Thursday, March 27, 2014

Soapstone...



I get a lot of questions asking about my experience with the soapstone countertops in the kitchen.  The soapstone questions run a close second to the questions I get asked about marble, which I wrote about HERE.  So, as promised to all those who have asked,  here is my take on soapstone.
Please note that this is only my personal experience with soapstone.






First lets talk about soapstone and just what it is....
 Soapstone is a natural material, a metamorphic rock that is composed primarily of talc with varying amounts of chlorite, micas, amphiboles, carbonates and other minerals.  Soapstone was formed millions of years ago under intense heat and pressure. Soapstone started out in a molten state deep within the earth and because it has an unusually stable composition, soapstone can comfortably withstand fire and dramatic changes in temperature.  It has been known for centuries for its ability to retain heat (for example, all of our original hearthstones in the farmhouse are made of soapstone).  Other natural stones, such as granite and marble also hold and radiate heat, but only soapstone has the added benefit of being able to withstand direct flames indefinitely.  Soapstone is often used for pizza ovens.
The fact that soapstone is composed primarily of talc makes it a soft stone (it is often used for carvings), and also makes it:
 nonporous,  nonabsorbent,  have a low electrical conductivity,  heat resistant,  have a high specific heat capacity, and  resistant to acids and alkalis.
Since it is nonporous it is naturally antibacterial and stain resistant.  It is an inert material that is impervious to chemicals, acids, and heat.  You can place cookware from the stove top, or oven, directly on soapstone without damage.  Soapstone is the only natural stone that does not need a chemical sealer since it is siliceous, meaning it is unaffected and unharmed by acids in things like lemon juice, wine, vinegar, etc.  It does not "etch" like marble.  It is easy to clean, needing no special cleaning products. 
That said, since soapstone is a rock, its mineral composition can vary depending upon the parent rock and the conditions of the metamorphic environment.  That means that soapstone can vary from quarry to quarry, and even within a single rock.









Like granite and marble, soapstone is very durable, but since it is a softer stone it has the tendency to scratch and chip more easily.  Again, its durability has a lot to do with where it was quarried. I get asked often where our soapstone was quarried, and unfortunately, I do not know.
Soapstone is typically grey, grey-blue, green or dark grey in color, often variegated.   After being cut its  finish will naturally oxidize from light grey to dark charcoal in color, though this process can take years.  Its name is derived from its "soapy" or soft feel.  The color of the stone and the degree of veining/lack of is all very personal.  I have heard that a solid color (no veining) slab is often desired, but  I love the large veins of green in our slabs, which is why I chose it.  I felt it would add a natural element of beauty and interest to the countertops.





To answer the question I receive most often about soapstone..
YES, I absolutely love the soapstone countertops and would use it again in a heartbeat.
I recently received an email from someone saying she really wanted soapstone, but everyone was telling her it was impractical and that it's for magazine shoots and for people who don't use their kitchens.  That made me laugh as soapstone has been used for over a hundred years in the kitchen.  In fact, that is why I chose it to use the kitchen of our antique home, because of its historical New England reference and the fact that I knew it would stand the test of time, and not be a trend.  As I did with my marble, once I set my sights on soapstone I did my homework and research, and read all the positives and the negatives I could find.  

As I mentioned in the post I did on marble, if you do your research and educate yourself and still want a product in your kitchen (or house for that matter) do not let people who probably don't own the product themselves talk you out of it.  I have heard so many stories of people who were talked out of marble or soapstone by a salesperson.  That's unfortunate, but in my opinion, that was their own mistake.  In building/renovating you must have a very clear vision of what you want your space to" feel" and "look" like because at every single turn some salesperson/contractor/carpenter/painter/plumber/etc... will try to talk you into their vision.
  Research.  There are so many fabulous products available now that you really have to do your homework.
Know the maintenance and upkeep and decide if any product is something that you want to live with.   Know the pros and the cons, if any, of every single thing you put into your home.   Know what you want and don't let anyone dissuade you from your vision. Period








The Pros and Cons of Soapstone

Pros:  I've mentioned most of the pros throughout this post (see above).
Cons:  It is only available in basically one color, or one tone of color- grey.  It is usually only quarried up to 84" in length, so if a longer piece is needed it must be seamed together.  It is soft and easily prone to scratches and nicks.  While low-maintenance, it is not no-maintenance, in my opinion.

The only issue I have had with my soapstone is small nicks on the edge of the countertop (most found above the dishwasher and around the sink.)  I've tried to take photos which show the small chips, but there are really not that many and you do not notice them when you are standing in the kitchen- you either have to "feel" them to know they are there or take a super-closeup photo!  What I'm trying to say is they are a non-issue for me.   Like I do with my marble, I use a cutting board and take minor precautions, like placing a towel under a bottle of wine while uncorking.  But.... and as you will see in the photos, that hasn't always been the case and even now I get in a hurry, or careless, and will get knife scratches. chips and dings. The scratches recede a bit after oiling/waxing, but many of the photos were taken before waxing so you could see what it looks like.  I also slide things across the top and basically use and abuse both my marble and soapstone.  So, while I take precautions most of the time I'm also in there to cook and "use" the stone, so things happen;)
Just like using marble, you must remember that this is a "natural" stone and it WILL show the signs of life and a kitchen used.  If you, or your spouse or partner, want a forever "perfect" countertop this might not be the right choice for you.  But if you love being surrounded by natural elements and like the patina that time and use give to a surface then I can't express enough how wonderful (and easy) soapstone is to live with!




Small chips above dishwasher.





Different angle.





This area is just to the left of the sink and gets a LOT of use.  This photo was taken prior to waxing and you can see all the little knife marks.





Same shot as above, only closeup to show (center of photo) the row of dents from the bottom of a wine?? bottle that was opened directly on the stone.  We now simply place a dish towel under a bottle to prevent this from happening.  (fyi- The white-ish sheen at the top of this photo and the next is sunlight and not the stone itself.)





Same surface after waxing.




