House 2.0 – Soapstone Kitchen Counters

The kitchen counters were installed yesterday! The pics below don’t really do them justice, partially because they are covered in dust and I haven’t cleaned them.

The kitchen counters are soapstone. For those not familiar, it is a natural stone that has been used for counter tops for over a hundred years, in farmhouse kitchens especially, and other industrial applications. When choosing a kitchen counter top material, I vacillated back and forth between quartz (industry term for man-made stone), and soapstone, and ended up doing a lot of research about the pros and cons of each material. At this point, I am really happy that I chose soapstone, as the counters are gorgeous, and I really like the way soapstone feels to touch. The counters are really, really nice.

If you are curious about soapstone, here are some pros and cons, supported by a few links at the bottom:

Pros:

  • The look and feel – I think soapstone is classic and beautiful.
  • Soapstone is non-porous – This makes it a sanitary choice for a kitchen (it will not trap or harbor bacteria), and it is easy to clean.
  • “Soapstone is chemically neutral so acids like lemon or tomato juice do not affect it nor do alkalis found in some household cleaners.” Unlike granite or marble, soapstone will not stain or etch.
  • “Other stone surfaces such as granite, marble or limestone have to be repeatedly sealed to prevent liquids from staining them.” Soapstone is non-porous, and chemically inert, which is why even today it is a good choice for things like chemistry lab benches. Its does not require sealing with questionably safe chemicals.
  • “Soapstone is heat resistant. You can place a hot pan or dish on a counter without any damage to the counter.” – This is interesting; there is very low risk of cracking the counter from thermal shock, and there is no resin or plastic to melt. You can (supposedly) place hot things right out of the oven directly on the counter top. Very few other materials can claim this. (We’ll see if I’m brave enough to try that.)
  • It was less expensive than the quotes I received for quartz.

Pro or Con, you decide:

  • The appearance of soapstone will change over time. It will “grey out” and appear a bit lighter if left untreated, and will be darker when kept oiled (which is not necessary except for aesthetic preference). Supposedly, after oiling over time, it will remain dark. This is a pro for me, I think its neat that I can have different looks from one counter.

Example:

Not-oiled:

Oiled: (notice the spots by the sink in the second photo)

Cons:

  • Soapstone is very soft: it will scratch or possibly chip. People learn to accept this by choosing to think of the scratches as “patina” or “character.”
  • Uneven surface appearance – the appearance of soapstone can vary, and is often inconsistent even across the same piece of counter. Water will leave rings and spots (although apparently not on some oiled counters). If this bothers you, soapstone is not for you. (I’m waiting to see how much this bothers me, and given what I know about myself, I’m nervous.)
  • Its more expensive than some granite choices.

Here are some links for more information on soapstone, and sources for the quotes above:

Soapstone Counters: A Love Story

Vermont Soapstone Company FAQs

The Pros and Cons of Soapstone Countertops

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2 Responses to House 2.0 – Soapstone Kitchen Counters

  1. dancg says:

    If it is good enough for a lab bench, it’s good enough for me.

    • amytracker says:

      lolz. I really did have some soapstone lab benches in college, although most were stainless steel. I’ve seen some 100 year old soapstone sinks that are still in really great shape!

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