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About Serpentine Countertops

In the world of commercial stone there are a number of natural materials of which many have heard. However, the material we will discuss in this article is perhaps one that has not received a whole lot of notoriety. Nonetheless, there is good reason to be familiar with information about serpentine countertops. In this article we are going to familiarize you with this intriguing material used for surfaces. As we do, we will touch on some specific points regarding working with it and caring for it.

What is Serpentine?

The term "serpentine" is used in the commercial stone industry to describe a countertop material. In reality though the rock is actually called serpentinite and serpentine subgroup refers to the minerals of which the stone is composed. However serpentinite is, as mentioned on its Wikipeia page, referred to as serpentine at times. Note what that page says regarding this:

Serpentinite is a rock composed predominantly of one or more serpentine group minerals, the name originating from the similarity of the texture of the rock to that of the skin of a snake. Serpentinite has been called serpentine or serpentine rock, particularly in older geological texts and in wider cultural settings.

So for the purpose of keeping things simple, this article will use the term serpentine to refer to the rock, or stone from which countertops surfaces are fabricated. Now that we have a basic definition of what serpentine is, let's consider its properties.

Properties of Serpentine

Like every natural stone, serpentine has specific properties. The properties of a stone contribute to its appeal as a kitchen countertop in a variety of ways. So it is good to be familiar with the properties of a natural stone. With regard to our consideration of serpentine, we will examine three basic properties, they are:

  1. Color
  2. Hardness
  3. Porosity


As far as the color selection goes, serpentine is relatively limited. It is generally a greenish or brownish color. And although the color selection is narrow, countertops made from serpentine can have various finishes. Too, the texture variations that are found contribute to variety in a serpentine countertop's appearance. Some design styles lend themselves to the small color pallet offered by serpentine. For example, a rustic kitchen with one or more serpentine countertops having an antiqued finish would no doubt be a great combination.


Another property that contributes to the appeal of serpentine is the hardness of it. Whereas the color variation is limited, the hardness of serpentine deos vary. In fact, the hardness of natural serpentine ranges from 3 to 6 on the Mohs scale of mineral hardness. Just to give an idea of the range, marble is generally 3 to 3.5 and granite is 5 to 7. In other words, that is a pretty wide span. Basically, the hardness of serpentine can resemble marble or it can rival that of granite.


The last property of serpentine that we will consider here is its porosity. This property too covers a range of values. Serpentine is a natural stone and virtually every natural stone is porous to one degree or another. The best way to test the porosity of a stone is to perform a water test (a.k.a. absorbency test) on the spefcific slab being used. The faster the stone absorbs liquid, the more porous it is.

Serpentine Countertop Performance

The previously mentioned properties of serpentine play a role in the performance of the material when it is used for countertops. The hardness of the countertop contributes to its resistance to scratching. The color as we already stated go to its compatibility with certain design styles. And the porosity is directly related to the rate at which the material absorbs water. These aspects of the stone impact how it is fabricated and maintained after installation.

During Serpentine Fabrication

For example, if the serpentine slab is on the soft end of the hardness range we mentioned, then cutting it with a marble bridge saw blade would mkae sense. However, if it is a slab that is on the hard end of the spectrum, then using a blade designed for harder stone would probably be better.

Serpentine Care & Maintenance

The more porous a natural stone is, the faster it will absorb liquids. This brings with it the potential for discoloration. As a result, there are impregnating sealers for natural stone that are designed to slow the absorption of water-based and oil-based liquids. Acidic liquids though will hinder the effectiveness of these products so be sure to use a cleaner designed for use on natural stone.

Are Serpentine Counters Right for You?

Answering the question, "Are serpentine countertops right for me?" will require additional consideration that extends beyond the factors we have discussed here. For example, The color palette that the project calls for and the design style will likely play a role. Yet, if these aspects are favorable and conducive to using serpentine, it certainly could be the right option.

In the end if you have (or your customer has) selected serpentine as the material for a kitchen or bathroom countertop surface, it can be the perfect choice if you make it your aim to properly treat the material after the install and care for it properly during its lifetime.