Soapstone: ‘Original’ Stone Countertops Getting Hotter with Chefs and Designers

Posted on 18 March 2013 by CRadmin2

Soapstone is often referred to as “the original stone countertop.” This is because soapstone deposits were first formed up to 400 million years ago, and these deposits are located in all corners of the globe. Soapstone has been used for thousands of years by cultures of all types as cookware, countertops and ovens.

Soapstone History

Soapstone is composed of talc, silicate, magnesium, chlorite and other trace minerals. The name soapstone was chosen for this natural stone because its high talc content gives it a soft texture not unlike a bar of soap.

The soapstone deposits being quarried today formed only after millions of years of exposure to heat and pressure fluctuations deep inside the Earth’s crust. Large soapstone quarries and distribution hubs first developed in the India and in the Middle East, but today, the largest distribution centers are in Brazil, Finland and the United States.

Soapstone Properties

Soapstone has several properties that make it ideal for many environments and situations. If you do not remember where you first encountered soapstone, it may be from the table that was under your Bunsen burner in high-school chemistry lab. Soapstone is a favorite material for chemists because it can withstand temperatures of up to 600 degrees Fahrenheit and is chemically inert.

Right now, soapstone countertops are surging in popularity because they are attractive, resist the spread of microbes and are difficult to stain. Soapstone is also a great change of pace from traditional types of stone, which have been overused in recent years.

Although color choices for soapstone are limited, it is elegant, and its use adds enduring value to any project. The unique, warm grain and veining that runs through soapstone makes up for a color palette that consists of only a few shades of green, gray, blue and black.

One reason why some people are hesitant to choose soapstone as a countertop material is because it is not as strong as some other popular materials. However, when properly cared for, a soapstone countertop can remain in great shape for well over a century. In addition, scratches and nicks can often be buffed out with just a touch of sanding.

Soapstone Uses

Soapstone is most often used in the kitchen, and it is the countertop of choice for many gourmet chefs around the world. It is also very high in demand by kitchen designers who want to show just how versatile this material is. One large organization of countertop fabricators to take action to meet this demand is the Artisan Group, which recently launched its own line of soapstone: Saratoga Soapstone.

Soapstone is not only a popular surfacing for kitchens, but it can also be used for sinks, bathtub surrounds and other bathroom applications. It is not uncommon to use vertical soapstone slabs or tiles for shower walls. Its high traction and warmth also makes it ideal for use as bathroom flooring, and its heat resistance makes it ideal for fireplaces and hearths.

Caring for Soapstone

Soapstone does not require as much care as many other countertop materials do. These countertops can be cleaned with most household cleaners because  they are resistant to both acids and bases. However, a non-abrasive cleaner will prevent scratches and unnecessary wear. In addition, soapstone does not need to be sealed or conditioned, but many homeowners like to apply mineral oil or specialty products such as Saratoga Wax. This is because soapstone naturally darkens with age, and these products can make the darkening process spread evenly throughout the surface.

Fabricating Soapstone

Soapstone is not only popular with homeowners and designers, but it is also very popular with countertop fabricators. This soft stone can be cut quickly and easily without infringing on its quality. Not only can soapstone work be performed with standard stone-cutting tools, many woodworkers have found that their tools are also sufficient.

Professional fabricators, such as those at the Artisan Group, generally use a combination of saws and waterjets to cut soapstone. It can then be finished on a CNC machine or by hand. Soapstone is also safe to work with, and no special regulations must be followed other than standard safety protocol.

A Final Word on Soapstone

Using soapstone countertops, such as those made from Saratoga Stone, opens the door to many unique design options. Long a preferred choice for kitchen countertops, soapstone brings together the best of style, function and versatility. Contrasting patterns and shading add to stone’s natural beauty, imparting a unique appearance that can never be exactly duplicated.

Special thanks to the Artisan Group, who provided the basis of this article, as well as the photos.

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