Slate and soapstone are two metamorphic rocks that can create a unique, luxurious appearance in your kitchen or bathroom at a fraction of the cost of other materials. These two countertop materials have similar advantages and drawbacks, depending on your design preferences. Either choice could be a suitable option for your kitchen or bathroom.
If you’re about to renovate your home, you may be wondering whether you should install slate or soapstone countertops. Think about whether you’d like a traditional or modern space and how much time you’re willing to spend to maintain it. Explore this countertop comparison guide to find out whether slate or soapstone is better for your property.
What Is Slate?
Slate is a fine-grained metamorphized stone that mostly contains quartz but also features other minerals. Through heat and pressure, the slab develops a dark, uniform appearance. The darkness of the shade of gray depends on how much iron and organic material are present. Since it forms on layers or planes, the slabs are thin and fragile. How the layers formed may affect a slate slab’s durability and lifespan.
This material is popular for roofing, flooring, outdoor steps, flagging and countertops because of its attractive appearance and durability. As a countertop material, slate creates a sturdy, eye-catching design for a rustic or classic home. This natural stone has a smooth, luxurious texture with a bold, dark hue. Since it’s rare as a kitchen or bathroom surface, you can make your living space stand out among the rest.
Slate Countertops Pros and Cons
Consider some of the benefits of installing slate countertops in your kitchen or bathroom:
- Easy to maintain: Since slate is nonporous, it’s convenient to keep clean. It’s somewhat anti-microbial, so it won’t hold onto viruses and germs from food. It also doesn’t absorb liquids, so your countertops won’t develop stains from any spills or cleaners.
- Aesthetically appealing: Slate has a naturally dark color that would compliment a black and white kitchen or bathroom. The slab features a subtle shifting in coloration, but the design is more uniform than soapstone. You can find slate in most darker tones, such as brown, black, pewter, charcoal and gray, but there are also slabs with red, green or blue highlights.
- Affordable: Slate countertops cost less money than other natural stone countertops, such as marble or granite. You can find various slabs that accommodate your budget.
On the other hand, here are some of the disadvantages of having slate countertops:
- Sometimes low quality: The quality of slate slabs can vary greatly, depending on where you get them and what minerals are present. If you get a lower-end slate countertop to save money, it probably won’t last as long as a high-quality one.
- Limited availability: Reliable slate countertops can last a long time, but it’s often difficult to find authentic, high-quality slate in your local area. You’ll need to consult a professional about whether the slate you want is suitable for your kitchen or bathroom countertops.
- Prone to etching and staining: Even after getting your slate countertops sealed, they’re highly vulnerable to stains and etches. You’d have to clean up liquid and acidic spills as soon as possible to prevent permanent stains. You should also avoid using commercial cleaners and harsh chemicals on your slate surfaces to guard against etching.
- Sharp edges: Slate slabs tend to have rough, jagged edges. If you choose to invest in slate countertops, you’ll have to get your corners professionally rounded off to prevent cracks and injuries.
- Visible seams: Since slate slabs are smaller than other natural stone materials, you’re more likely to see seams on your countertops.
- Brittle: Compared to other stones, slate is much more vulnerable to chipping and cracking. You’ll have to be careful not to place too much pressure or drop items on your surfaces.
- Dull look: Depending on your design preferences, you might not like how dark slate countertops look. This countertop material doesn’t offer many color choices besides different shades of gray. You cannot polish them to a glossy shine, but they can accept a polish for a bit more vibrancy. If you’d prefer a more familiar yet luxurious design, you might want to look at soapstone countertops.
What Is Soapstone?
Soapstone is a metamorphic rock that contains talc, magnesite, chlorite and dolomite. After this stone forms, miners quarry it and send it to local fabricators for distribution. The talc gives this material a silky, warm texture. Sculptors enjoy using soapstone because of its soft, malleable consistency. Since its high percentage of quartz makes it durable and heat resistant, this stone is also a suitable kitchen and bathroom countertops option. As a nonporous stone, it’s sanitary, easy to clean and resistant to wear and tear.