Maintenance and Upkeep
There are several ways you can use and enjoy soapstone as counter or table tops.
You can "oil" the soapstone with mineral oil, you can "wax" the soapstone with a wax made specifically for soapstone, or you can simply leave the stone "natural".

 As I mentioned, soapstone once cut into slabs will naturally oxidize from a light blue-grey to a dark grey charcoal, but that could take years, so many people choose to accelerate that oxidation process and enhance the soapstone with either oil or wax to produce a dark countertop. This will not only darken the stone, giving it a deep, rich sheen, but it also enhances the the minerals and veining in the slab and gives the overall countertop a uniform color. This would be akin to holding a rock under water and suddenly you see all the beautiful colors and formations in the stone.

Here's where talking about soapstone can get a bit confusing..... as already stated, soapstone is "nonporous"  which means that nothing will penetrate the material,  but...you can, and will, get surface discolorations from water ,various oils and products that come in contact with the stone if it is not treated with either mineral oil or soapstone wax.  The marks just do not penetrate the surface, or etch the surface (like marble) and can be removed through cleaning (more on this further down.)  Using mineral oil or soapstone wax will make the stone resistant to many of those issues; however, even after oiling (especially if it has been a while since the oil was applied) or waxing you can still get an occasional mark, but they are only on the surface and are not permanent.  
Quite honestly I cannot imagine having soapstone in a kitchen that was not treated with either mineral oil or soapstone wax.
I had one reader tell me that they interested in soapstone for their kitchen, but they had a friend who had soapstone and it was a splotchy mess- oil rings, water rings, stains, etc.  After hearing her description I said that it sounded like the soapstone had never been oiled/waxed and she later wrote to tell me that after asking her friend that my guess was accurate.  

I also want to recommend when shopping for soapstone for a kitchen, and you find a slab you like, that you wipe down an area of the surface with a water-wet paper towel to see what the color of the stone will look like once it is oiled/waxed.  Some stones will be a dark green color and some will be a dark charcoal or almost dark black.  You want to know what color your soapstone will darken to before it is installed in your kitchen.   Also, if your stone yard is indoors under fluorescent light, don't hesitate to ask to see the slab in "natural" light.  Slabs are easily moved with forklifts and can be taken to a warehouse door to be viewed in natural light.  Countertops are a big investment and you don't want to get a slab that isn't exactly what you want.


#1 Mineral Oil:
Did you know mineral oil is a liquid by-product of the distillation of petroleum to produce gasoline and other petroleum-based products from crude oil (per Wikipedia)??  It sounded so healthy and natural before you knew that, right?!  When I read that mineral oil is a "non-drying oil", meaning that it does not evaporate, but instead it disappears from the surface of the stone by being picked up and transferred around the house I was a bit creeped out.
 But, using mineral oil is probably the most popular method to enhance and darken soapstone.  This is what I have used for the last 4 years up until recently when I started to use soapstone wax (more on that further down).
Oiling is a bit of a pain, especially initially and for the first year.  The process that I used for oiling my newly installed soapstone was to oil the soapstone once a week for the first month, then once a month for the first year, then twice a year after that (or as often as you like, to keep the oiled-finish looking fresh.)  That's a lot of taking everything off your countertops to oil!  But, it takes that long for the stone to acquire that rich, dark charcoal color and retain it.  I would pour the oil directly on the stone then spread it with a 3-inch foam brush, wait for 30 minutes then remove the oil with paper towels and then buff with more paper towels, or a cloth towel, until all the oil was gone.  I found the surface would "flash" for the first week or so- oil would seem to come back shiny/oily in some areas.  I would simply re-wipe those areas with towels to remove the excess oil.  Even after the first year's many applications of oil I would find that over time (approximately after 4 months, or so) the oiled-look to the soapstone would dissipate and the stone would lighten and "look" dried out, and I would have to then re-apply the mineral oil to get that dramatic dark matte, low-luster sheen again.


#2 Soapstone Wax
(This is the method I highly recommend.  I am thrilled to have found this product!)
The newest way to achieve the deep charcoal finish to soapstone is to apply a wax made specifically for the stone.  Supposedly, you can apply the wax to newly installed soapstone and wax it only three times (once a week for three weeks, then after that once a year), to achieve the same dark look of a year's worth of oiling.   I can not verify this method since, as I mentioned, I initially used mineral oil and only recently started to use the soapstone wax on my countertops.
There are several waxes specifically made for soapstone, some sold by stone fabricators, but I found them all to be very expensive and to have the same basic ingredients as the very affordable
Real Milk Paint Co.'s Soapstone Sealer and Wood Wax,
which is the product I used.  I purchased the 8 ounce-size jar and used almost a fourth of the jar to do all of my soapstone countertops.  A little goes a long way and this one jar will last a very long time.  It is all natural and earth friendly, made with walnut oil and Carnauba wax flakes.  There are no solvents in it so is has no VOCs.  Since it contains walnut oil some people with nut allergies may have a reaction; however, walnut oil is a "drying oil" which means that it will polymerize and cure in 15 to 30 days, as opposed to other nut oils, such as peanut, cashew, etc.

The Real Milk Paint Co. suggested when I called regarding the product and the fact that my countertops had previously been oiled, to remove the mineral oil prior to applying the soapstone wax by washing them down with either: dish soap ( Dawn) and water,  TSP ,or their Citrus Solvent to remove the non-drying mineral oil.  In the end I didn't do that since it had been over a year since I had oiled the countertops and I figured that the mineral oil had dissipated on its own by that point.  My countertops turned out great!  I am  huge fan of the soapstone wax and highly recommend it!  Besides the pros of having to apply it only two to three times instead of 15 times to get the same effect, it is natural and provides a better finished surface than the mineral oil.  Products like hand soap drops around the sink would often leave marks on the oiled stone, but the wax has proven to be a better barrier and the hand soap spots don't stain the stone.

