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Proactive plumbing preservation prevents popped pipes

February 7th, 2012

A kitchen remodel often focuses on enhanced beauty and conveniences with little concern about potential damages lurking in your older plumbing. The possibility of a floor flood from older plumbing seems hypothetical until you suddenly find yourself with toes-deep in water. Yet such disasters are common reasons for homeowner insurance claims, higher insurance rates, or even policy cancellations. Make a plumbing inspection a first priority in your kitchen remodel — this is not a situation where frugality is a virtue.

Sources of leaks

No, we’re not talking politics here. We’re talking about everyday appliances and fixtures:

  1. Washing machine hoses: Laundry facilities are sometimes in or adjacent to the kitchen. Clothes washer connectors are the number one culprit in internal house floods. Replace old, rubber, or worn-out hoses with a U.S. made braided steel hoses with an anti-flood connector.
  2. Sinks: Both metal and PVC pipes are subject to corrosion, especially at the U or P-trap under the sink. Having a contractor inspect the pipes and replace the P-trap is a wise investment. The P-trap also keeps dangerous sewer gases from backing up into the house. Placing a plastic waste basket under the trap can keep small leaks from becoming huge problems.
  3. Garbage disposers: Garbage disposers should have their own P-trap and should connect to the drain pipe beyond the sink P-trap connection. Disposer P-traps are, of course, as susceptible to corrosion as sink traps.
  4. Dishwashers: Some dishwashers drain into the garbage disposer, which can create a back-flush of dirty water into the sink. Have the dishwasher hose inspected for wear and leaks. Reroute or mitigate drainage into the disposer.
  5. Ice makers: The cold-water line that connects to refrigerator ice-cube makers can burst or corrode. Kits are available for replacing these hoses. If leaks originate in the copper tubing under the sink, your plumber can cut out and replace the faulty pipe using a soldering iron and lead-free flux.
  6. Hot water heaters: Hot water heaters last 10 to 15 years. Don’t wait the maximum time. Even if the water heater is in the garage or basement, water can soak into baseboards, walls, or downstairs ceilings and wood floors, creating a mold hazard that can threaten your health and your homeowner’s insurance policy.

Plumbing inspection costs can range from $50 to $150. Remember to also include bathroom plumbing. Inspection costs are downright cheap compared to flooded floors and mold damage. Call a contractor that specializes in mold, water, and sewage remediation the minute you have a floor flood. Have inspections every 3 or 4 years. You’ll preserve your investment in new cabinets and flooring by giving plumbing top priority.

Kiss your cabin’s old kitchen “Good bye!”

May 8th, 2012

Your whole family can be nostalgic about your old cabin in the wilds. You visualize Uncle Paul at the old kitchen range flipping pancakes made from Grandma’s “buttermilk skies” recipe, and recall the family mutt stealing the cooked chicken when you were outside calling everyone in to dinner. You dismiss the rusty sink and the stove’s two dead burners.  The appliances guzzle energy, the wood countertops are bacteria farms, and the tiny old ‘Fridge is supplemented with stacks of Coleman coolers. Yet thinking of a kitchen remodel makes you feel like Benedict Arnold.

Take heart. To your kid , it’s your kitchen, not your grandparents’.  Everyone would prefer fewer trips to the village grocery store and ice machine, more time playing horse shoes, less time doing dishes. Here are two approaches to retaining the nostalgic look while reaping the benefits of today’s kitchen technologies.

  1. The budget-wise re-do: List the cabin kitchen’s worst offenders. Cramped counter space. Inadequate food storage. Ancient ovens and burners. Shoebox-size refrigerator. Drooping cabinets. Turn these liabilities into assets. Replace the double sink with one generous sink that creates countertop space plus room for a dishwasher. Replace one section of upper and lower cabinets with a pantry unit that includes storage doors. Purchase a 30 inch wide, range with four burners and a shallow top oven over a tall bottom oven (turkey and pies cook simultaneously!) Splurge on Silestone’s beautiful, tough quartz countertops for a very sanitary granite-look surface with none of granite’s fussy upkeep. Get off-the-shelf cabinets from a building supply store or from Ikea. Or replace those rusty metal cabinets with new stainless cupboards. Sand the plank floors and protect them with a polyurethane coating. Get recommendations of reliable remodeling contractors.
  2. Do a retro restoration: You can do most of the above using appliances, sinks, faucets, and cabinets that have today’s bells, whistles, and energy efficiency, but look much like your existing kitchen looked when new. Companies like Big Chill, Elmira Stove Works, and Heartland have appliance with 1950’s or even 1920’s looks but with self-cleaning ovens, ice cube makers, solid colors, and retro styling. Choose gas, electric, or wood fire energy. For cabinets, buy colored metal kitchen cabinets from Cabimax, reface your old wood cabinets with wood, or reface with metal laminates from Wilsonart (TM) to complete the retro look.

