Tag Archive | "Soapstone"

Is the Granite Countertop Boom at an End?

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Is the Granite Countertop Boom at an End?

Posted on 17 November 2014 by cradmin

While both fabricators and contractors are still reporting robust sales of granite countertops, several media outlets say that granite may be on the way out. While I am not certainly not sold on this prediction, if true, it could mean declines in sales for fabricators dealing solely or primarily in granite, but those who offer a variety of countertop materials may simply see a shuffle in the origin of their revenue.

Benefits of Granite

One article published in News & Observer, Living Space: Are granite counters on the way out? is quick to point out that nearly everyone who already owns granite countertops love them because they are durable and visually appealing, but hold some reservations because they require some degree of maintenance. Another reason why people choose granite according to the article is that it is a natural product made of natural minerals instead of a material developed in a laboratory.

Another article that has an identical name but was published by HowStuffWorks also begins with a section on the benefits of granite. According to this article, granite is more durable, heat resistant and scratch resistant than many of its counterparts, but sales have been declining because of a limited color selection and price. Today, however, granite countertops can be found in a wide variety of unique colors and patterns.

Finally, the price of granite has fallen substantially over the past two decades. While high-quality granite and installation may still carry a high price tag, entry-level granite is now available at prices that allow nearly any homeowner to enter the market.

Is Something Driving People Away From Granite?

The 2012 Kitchen & Bath Style Report published by the National Kitchen and Bath Association states that granite use in kitchens dropped to 87 percent from 91 percent in 2011, but it held steady at 87 percent in the 2013 report. Another survey conducted by The Marble Institute found that 75 percent of homeowners intending to remodel their kitchens in 2012 were planning on installing granite countertops.

These surveys show that granite remains a popular choice, and very little new data shows any sign of a downturn, yet the Huffington Post Home Advisor states that designers are dropping natural stone in favor of six other materials that are less expensive, not as heavy and have greater color variety. In this piece, the author harshly urges homeowners not to “waste your kitchen remodel investment on this fading material.”

In the same vein, Today Home claims that “granite is great,” but provides a list of “eight kitchen counter options to make you forget granite.”

Alternatives to Granite

Several alternatives have been named as rising stars and are reportedly filling the gap left in the alleged decline of granite countertops. Following are few of the most popular and the reasons claimed as to why they may be moving up in the countertop market:

Quartz

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Quartz has become granite’s top rival and has been growing dramatically. It is available in a variety of colors and patterns, and it doesn’t need to be sealed or treated.

Solid Surface

Solid surface does an excellent job of mimicking natural stone and has many other color options, and in many cases it requires less maintenance than granite. It can also be less expensive than higher-end granites.

Marble

Even though marble is gaining in popularity and is very attractive, it is not resistant to staining and scratching like granite is.

Soapstone

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Soapstone is available in a limited range of colors and may become easily scratched or nicked by sharp objects, but it is stain and heat resistant.

Butcher Block

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Walnut, maple, bamboo, oak and cherry butcher block countertops are growing in popularity because they are seen by many as a green, recyclable alternative to granite.

Glass

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Glass can resist high temperatures without scorching, does not stain and it is 100 percent non-porous. Glass countertops are increasingly becoming viewed as a versatile alternative.

Concrete

New innovations in concrete manufacturing and fabrication are making this material more popular for kitchen countertops each year.

Waiting for the Results

The latest results on where granite stands after the 2014 calendar year have yet to be gathered, but if the media reports show even a sliver of truth, then granite countertop sales may have fallen. However, I’m not sure if  I would place any wagers on that at this point. I believe the jury is still out. Either way, it will be interesting to see whether granite can maintain its lead in the industry or if quartz and other surfacing materials will make gains on its top position. 

I’d love to hear from some of you as to whether you have seen any decline in granite sales and/or migration to other products, or if you believe it is all hype. Post a reply in the comment section below or email us at info@countertopresource.com.