Real Milk Paint Co. Soapstone Sealer




Wax being applied to the soapstone




"Before" wax to the left of the seam," after" wax to the right of the seam.
I chose to have the soapstone seamed in two places- one on each side of the faucet (as opposed to one seam directly in the middle of the faucet) as I didn't want anything to draw the eye away from the beautiful Perrin and Rowe faucet.  And honestly, you really do not notice the seams at all.



#3 Leave it natural
I do not recommend this for kitchen countertops.
I chose to leave the 8-foot slab of soapstone on the metal work table base in the barn room natural.   I felt the natural surface suited the space best.  (Actually, I did oil the slab once just to provide it with a basic enhanced coat, but it quickly dissipated and reverted back to the natural color that it was when installed.)








Cleaning Soapstone
Soapstone is an easy-keeper.  Simply wiping the stone with a sponge or dishcloth and soap and water keeps the stone clean.  If anything does leave a ring or a mark on the surface I remove it with
Bar Keepers Friend and then re-wax the surface.  And, you can even buff out surface scratches with a fine grade sandpaper, though I have never personally done this since the scratches and knife marks recede when treated with mineral oil or wax.



Soapstone before waxing.





After.




After waxing.  
(topiary from Snug Harbor Farm)



Again... please note, that is is purely my opinion based on my experience only.
I would love to hear of your experience if you have soapstone as it will add to the conversation!




137 comments:

  1. Thank you for such a detailed and informative post! I think Soapstone is often overlooked when renovation finishes are being selected as people tend to only pink from granite, marble, and quartz options. Soapstone is such a pretty option and perfect for historic homes. I love how your counter top looks with the white cabinets! So lovely.

    Elizabeth @ www.eblovesoldhouses.com

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  2. Thanks! I love our soapstone sink and counter, but oiling is a bit of a pain (I like the darker look), so I'm thrilled to learn about the wax option.

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    1. I felt the same way when I discovered the wax!

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  3. As always, an extremely informative post! Your kitchen is a dream! Glad to hear from you again.

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  4. I too have soapstone and you could have taken the same picture of the wine bottle mark on my counters! I use mineral oil and haven't had to oil it nearly as much as they say to do. I also leave my oil soaked rag in a ziploc bag, and use that to touch up the scratches. I let it stand for a few minutes and then buff with a dry towel until it blends in. The scratches disappear. I too like the aged and used look to my counters (although you really have to look hard for the chips). I've wanted soapstone for years and I have no regrets.

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    1. thank you for sharing your experience Carol!

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  5. Elizabeth SpeicherMarch 27, 2014 at 11:40 AM

    Thank you for all the wonderful information about your soapstone counters. You have cemented my intention to have these in our retirement home. I now feel more confident in sticking to my own vision and will not let tradesmen steer me to their vision (which always seems to be granite or quartz. Also I had been told only about oiling, but on your advice I will surely go with waxing.

    Your kitchen is just lovely. So glad I discovered your blog today. I'll be returning often.

    Thanks again.

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  6. This is the BEST information that I have read on Soapstone! THANK YOU very much for your honest "rundown" on this stone. We had soapstone countertops put in the kitchen last September and I still can't decide if I'd do it again but with each passing month of mineral oiling them, I must say I might be falling in love. I am definitely going to get the wax that you are using to see if I like the sheen better. After oiling each time, there is an odd scuffing?? look to it in places but like you, I just wipe it and it goes away. I LOVE how scratches and water marks simply disappear with oiling and I LOVE the veining in it especially after oiling.
    Ours was quarried from the only active soapstone quarry in the USA which was a huge deciding factor for me.
    If, after waxing with the product that you recommended, the sheen is "deeper"(does that make sense?), then I would ABSOLUTELY use it in our next house.
    Thank you Joan, for taking the time to write this post. All the research I did before making this HUGE decision just didn't give a "true" picture of what to expect and I had never seen, in person, soapstone countertops to really "see" what they would look and feel like.

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    1. Vicci- I think you will love the wax after experiencing the hassle of the mineral oil. Just be sure to remove the oil before waxing. If you have any questions call the Real Milk Paint Co.- they are very nice to deal with and very helpful.

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  7. Hi Joan...good to hear from you again. Thank you for all this info- on soapstone. We will be renovating our kitchen soon (hopefully...one day!), and I value your opinion, as I know you research your products. You do everyone's homework for them! You should get paid for this...like in high school. Anyway, we also live in New England and are considering soapstone because it is so prevalent here, and it is beautiful. I will definitely reference your post and do my own homework as well. We also value a natural product, but everyone's needs are different. Again, thanks for the info. Stay well.

    Bev

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    1. Bev, I was familiar with soapstone before moving to NE, but didn't know all of its virtues until moving here! You are right it is very prevalent here!

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  8. Well, you just talked me into it Joan! I have long loved the look, but was afraid that the imperfections might make me crazy. On the other hand, I think every room needs a bit of patina, especially a new kitchen - and I love that this has an organic, non shiny, old house feel. Your kitchen is my all time favorite and I will refer back to this frequently when we finally gut and redo our kitchen. Thanks so much for sharing your experience and words of wisdom on upkeep. You are a gem!

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  9. Impressed by the research! I don't have soapstone, but I read on the label above that the wax is good for cutting boards. I'm definitely looking into this. I've used mineral oil for decades on my cutting boards and wondered if there were something better. Looks like there is!

    And BTW, your kitchen is my favorite hands down kitchen I've seen! It makes Ella look even better.

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    1. Yes, the wax is great for cutting boards and also big wooden bowls! Thank you, and Ella loves "helping" in the kitchen;)

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  10. Thanks for the in depth look at Soapstone. I think its gorgeous. And I wholeheartedly agree with you about keeping your dream and idea of your design in mind when going through a remodel. Great advice!

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    1. hi Rachelle, I think it is often a difficult thing to remember in the midst of a renovation/remodel/build as it is SO overwhelming with SO many decisions to make, but is important to keep at the forefront. It makes me sad when I hear that someone spent so much time and money on a project and then didn't get what they truly wanted.

