Thursday, August 30, 2012

An Interview with a Soapstone Countertop Homeowner

This article was originally  posted exactly two years ago today.  It's been one of our most popular posts ever since.

Soapstone is a very misunderstood countertop material, so I thought it would be fun to do an interview with someone who has Soapstone countertops in their own home. 
I have been reading Rachele's lovely blog, The Conscious Kitchen, for awhile now.  Rachele lives in Portland, Oregon and has had her Soapstone countertops for just over a year now.  We did not do the fabrication and installation of these countertops, we had nothing to do with her kitchen.  I'm just a reader of her blog. 
So without further ado, here is my interview with Rachele from The Conscious Kitchen...
Steph:  Who was your fabricator and where did your beautiful Soapstone come from?
Rachele:  Shadley's Soapstone, headquartered in Sun River, OR. 
My stone source was Dorado Soapstone. My slabs were officially procured through the Denver warehouse, however, my lot of slabs was intercepted at port in Northern California and then brought straight to Oregon.
I highly recommend both Shadley and Dorado! Both were very experienced and knowledgeable, not to mention patient and helpful.
Steph:  I LOVE your island. The veining in the Soapstone is amazing. Did you pick out your exact slabs? Did you lay out your slabs with your fabricator?
Rachele:  Yes, it's actually a pretty good story! I was going through some photos sent by Dorado which showed me everything that was in stock at the moment. None of the slabs "spoke" to me so I called up Dorado to see when their next shipments were arriving. I happened to get the president on the phone, and he personally emailed me pictures he had taken of some slabs that were still on the ship. I opened the attachments and immediately fired off an email to both Dorado and Shadley's telling them that I had to have that stone!
After the fabricator templated my island, we went together to lay the template on the slab (which was sitting in my driveway) and found the exact right spot. We were limited somewhat by the slab itself, of course, but I was really happy with the result.
I also felt like the veining could be a different mineral/inclusion and I wanted to be SURE it wouldn't stain. It was July and very hot outside. With Shadley's permission, I took a bottle of balsamic vinegar and poured about a cup right on the veining. I came back an hour later to wipe it off and of course, no stain! I then gave Shadley the go-ahead to cut the slab as we had identified with the template.
Steph:  The prep sink in the island, was it custom made by your fabricator? How do you feel about the size of it? Too big? Too small? Just right?
Rachele:  The prep sink is not stone -- it's a Blanco Silgranit sink, installed undermount with a very slight negative reveal. The size is perhaps a couple inches too small in width. I can easily use it for all of my functions (for example, it's just right for rinsing off a chicken or spinning my salad greens), but I would like it to feel a bit bigger. A very minor nit. I would not want to actually upgrade to the larger Silgranit.
Steph:  Your main sink, do you like the single basin? Why did you decide on this design vs. a double basin sink?
Rachele:  I LOVE the single basin. I do not use a dish rack and I don't need another basin for washing produce (that is done in the island), so I have no obvious need to split up my main sink. I can put my widest pots, or even sheet pans, in the sink to soak. With the off-center drain, I can have lots of dirty dishes accumulate in my sink yet still have free and clear access to the drain and disposer. (I would like to load my dishes promptly in the dishwasher, and not have dirty dishes in the sink, but that's just not my reality!)
Steph:  I noticed a hot water dispenser, do you use it? Was it worth the money?
Rachele:  We use it all the time. It is SO worth the money! My husband likes it for his tea. I warm up my baby's milk bottles in bowls of hot water. I get a bit of hot water on a cloth for cleaning up sticky spots in a flash. We use the hot water to make oatmeal quickly in the morning. Those are the main uses in our house.
Steph:  Also, is that a soap dispenser? We install a lot of soap dispensers and then people tell us they don't use them. Do you use it?
Rachele:  Yes, that is a soap dispenser. We use it, however, I'm not happy with it. I had soap dispensers in previous houses (I think they were Grohe dispensers) that worked great. I have three soap dispensers in my kitchen now -- two Blanco and one Kohler -- and I only like one of the three (one of the Blancos). The other two seem to stick a lot. In fact, the two Blancos are identical except for color, and one sticks but the other works great. Soap dispensers can be expensive and I can't bring myself to spend the money to try out some other ones (it's always harder to bring yourself to spend yet more money at the end of a remodel!).
Steph:  How often do you oil your soapstone?
Rachele:  At first every two weeks, and now every two months. I would like to do it every month, but life is busy. I keep an oil rag in a sealed ziploc baggie next to my oil can. My understanding is that when my stone is several years old, and has oxidized more, then I won't "need" to oil it at all. I quote "need" because soapstone does not need to be oiled -- it's just a cosmetic preference.
Steph:  I saw the picture of the chip on your blog. Do you know what caused the 3-4 chips that you have?
Rachele:  I do not know, but I suspect that I was emptying a stock pot into the prep sink in a rather clumsy fashion, and hitting the sink rim with the edge of a stockpot. I have never noticed a chip as it has happened.
Steph:  On a scale of 1-10 how bad does the scratching and water rings bug you?
Rachele:  If 1 is not at all, and 10 is the worst, I would rate it as a 3. Neither of them occur very frequently. We've had about 3 scratches in the year we've had the stone, and all were easily oiled out. We have water spots weekly, but I have noticed as the stone ages, they are gradually less pronounced. (Or, maybe I am just getting used to them.)
Steph:  What is your favorite part of the soapstone?
Rachele:  Despite the drama of the veining, that I do love, I feel overall that it's a very humble, unassuming, low maintenance, healthy, functional stone. I just love that. I guess I can't pick one single attribute. :)

Steph:  What is your least favorite part of the soapstone?

