Stone Wars: Soapstone versus Marble Countertops
Kitchen countertops are a highly functional and very visible element in any kitchen, so homeowners naturally want the most durable and attractive material they can afford. Two of the most popular dimension stones they can choose for kitchen countertops are soapstone and marble.
Marble and soapstone have core similarities. Both are metamorphic rocks, which means they developed out of other types of rocks, or protoliths. Marble came from limestone or dolomite, which are primarily calcium carbonate. Soapstone originated from mineral talc, which is rich in magnesium. Compared to granite, both marble and soapstone are relatively soft.
However, marble and soapstone are also very different in important ways. Here is a comparison of soapstone and marble countertops.
Soapstone has a milky, muted look most people associate with soap, hence the name. The cloudy appearance is due mainly to the presence of talc. The colors range from almost white to gray, with faint veins that are almost invisible in some slabs. Commercially available soapstone for countertop use is often light gray, which typically deepens to a darker shade with greenish tones over time. Soapstone wears well over time, achieving an antique look that some people want in their kitchens.
Marble, on the other hand, has a decidedly “harder” look than soapstone, although it also has a more delicate look to it than more robust stones such as granite do. While marble is most commonly available in white and lighter colors, they are available in a much wider range than soapstone, including green, blue, pink, red, and black. Like soapstone, marble improves with age, achieving a delicate patina associated most closely with this type of kitchen countertops.
The cost for these two stones is where the kicker comes in. Unless you choose one of the more exotic varieties of marble, you can expect to pay between $60 and $85 per square foot for marble countertops. Soapstone countertops cost between $70 and $120.
Many people have the idea that soapstone and marble are very soft, and not a good choice for hardworking kitchen countertops. However, this is not true at all.
Soapstone has the appearance of soap because of its talc content, and in some varieties, that can be as high as 80%. Sculptors refer to these high-talc varieties as artistic soapstone, and are actually about as silky and soft as real soap, which makes them very easy to carve.
However, architectural soapstone has much less talc in its composition, usually just 30%, and is definitely durable enough to cut into slabs for kitchen countertops. Some people even claim soapstone is harder and thus more durable than marble, but that is not actually the case.
People typically measure mineral hardness against the Mohs scale. The hardest mineral in the world is a diamond, which rates 10 in the Mohs scale, and granite rates a 6 or 7, depending on its quartz content. Architectural soapstone ranges from one to five on the scale, depending on the talc content, while marble ranges from three to five. Overall, marble tends to be harder and more durable than soapstone.
The durability of marble has come into question mostly because of common misconceptions or myths about the nature of marble. While marble is relatively softer than granite, it is still quite hard enough to last for many years as a kitchen countertop and other home uses.
It is true that marble is porous like most natural stones, which means it may stain quite easily in the presence of liquids. Surprisingly, soapstone is not porous at all, so it will usually not stain. Homeowners with marble countertops get around this problem by sealing them with a special sealer, and would only need to reapply a seal every few years with regular use.
Soapstone countertops do not need any type of sealer because it is not porous. You do need to apply mineral oil to the surface every month to help it darken over time. If you do not oil it, it will not collapse. However, unoiled soapstone countertops have a tendency to darken where oil and other drips occur, especially with light colored stone. These are very difficult to remove, leaving you with splotchy countertops.
Marble does not require any type of oiling, and the sealer helps to keep it stain free. However, you do need to wipe up spills immediately, and avoid placing anything with acid such as wine and vinegar directly on the surface. The calcium carbonate in marble reacts quickly to anything with acid, so it will etch. It will not compromise the integrity of the stone, but it will leave some unsightly marks.
Both marble and soapstone are relatively soft. So, they can develop their fair share of scratches, and marble can etch, as mentioned earlier. However, you can sand or polish these off quite easily, so it is not the end of the world.
Marble and soapstone handle heat equally well, so there is little risk of heat damage from regular kitchen use. However, it is a good idea to place hot pans and pots on a trivet or heat pad to prevent baking any stray oils and acids under them into the stone.
Marble and soapstone are not the top picks for many kitchen owners. Because they are softer, more limited in colors, and more expensive than granite. However, for homeowners with a penchant for the quietly elegant, both stones come on top. That said, marble does edge out soapstone in terms of looks, cost durability, and maintenance.
Marble countertops would make your kitchen stand out. If you are ready for an upgrade, you need a reliable contractor and fabricator to carry out your project goals successfully. Granite ASAP is your top choice for marble countertops in the state of Virginia, including Washington DC., the cities of Alexandria, Arlington, Falls Church, Fairfax, Chantilly, Herndon, Centreville, and Tysons.
We offer a wide range of marble stone slabs as well as granite and carry the best engineered stone brands in the country. Over 100 colors of marble and granite slabs are available for inspection at our Chantilly, Virginia showroom. If you prefer engineered stone, we can offer you products from the Cambria, Caesarstone, Silestone, and MSI brands, each one carrying the manufacturer’s warranty. You can choose what you want and we will deliver it ASAP!
Feel free to ask any questions over the phone, or get in touch using our contact form today. Your new marble countertops are waiting for you!