Frequently Asked Questions
Vermont Soapstone has been mining, manufacturing and importing soapstone in Perkinsville, Vermont for over 150 years. Soapstone is our business and our only business. We are the country’s oldest, most experienced and leading supplier in the soapstone business.
Soapstone is the common name for the mineral steatite. Steatite is at least 50% talc combined with other minerals, mostly magnesite, that have been geologically metamorphosed into stone through a combination of heat, pressure and time. It is called soapstone because the talc gives the stone a soapy feel.
For sinks and countertops we prefer to use 1-1/4″. For backsplashes 1-1/4″ is recommended. We also offer 2-1/2″ thickness which is often used in a fireplace application and 12″ x 12″ x 1/2″ tiles for floors.
Yes, soapstone is found in basically two varieties depending on the talc content.
Artistic soapstone has high talc content, is very soft, and is used for carving and welders pencils. The fat little Inuit whales and polar bears common in gift shops are carved from soapstone.
Architectural soapstone is between 60 and 75% talc and is used for sinks, countertops, floors and other architectural elements. This is the soapstone used by Vermont Soapstone.
Recently a number of sources have been marketing a “harder” soapstone which is not soapstone at all, but serpentine, which has in the past been discarded or sold as low quality marble. It does not have the same characteristics as soapstone and we do not work with or recommend it.
The stone we use has a blue tint, sometimes appears green, but is basically gray with flecks and veins of lighter quartz interspersed. Soapstone turns to a darker charcoal color with use or when treated with mineral oil.
Over the years we at Vermont Soapstone have fabricated tabletops, benches, shower stalls, bathtubs, fireplace surrounds, fireplace fireboxes, windowsills, lintels, planters, and floors. If you have a vision for soapstone use, we can find a way to make it a reality.
Soapstone has three characteristics that make it an excellent choice for use as kitchen sinks and countertops.
- Soapstone is heat resistant. You can place a hot pan or dish on a counter without any damager to the counter.
- Soapstone is non-porous so that no products found in the kitchen will penetrate the stone. Other stone surfaces such as granite, marble or limestone have to be repeatedly sealed to prevent liquids from staining them.
- Soapstone is chemically neutral so acids like lemon or tomato juice do not affect it nor do alkalis found in some household cleaners.
No other solid surface countertop material has all three of these characteristics.
Soapstone is non porous so nothing penetrates the surface. When any liquid is spilled or applied to the surface the stone darkens because the light is refracted off the stone. The stone will lighten when the substance is removed from the surface either by evaporation or cleaning. In order to avoid an inconsistent color or tone, we recommend applying mineral oil to the surface of the stone.
We recommend weekly for the first two or three months and then monthly, or less, depending on use. The thin layer of oil, too light to feel, will keep the stone a consistent shade of dark gray. The oil does evaporate so the stone will lighten with time.
Soapstone is found throughout the world in relatively small deposits ranging from small rocks to seams, boulders and other deposits. Soapstone is found in the Appalachian range from Maine to Georgia with significant deposits in Vermont and Virginia. Finland and Brazil are the largest international producers of soapstone.
The stone varies in appearance, hardness and purity from deposit to deposit. We only use stone suitable for the intended end use.
Soapstone will wear, softening the edges and accumulate some nicks, scratches and dents over time. The scratches can be removed with light sanding if desired. Sinks that were built 100 years ago (those found in many New England cellars) are still as attractive as sinks built today.
Because of it’s relative rarity and because it is unlike most other architectural minerals, soapstone has not been quarried or marketed by large companies and has not been sold through traditional stone distribution channels. Soapstone is readily available from Vermont Soapstone.
- Soapstone is available in only one color. It will age to a dark, almost black charcoal.
- Soapstone is usually quarried in 30″ by 84″ pieces so if a counter top is longer than 84″ more than one piece must be used.
- Soapstone requires some maintenance such as periodic oiling to maintain a consistent appearance.
Every good thing has to start somewhere. Years ago we were the only soapstone fabricators in the country. Thanks to our hard work, craftsmanship, product insight and advertising we have made it possible for others to enter and make a living working with soapstone. But that doesn’t mean they’re working with the Vermont Soapstone Co. While many have taken our designs and modified them, they still cannot offer our guarantees and personal service. While it’s true that due to the quality of our product cost can be a bit higher than our understudies, we can truly say that we will “stand by our product, forever.”