Soapstone Countertops Pros and Cons | A Love Hate Relationship

Soapstone countertops pros and cons

Soapstone countertops have a timeless look, so why isn't it more popular? Read the pros and cons.

Granite and marble are two of the top materials for kitchen countertops. Both are beautiful, durable natural stone products that can add a luxurious look to your kitchen. If you're looking for something different, that offers the same beauty and durability, consider soapstone.

Soapstone is chemically inert (meaning chemicals won't affect it), and so dense and durable that it's impervious to stains and bacteria, and incredibly beautiful with veining that can rival marble in it's complexity. Soapstone is a natural stone that is composed primarily of mineral talc which gives it the smooth feel of soap (hence the name!). Slabs are generally medium grey and can appear to have a greenish cast. Soapstone is unique in that when oiled, it will darken over time to a deep charcoal gray/black. It can also feature pronounced veining which is produced by quartz in the stone.

Soapstone is a wonderful unique choice for your kitchen countertops. It's visually stunning, can work in any décor from traditional to modern and while it is expensive, it is a lifetime investment. Once you install soapstone countertops, they will last for generations! There are some drawbacks to consider and we'll look at why soapstone is a material that you'll either love or hate depending on what you're looking for.

Let's look at some of the pros and cons of using soapstone in the kitchen.

The case for soapstone countertops

If you're looking for a timeless traditional look, soapstone is perfect for you. Soapstone is extremely durable and in the northeast, it's not unusual to find soapstone sinks and wood burning stoves from the 1800's still in use today. Soapstone is not only durable, it's unaffected by heat (hence its historical use in stoves) that means a hot frying pan can go directly from the stove to the counter, no trivets needed. Because it is chemically inert acids like tomatoes or lemon juice won't stain or etch its surface. And because it's so dense it's completely impenetrable, (not even bacteria can penetrate its surface!) it will never stain... ever!

While soapstone use in becoming more popular, it's not really a “faddish” material. Because it lasts forever and offers a timeless look you don't have to worry much about your soapstone counters becoming dated. Soapstone looks amazing with all different types of cabinets, from the stark white cabinets you'd find in a traditional or farmhouse kitchen, to stained wood cabinets in a variety of styles. If you are considering soapstone for your kitchen, make sure to ask for architectural grade. This is slightly harder than artistic grade and will work better for countertops.

One of the biggest positives to many soapstone lovers is the changeability of the stone. In its natural state, soapstone is a medium gray color. If left alone, it will softer patina over time. If you want a darker, most striking look, just rub mineral oil on your counter let it soak in,  and it will turn a dark black and the oil will make the veining pop!

While soapstone countertops are durable, it will scratch. If this bothers you, you can simply sand the surface lightly and the scratches will disappear. Keeping it oiled will also minimize imperfections like scratches or discolorations. Most homeowners who opt for soapstone consider normal wear as character. If you are looking for a “pristine” surface, a soapstone countertops might not be right for you.

Soapstone cons and drawbacks

For many, soapstone's positive characteristics are considered drawbacks! For example, because soapstone is primarily talc based it is softer that some stones like granite. It will scratch. In fact it's not a question of if, but when. If you are looking for a pristine surface, soapstone may not be right for you. It is also prone to chipping and gouging and discoloration and while many view these as acceptable imperfections that add character, for some homeowners it can be a concern. Many of these imperfections can be minimized by more frequent oiling, but if you are looking for a countertop that requires little maintenance, again, soapstone may not be right for you.

While soapstone gets big points as a green material because it will last several generations, today, most soapstone is mined in Brazil as the U.S. supply which was mined predominantly in Vermont and Appalachia has diminished. Because of this, there are significant transportation costs, especially in terms of energy needed to bring it to the American market from Brazil.

Whether you love it or hate it one thing is certain, soapstone countertops are made from a warm, unique material that can add the beauty of natural stone to your kitchen (or bath!). It's a lifetime material that will last generations and while it is expensive, it can add just the right aesthetic to any kitchen. As with any product, do your research, understand both the positives and negatives and speak with a design-build contractor at Toulmin Cabinetry and Design. They will have the knowledge and experience to answer all of your questions!

About Toulmin Kitchen & Bath Design - We're West Alabama's award-winning, premier kitchen and bath showroom. We're experts who are known for a design-build process that makes the construction process stress-free. Contact us to schedule an appointment for a design consultation.