Cabin kitchens are the hard-working heart of family fun. Other rooms are for rainy days or sleeping. A kitchen remodel can lessen the work of large gatherings and provide more time for creating cherished memories with your family and friends. It’s time to spruce it up!

Lighten up gloomy kitchens with today’s trends

May 6th, 2012

There’s a difference between a traditional kitchen with rich, dark wood-grained cabinets and a kitchen that simply sucks the light out of your day. If your kitchen falls into the latter category, aim for lighter colors and finishes with a cost-friendly kitchen remodeling. You can prioritize which of these ideas will give you the most return on your dollar.  Then either start with the top priority and add features as budget allows, or pick two or three of them for an all-out siege on your kitchen’s partners in gloom. Here’s a list to pick and choose from:

  1. Lighting: If nothing else, look for new ways to illuminate your kitchen.  Charming pendant lights over the island. Focal point sink lighting.  Under-cabinet task lights. Pretty track lights on curved tracks.  Rope lights inside glass-door cabinets and under toe kicks. A ceiling light inside the pantry that can leak out through partially closed doors for ambiance.  A bigger kitchen window with blinds or shades instead of curtains, or a garden window. Ceiling tube lights or a bigger ventilated skylight.  One or two of these can ramp up the lumens.
  2. Creative painting: Strip off wallpaper, clean off paste residue, and paint the kitchen a light buttery yellow, a soft apple green, or a hint of camel. Then reface the cabinet cases by having them lightly sanded and applying a light wash of the wall color. For an updated accent, paint just the face frames of the cabinet cases with a glossy, somewhat brighter version of the wall color. Reface with new doors and drawer fronts with the same color-wash as the cabinet cases. Alternately, paint the cabinet cases with the wall color and reface with doors of light bamboo or a pale wood grain. Mixing paint and wood grain on cabinets is quite popular.
  3. Countertops: Since granite and other natural stones tend to be very porous and stain-prone, replace countertops with fuss-free stainless steel or light-hued granite-like laminate. Swanstone, Corian and similar products offer non-porous compressed polymer countertops that are sanitary and durable.  Silestone, says its manufacturer, is “a compound made of natural quartz, which makes it extraordinarily hard and resilient.” This gives it bacteriostatic protection along with both stone textures and solid colors.
  4. Flooring: Floors reflect light up into the kitchen. If tile or kitchen-rated wood floors are more than you want to spend, check out high-quality, realistic vinyl  planks and tiles like those from Earthwerks and other brands.

Create a budget, prioritize a master plan, and study all your beautiful options. You’ll be delighted at how a brighter kitchen can rev up your enthusiasm for cooking and entertaining.

Metal kitchen cabinets: sleek, subtle, sensational

May 5th, 2012

If contemporary architecture’s clean, bold lines reflect your outside-the-box attitude, explore the versatility of metal kitchen cabinets.  The options are as plentiful as  daubs of paint on an artist’s palette, and just as likely to result in something truly original. Take a look:

  1. Style options? Oh, yes! Create  unique cabinet doors with a line-drawing of your son, a hand-drawn undulating vine motif, or one of the geometric patterns available  in Lasertron’s stainless steel kitchen cabinets. Lasertron also has etched glass inserts both  as patterned flat panels and as little geometric windows. Cabimax is a U.S. company that builds stainless steel, aluminum, European design, and contemporary styles, including solid color styles. Euro Intelligent Kitchens in Englewood, CO, imports many metal kitchen styles and offers a free design service. Even Wilsonart ™ has a line of decorative metal laminates suitable for cabinet doors and cases. Explore them all.
  2. Designing with metal: Purists may prefer that cabinets, countertops, and backsplashes blend into a glimmering unity. Or mix wood cabinet cases with metal door frames, textured glass center panels, and a granite countertop.  Marry royal blue doors with stainless cabinet cases, or Euro-style creamy metal cabinets with wood accents. Lasertron’s patterned backsplash panels create an element of surprise in any mix.
  3. Copper, anyone? For a warmer look, copper countertops, sinks, backsplashes and range hoods are custom crafted from companies like Circle City Copperworks for any decor from contemporary to western ranch style.
  4. Ordering options: Some companies make cabinets to your precise measurements while others have stock units and sizes for production and cost efficiencies. Ask each company about the gauge of metal used in their cabinets and their product warranties.
  5. Maintenance: Metal kitchen cabinets are durable and easy to clean. Unlike granite and other stone countertops, metal countertops’ non-porous surfaces aren’t inherently bacteria breeding grounds. Do not use cutting knives on metal countertops.

