Are you shopping for new countertops but can’t decide between soapstone and quartz?
Is one material better than the other? What are the key differences?
In this comparison of soapstone vs. quartz countertops, you’ll learn how they differ in longevity, maintenance, design, cost, and much more.
Plus, I reveal what home design experts say about both materials.
Use the links below to navigate the comparison:
- Soapstone vs. Quartz Countertops: Comparison Chart
- Difference 1: Natural vs. Manmade
- Difference 2: Hardness and Scratch Resistance
- Difference 3: Heat Resistance
- Difference 4: Maintenance
- Difference 5: Color Range
- Difference 6: Texture
- Difference 7: Uniqueness
- Difference 8: Patina
- Difference 9: Ease of Installation
- Difference 10: Ease of Repair
- Difference 11: Lifespan
- Difference 12: Price
- Difference 13: Popularity
- What Experts Say About Soapstone and Quartz
- Bottom Line: Should You Choose Soapstone or Quartz Countertops?
Soapstone vs. Quartz Countertops: Comparison Chart
Before I get into the details, here’s a quick side-by-side comparison of soapstone vs. quartz countertops.
|Natural vs. Manmade||Natural||Manmade|
|Hardness||1- 4 on Mohs Scale||7 on Mohs Scale|
|Scratch Resistance||More prone to scratches||Less prone to scratches|
|Heat Resistance||Heat resistant||Damaged by heat|
|Color Range||Shades of gray||Numerous colors and designs|
|Texture||Smooth and soft||Polished or honed|
|Uniqueness||No two pieces are the same||Limited to manufacturer|
|Patina||Deep patina||Mild patina|
|Maintenance||Requires oiling||No oiling needed|
|Ease of Installation||No special tools required||Special tools required|
|Ease of Repair||Easily repair minor chips and scratches||Difficult to repair chips and scratches|
|Lifetime||20-100 years||10-100 years|
|Price||$$$$ (get free quote)||$$$ (get free quote)|
Soapstone is a natural rock formed from high levels of heat and pressure. Its essential element is talc, but it often contains a mix of minerals unique to the regions where it forms, such as chlorite, magnesite, and dolomite. Soapstone is commonly found in Brazil and India.
Quartz, by contrast, is created by combining natural and manmade materials. While quartz is naturally-occurring, raw quartz looks like shards of clear crystal or opaque masses of stone.
To create slabs for countertops, manufacturers grind quartz into a powder. Resins are mixed in to make the material hard and durable, and pigments are added to give the countertop color. Although the end result often looks like natural stone, it’s not.
Created by Frederich Mohs in 1822, the Mohs Scale measures the hardness of minerals. The hardness number, which ranges from 1 to 9, will determine its resistance to scratches or gouges. The lower the number, the softer the mineral.
Soapstone’s hardness ranges between 1 and 4 on the Mohs Scale, but the exact number depends on its percentage of talc. Quartz’s hardness scores a 7, and that number doesn’t fluctuate.
Minerals on the lower end of the scale, like soapstone, can scratch easily with a fingernail or penny. Minerals on the higher end, like quartz, require a lot more impact to cause damage — you’d need a steel nail to scratch the surface.
Another major difference between soapstone and quartz countertops is their ability to resist heat damage.
Soapstone is one of the most heat-resistant materials. You can take a hot pan from the stove or oven and place it directly on soapstone without causing any damage — there is no risk of heat rings, discoloration, or cracking.
Quartz is heat resistant, but the resins used to make quartz countertops are not. Placing hot cookware directly on quartz countertops can melt the resins and cause permanent damage.
Some experts say quartz counters can withstand up to 300°F, but others say the maximum temperature is 150°F. To be safe, always put a trivet under hot pans when you place them on quartz counters.
According to reports from homeowners, even hot pots taken directly out of the dishwasher can damage their quartz.
The point is, you need to be really careful to avoid heat damage with quartz.
While both materials are relatively low maintenance, quartz requires less care than soapstone. With quartz, you won’t need to reseal or oil it. However, soapstone needs periodic oiling.
Soapstone will darken naturally over time, especially around high-use areas. You can choose to oil it to limit color change and to produce a more uniform patina or embrace its natural lifecycle and color variations.
The good news is that oiling soapstone isn’t labor-intensive. It quickly hides minor imperfections and is not difficult to perform. You just need mineral oil or an oil-based product made for protecting soapstone.
