Choosing the right material for kitchen countertops is a pivotal decision, because kitchen countertops are highly visible and functionally important. You want something that will look great and will last for a long time. As a homeowner, you want to get it right the first time. While granite and quartz are the obvious choices, some people prefer the subtle, softer look of soapstone and marble.
These two-dimension stones have a lot in common. They are metamorphic rocks, although they come from different protoliths or mother stone. Marble is calcite based and comes from limestone or dolomite, and soapstone is magnesium based and originates from mineral talc. The protoliths of these two stones broke down and reformed under extreme conditions to produce either marble or soapstone. Both are relatively soft compared to granite, although they are still very durable.
The question is which you should choose for your kitchen countertops. Comparing soapstone and marble countertops might help you answer that correctly.
The reason soapstone is called thus is its milky and cloudy appearance that looks very much like soap, and due to the talc in its composition. Soapstone comes in a limited range of colors, ranging from off-white to gray, and typically displaying nearly invisible veins. The most readily available color of soapstone, however, is a light gray that gradually deepens to a darker shade with green overtones. Soapstone develops an antique façade as it ages, making it a desirable material for kitchen countertops for homeowners looking for a vintage look to their kitchen.
Marble has a much more definite appearance to soapstone, although not on the level of hard-looking stones such as granite. Marble has a clear but delicate appearance, with colors including white, pink, red, green, brown, and black. The most common color is white, however, with subtle but clearly visible veins ranging from light to dark gray. Marble also improves with age, acquiring a delicate patina distinct to this stone.
Because of their appearance, and compared to granite or quartz, most people dismiss soapstone and marble as just too delicate for kitchen countertops. That is not precisely the case.
Take soapstone, for instance. While it looks like soap, it is not going to dissolve in the presence of water. That said, not all soapstone is suitable for kitchen use. Soapstone comes in many grades, mainly based on its talc content. High-talc soapstone, which contains up to 80% talc, does have the texture and softness of actual soap. It will not last long in the kitchen, and more appropriate for use of sculptors to produce works of art.
However, soapstone with 30% or less talc or architectural soapstone is much more durable and qualify for use as kitchen countertops. It rates between 3 and 5 in the Mohs hardness scale for minerals (diamonds rate a 10), depending on the actual talc content. That is a respectable rating, although not to compete with granite, which rates between 6 and 7, depending on the quartz content.
Marble, on the other hand, does not have these wild variations in durability as with soapstone. It is generally hard enough for kitchen countertops, with a Mohs rating of 5. At the very least, it is as hard as the hardest soapstone, and certainly not less.
Neither soapstone nor marble countertops are impervious to scratches, being relatively soft stones. These scratch marks are usually easy to buff out, however, so it is not much of an issue.
The one thing that soapstone has over marble is the fact that it is not porous. Most natural stones, including most types of granite, have some level of porosity. Marble is more porous than granite, so it is also more likely to stain, even with a coat of impregnating sealer. Etching is also a real issue with marble countertops in the presence of acidic liquids such as wine and vinegar. This makes it more difficult to maintain when used as kitchen countertops, although not as much as some people make it out to be.
Soapstone, oddly enough, is not porous at all. It does not need a sealer, and it does not generally stain. However, for it to darken evenly and acquire that antique look some people find attractive, it is necessary to cure it with a coat of mineral oil applied to the newly installed countertops over several months.
Failing to do this will result in uneven, splotchy darkening of the soapstone countertops resulting from oil and other drips that may occur over time. It would be very difficult to even this out after the fact. Marble does not need any type of intervention to acquire the delicate patina discussed earlier. It simply happens as its ages.
Both soapstone and marble countertops are relatively heat resistant, so these make them ideal for kitchen use. Nevertheless, it is a good idea to protect them from direct heat to prevent possible damage from hot oil and acids.
Generally, marble is less expensive than soapstone. You can expect to pay somewhere from $60 to $85 per square foot of marble countertops, provided you choose from one of the more common types of marble. Exotic and rare marble types can cost much higher. The price range for architectural soapstone is from $70 to $120 per square foot of countertop.
Most homeowners may not even consider marble or soapstone for their kitchen countertops, as they are not as durable and low maintenance as granite or quartz. However, if you are in the market for these stones for your kitchen, you may find that marble edges out soapstone for top pick.
If you decide that marble countertops are the best investment of your money, find a reputable countertop specialist to supply it to you. KNC Granite is the local experts in kitchen remodeling in Maryland and Virginia. We have a large collection of marble slabs from which to choose for your kitchen countertops.
We deal directly with stone manufacturers and fabricators, so we can give you the best prices possible. In fact, we have a best price guarantee. Additionally, you only pay for what you use, so it does not matter how big or small your project is; you will not be forced to buy a whole slab.
You can check actual marble as well as granite slabs at our showroom in Lanham, Maryland. We also have representative samples for engineered quartz from the top brands in the industry including Cambria, Caesarstone, Silestone, and MSI, all of which come with manufacturer warranties.
We do not only supply top-quality stones, however. We are experts at fabricating and installing kitchen countertops or bathroom vanities. We also specialize in kitchen remodeling and bathroom upgrade projects, delivering on time and on budget.
Give us a call or email us for your free in-home consultation and quote!