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Soapstone?
Why does everyone want it?

1. It doesn’t stain. Soapstone is dense and nonporous; it does darken when liquid pools on its surface, but it lightens back up when the liquid evaporates or is cleaned off.

2. It can stand up to acidic materials. The fact that soapstone is chemically inert means it’s not harmed by lemon juice or cleaners that must be avoided with other natural stone surfaces. That’s why it’s so popular for use as science lab tops.

3. It’s heat resistant. The density of soapstone makes it an amazing conductor of heat, which enables it to withstand very high heat with no damage. You can put hot pans right on the surface without worry.

4. Look to science labs for the evidence: Soapstone is the material of choice for countertops designed to take a beating. A durable and hardworking natural stone that is virtually maintenance free—is soapstone too good to be true? We’ve done our research and test drives (I used soapstone in my Seattle kitchen remodel) and created a soapstone primer to help you decide if this is the countertop material for you.

Soapstone Countertop Narusawa Cottage by Justine Hand Remodelista Soapstone Above: A soapstone counter defines the kitchen at Harbor Cottage in Maine designed by architect Sheila Narusawa (for more of this project, see our feature A Cottage Reborn in Coastal Maine). Photograph by Justine Hand. What is soapstone? Soapstone is a natural quarried stone. It’s a metamorphic rock that got its name from the soft, or soapy, feel of its surface, which is thanks to the presence of talc in the stone. Most American soapstone is sourced from the Appalachian mountain range, or imported from Brazil and Finland. The two varieties—artistic and architectural—are differentiated by talc contact. Artistic-grade soapstone has a high talc content and is soft and easy to carve. Architectural-grade soapstone has a lower talc content (usually between 50 and 75 percent), which makes it harder and more suitable for countertop use. It’s not as hard as granite or marble, however, and can be easily cut, shaped, and installed. Unlike granite and marble, however, it’s typically quarried in smaller slabs, meaning that for counters longer than seven feet, several pieces (and visible seams) are necessary. Soapstone Countertop Janet Hall Remodelista Soapstone Above: A detail of lightly veined soapstone from Brazil. Photograph by Janet Hall. Soapstone Countertop Janet Hall Remodelista Soapstone Above: Architectural-grade soapstone can be easily fabricated to include options like an integrated drainboard. Photograph by Janet Hall. What properties make soapstone a great countertop material? 1. It doesn’t stain. Soapstone is dense and nonporous; it does darken when liquid pools on its surface, but it lightens back up when the liquid evaporates or is cleaned off. 2. It can stand up to acidic materials. The fact that soapstone is chemically inert means it’s not harmed by lemon juice or cleaners that must be avoided with other natural stone surfaces. That’s why it’s so popular for use as science lab tops. 3. It’s heat resistant. The density of soapstone makes it an amazing conductor of heat, which enables it to withstand very high heat with no damage. You can put hot pans right on the surface without worry. Goode Kitchen Amagansett Soapstone Countertop by Siosi Design Remodelista Soapstone Above: In a Hamptons kitchen renovation by Lisa and Chris Goode, NYC green-roof designers and cofounders of Goode Green, countertops are kitted in Alberene soapstone. Do soapstone counters need to be sealed? Because soapstone is nonporous, it doesn’t need to be sealed or protected. Not only does this cut down on maintenance (see below) but also the absence of chemicals in the fabrication and ongoing care leads many to consider soapstone an environmentally responsible choice.
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