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  11. Thank you so much for writing this post! Such great info!! My husband and I are in the middle of building a home and I am wanting soapstone for the kitchen counter tops and marble for the master bath. We recently installed black slate floors in the kitchen, the soapstone counters are going to look fabulous!!! Again, thank you. Now I am off to read all about the marble post that you wrote!

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  12. That was a lot of good information! I first learned of soapstone while watching a PBS show that built and remodeled homes. He said it tends to darken as it ages so you should expect that to happen. I didn't know it needed to be waxed. I like the "character" the counter top gets from being used, especially when it's a natural product like this. You are right about salesmen altering your ideas about products like soaptone and marble. I don't own it but I have investigated it and I got the same scare tactics. I saw a kitchen that had an area set aside for rolling out and kneeding dough. They purposely had the counter area lowered so it would be a little easier to do the task and it was specifically done in marble. I believe they said that the marble stays cool naturally and works great for the dough.

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    1. hi Liz, I think there is "good" character and "not so good" ;) The soapstone will still develop a patina with the wax it just won't have a messy, splotchy look to it.
      Yes, marble is the preferred choice for bakers for rolling out doughs, and it is cold to the touch compared to other stones.

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  13. Thank you for this post Joan. I am posting on my facebook page. I often recommend it to clients and hear the same complaints you referred to. I personally love it and would install it in my own home in a heartbeat if it would work. I am saving this post in my client information folder!

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  14. what a totally brilliant article, so well written, well researched, well explained, TOPS!
    Thank you so much. Wd you believe it; I never heard of using soapstone for kitchen tops; in my favour (maybe) I have to add that I'm Swiss and in the 4 countries I have lived so far (and in my 3rd house) I had everything from stainless steel, twice (self-bought) granite and a horrible white plasticy material (now!!!!) - At one place we bought (2nd quality) granite with insertions of opaz and I was over the moon because 1) it was cheaper (and we needed a few miles of it!!!) and 2) it was NATURALLY SO.... I never had to do any 'attention paying' and no waxing, whatever. I think I would choose granite again but remember clearly that my grandmother in her house from the early 19th C (it was her mother's home before) had those huge soapstone surfaces....
    I shall treasure this article - Thanks again, your place looks heavenly!!!

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    1. That is very cool Kiki that you remember your grandmother's (and great-grandmother's) soapstone- I bet it had amazing patina!

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  15. Great post, Joan! We will (one day) be remodeling our kitchen and I've often wondered about soapstone. I love the look. Thank you for all this wonderful information. It will be very useful when the time finally comes to remodel. I also like quartz, and wood countertops. Every surface has its pros and cons.
    Claudia

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    1. I agree that each surface has its own pros and cons. I, too, love quartz and wood together- so beautiful! How is the pack Claudia?!

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  16. I love your soapstone. We have honed Uba Tuba which I love for durability and the soft greyed surfaced that harmonizes with the slate floors. A routine wipedown with stone cleaner is all it needs.

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    1. Yes, honed granite is definitely the way to go! Your surface sounds really pretty!

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  17. Thank you for the wonderful post on soapstone. I have always loved it and have worked with it most of my adult life, as a chemist. Most laboratory counter tops are made of soapstone for the reasons you noted above. If I ever have the opportunity to choose new counter tops, it will be soapstone!!

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    1. hi jerri, I did read that in doing my research that soapstone is often used for laboratory counters- proof positive that it is nonporous and antibacterial!

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  18. Joan,
    I told you once before, on Instagram I believe, that your fingerprints are all over my kitchen. I want to say it again. Your kitchen has inspired mine more than any other. Thank you for sharing with me. :)
    Bari

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    1. I'm honored to have my "fingerprints" all over your kitchen Bari! Love that, thank you!

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  19. I am always thrilled to se a new This is such a wonderfully informative post, thank you. I had never even heard of soapstone til afew years ago. Your kitchen is gorgeous, a real dream.

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    1. hi Pinky, Yes, soapstone is (and always has been) very common in New England. It is only in the last few years when it has really started to gain popularity in other parts of the country. I've had readers in the south who have written telling me they can't even find it locally.

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  20. What a great post. Here's something to make you laugh, here in Connecticut, many stone stores make you sign a waiver against 'usage damage' if you buy marble for kitchen countertops. I asked a salesperson why and he said during the first big granite craze, the people who didn't want dark countertops (as most granites back then were) bought white marble and then tried to get their money back after sustaining stains or damage to the marble during everyday use. Crazy!

    My best friend has beautiful soapstone counters and uses mineral oil. I am going to surprise her with a jar of that wax!

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    1. I have heard that, and it does make me laugh! Your friend will love the wax- just make sure she removes the mineral oil before applying. You're a nice friend!

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  21. I've always loved soapstone. I always love getting a glimpse of your beautiful kitchen. Happy to see you blog!! :)

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  22. Hello Joan -
    Thank you so much for your very informative post on soapstone. We built our home 15 years ago and I chose the soapstone because I wanted a more traditional and "historical" counter and because I always like the counters in my chem lab in high school. However, I wouldn't have recommended it to anyone because I've found that after oiling it would attract every cat hair in the house - we have three - and remain tacky even with repeated wiping down. Now I can't wait to get some of the wax because I love the dark look of them and everything else about their versatality. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

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    1. Cat hair no more! You will love the wax Jen.

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  23. Hi Joan! We have honed black granite in our kitchen. I love the dark matte finish, and love soapstone, but it was not a choice for us ($$) at the time we renovated. I think we managed to get a very similar look with the honed black granite. Thanks for sharing a view into your kitchen again!

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    1. hi Lana (long time!) Yes, honed black granite (or honed "absolute black", as it is also known) is a good alternative to soapstone. So glad to hear that you are happy with yours!

