Soapstone Countertops Slab
Also known as steatite, soapstone has been a favorite of sculptors for centuries. While hardness is desirable in a countertop for structural stability, what soapstone lacks in hardness, it makes up in density. Its impenetrable surface reduces the risk of bacterial growth, always a plus in a kitchen or bath. Soapstone darkens over time, however, via a natural process akin to oxidation, so it will eventually develop a distinct patina that some homeowners find appealing and others don’t. Some contains hints of pearl, blue or green, but the most prevalent hues are whites and grays.And as products of nature, no two soapstone slabs will be identical, so expect a slight discrepancy between joined slabs. Soapstone fabricators create a template from the measurements and then cut the slab to match exactly. Standard soapstone slabs are 84 inches long, so if your countertop is longer, it will require one or more seams. Sinks and cooktops should be installed, per their manufacturer instructions, once the countertop is in position. When the cabinet base is ready, you’ll make all the necessary cuts for seams and cutouts before positioning the slab. Because it requires no sealing, soapstone is relatively low-maintenance.The mineral oil treatment will make the patina more uniform. Once your countertop reaches its full patina, oil discoloration won’t be a problem. It contains the mineral talc—yes, as in talcum powder—making it relatively soft. Soapstone particles are extremely compact—more so than those of quartz, marble, or granite—which makes it more sanitary and easier to wipe clean. Smooth, beautiful soapstone doesn’t require a sealant to protect its good looks. The main downside to soapstone, however, is its tendency to scratch or chip under heavy wear. Depending on the region where it’s quarried, soapstone ranges in color from soft white and light gray to deep charcoal, with most types exhibiting gentle veining. To help you decide on a shade, visit a kitchen showroom for some samples that you can study in the lighting of your own kitchen. You’ll get the straightest, cleanest cuts if you clamp a straightedge to the soapstone to serve as a cutting guide. Once the soapstone has been cut, all edges (including the stock slab’s rough square edges) are easy to sand smooth with 200-grit sandpaper. Professional installers position seams where they’re least visible, such as in front of a sink or a drop-in cooktop. The standard process for installing a soapstone countertop is to first ensure than the counter base is perfectly level. The slab installs directly on the base, no underlayment necessary. With minimum care, your new countertop can retain its good looks for many years. It usually takes seven to nine months for the countertop to reach its full patina.