While you’re at it, if you like to entertain on your patio, check which kitchen cabinet companies also produce weatherproof metal cabinets and countertops. Why not extend your good idea to the outdoors to create an indoor/outdoor design flow?

Only specialized cabinet companies are equipped with the lasers and metalworking machinery necessary for making metal cabinets. Consider hiring a kitchen designer, especially one with contemporary tastes, to help with planning, ordering, and cost savings.

Kitchens with lots of metal surfaces may be understated in form and color, but the warm light that suffuses their gleaming surfaces is a reflection of your creativity and hospitality. Why hesitate? Start planning.

Kitchen storage vote? Drawers win!

May 4th, 2012

Just as roll-outs behind lower kitchen  cabinet doors became a trend in recent decades, completely replacing most lower cabinet shelving with solid banks of drawers is the next step in kitchen evolution. Yes, behind-the-doors roll-outs are an improvement over break-your-back lower cabinet  shelves. But why not take it a step further? While doors and shelves are logical above counter, and  set the decor style for your kitchen, you can open up (pardon the pun) a whole new world of storage with under counter drawers.

Putting your drawers to work

Cabinet drawers and drawer organizers come in many sizes and configurations. You can organize many kitchen items by height,  weight, function and frequency of use. Here are storage and access options you don’t get with shelves:

  1. Groupings: Everyday items like flatware, spices, pot holders, paper napkins and napkin rings, and hand held cooking utensils are most convenient if stored in shallow drawers right under countertops, including island tops. Medium height drawers can hold dish towels, hand appliances like an electric hand mixer or knife, rolling pins, pie and cake plates,  pot lids, shallow baking dishes, even bread and snacks. Use tall bottom drawers for pots and pans,  covered casseroles, soup tureens, nesting mixing bowls, and perhaps bulk food items like potatoes, flour, or sugar.
  2. Special uses: Slide-out trash and recycling bins, counter-height slide-out pantry units, and a warming oven fit beautifully below your counters. Even dishwashers are available in two-drawer units that work well for small families. Also, hidden swing-up appliance shelves can keep your mixer, blender, or food processor usable in an instant.
  3. Styles: You may be able to retain existing lower cabinet cases and install drawers in them, depending upon how your cabinets are constructed. If you can’t exactly match upper cabinet doors with new drawer fronts, you can use a plain slab style and stain, veneer or paint them to match the uppers. Another current look: Painted upper and lower cabinet cases with wood doors and drawer fronts. With that option new drawer fronts and door styles can  match perfectly. Items like roll-out trash bins, slender roll-out pantries, and lazy Susan corners will have vertical door-like front panels to pleasingly break up the ranks of drawers.
  4. Hardware: Don’t stint on drawer suspension hardware. (Give up a couple of dinners out.) Heavy-duty full extension suspension systems let you easily access those hors d’oeuvres forks and BBQ skewers sleeping way in the back.

Drawer systems are more complex  and costly than doors and shelves, yet available in brands from Ikea to Thomasville. But you can’t put a price on the tremendous improvements in functionality and beauty that they bring to your kitchen.

3 kitchen decor themes worth repeating elsewhere

April 23rd, 2012

Kitchens are the perfect room for unleashing your decorating panache.  And because the kitchen is your “heart of the home” room, a kitchen decor remodel there can set a theme to pick up with subtle variations elsewhere in your home. This creates a pleasing visual flow that unifies your home, regardless of its architectural style. In a neighborhood where homes are similar, it can set yours apart.