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  24. Thank you for sharing your soapstone thoughts and tips! I recently built a house and used soapstone for all of my kitchen and master bathroom countertops. You can see images of them on my blog here: http://www.timelesspaper.com/blog/?p=5079

    I haven't oiled or waxed my soapstone yet. I was curious to see how it would look before changing it to the darker shade. Your blog post convinced me it's time to wax them. I love the light gray chalky appearance they have but they show oil spots and water spots if anything touches them. Hopefully waxing them will help with that issue. I LOVE my soapstone and highly recommend it.

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    1. It will definitely help! Thank you for sharing your experience. Your kitchen is gorgeous!

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    2. Thank you! I ordered the wax immediately after reading your blog post. Can't wait to try it next week! I'll post before and after photos on my blog.

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  25. I positively adore your blog. I lived in TX for 16 years and moved to Mass at Christmas. We bought an old house (1890) and working on the renovation. Thanks for your great post on marble - I book marked it and decided to go with marble in this renovated kitchen. You inspire me.

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    1. another ex-pat Texan;) Hope you are loving New England as much as we do!

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  26. Your home is absolutely charming!

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  27. Going to pin this post! I'm betting you can use that on butcher block counters also. I have that on my island and have used mineral oil...after reading what you said about it, I don't think I will be using that again. Thanks...and I loved the birds eye pictures of the counters in the kitchen, a new perspective!

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    1. It would be great on your butcher block counters!

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  28. joan every time i see your kitchen i die a little. it is so gorgeous! love the soapstone, so natural and classy at the same time. hope you are well. x

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    1. ...says the woman with the fabulous kitchen with the black and white check floor!! xxo

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  29. I love your soapstone, especially the veining that you chose. This was such comprehensive post if anyone is trying to make a decision they're going to find this so valuable.

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  30. I have been following along for a while but never commented. I too have soapstone in my farmhouse kitchen and in the bathroom. I use mineral oil but have never heard of soapstone wax. Our charcoal grey soapstone came from Brazil and I absolutely love it. I have a kitchen with marble and have one with granite. Soapstone is our favorite and is the one that still looks good after 8 years of constant use. I've never had a chip, although their are a few gouges where something has dropped a knife on the counter.

    I highly recommend them for wear and tear if it suits your design.
    Thanks for the information. I'm off to look at purchasing some wax.

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    1. Thank you for your input on soapstone Bonnie, and thank you for your first comment! You'll love the wax!

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  31. I have missed you Joan. Great subject, you are so knowledgeable in regard to so many topics. Thanks for sharing your expertise. Hoping Spring is blessing you with her beauty.

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    1. Thank you Gigi! I'm afraid spring has not come to New England yet... but we are anxiously awaiting her arrival!

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  32. Joan, I agree with everything you said about soapstone & I'd recommend it to anyone. I really like the knife marks on your counters, I have a few on mine too. Such character! We put soapstone in our kitchen about 2 years ago I love the patina it's gotten since we installed it & look forward to it developing even more character over time. I think it is so important for all homes new or old to have character and to show all the signs of life in a home that is really lived in. Thanks for the tip about wax, I'm going to try it on my countertops.

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  33. Love this in depth post! (I was going to do one, but you have just about covered it all!) I have just had 3 kitchens installed with soapstone. Fortunately, I live in Virginia, where the ONLY working soapstone quarry north of Brazil exists. Alberene Soapstone quarry has been in business for almost 200 years. It is located a stone's throw from Earl Hamner's childhood home (the Waltons) in Skylar, Va. It is definitely worth the trip to see all their amazing varieties at any given moment, and choose your slabs as they are coming out of the ground. They have many artisans on the property to custom make farm and pedestal sinks of any shape or size. If you are considering soapstone, their website is worth a visit, and if you are within driving distance, it is truly a site to see. I did a post 3 weeks ago and show a kitchen under construction with the most beautiful island of perfectly book matched soapstone. I have never received more emails asking questions than the ones I received asking about that stone! Your kitchen is fabulous....Thanks for posting! I've bookmarked it! k

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    1. Kathy,
      Please list the web address of the post on the kitchen. I would like to see it.

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    2. Thank you Kathy!
      I've included the link for your kitchen post (that soapstone is gorgeous btw) for Marian and others...
      http://princessannecounty.blogspot.com/2014/02/paging-violet-newstead.html#comment-form
      and also for Alberene Soapstone : http://www.alberenesoapstone.com/

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  34. I've always loved this look... thank you for the amazing analysis!!
    xo Heidi

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  35. I have missed your posts Joan and have wondered what you've been doing to keep yourself busy during this very cold and snowy winter, but have entertained myself with reading backwards through your posts. Your posts always inspire me and have so much information in them.
    Cindy

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    1. I've been busy writing this post Cindy!!!! :) Love that you read back through! Thank you for your kinds words.

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  36. I have not personally heard of soapstone being used as a counter before, so I found this very interesting. Your counters are beautiful, and I agree that the little marks add lots of character to the surface and I think add to the beauty of it. I imagine that you can hardly notice any marks when you are not hovering over the surface with the zoom lens of a camera!! xx

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    1. Their goodness is spreading;) but they have historically been a New England (and Europe) surface.

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  37. Joan, I have missed your posts. So glad you're back. Your posts are beautiful and thoroughly informative. Your kitchen is my all time favorite. I am contemplating a complete kitchen renovation. Love your choices, but not sure they would blend well with my attached family room, which has warmer tones (pale yellow, reds, brown case goods). Would love your thoughts. I could email you pictures :)

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    1. It sounds like it would go well with warmer tones Marian. If you would like you can email me a photo at fortheloveofahouse@comcast.net

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  38. Excellent and informative post Joan. I too have soapstone in my kitchen since we had a complete and total remodel of our kitchen five years ago. When I say complete, walls down, all floors up, all new cabinets, all new appliances and new countertops. I love my soapstone counter tops and have been using mineral oil but will try to get the wax. I had never heard of it. I did not do my island in soapstone but instead used Zebra wood which came from Africa. It was after choosing my island wood that I decided to use the soapstone on the rest of my countertops. I wanted a natural material and it needed to be dark and a bright shiny surface like granite was not going to look right. I have loved my soapstone and am one of those really careful people in my kitchen so I don't have knife scratches or dings from something heavy dropping on the surface. I do have a marble piece in my kitchen which is the centerpiece, a very old French Pastry Table which has a very old marble piece on top. I had originally intended to use marble on my countertops but a sales rep did talk me out of it which after choosing the soapstone I was very glad. That same sales rep was most unhelpful in locating the soapstone soooooooooo she lost my business. I had to go out of town to find a source but it was worth the effort.

