How to Avoid Mistakes When Installing a Soapstone Countertop
Installing a soapstone countertop can be tricky, especially for first-timers. There are a lot of things to keep in mind: wall support, plumbing, and space allowances, to name a few. Proper installation makes the difference between a reliable, long-lasting soapstone countertop and a brittle one that costs you a great deal in repair and maintenance.
A soapstone countertop needs adequate support from the wall or floor, particularly in its weakest spots. Countertop support is mostly a matter of balance, and since the standard shapes are all symmetrical, they are easy enough to secure. For common rectangular countertops, this is as simple as placing supports on either and in the middle. A square countertop can be supported from the midpoint of each side or from the corners, while a round or elliptical one is best supported from the center, with the rails spreading evenly outward.
For irregularly shaped soapstone counters, weak spots are more difficult to locate, and wall supports are harder to place. Curved edges, for instance, add some weight to the front, so wall supports must face forward. Inadequate support can cause the curved edge to tilt down and fall off. If you are installing a custom-shaped countertop, it is best to find a builder or contractor to do so for you.
Your soapstone countertop must be constructed to fit around the existing plumbing lines in your kitchen or bathroom. This is a common pitfall; many people have had solid soapstone countertops made, only to call back again because the countertop interrupted their water flow. You can either have the plumbing restructured to make room for the countertop, or make measurements prior to ordering.
People usually complain of unexplained cracks on their soapstone countertops that seem to appear out of nowhere. These cracks are usually caused by drastic temperature changes. Soapstone, like all other solids, expands when heated and shrinks when cooled. This basic fact is often overlooked even by the best builders.
Have your soapstone countertop made a few millimeters thicker than planned. This will make room for it to expand or shrink liberally. Also, do not place the countertop too close or adjacent to the wall when it expands, the cracking can spread to your wall. Allow a centimeter or so for expansion.
Most of your countertop's durability depends on the foundation, so make sure yours is tough, firm, and solid. Wrap it with a slightly elastic fabric, such as mesh or cotton, to hold the hardwood sheets together. Make sure the foundation is laid out perfectly straight and flat. Soapstone is slippery, so a slight incline can send your things sliding off the counter to the floor. Ask your builder to use a high-grade mortar to attach the soapstone to the countertop.