Soapstone is a type of metamorphic rock sourced from quarries in various areas around the world. It is mainly composed of talc, a soft clay mineral that is mostly magnesium silicate. This gives the stone a silky, soft feel similar to a bar of soap. Lower talc content soapstone is referred to as architectural grade. It is handsome, durable, antibacterial, and fire resistant, making it well suited for use as a building material and for interior design applications.
Uses for Soapstone in Architecture
Soapstone is a strong and attractive countertop and backsplash material often used in residential and commercial kitchens and bathrooms. It comes in a variety of grey and greenish tones, ranging from very light to charcoal.
This stone is a very popular material for fireplace surrounds, mantles, and hearths. In some areas of Northern Europe, soapstone fireplace systems are designed and constructed to heat an entire home. Soapstone naturally absorbs and radiates heat. Such fireplaces are capable of keeping a room at a comfortable temperature all day and night.
Softer soapstone can be carved, adding a personal sculptural element to your fireplace surround.
Building Surfacing Material
Soapstone has been historically used to clad building exteriors for protection from the elements. It can also be used as a walkway paving material on exteriors or as a flooring and wall cladding material for showers and other areas exposed to moisture.
Caring for Soapstone
Soapstone is relatively maintenance free. This material can be left untreated or be sealed. Left untreated, soapstone will age naturally. It will take on a more rustic patina that many find visually appealing. Or, it can be sealed with mineral oil or wax, which brings out the natural veining and darkens it slightly. The oil or wax helps to maintain a uniform appearance.
It is recommended that you only clean soapstone counters with soap and water rather than using chemical cleaning agents.
Pros and Cons of Soapstone
This material is exceptionally beautiful and versatile. It has a naturally soft feel that is comfortable. As mentioned before, it is antibacterial, fire resistant, and radiates heat. It is also non-porous and easy to clean.
The colors and veining of soapstone are limited compared to marble or granite. Also, it is a bit softer than granite. Care should be taken not to chip the surface by dropping heavy objects on it.
Cost of Soapstone
The cost of soapstone is just slightly higher per square foot than granite or quartz. When you are budgeting for your project, expect to pay approximately $20 more per square foot when using soapstone.
If you really want to add a unique design element to your home or place of business, soapstone is a great option. It is stylish and makes a subtle, yet elegant statement.