Granite, soapstone, or marble?
August 18, 2017 2:10 PM   Subscribe

Persuade me to choose one or the other of these stones. I'm interested in durability, staining, etching, etc. I'd love to hear your experiences with these (in any form - countertops, etc.). What is your regular maintenance for the stone? Which would you buy again? Which would you not recommend to your worst enemy?

Context: I'm finalizing my decision on a hearth reno in my new old house (didn't actually want to do a hearth reno, but it must be done immediately for Reasons, so the moment of truth is upon us). I've gone back and forth between honed marble and soapstone. I've never liked granite much because it looked too cold and shiny and modern (my house is 19th century); however I recently saw some pictures of honed/leathered granite that had the softness and patina that I like in the other two stones. So now I'm back to square one. Thoughts?

My understanding is: Soapstone's downside is that it's soft and can get marks/dents, but that it won't etch or stain. Marble etches, stains, and is also soft and dents. I'm not sure about granite: I know it's very hard, but apparently it's also porous, especially when it's not polished? What kind of maintenance have you done on each stone to keep it looking nice? This house currently has renters, so I'd like something durable. Ideally I'd like no etching or stains if someone happens to spill something on the stone, but I'm okay with a few dings (it's an old house so a bit of wear would fit in well, actually). If anyone has had any of these stones in their house (whether for countertops, hearth, etc.), I would be very interested in hearing your experiences and recommendations.
posted by ClaireBear to Home & Garden (13 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
If you were talking countertops, I would rule out honed Marble out if you have renters. Person forgets a cut lemon on the marble or isn't meticulous about cleaning up quickly spilled coffee or other liquids and you've now got a nice etching that will take time and effort to restore and clean.

In that context, I would never ever get marble countertops - but you're talking about a hearth renovation here, which is a little different and potentially less prone to those sorts of incidents.
posted by Karaage at 2:25 PM on August 18, 2017 [1 favorite]

I just got soapstone countertops in my kitchen a year ago, and I wouldn't do it again. I thought I wasn't fussy about marks, so I wouldn't mind the softness, but it dents really, really, really easily. I dropped a drinking glass from about a foot up, and got a dent a couple of millimeters deep.
posted by LizardBreath at 3:21 PM on August 18, 2017

Granite will be much tougher than the other two, but if you don't like the high gloss (I don't), consider a synthetic product like Paperstone.
posted by jon1270 at 3:59 PM on August 18, 2017 [1 favorite]

I put soapstone counters in my kitchen a few years ago, and am happy with it. It does not stain, though oily things will mark it until I have a chance to go over them with degreaser. For a hearth surround, I think you'd be fine with any of those options---it's further away from you than a kitchen counter, so you're less likely to notice small nicks or etching. Marble would be the fussiest choice, but we have a marble surround around our hearth (didn't choose it, it came with the house) and I've never had any issues with it looking anything other than fine, though I can imagine it might crack if you dropped something heavy on it.

So, I'd say pick granite or soapstone, whichever you like the look of better. There can be quite a lot of difference in hardness between different types of soapstone, so you can look around for something on the harder side if you want.
posted by msbubbaclees at 4:09 PM on August 18, 2017

Just pick whatever you like the look of best. A hearth isn't going to get abused like a counter, and if you think of the inevitable stains and dings as "character" then you'll be fine. Seriously, they all sound perfectly functional so just pick whatever you think is prettiest.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 5:10 PM on August 18, 2017 [2 favorites]

We put in soapstone counters about 3-4 years ago now. We had ruled out marble because of the staining. I didn't like the idea of having to seal granite with chemicals, and I did like the idea that soapstone wouldn't burn or have a mark if I put a hot pot on it. Plus, there are different types of soapstone -- some are stronger and less prone to dents than others.

We love them so much that when we re-did the hearth last year, we used soapstone tile, and we love that too, although I do wonder sometimes if we shouldn't have gone with a larger single piece for the hearth has well.

Fee free to me-mail me if you would like photos of either/both.
posted by instead of three wishes at 8:17 PM on August 18, 2017

Really happy with our 3 year old soapstone counters. They're pretty dark stone with some green. We've probably oiled them 5 times? Maybe? No chips or dents yet.
posted by deludingmyself at 10:55 PM on August 18, 2017

Hearth meaning what's around a fireplace? I'd go with granite. For counters engineered quartz.
posted by brujita at 11:32 PM on August 18, 2017 [1 favorite]

I've had granite in two houses now, but in both cases polished, so maybe not directly applicable. It was sealed when installed & then I ignored it, in the 1st instance for about 10 years. Never had a problem with stains, even where I used to leave the olive oil jar!

In both cases, the granite was fairly low-end, pricewise, with fairly muted patterns & fairly dark. It is my impression that the fanciest granite is also the most likely to have cracks which will let water & stains in, so cheap is your friend here. The darker granites will also look better in an older house.

I've also had marble, in a bathroom, and would not recommend it for a kitchen. Not only is it soft, it reacts with acid, and in my case with some cleaning agent our cleaners used, which resulted in a milky haze which could only be gotten rid of by re-polishing the marble.
posted by mr vino at 4:54 AM on August 19, 2017 [1 favorite]

Huh. This is slightly off-topic, but I am starting to believe I was sold really soft soapstone even by soapstone standards. It literally is soft enough that the cats scratch it when they jump up on the counters. Which means my experience is plausibly not normal and should be discounted.
posted by LizardBreath at 10:48 AM on August 19, 2017

Although people recommending soapstone should probably say something about how they avoided being sold the super-soft stuff. I clearly don't know.
posted by LizardBreath at 10:49 AM on August 19, 2017

There are granite countertops in my apartment, and I haaaaaaaaate them. Just about their only virtue is mechanical hardness / dent resistance. Water gets into them, you're supposed to chemically seal them as often as every year, the mottled colors make it hard to see dirt.... WHY anyone would pick a material like this for a utility and food preparation surface, I've not the faintest idea. It offends my functional aesthetic on a deep personal level, and really makes me miss my parents' ceramic tile countertop. Sorry, I have Feelings.

You say you're redoing a hearth. Is that like... a fireplace? the inside part of a chimney? Can you post a pic of the area as it is now, and/or describe what demands the material will face?
posted by Alioth at 2:59 PM on August 19, 2017

Different kinds of granite have different degrees of porosity and vulnerability to staining, but I have no idea how to get an honest assessment from the vendors.

Granite doesn't have to be polished. You can also get flame finished, which is flat and fairly smooth to the touch, but not shiny or slippery.

I would get granite if I could afford it. Blue Pearl for choice. I kind of have a thing for Blue Pearl. Fetish might be too strong a word. Or it might not be.
posted by Bruce H. at 5:47 PM on August 25, 2017

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