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Soapstone: ‘Original’ Stone Countertops Getting Hotter with Chefs and Designers

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Soapstone: ‘Original’ Stone Countertops Getting Hotter with Chefs and Designers

Posted on 18 March 2013 by CRadmin2

Soapstone is often referred to as “the original stone countertop.” This is because soapstone deposits were first formed up to 400 million years ago, and these deposits are located in all corners of the globe. Soapstone has been used for thousands of years by cultures of all types as cookware, countertops and ovens.

Soapstone History

Soapstone is composed of talc, silicate, magnesium, chlorite and other trace minerals. The name soapstone was chosen for this natural stone because its high talc content gives it a soft texture not unlike a bar of soap.

The soapstone deposits being quarried today formed only after millions of years of exposure to heat and pressure fluctuations deep inside the Earth’s crust. Large soapstone quarries and distribution hubs first developed in the India and in the Middle East, but today, the largest distribution centers are in Brazil, Finland and the United States.

Soapstone Properties

Soapstone has several properties that make it ideal for many environments and situations. If you do not remember where you first encountered soapstone, it may be from the table that was under your Bunsen burner in high-school chemistry lab. Soapstone is a favorite material for chemists because it can withstand temperatures of up to 600 degrees Fahrenheit and is chemically inert.

Right now, soapstone countertops are surging in popularity because they are attractive, resist the spread of microbes and are difficult to stain. Soapstone is also a great change of pace from traditional types of stone, which have been overused in recent years.

Although color choices for soapstone are limited, it is elegant, and its use adds enduring value to any project. The unique, warm grain and veining that runs through soapstone makes up for a color palette that consists of only a few shades of green, gray, blue and black.

One reason why some people are hesitant to choose soapstone as a countertop material is because it is not as strong as some other popular materials. However, when properly cared for, a soapstone countertop can remain in great shape for well over a century. In addition, scratches and nicks can often be buffed out with just a touch of sanding.

Soapstone Uses

Soapstone is most often used in the kitchen, and it is the countertop of choice for many gourmet chefs around the world. It is also very high in demand by kitchen designers who want to show just how versatile this material is. One large organization of countertop fabricators to take action to meet this demand is the Artisan Group, which recently launched its own line of soapstone: Saratoga Soapstone.

Soapstone is not only a popular surfacing for kitchens, but it can also be used for sinks, bathtub surrounds and other bathroom applications. It is not uncommon to use vertical soapstone slabs or tiles for shower walls. Its high traction and warmth also makes it ideal for use as bathroom flooring, and its heat resistance makes it ideal for fireplaces and hearths.

Caring for Soapstone

Soapstone does not require as much care as many other countertop materials do. These countertops can be cleaned with most household cleaners because  they are resistant to both acids and bases. However, a non-abrasive cleaner will prevent scratches and unnecessary wear. In addition, soapstone does not need to be sealed or conditioned, but many homeowners like to apply mineral oil or specialty products such as Saratoga Wax. This is because soapstone naturally darkens with age, and these products can make the darkening process spread evenly throughout the surface.

Fabricating Soapstone

Soapstone is not only popular with homeowners and designers, but it is also very popular with countertop fabricators. This soft stone can be cut quickly and easily without infringing on its quality. Not only can soapstone work be performed with standard stone-cutting tools, many woodworkers have found that their tools are also sufficient.

Professional fabricators, such as those at the Artisan Group, generally use a combination of saws and waterjets to cut soapstone. It can then be finished on a CNC machine or by hand. Soapstone is also safe to work with, and no special regulations must be followed other than standard safety protocol.

A Final Word on Soapstone

Using soapstone countertops, such as those made from Saratoga Stone, opens the door to many unique design options. Long a preferred choice for kitchen countertops, soapstone brings together the best of style, function and versatility. Contrasting patterns and shading add to stone’s natural beauty, imparting a unique appearance that can never be exactly duplicated.

Special thanks to the Artisan Group, who provided the basis of this article, as well as the photos.

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