Rachele:  I'm not too keen on the fact that I had to have it shipped via boat from Brazil. I focused on local sources for my kitchen where I could, but I just really wanted soapstone. There are domestic soapstone options also, but those were 20%-3% more and thus, out of my budget.
Steph:  What do you use to clean your countertops?

Rachele:  Most of the time, I just use my instant hot water with a microfiber rag. Sometimes I hit with a homemade cleaner of simply diluted vinegar, because that is what Shadley recommended to me. If I get raw meat on the counter, or anything else that gives heebie jeebies, then I will use a stronger cleaner, but that is pretty rare.
Steph:  I love the vertical soapstone piece at the cooktop. What caused this design decision?

Rachele:  We HAD to have two cooktops -- a gas griddle and an induction top. With the size of our kitchen, and wanting to buy just one venthood, they had to be installed side by side. The griddle is a very commercial industrial aesthetic. The cooktop is sleek, Euro, minimal. Quite a design challenge! It was impossible to make the griddle sleeker, so instead I chose to add some heft to the induction top with the "apron front" of soapstone. I had wanted to fabricate a steel countertop with the exact same edge profile as the griddle, but that was surprisingly very expensive. So I got the idea for the soapstone apron while driving around one day, and I called up Shadley immediately to propose the idea. They were game to try it. It required a lot of communication and coordination between my cabinetry installers and Shadley.
Steph:  Any regrets as far as the countertops go?

Rachele:  None!
Steph:  Do you like the square edge detail on your countertops? Would you change it if you were to do it again?

Rachele:  Yes, I do like it. You don't really have many other options with soapstone -- unlike some other stones, the bullnose or other rounded edges actually chip more in soapstone. But, as you can tell from my kitchen, I have a very square aesthetic, so the square edge is my first choice.
Steph:  Would you recommend soapstone to your friends and family?
Rachele:  No, because I don't think it's a universal stone. I do have some friends and clients who I am sure, would love it. I will get it again in a heartbeat. But, it's certainly not for everyone.
Thank you so much Rachele for being a willing participant in this interview!
Also check out Rachele's post A Year in Review where she talks about all the aspects of her new kitchen, not just the Soapstone.

*All photos from The Conscious Kitchen..


Anonymous said...

Wow, this kitchen is beautiful.
It was so interesting to read about someone's own experience with this material.
Thanks for the great information (as always!).

Steph@TheGraniteGurus said...

Thanks Jen!
I'm glad you enjoyed the post.

Rachele said...

Thanks for the interview, Stephanie! Nice job of coordinating pictures with the text!

Steph@TheGraniteGurus said...

Thanks YOU Rachele!

Amy said...

Great interview. Her kitchen is GORGEOUS! I'm totally jealous. :)

Amy said...

Great interview. Her kitchen is GORGEOUS! I'm totally jealous. :)

Stone Forensics said...

nice job and great info

Dr. Fred Hueston

Brooke W. said...

Lovely kitchen.
Wonderful info.

Paul Anater said...

Fantastic post and even more fantastic interview subject. I'm saving this one to show clients who are on the fence about my soapstone suggestions.

Steph@TheGraniteGurus said...

Dr Fred-
I listen to your radio shows and I'm a little star struck that you visited MY little blog! :) Thanks for commenting.

Hopefully it will help your clients see that soapstone isn't so scary after all!

Rutland said...

Wonderful, informative interview. Great job guys! I enjoyed hearing real life story about soapstone and felt I learned more about soapstone. Enjoy any good articles about natural stone products, keep them coming.

Janice said...

Loved this interview. I have always wondered about soapstone and now I feel more comfortable using it in my home.
I love your blog by the way. I read everyday, but I'm awful about commenting. :)

The Zadge said...

I recently finished my kitchen renovation of an 1896 Victorian and also chose soapstone countertops. I absolultely love them! And I don't oil mine!

Anonymous said...

Superb blog post, I have book marked this internet site so ideally I’ll see much more on this subject in the foreseeable future!

joe falco said...

I might ease the edge a 1/4" or so if more chips happen. Like a bevel or chamfor to the square edge. Helps prevent chips.

Unknown said...

Thanks for showing us her beautiful kitchen and soapstone counter tops!
I found your blog while looking for white marble alternatives and am really enjoying following your posts!

Maddie said...

Hi! Thank you for such a great interview on soapstone. Can I ask...what is that gorgeous backsplash? Where can I get that!?

Steph@TheGraniteGurus said...

Hi Maddie-
The backsplash is slate. I don't know where this particular splash came from, but I know Dal Tile has a similar one.
Good luck!

Unknown said...

I love the style and color of your cabinets. What wook and color are they if you don't mind. Your kitchen is beautiful and seems very functional.

Unknown said...

I love the style and color of your cabinets. What wook and color are they if you don't mind. Your kitchen is beautiful and seems very functional.

Unknown said...

Fabulous kitchen and beautiful cabinets. What wood and color are they if you don't mind sharing the info. I am redoing my kitchen and looked at this interview for the counter tops but the cabinets are beautiful.
Thank you,

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