When it comes to countertops, nothing conveys an elegant look quite like natural stone. While some shy away from using stone in home improvement projects because of the expense, competition is causing the price of some stone to drop significantly. Let’s consider one type of stone counter that you may not have heard much about, soapstone.
Soapstone is a steatite stone, mainly composed of magnesite, dolomite, chlorite and talc. The talc in soapstone makes the soapstone feel smooth to the touch as does a bar of soap, hence its name. It is mined from a quarry just like granite and marble (Wikipedia.com).
While the talc does give soapstone that trademark smooth feel, you don’t have to worry that it makes it too absorbent. Unlike most other stones, soapstone is not absorbent. If by chance soapstone becomes stained or discolored, you can rest assured that the stain is only on the top layer. It can be scrubbed or sanded off.
One advantage that true soapstone has over other stones is that it is inert, so alkalies and acids won’t damage it as they will granite, marble and slate. Because of this, soapstone has long been used in science labs and classrooms for worktables and countertops. It naturally follows then, that soapstone is perfect for your countertop kitchen remodeling project.
Soapstone easily retains heat, so it is often installed with masonry projects, including fireplaces, wood stoves and with pizza ovens.
It is not necessary to use a sealer on soapstone, but some people choose to apply mineral oil to their soapstone. As soapstone ages, it naturally darkens, and adding mineral oil helps the stone to darken evenly and quicker. Many people, however, opt not to apply anything and let the stone develop its own beautiful patina over time. If you do not apply mineral oil, the stone will darken unevenly, giving it a more rustic appearance. If you don’t like this on your countertop, you can always begin to add mineral oil to even out the appearance.
Soapstone will develop scratches over time, but they can often be minimized by adding mineral oil, or they can be completely sanded out. Even soapstone that is over 60 to 70 years old can be sanded and restored to a completely new appearance.
Soapstone is easy to care for because you can use an all-purpose kitchen cleaner to clean soapstone, since alkali and acid don’t disturb it. No need to worry about purchasing expensive, special cleaners.
Contact your local general contractor if you’re ready to install a new soapstone countertop. You won’t be sorry, because it’s a stone that will grace your kitchen for years to come.