In its natural state, soapstone has a gray color and a smooth matte feeling. It’s also available in various color options, with veined patterns that create a unique focal point in the room. Oiled soapstone has a slight sheen, but it doesn’t look as glossy as polished granite. You can use soapstone in a traditional home, but it also accommodates a modern design. Even though you don’t have to seal it, you can apply mineral oil to oxidize the surface and create a more even, charcoal-to-black appearance.
Soapstone Countertops Pros and Cons
Consider some of the advantages of having soapstone countertops:
- Fits any design aesthetic: Soapstone has a warmth that adds natural beauty to any kitchen or bathroom. It’s most common in country kitchens, but it can go with any architectural or design style. Whether your preferred aesthetic is classic or contemporary, you can make soapstone work in your living space.
- Varied appearance: Soapstone has veins and larger streaks of quartz or crystals. It also darkens in color based on how often you use it. This patina that develops over time gives you a one-of-a-kind countertop design that enhances your kitchen or bathroom’s aesthetic.
- Smooth texture: Due to the talc in soapstone, these countertops tend to feel soft to the touch.
- Heat, impact and stain resistant: Since soapstone is softer than granite, it tends to be more pliable. As a result, it’s not as brittle, so the surface is less likely to crack when you put weight or stress on it. Since it’s virtually heatproof, you won’t need a trivet or hot plate when you’re cooking. It’s also resistant to staining from acids and spills.
- Easy to clean: Soapstone is relatively convenient to keep clean. Its nonporous, anti-microbial surface won’t hold onto viruses or food-borne germs. You can use mild soap and a dish rag or sponge to clean up messes each day. Most stone fabricators also use soapstone wax to hide everyday blemishes, giving your countertops a cleaner, smoother appearance.
- Easy to repair: Even though it doesn’t usually crack or stain, you can often repair unexpected blemishes by sanding the surface. Unlike other natural stone surfaces, you won’t have to seal soapstone to maintain its appearance.
- Affordable: Typically, soapstone costs about as much as slate does. However, high-quality soapstone tends to be cheaper than high-quality slate.
You may also want to also think about the drawbacks of installing soapstone countertops in your kitchen or bathroom:
- Regular maintenance: To make sure the patina develops evenly, you have to apply mineral oil often. You’ll need to buff it and oil it regularly to maintain its darkened appearance, especially if you’re designing a rustic kitchen or bathroom.
- Visible seams: Since soapstone slabs tend to be small, you’ll find more seams in your soapstone than with other natural stone materials.
- Vulnerable to dents and scratches: It’s possible to dent or scratch soapstone countertops after heavy wear and tear. Since the surface is soft, you’ll have to use a cutting board and be careful when carrying heavy pots and pans.
- Unique patina: Keep in mind that, over the years, your soapstone countertops won’t be the same color as when you originally bought them. Even though some homeowners like their countertops’ aged look, this darkening might not appeal to your design taste.
- Unusual texture: Even though homeowners who install soapstone appreciate its extraordinarily soft texture, you may prefer to have a familiar, harder stone as your countertop surface.
Which Is Better: Slate or Soapstone?
Even though slate and soapstone are both popular options for kitchen or bathroom countertops, soapstone tends to be better because of its durability and long life span. Your choice between these materials depends on your design and maintenance preferences. As you make these types of countertop comparisons, here are some of the factors to consider:
- Desired appearance: Slate and soapstone both have unique colors and patterns. If you’d like to have a black and white kitchen or contrast against your light walls or cabinets, dark, charcoal-gray slate countertops may be the better option. On the other hand, if you prefer a varied, veined look and enjoy watching a one-of-a-kind patina develop, you may want to invest in soapstone countertops.
- Maintenance: Slate countertops require more care, depending on their quality. Finding a slab in your local area that can withstand wear and tear without much upkeep might also be challenging. As a result, soapstone may be the right choice for your kitchen and bathroom countertops. Slate might be better in other applications.