    I will definitely try to get the soapstone wax and so glad that you shared a source.

    Carolyn

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    1. hi Carolyn, So nice to see you! Thank you for sharing your soapstone experience and so happy that it all worked out in the end!

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  39. I absolutely love your blog. I have been looking at soapstone countertops for my kitchen. There is a wonderful company here in Pennsylvania called Bucks County Sospstone Company. They have an informative website which talks about sanding out scratches. They recommend sanding with 150 grit sandpaper followed by 220 grit sandpaper and then a quick reapplication of mineral oil. I love your information about using soapstone wax. Thanks for such an informative post.

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    1. Good info about scratch removal, thank you Susie.

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  40. It looks great! It seems like all you see is granite everywhere these days. It's nice to see something different.

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  41. And THIS is why your blog continues to be a favorite of mine. Thank you for putting such time and thought into this (and all) post. You are so "real" about your opinions and experiences with things! Thank you!

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  42. Hi There Joan,

    I loved this post and have always loved soapstone. When (and if) I do my kitchen, there will be soapstone counters. I actually want a soapstone sink too! If you go to Paul Revere's house in the northend of Boston, you'll find soapstone....now that's gotta prove that it's gonna last!!

    Hope all is well up north and happy Spring!

    Ruth's favorite youngest sister,

    Mary

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    1. hey Mary! LOVE soapstone sinks too. And in researching I found that the wax holds up- especially in sinks- much better than the oil. Will put Paul's house on the to-go list! Tell Ruth hi!

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  43. For a moment there, I thought you had posted a picture from my kitchen--I have the exact same chip above my dishwasher! Great post, Joan. I, too, love my soapstone counters--wouldn't trade them for the world. Thanks for the tip on the wax. All the best, Jennifer

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    1. That's funny Jennifer! I become a plate-spinner loading and unloading the dishwasher, so accidents happen;)

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  44. Hi there. We gutted and redid our builder-basic kitchen with a huge island of soapstone and all soapstone counters. we LOOOOOVE it. Since it's now been 7 years, I can say it holds up really really well. There are a few scratches. I do not notice them. We use the island to death! Nearly all our meals are eaten there and all prep work done for cooking. Mine were finished in some way that made them darker and shinier before we got them. I just clean with vinegar and water. I do not oil or wax them and they a slight shine (I didn't want shiny countertops like granite) at all times. LOVE THEM.

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    1. Thanks for your input Trudy. Wonder if yours came finished with wax (though 7 years ago I don't think anyone was making a soapstone wax)?? Would be interesting to know.

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  45. This is so informative - thank you for sharing this with us, Joan! I've been discussing with my husband we'd love to have soapstone countertops in our kitchen some day, but we didn't exactly know what to expect. I think soapstone is such a pretty option, and I even think all the chips and nicks even add character to it! I'll share this with my husband and see what he thinks of this :)

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  46. I agree 100% with every single thing you have said about soapstone! Everyone tried to talk me out of it too, including several stone fabricators, but I stuck to my guns and I'm so happy I did...I absolutely love it! Yes it scratches and gets small nicks, so maybe it wouldn't be my first choice if we were very hard on our kitchen counters, but I really can't imagine not having it. We also use a towel when opening a bottle of wine or a heavy can of beans, etc. but that is not difficult to do and the look of soapstone makes it so worth it. Thanks so much for the info about the wax, I will order some and swap it out for the mineral oil I've been using! Great post!

    Kat

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  47. We also have had soapstone counters for not quite as long as you have. Most of our chips have come from dropping plates and glasses when putting them away. Not only does the glass shatter, the counter chips. We also have an under mount sink, and there are a lot of little chips around the edge, both inside and out - apparently my pants button is counter height and scratches it up while I do dishes. A farmhouse or apron style sink like yours is definetly a better choice.

    That said, I love it and wouldn't trade. I am very keen to try waxing it, as I have gotten lazy about oiling, and around the stove which gets oil splatters looks great, but around the sink which gets soap splatters looks pretty bad at the moment.

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    1. From what I read while researching this post, you will love the soapstone wax vs. the mineral for the sink!

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  48. I love your kitchen. I just read your post about marble. It's my dream counter and I will NOT be talked out of it when the time comes. It's always great to hear about people be happy with it in their kitchen.

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  49. Excellent post about soapstone counters. I love your kitchen, it is one of the most beautiful kitchens I've ever seen. When my husband and I renovated our kitchen a little over a year ago, your kitchen served as a major inspiration. I made the decision to install soapstone counters as well although I had a fair amount of trepidation during the decision process for the same concerns about scratching/chipping. Our kitchen guy warned us as well but I was prepared for that, and in the end I think our soapstone installation made him more open minded. We considered honed black granite as well, in the end it came down to "personality" vs. safety from chips/scratches. I love the color variations and veining that most soapstones offer and honed black granite though lovely just didn't appeal to us as much. Granites with more variations/movement can be honed as well but they were out of our price range, and soapstone is one of the traditional materials for a country farmhouse kitchen and that was the look I wanted. I am thrilled with our soapstone counters. We chose a variety called Smoke soapstone - we did a bit of research and found out it is one of the harder varieties, about a 5 on the MOHS scale. In comparison most natural granites are around a 7. I've read that some soapstones can be as soft as a 2, I'm not sure I'm laid back enough for that. :) Mine does get very minor scratches and microchips but I'm okay with that. As you've said Joan, mineral oil/wax makes them much less noticeable. I think the natural color variation in soapstone hides the blemishes as well. I haven't oiled my counters all that much. I have one long counter atop our "butler's pantry" cabinets which has only been oiled twice in the last 15 months, it's noticeably lighter than my main counter but still a pretty gray. I have been thinking about trying a product called Beekeeper's Gold which is by the same manufacturer as the mineral oil we've used, but is a mixture of mineral oil and beeswax. It's marketed for use on cutting boards and butcher block tops (food safe) however I've seen comments on some websites where soapstone owners have used it on their counters. They say it lasts much longer than mineral oil as well. I believe Williams Sonoma carries it. I think an important consideration in choosing soapstone is being honest with yourself - if you lean towards perfectionism, scrapes and dings (they will happen no matter how much you baby it) might really bother you. Then again, if your idea of perfection is something with patina, it might not. And Joan, I absolutely agree with you about wetting down a slab of soapstone to see its "real" color before purchasing it. It's considerably different from its natural state.

