Tag Archive | "Soapstone"

Video: Maintaining Soapstone - Mineral Oil vs. Wax

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Video: Maintaining Soapstone – Mineral Oil vs. Wax

Posted on 28 July 2017 by cradmin

For many years, mineral oil has been the standard method for maintaining the dark, rich look of soapstone countertops. However, many companies have moved to recommending special wax formulas. This video produced by Green Mountain Soapstone, explains maintenance using both methods and discusses some of the pros and cons. Of course, the discussion centers around a proprietary wax “enhancer” compound made by the company, but there are a variety of alternate options available.

 

You may also be interested in this article about soapstone.

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2017 Outdoor Kitchen Trends

Posted on 17 May 2017 by cradmin

DKCR305H_Outdoor-Kitchen-Granite-Countertop_4x3.jpg.rend.hgtvcom.1280.960Last year, outdoor kitchens hit their peak popularity, but the design is still going strong as we hit Spring 2017. Not much is really new this year, but focuses are shifting and specific materials are gaining support for their abilities to deal with the environment. To put it in other words, outdoor kitchens and countertops in 2017 are all about refinement.

“A satellite kitchen allows [the consumer] to spend time with guests rather than running back and forth to the house to prepare and serve the food and drinks,” Jennifer Uihlein Straszewski, executive vice-president of under-counter refrigerator manufacturer U-Line told Real Living. “Homeowners are going to great lengths to transform the traditional patio area into a fully functioning outdoor room.”

Trending Features

Following are the features consumers are looking for in their 2017 outdoor kitchens:

  • 62392The grill is the centerpiece of the kitchen. The grills in this year’s installations can do just about anything your stovetop can do and much, much more. Therefore, many households like to feature the grill as the kitchen’s centerpiece. Some prefer charcoal for its rustic flavor while others like the amenities of propane or a direct line of natural gas.
  • Comfort and entertainment are top priorities. Without comfortable lounging areas and several entertainment options, an outdoor kitchen is just a place to cook food. With these amenities, the kitchen becomes the hub of activity in the backyard. Sports, table games, TV and video games are all options today.
  • Find space for appliances…and the kitchen sink. The modern outdoor kitchen is just as self-sufficient as indoor kitchens, complete with refrigerators, dishwashers wine coolers, keg taps, ice machines and much more.
  • Make pizza the Old World way. One of America’s favorite foods is pizza, so it only makes sense that outdoor pizza ovens would eventually see a surge in popularity. Pizza ovens come in several types, such as wood-fired stone, gas-fired stone, stand-alone ovens, solar or stainless steel with a state-of-the-art digital controller.

Countertop Materials

outdoor grill ideas 7Outdoor countertops are not simply for food preparation. Like indoor kitchens, countertops provide a communal area where hosts and guests can gather, talk and enjoy company in the fresh air.

When it comes to outdoor countertops, granite is considered king, but several other materials have also come to the forefront of this milieu, including soapstone, concrete, stainless steel and tile.

While quartz is gaining on granite’s popularity indoors, it is not considered suitable in outdoor settings because the colors often fade quickly in direct sunlight. Along the same vein, laminate cannot be used because exposure to rain and humidity will cause it to bend and warp.

  • Granite – Granite is the top choice for outdoor countertops because it is durable and can withstand a wide range of environmental conditions. The heat of the sun will not damage granite, and it is unusual for colors to fade. With the proper sealant, granite can be protected from mold growth and stains. Finally, according to the average prices set forth by HGTV, granite is quite affordable at $50 to $100 per sq. ft. for the consumer.
  • Soapstone – According to Premier Surfaces, soapstone is an ideal choice for outdoor countertops because its high density makes this surface resistant to heat and stains, colors usually do not fade and it does not require any sealers. However, it is recommended to treat soapstone with a specialized mineral oil that enhances the maturation of the color.
  • Concrete – Although concrete tends to run a little pricier than other countertop materials, it is expected to make the highest gains of them all in 2017. As long as the concrete is reinforced with steel rebar, you don’t have to worry about it cracking. Concrete must also be regularly sealed to prolong its color, finish and overall lifespan.
  • Stainless Steel – Stainless steel is a great option because it is durable and looks great next to a barbecue grill. It is also easy to clean and maintain, and stainless stell can last a lifetime.
  • Tile – At $10 to $30 per sq. ft., tile is, by far, the most affordable option for outdoor countertops. In addition to creating an easy entry into an outdoor kitchen for those on a budget, tile also offers a wide assortment of colors and patterns. The bad news is that in colder regions, temperature changes can cause the grout to crack. The good news is that installers can upsell freeze-proof tiles and other protections.

