Most people notice the bathroom vanity tops first thing because they are visually prominent, and they serve a highly functional purpose. It would be natural for you as a homeowner to want something attractive and impressive for your bathroom vanity tops, and durable at the same time. Two of the top options that fit this bill are marble and soapstone.
Choosing between marble and soapstone for bathroom vanity tops can be hard, because they are so similar in many ways. Both of them are natural stones of the metamorphic type, meaning they formed through a transformation of a protolith (mother rock) into their present form. Marble evolved from calcium carbonate, typically dolomite or limestone. Soapstone evolved from magnesium, typically mineral talc. Because of the nature of the protolith, both marble and soapstone are relatively soft and reactive to acids compared to most other natural rocks, particularly granite.
That said, marble and soapstone have important differences. We will be pitting marble vs. soapstone for bathroom vanity tops to help you decide which one is the right material for your home.
Marble has a subtle elegance to it, typically described as delicate. This is because of the distinctive feathery veins against a white or light background commonly associated with marble. Of course, marble comes in other colors, specifically black, pink, red, green, or blue, but the most common varieties tend to be white. A key feature of the appearance of marble is a mellowing of the stone, taking on a distinctive patina that makes it a very attractive option for homeowners.
On the other hand, soapstone has a distinct milky appearance similar to soap, which is the reason for its name. Compared to marble, soapstone has a much softer, almost powdery, look due to its talc content. The color range for soapstone is quite limited, typically shades of gray with very faint veins. The most common color for soapstone available commercially is light gray, which over time grows darker with tints of green. Like marble, it improves over time, achieving a vintage look that is quite attractive in traditional styles.
The appearance of marble and soapstone might not have been much help in choosing one over the other, as they are both attractive in their own right. What might hold some weight with many homeowners is the cost. Marble is usually less expensive than soapstone, unless you choose one of the rare marble types.
The price per square foot for most marble slabs for bathroom vanity tops range from $60 to $85. Consider that against the cost range for soapstone countertops, which is from 70 to $120, and you might have your answer. Then again, this will only be an issue if you have to cover a large area. Since bathroom vanity tops tend to be on the small side, the final cost difference might not be significant.
Both marble and soapstone are tougher than they look, provided you choose the right types. Soapstone comes in various types based on the percentage of talc. Artistic soapstone is the softest one at 80% talc, and these are actually as soft as soap. They are easy to carve which is great for sculptors, but they are not appropriate for bathroom vanity tops.
Architectural soapstone is about 30% talc, so it is tough enough for use as countertops. In terms of the Mohs hardness scale, which measures the scratch resistance of natural minerals, architectural soapstone is between 2 and 5. This is not bad considering that granite is one of the toughest materials for countertops out there, and it rates a 6 or 7 on the scale.
Marble, on the other hand, is usually tougher than soapstone. It rates between 3 and 5 in the Mohs hardness scale, and usually more towards the 5. It will scratch more easily than granite, but these are usually just on the surface. The marble itself will stay intact for many years.
Overall, marble is slightly tougher than soapstone in most cases. However, it can go either way, depending on the soapstone you choose.
Care and maintenance
Natural stones typically have some level of porosity. This is true for marble and most true granites, so they usually require a sealer to keep them from absorbing liquids.
Interestingly enough, while soapstone is a natural stone, it is not porous. It is so dense that its water absorption rate is very close to zero, and this is an excellent quality in countertops. It is also resistant to acids and most alkali, and has high heat resistance.
Marble is also heat resistant, but its kryptonite is any type of acid. This is because of the calcium carbonate, which reacts immediately to even weak acids such as white vinegar and citrus fruit juices. In terms of stain resistance, soapstone is coming up roses compared to marble.
The only problem with soapstone is that it does not darken evenly, unlike marble. You have to apply a layer of mineral oil regularly to achieve an even color, and avoid a splotchy look. This is not necessary if you do not mind a few spots on your bathroom vanity tops.
Marble and soapstone are excellent choices for bathroom vanity tops because they are very attractive in a quietly elegant way. If you are going for elegant rather than fantastic, either one of these natural stones will be the perfect fit. Marble does edge out soapstone in terms of variety, cost, and toughness, so you might want to think about that when choosing your material for bathroom vanity tops.
If you do choose marble for your home, you should make sure you get it from a reputable source. Cabinet Land Kitchen and Beyond is a local remodeling company with a showroom located in Schaumburg, Illinois. We offer high quality granite, marble, and quartz countertops for your kitchens and bathrooms in the areas of Chicago, Schaumburg, Arlington Height. Des Plaines, Hoffman Estate, Elk Grove Village in Illinois.
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