Apply the oil to a dry, lint-free cloth and use a circular motion to rub it in. After letting it sit for about 10 minutes, use a clean, lint-free cloth to wipe off the excess oil.
You’ll need to oil your soapstone countertop regularly in the first few months of installation (twice a month). But once it darkens to a matte finish, you’ll only need to oil it once or twice a year.
Quartz offers a more diverse color palette than soapstone. You can find quartz slabs in black, gray, white, brown, and beige. It can even imitate natural stones like marble and granite.
Countertop manufacturers can manipulate the pigments added to the quartz, creating virtually limitless design options. In fact, you can get quartz countertops that look like soapstone.
Most soapstone has gray tones, but some pieces have green or blue undertones. Since soapstone is a natural stone, the color options are limited.
Soapstone countertops have a smooth texture. When oiled regularly, the soapstone ages evenly and presents a leather-like look and feel.
However, honed, rough, or concrete-finished quartz can feel rough to the touch. Yet, you can opt for polished quartz, which offers a smooth finish.
The texture impacts both the appearance and function of the countertops. For example, a roughly textured counter is more forgiving for hiding imperfections but not the best surface for rolling dough or drawing on paper.
A smooth surface is less likely to trap dirt and grime, but it also shows fingerprints and smudges, depending on the color.
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Because soapstone is natural, each piece features distinctive hues and vein patterns.
Quartz is more uniform in color and appearance. That’s because it’s made by machine.
But, unlike soapstone, you can customize quartz to your exact requests. Therefore, it’s easy to match the style of your kitchen.
In short, no two slabs of soapstone are alike. Quartz slabs can look similar because they are mass-produced, but they allow for color and veining customization that soapstone does not offer.
Soapstone develops a patina over time that darkens its color and gives it more of a matte appearance.
If you don’t maintain soapstone with oil, you’ll notice uneven patterns in the patina — particularly in high-use areas, such as around your sink. Periodic oiling helps to reduce the unevenness.
Quartz can also develop a light patina, but it’s not as drastic or noticeable as soapstone.
Soapstone is a much softer and less brittle material than quartz, so you don’t need special tools to cut it. It also doesn’t require polishing like quartz.
Professionals can install both types of countertops. But if you opt for a DIY installation, soapstone will be easier to deal with because it is easier to cut.
Of the two options, soapstone is the easier material to fix. In fact, a coating of mineral oil can hide minor imperfections instantly. For deeper scratches, use 80-150 grit sandpaper to buff them out, wipe away the dust, and apply oil to make it look like new.
Because quartz is much harder than soapstone, it’s more difficult to repair. You could try to use a food-safe epoxy for small cracks and chips, but if the damage is significant, you’ll likely need to replace your counter.
A soapstone countertop can last 20-100 years. A quartz countertop has around the same longevity, lasting 10-100 years.
However, if you damage a quartz countertop, and it’s beyond repair, are you willing to live with a damaged countertop for years? If DIY methods fail, can you bear the expense of a full replacement?
Soapstone is an easier material to maintain and can last a lifetime with inexpensive repairs and maintenance.
Prices fluctuate based on the style, where you purchase, and the origin, but expect to pay a bit more for soapstone than quartz.
According to HomeAdvisor, Soapstone costs between $20 and $70 per square foot for the material, and quartz costs between $15 and $70.
Expect to pay another $10 to $30 per square foot for installation, regardless of the material.
The number of slabs and finishes also affect the price. Cutouts for sinks, soap dispensers, and fixtures increase the cost.
Here’s a quick chart showing the material and installation costs of soapstone and quartz countertops, along with a handful of other popular materials for comparison.
|Material||Material Cost (Per Square Foot)||Material and Installation Cost (Per Square Foot)|
|Soapstone||$20 – $70||$30 – $100|
|Quartz||$15 – $70||$25 – $100|
|Granite||$15 – $140||$25 – $170|
|Marble||$15 – $190||$25 – $220|
|Slate||$20 – $60||$30 – $90|
|Laminate||$8 – $27||$40 – $80|
|Wood||$18 – $38||$10 – $30|
|Concrete||$50 – $100||$10 – $30|
Quartz is more popular than soapstone, based on Google Trends. According to a report from 2004-present, quartz countertops are on a steady upward trend in search popularity.