- Choice of custom options: Slate countertops usually only come in various shades of gray. Since soapstone countertops have more color options available, you might want to install soapstone if you’d like to design your kitchen or bathroom with bolder colors.
Cleaning and Maintenance
Whether you decide that soapstone or slate is the right choice for your kitchen or bathroom, you’ll need to take care of your countertops to prolong their lifespan. Follow these cleaning and maintenance tips for each material.
How to Take Care of Slate Countertops
As you search for high-quality slate slabs, try to find low-maintenance countertops. Visit a trusted countertop distributor who can explain how to find a high-quality countertop. Even though the rounded edge look isn’t popular, you may want to have your slate countertops professionally rounded to prevent chips and cracks over the years. For most slate countertops, you can follow these tips for cleaning and taking care of them:
- Clean with a mild stone cleaner: Once a day, especially after cooking and entertaining, use hot water and a sponge to wipe up crumbs and spills. Clean slate countertops with a damp cloth and mild stone cleaner to prevent water spots. Only use a specialized stone cleaner because soap could form a film over the surface.
- Some cleaners can damage the surface: Avoid using abrasive or acidic cleaners and oily sprays. Products with lemon or vinegar may etch your countertop if you use them often. Heated wax cleaners can also melt and stain the stone.
- Keep up with stubborn debris: Wipe and sweep your countertops at least once a week with a microfiber cloth to remove dust and surface grit. Leave the rag on for a few minutes to loosen tough spots with dirt. Stubborn stains need deeper scrubbing.
- Wipe up spills immediately: After cleaning and cooking, wipe up any liquids on the surface to prevent mineral deposits and water spots.
- Seal and polish slate countertops: Seal slate countertops with a specialized sealant if they start to absorb water. Use mineral oil or corn oil to give your slate countertops a subtle, clean shine.
- Use trivets and cutting boards: Even though slate countertops are resistant to heat damage, they can chip and crack when exposed to sharp objects and heavy pressure. Always use trivets and cutting boards on your countertops.
- Repair scratches: If you notice scratches on your slate countertops, you can buff them out with a cloth or steel wool.
How to Take Care of Soapstone Countertops
Soapstone countertops are relatively easy to maintain with the following tips:
- Improve natural patina with mineral oil: Apply mineral oil to your soapstone surfaces every one or two weeks to enhance the counter’s patina development and make it more uniform. The patina will develop fully in a little under a year.
- Apply mineral oil to polish the surface: After the patina has developed, continue to use mineral oil on your countertops about once or twice a year, especially if they start to look dry. The mineral oil will restore its luster and shine.
- Clean the surface daily: You can clean your soapstone countertops with an all-purpose kitchen cleaner or a mild detergent and a rag.
- Use a cutting board: When cutting food, use a cutting board to protect your stone surfaces from the sharp blade that could permanently scratch them.
- Cover up imperfections: If you notice chips and marks on your soapstone countertops, you can cover them up with a permanent marker in the same color and rub mineral oil over it.
- Wipe up spills immediately: Before the patina develops fully, oil and grease can change your new soapstone color. If an oil stain forms on the surface, you can rub acetone on it to lighten it.
- Remove the patina if it’s uneven: If your soapstone countertops develop an uneven patina, you can remove it with a fine-grit sandpaper. After sanding the whole surface, apply mineral oil to improve the natural patina to help the new color to darken uniformly.
Contact Us to Learn More About Our Countertop Options
Whether you decide that soapstone or slate is more suitable for you, find out more information from our experts at Atlantic Custom Granite. After years of experience manufacturing and installing high-quality countertops, we know which products are best for your kitchen or bathroom. We offer plenty of natural stone countertops to accommodate your unique living space.
If you want a low-maintenance product that still has an elegant aesthetic quality, our countertops come with a lifetime seal to withstand liquid stains and other wear and tear. Reach out to us online or call 717-244-9401 to learn all about our natural stone products. You can also visit our showroom in Dallastown, Pennsylvania, to see what countertop materials we provide.