Natural stones are one of the most popular countertop materials. Easy to maintain and incredibly durable, natural stones such as soapstone and marble are built to withstand the wear and tear that comes with daily living. Whether it is spilt wine, a hot cup of coffee, or even a sharp knife, little can damage natural stone.
While soapstone and marble share many of the same features, there are a number of attributes that set these two stones apart. The following are just a few of the differences between soapstone and marble.
Soapstone: The talc in soapstone gives it the unique milky, muted colors that add a vintage or rustic look to a room. The most common colors of soapstone range between white and gray; some slabs will darken or develop slight greenish tones over time.
Marble: Marble has a “harder” look than soapstone, but is still more delicate than natural stones such as granite. While white is the most common color, marble can be found in a wide range of colors including greens, blues, reds, blacks, and even pinks. Like soapstone, marble improves with age and often develops a delicate patina.
Soapstone: Soapstone is slightly more expensive than marble. Home owners can expect to pay between $70 and $120 per square foot for countertops depending on the color of the stone and size of the slab.
Marble: Common colors of marble are slightly less expensive than soapstone, ranging from $60 to $85 per square foot. However, more exotic varieties or unique colors can cost significantly more.
The durability of stone is best measured using the Mohs scale. On the Mohs scale, diamond, the hardest material in the world, is a 10; soapstone typically ranges from 1 to 5 on the scale, while marble ranges from 3 to 5. Both soapstone and marble are able to withstand heat from hot pots and pans, but hotpads should be used to prevent discoloration to the stone.
Soapstone: The talc content of soapstone is responsible for its unique coloring, but can also make it a slightly softer natural stone. Architectural soapstone, which is used as countertops, is much more durable than artistic soapstone and has just 30% talc. It is not recommended to cut directly on soapstone surfaces.
Marble: Marble is softer than granite but harder than soapstone. This durability can help it to last for years in kitchens and bathrooms as a countertop material. It is possible to cut on marble; in fact, many homes have marble cutting boards that are both beautiful and functional.
Soapstone: While other natural stones are porous, soapstone is not. This means it will not stain; soapstone also does not need to be sealed. However, mineral oil should be applied to the surface at least once per month to help strengthen the surface. Mineral oil will also help darken the stone and make any natural veins in the stone more prominent.
Marble: Marble does not need to be oiled, but it should be sealed every few years to prevent staining. Marble countertops can be cleaned daily with soap and water or a special marble cleaner. However, no products with acid should be used; the calcium carbonate in the marble reacts quickly to acid and can etch the stone.