The popularity of soapstone is relatively flat, peaking in January 2014 and gradually trending down ever since.
I reached out to several retailers that sell quartz and soapstone countertops and home design professionals to get their expert opinion on this topic.
I asked each expert the same two questions:
- What are the main differences between quartz and soapstone counters?
- Do you prefer one over the other? If so, why?
The expert at Mega Stone, a stone installation and fabrication company servicing New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut, said, “If low maintenance is your top priority, go with quartz. If you like natural stone and want to put hot pans directly on your counters, go with soapstone. The downside of soapstone is it requires sealing. Every material has pros and cons, so it’s all a matter of determining your priorities. So think about which qualities you would value most in a countertop and which qualities would annoy you. There is no objective, universal “RIGHT” choice, only a right choice for you.”
Kitchen & Countertop Center of New England told me, “Soapstone is a natural stone that is very dense (they can actually make sinks out of Soapstone), so it doesn’t require sealing and is anti-bacterial as it isn’t porous like granite or marble, so it is used in classrooms/laboratory settings. It also has a flat/matte feel, which is great for baking/rolling dough. However, you can add a seal to it or add a protect and seal finish (this will darken the stone and bring out undertone colors in some cases, such as green). Soapstone also has high heat resistance; you can put hot pans directly on the stone without any issue. It has a higher talc content, so it is prone to surface scratching, which gives it a rustic look.”
When I asked about quartz, he said, “Quartz is engineered stone. Technically true quartz should have about 93% Quartz Crystal which gives it durability, and the rest is essentially glue and dye. The benefit to quartz is that you can achieve a controlled design/look, whereas there are more variations with natural stone since it comes from the earth. Most Quartz options are designed to compete with the natural stone industry, so they can be much lighter in color — white with some type of veining/pattern to mimic the look of marble without the maintenance. It is also non-porous, so it does not need to be sealed. However, quartz does not have high heat resistance, so it is not recommended to put hot pans directly on the stone.”
Kitchen Countertops & Cabinets, a custom kitchen remodeling company based in Natick, Massachusetts, said, “Soapstone is a natural stone softer than marble that it’s really easy to scratch, and you’ll always have to keep sealing. Quartz is a durable handmade material, so you won’t have to worry about scratches, and you don’t have to seal it. The only downside of quartz is that it’s heat resistant up to around 375 degrees.”
The expert at Stone Depot in Dedham, Massachusetts, said, “Quartz and soapstone are pretty similar. They’re both non-porous and heat resistant. But for quartz, you have more selection and a wider range of colors than soapstone. The biggest problem with quartz is it’s not good for outdoor kitchens because direct sunlight can fade it.”
Bottom Line: Should You Choose Soapstone or Quartz Countertops?
Now that you know the key differences between quartz and soapstone, it’s time to determine which material is best for your home.
- Soapstone is a natural rock cut into slabs. Quartz is also natural but processed and mixed with pigments and resin to form countertops.
- Quartz is harder than soapstone, making it more resistant to scratches and harder to repair with DIY methods. You can oil and sand Soapstone when it gets scratched.
- Both are low maintenance, but if you want your soapstone countertop to have a uniform patina, you’ll need a regular oiling regimen.
- You can choose from different textures, colors, and vein patterns with quartz. You can even customize it to fit your kitchen’s style. Soapstone is limited in colors but features unique veining.
- Soapstone develops a more dramatic patina than quartz. It gets very dark with a matte finish, while quartz changes subtly.
- Both materials can last a lifetime, but soapstone is easier to install and repair than quartz.
- Soapstone is slightly more expensive than quartz, but quartz is more popular according to search trends on Google.
Bottom line — the right countertop is one that you’ll enjoy using and fits with your kitchen style. Your budget and tolerance for upkeep are also key deciding factors.
Soapstone has a natural aesthetic with unique graining that provides a rustic yet elegant look. Yet, variety is limited in terms of color, and it is prone to scratches.
Quartz comes in a wide range of designs and patterns and is one of the most durable countertop materials available. But it’s not resistant to heat — contact with a hot pan can cause permanent damage.
If you’re ready to move your project forward or want to talk to a local expert to learn more, fill out this quick form on HomeAdvisor. You’ll get free, no-obligation quotes (and expert advice) from contractors in your area.
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