many of these soapstone creations are still being used in historic homes today, a testament to the longevity of this architectural gem. Soapstone fell out of favor in the 20th century, but in the last decade kitchen lovers have been rediscovering its natural beauty, durability,and energy efficient heat retention.
Soapstone deposits are found in several places in New England (particularly Vermont). A large amount of architectural grade soapstone also comes from Brazil. It is also found in Finland, but most of their exported soapstone goes to Europe, not the Americas.
Granite Grannies is a local expert in soapstone fabrication. Give us a call (301-218-7666) or shoot us an email to find out more and talk to one of our experienced stone designers.
If you liked this post, you should also check out:
- Best in Black & White: Natural Stones for a Classic Look
- Stone Profile: Quartzite
- Design Tip: More Cabinet and Granite Pairings
- Unique Stones Tuesday: Nacarado Quartzite, Red Dragon Granite & More
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