If you are installing outdoor kitchens or fabricating outdoor countertops, we would like to hear from you. Send us photos of your work to [email protected], and I’ll post them right here with a caption.

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Is the Granite Countertop Boom at an End?

Posted on 17 November 2014 by cradmin

While both fabricators and contractors are still reporting robust sales of granite countertops, several media outlets say that granite may be on the way out. While I am not certainly not sold on this prediction, if true, it could mean declines in sales for fabricators dealing solely or primarily in granite, but those who offer a variety of countertop materials may simply see a shuffle in the origin of their revenue.

Benefits of Granite

One article published in News & Observer, Living Space: Are granite counters on the way out? is quick to point out that nearly everyone who already owns granite countertops love them because they are durable and visually appealing, but hold some reservations because they require some degree of maintenance. Another reason why people choose granite according to the article is that it is a natural product made of natural minerals instead of a material developed in a laboratory.

Another article that has an identical name but was published by HowStuffWorks also begins with a section on the benefits of granite. According to this article, granite is more durable, heat resistant and scratch resistant than many of its counterparts, but sales have been declining because of a limited color selection and price. Today, however, granite countertops can be found in a wide variety of unique colors and patterns.

Finally, the price of granite has fallen substantially over the past two decades. While high-quality granite and installation may still carry a high price tag, entry-level granite is now available at prices that allow nearly any homeowner to enter the market.

Is Something Driving People Away From Granite?

The 2012 Kitchen & Bath Style Report published by the National Kitchen and Bath Association states that granite use in kitchens dropped to 87 percent from 91 percent in 2011, but it held steady at 87 percent in the 2013 report. Another survey conducted by The Marble Institute found that 75 percent of homeowners intending to remodel their kitchens in 2012 were planning on installing granite countertops.

These surveys show that granite remains a popular choice, and very little new data shows any sign of a downturn, yet the Huffington Post Home Advisor states that designers are dropping natural stone in favor of six other materials that are less expensive, not as heavy and have greater color variety. In this piece, the author harshly urges homeowners not to “waste your kitchen remodel investment on this fading material.”

In the same vein, Today Home claims that “granite is great,” but provides a list of “eight kitchen counter options to make you forget granite.”

Alternatives to Granite

Several alternatives have been named as rising stars and are reportedly filling the gap left in the alleged decline of granite countertops. Following are few of the most popular and the reasons claimed as to why they may be moving up in the countertop market:

Quartz

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Quartz has become granite’s top rival and has been growing dramatically. It is available in a variety of colors and patterns, and it doesn’t need to be sealed or treated.

Solid Surface

Solid surface does an excellent job of mimicking natural stone and has many other color options, and in many cases it requires less maintenance than granite. It can also be less expensive than higher-end granites.

Marble

Even though marble is gaining in popularity and is very attractive, it is not resistant to staining and scratching like granite is.

Soapstone

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Soapstone is available in a limited range of colors and may become easily scratched or nicked by sharp objects, but it is stain and heat resistant.

Butcher Block

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Walnut, maple, bamboo, oak and cherry butcher block countertops are growing in popularity because they are seen by many as a green, recyclable alternative to granite.

Glass

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Glass can resist high temperatures without scorching, does not stain and it is 100 percent non-porous. Glass countertops are increasingly becoming viewed as a versatile alternative.

Concrete

New innovations in concrete manufacturing and fabrication are making this material more popular for kitchen countertops each year.

Waiting for the Results

The latest results on where granite stands after the 2014 calendar year have yet to be gathered, but if the media reports show even a sliver of truth, then granite countertop sales may have fallen. However, I’m not sure if  I would place any wagers on that at this point. I believe the jury is still out. Either way, it will be interesting to see whether granite can maintain its lead in the industry or if quartz and other surfacing materials will make gains on its top position. 

I’d love to hear from some of you as to whether you have seen any decline in granite sales and/or migration to other products, or if you believe it is all hype. Post a reply in the comment section below or email us at [email protected].

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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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