A stone as old as the hills makes the ideal countertop for modern kitchens. Soapstone, a combination of talc, quartz and other minerals, is durable, distinctive and practical.
It's heat resistant, even to dishes right out of the oven. While heat won't damage soapstone, the material is excellent at absorbing and retaining heat. Colonists recognized this property and often used pieces of heated soapstone to warm their beds.
The non-porous material does not have to be sealed, and will not react to acids or alkalis. Scratches can easily be sanded out. And the stone can be routed and edged.
Once plentiful in the mountains from Maine to Georgia, soapstone is now commonly imported from Brazil and Finland. But Vermont Soapstone, the original soapstone fabricator in this country, continues to quarry in its namesake state.
Soapstone gets its name from from its talc content, a property that gives it a soapy feel. Others say the stone feels soft and silky. Softer stone, with higher talc content, is used for artistic carving. The stone used for countertops contains less talc and is harder.
Old soapstone sink surrounds often had grooves routed to serve as a drainboard. Vermont Soapstone will do the same with its new countertops, and has three designs for drainboards. Or the company will try a custom design at a customer's request.
Soapstone is a grayish blue with veins of lighter quartz. Regular applications of mineral oil will keep the stone an even charcoal gray.
Countertops and backsplashes are 1-1/4" thick. The quarry also offers 2-1/2" thick stones for fireplaces. Do-it-yourselfers might be interested in the company's 12" x 12" x 1/2" tiles and edgings. Pieces of Vermont Soapstone are usually 30" by 72". A fabricated piece that size in a 1-1/4" thickness costs $77 a square foot.
If you're not near the quarry in Vermont, you'll have to have the stone shipped by common carrier. The company will quote you a price for shipping.