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    1. Thank you for sharing your experience and knowledge about soapstone. Even though mineral oil is "food safe" after discovering that it is a petroleum by-product I just can't stomach (no pun intended;) using it (or it mixed with beeswax) anywhere in the kitchen!

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  50. My heart skipped a beat when I saw this post! LOL!!! I have loved soapstone FOREVER! When we redid our kitchen in MA a few years ago I went with granite, and I LOVE it and have never regretted that decision.

    Now it's time to redo the cottage kitchen in ME and soapstone is at the top of my list!!! We won't need much in our tiny kitchen, so the expense should be manageable. I'm very happy to have found out about the paste - thank you!

    Have a great weekend!

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    1. It will be perfect in your Maine cottage! (And how lucky are you to have a cottage in Maine!!)

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  51. When you go awhile between posts, I'm always worried that you will stop blogging. So happy to see more pictures of your kitchen. If I could re-model my kitchen, I would definitely do as much like yours as possible, as I see other people feel the same way. Best Regards, Wenda

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    1. I worry that too Wenda;) Hope you are well and that spring has sprung in SLC!

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  52. Joan, Dan, and Ella: It was so nice to see a new post; I always look forward to them. The timing of this post is perfect as just last week, Mike and I were speaking about new counter tops and I mentioned soapstone. I do remember them from my high school science class. I am being optimistic and working away at indoor projects because spring will be here (soon?) and I'll be outside. Cindy

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    1. Love that you had soapstone in your science class in HS. I might have, but don't recall as I was too busy looking at the cute boys in class;) Felt a bit like spring today, didn't it? My best to you and M.

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  53. Thank you for sharing this, Joan! And ditto on everything you wrote about your soapstone countertops. I've had mine about a year, and I nodded my head in agreement as I read your post. Soapstone countertops are rare in my neck of the woods, and so I only saw displays before purchasing. Of course, I had researched them extensively online. Even so, I was initially taken aback and how easily mine scratch. However, over time, it seems the old scratches and dings disappear, as new ones appear, and they all just serve to remind me that my kitchen is used and loved.

    A quick story: In our first week of having them, my husband was opening a particularly stubborn jar of salsa for me. Without my noticing, he held the jar against the soapstone as he tried to pry it open, not once, but twice--in 2 different spots! So, I had scratches in two places. As an experiment, I sanded just one area smooth. After oiling a few times, and a few weeks later, I couldn't tell where either was... again, the stone seems to change daily.

    My advice to anyone considering soapstone is to seek out a working kitchen in which they are used. This will give you an idea of their patina and whether this is something you can live with. Me? I'll take the patina because I love all of the other properties, including the "feel" of soapstone, the fact that nothing penetrates or stains it, its matte finish, and the subtle yet distinctive veining that my particular pieces have.

    And, thanks, Joan, for the information about Real Paint Co. sealer--I went to the link and ordered a jar. I can't wait to try it!

    Angela

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    1. Thank you for your insight Angela. It is greatly appreciated. It really does have a wonderful feel, yes?! That is great info about the sanding.

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  54. Hello Joan,
    Thank you so much for sharing your wisdom with us! The timing couldn't be better as we are in the final stages of building our new home. We had already chosen soapstone for our perimeter counters, but our builder is concerned about my choice of a beadboard backslash. Did you caulk the seam where the beadboard meets the counter? It seems daunting to maintain a tidy caulk line there, but our builder is worried about water damage to the beadboard. He even suggested running a piece of waterproof pvc moulding along the seam… not sure if I'd like the look or not. I'd be so appreciative of your advice on this. Thanks in advance!
    Meg in VA

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    1. hi Meg, Love a good-timing story! No, we did not caulk the seam where the beadboard meets the counter - for the reason you mentioned, it would have been a mess. And, yes I heard the same concerns. Say no to the pvc moulding;) I felt a trim piece would detract from the effect I was going for of having clean lines. I have not have any issues at all in 5 years now. The only area you really have to watch is behind the sink, and because you are standing right there when doing the dishes it's really not a problem. You just wipe up any water that splatters. If you like the look try it. You can always go back and add a piece of trim if it doesn't work for you. Good luck!

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  55. I absolutely loved your entry! I think you have the best pictures on your blog than anywhere I've seen! I am picking out my soapstone slab this weekend! Its a place actually right by my house called Seattle Soapstone. They're really passionate about soapstone, which is super helpful and motivating! Most distributors around here, hardly knew what it was! Thank you so much for sharing all your photos! I can't wait to get mine in!

    Soapstone lovers, go to:
    www.seattlesoapstone.com

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  56. I follow lots of blogs, but yours is the one that truly gives me 'kitchen envy' lol. We are in the process of redoing our kitchen - we are replacing off-the-shelf unfinished oak cabinets and grey textured formica, ick, with white shaker cabinets and new countertops. The island will be walnut, and the perimeter counters are going to be soapstone. We picked out a slab called 'Anasazi' - lots of white veining, and some deep green color in it.

    I debated on what to use for backsplash, and kept coming back to beadboard - I love your use of it (I think your kitchen put the idea into my head), and it's good to know *not* to use caulk on the countertop edge.

