While fabricating hundreds of soapstone and wood countertops we have encountered a few misconceptions on certain properties of these materials over the years. Here are some typical concerns:
1. Doesn’t soapstone scratch and therefore not make a very good counter surface?
Soapstone is one of the softer stones and will scratch. However, because of its incredible density (actually it is denser than most granite) and forgiving oil finish, scratches are not a big factor. Minor scratches seem to disappear on their own and deeper blemishes can be sanded out much like the synthetic solid surfaces. A new coat of mineral oil seems to refresh and blend. Like an old Pumpkin pine floor or an old leather chair, the soapstone tends to look richer with wear and age. We like to say it is one of the rare materials that seem to look better over time.
2. Both soapstone and wood countertops do not seem safe as a food preparation surface.
Actually, both materials may well be on the high end of the safety scale. As mentioned in another section, soapstone is so densely constructed in nature that little or no absorption can take place. Soapstone has been the choice of chemistry laboratory tops for many years because acids and other chemicals did not stain or absorb into the stone. Wood may well be safe for an entirely different reason. Some tests suggest a property in the wood works to inhibit bacterial growth. Also, the mineral oil finish is considered safe oil in food preparation areas.
3. Aren’t the relatively small slabs that soapstone is quarried in be a limiting factor to kitchen layout?
Our experience has been that the small slab sizes have little effect on kitchen layout and function due to the tight and barely visible seams that are possible with soapstone. Slabs are bonded with colored stone epoxy and sanded to create a product similar to fine wood joinery. In this sense it gives us more freedom to create!
4. Why is soapstone more expensive than some of the other natural stone choices?
Unfortunately, even though soapstone is found in many areas on earth it is fairly difficult to find large enough deposits of quality stone to warrant the expense of quarrying. Also, in our opinion, it is somewhat difficult to find a truly good quality soapstone from many of the quarries that are operating at this time. Many have a low talc content and are comprised of too many ‘other minerals’ giving the surface a very busy appearance and generally low quality content.
5. Are there color choices?
Depending on the mineral content of a particular soapstone there can be somewhat minor differences in color. Some quarries might yield some subtle hues of green or blue but the major component of talc will show light to medium gray. Therefore, without mineral oil, soapstone countertops can offer a fairly light background of gray with random darker minerals or white veins mixed in. If a coat of mineral oil is applied a very dramatic transformation takes place. The once light gray background almost magically turns almost black and the miscellaneous minerals and veins give a random and striking appearance. Whether oiled or not, soapstone seems to compliment any kitchen color scheme, and will probably never become ‘dated’ due to natures beautiful work.