    I love the look of 'well loved' things - those little chips, knicks, and marks are memories (hopefully mostly good ones!) and concrete evidence of a life that's lived ...

    Patty

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    1. Good luck with your kitchen renovation Patty!

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  57. Thanks so much for the information. I regret that I didn't use soapstone in my kitchen. Especially since my Calcatta Oro cracked! The next house will have soapstone and I know just where to go for detailed information about it when the time comes. ~Delores

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    1. oh nooo Delores.... that is just awful that your marble cracked. I have heard that the veining in marble is the weak point.

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  58. Hi Joan! I love your blog so much that I am actually reading it through from the beginning *for the seocnd time.* The inspiration behind this reread is that something exciting and crazy has happened...I just learned that my husband, dogs, and I are about to become New Englanders! We are moving to Rhode Island and (hopefully if all goes through) buying a 200 year old house!. So, now your blog is a source *and* a pleasure. In one of the early discussions about the move to RI, I told my husband (who has read a few of your posts) that I could now go anqituing with Joan and Ella!

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    1. hi Anon, Now that is a first- someone re-reading for a second time!! Congrats on your move to RI! How exciting. Yes, lots of great antiquing in NE... maybe we'll run into one another!

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  59. Thank you for the blog about soapstone. I have had mine for eight years and continue to love the look. My only previous experience was the counters and sinks in my high school and college chemistry labs. These seemed to hold up to teens and chemicals. I have always oiled them, but I ordered the wax--this is definitely a step up. It gives a better look immediately and seems to maintain that look longer.

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    1. So happy to hear that you like the wax. I totally agree that it immediate looks better than the oil and definitely holds up better.

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  60. Hi Joan~ can you please tell me where you got your marble utensil holders? I've been searching locally for weeks and can't find any. I'm going to buy them online, but would like your input. Thanks!

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    1. hi Paula, I found them all at various estate sales in Dallas. I've seen similar new ones at TJMaxx in the past.

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  61. Hi Joan, I am starting up research for our kitchen at Tahilla Farm and knew exactly where to start and I was right on the money. Thank you! I can see most of my answers will come from your blog…so thank you again. Hope spring is in full force around your beautiful home..best wishes. ;)

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  62. joan, great post, as always. I have solid cherry counter tops. folks thought I had LOST MY MIND. We are in a 1940s home and my heart/house told me: no granite, please. I love the warm look of the wood counter tops. I have used mineral oil on my counter tops for years and was interested to read your tips on mineral oil. who knew? perhaps there is a wax I should use for the cherry?? donna

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    1. Donna, this wax is a soapstone sealer and wood wax! I would definitely give it a try, I've been really impressed with it!

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  63. Your kitchen is beautiful, and I love your soapstone counter tops. You said they are easy to maintain. How often do the counter tops need to be waxed. I really love them, and the fact that I do not need to buy special cleaning products to clean on a daily basis. Thanks for your post, Judy

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    1. hi Judith, I talk about the waxing under the header #2 Soapstone Wax in the above post.

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  64. I loved reading about your love for soapstone. I too fell in love sharpen I was at a yard sale and the women invited me in her home to use her kitchen counter to write out a check. I had never seen the stone but fell hard. Years later when I finally got to do my dream kitchen I wanted soapstone, yes, everyone from my designer, husband, co-workers and friends said a big NO to them. I am soooo happy Zi went with my heart. The only person who cheered me on was the stone company. Never heard of the wax thing, I too was told only mineral oil. I was also told steel wool NOT sand paper and a sharpie, yes! Take a black sharpie and fill in those chips/dips, ect. Wait a second then wife spot w/finger it magicked disappears, I love your blog :-)

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  65. First and foremost I would like to thank you on the great information you are sharing with the public regarding soapstone. I do need to disclose that I am in the stone industry. That said, I personally adore the look and feel of soapstone countertops. They have such a rustic feel to them, which can easily coexist with contemporary and traditional kitchen designs. I LOVE LOVE LOVE your kitchen!!!! As I red your post I had a few reservations about what was mentioned regarding the lengths of the slabs. I do know for a fact that slabs can come as wide as 120 inches or more, so it is possible to find wider slabs then 84 inches. Soapstone is gaining popularity and people are falling in love with it! Thanks again.

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  66. We've been meaning to try the wax. Does it take away from the soft soapy feel?

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    1. It doesn't. If anything it feels softer with the wax.

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  67. I absolutely love your kitchen! It is simple and gorgeous with beautiful materials, esp. that soapstone counter. This post is the most helpful information I've found on soapstone. Thanks so much!

    I have a question about the beadboard backsplash. I wanted to do something similar, but I'm concerned about water from the sink area getting behind the counters and ruining (mold, rot) the wall behind. What has your experience been?

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    1. The backsplash has held up perfectly. If water splashes from the faucet it is immediately wiped up, so no problems.

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  68. Thank you for writing this article! We also had many people try to talk us out of soapstone when we told them it was our top choice for counter tops, reading your blog helped solidify our decision.

    We ordered our soapstone two weeks ago from a reputable soapstone shop and I brought up the topic of oiling. The shop owner explained that we should put just enough oil (a dab) on the cloth to "wet" the top. There should never be so much oil that we have to wipe off excess or we'll just be adding more work to the chore. It definitely made me feel better about the process and I thought I'd share what I learned with fellow soapstone-lovers.

    I can't wait to have them installed- thank you, again!

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  69. Thank you for such an informational post! I'm waiting on a soapstone countertop to be installed in our master bath redo. We went shopping for a white-ish granite remnant and I spotted a soapstone piece. Change of plans! It had some dings but after measuring & meeting w/fabricator, he can avoid or sand out most of them. The rest will be character! He recommended walnut oil instead of mineral oil & will apply it at installation, so I'm wondering if he'll be using the paste. I'll definitely find out. Icing on the cake was 60% price reduction - the dings had scared off other customers. Bam! I've marked your post to show hubby and will follow your upkeep recommendations. Thanks much!

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