Finding a theme for your kitchen remodel

Your region, interests,  or national origins  are among many sources for creating a theme. Here are examples of each.
1.    Regional: Live near an ocean or lake? Reface or replace kitchen cabinets in a driftwood, marine blue, or a weathered white finish. Choose smooth-pebbled tiles for the countertop backsplash.  In the living room use larger smooth stones for the fireplace surround and/or an entry wall. In the bathroom choose shell tiles for the backsplash and display a lovely conch shell.  Run weathered wood flooring throughout the house.  A city dweller may prefer a metal and wood theme with etched stainless steel cabinet doors on wood cabinet cases, a wood front entry door with metal banding, and wood grained metal doors with stainless hardware in the bathroom. Adapt these ideas to your regional influences.
2.    Interests:  Horses and ranch life thrill you.  Choose a simple slab style cabinet doors that let those running horse or horse shoe door pulls s stand out. Use hand-pump style faucets in kitchen and bathroom, and carriage lamp lighting. Lean a wagon wheel by your rustic entry door.  If environmental issues delight you, choose bamboo cabinets and solid color backsplash tiles with vine or leaf motif accent tiles. Run flooring of stone or stone-like ceramic tiles in all rooms visible to guests.
3.    National origin: Bamboo, lacquered, or teak cabinets, wood or stone floors, and oriental lighting in kitchen and bath are naturals for Asian cultures.  Latin cultures may prefer light or dark distressed plank doors, hammered metal pulls, hand-painted tile backsplashes, Saltillo floors, and soft butter yellow stucco walls. How about cabinet doors that are painted different colors like a street of houses in Oaxaca?

Even if you plan to live in your house indefinitely, life happens.  In choosing cabinets, lighting, flooring and other elements, keep the more permanent elements like cabinets, lighting, fireplace surrounds, etc. in somewhat neutral or universal hues, and use bolder, personal colors for easily-painted walls, wall art, area rugs and upholstery.  So think about what inspires you, let your kitchen set the theme, and tie in other rooms as your budget allows.  Then enjoy a home that really reflects your personal world.

Savor the sizzle of solid surface countertops

April 17th, 2012

If you think of yourself as a trend-bucker, granite kitchen countertops may not be your thing. Besides their somewhat clinical look, they have other limitations. Expect fussy upkeep and a porous surface that can foster stains, bacteria and other nasties unless they’re periodically resealed. Heaven forbid that you scratch, crack, or chip them! Besides, you may prefer color choices like cilantro or midnight blue with constellations, with or without textures or veins. What to do?

Solid surface countertops: style without fuss

DuPont’s Corian (TM) is perhaps the best-known name in solid surface countertops, but WilsonArt, Formica, Swanstone and several other brands expand your options by the dozens. Acrylic or an acrylic/polyester are the primary materials. Some brands utilize recycled materials or other green components. The bragging rights for these products are many.
1.    Shapes: Highly versatile! Curve or angle it, supersize it, rout drain grooves into it, and/or cove the back edge into a backsplash. Choose among several front edge designs such as crescent, beveled, routed and more. Seams are sealed, waterproof, and nearly invisible, especially on solid colors or fine-particle patterns. Seamlessly molded-in sinks in many sizes are available and facilitate cleaning and sanitation.
2.    Patterns: Let us count the ways: If you want a marbled look without real stone’s upkeep, you can choose from stone-like patterns from bold to very fine. Choose from solid colors, colors with fine specks, fascinating visual textures, even lightable translucent styles. Drool over all your options and viewed several samples at home before deciding.
3.    Surface finishes: A matte/satin finish is the most popular and hides fine surface scratches best, but options include semi-gloss and high gloss finishes.
4.    Upkeep: Here’s where solid surface countertops really shine. The material is non-porous, so, unlike granite and other natural stones, solid surfaces don’t drink up wine, mustard, ketchup, beet, pomegranate, colored gelatin and many other food stains. The non-porous material also resists the formation of bacteria and fungi. Normal clean-up requires just soapy water or appropriate ammonia-based products. No sealing is required. The patterns go all the way through the material, so fine scratches can be sanded out. Solid surfaces are heatproof up to about 200o F. As with almost all countertop materials, the use of cutting boards is required to prevent scratches.
Countertop material costs per square foot for solid surface vs. granite are similar — roughly $35 to $85. Manufacturing and installation costs will vary depending on design complexity, the specific material chosen, and regional construction costs. Get three bids. But if it’s options in colors, styles, sanitation, and upkeep that you covet, solid surface countertops are a savvy, versatile, beautiful choice. A reflection of you, no doubt.

4 ways to customize a Craftsman kitchen

April 12th, 2012

There’s more decor wiggle room inside the parameters of a Craftsman style kitchen than you may realize. According to the website Antique Home Style, there are certain design elements that define Craftsman (Mission) style home interiors:

  1. The lines are simple and clean.
  2. Cabinetry joints by the strong and durable mortise and tenon system, or dovetails.
  3. Woods often have a dark to medium-dark finish.
  4. Upholstery was of tapestry or leather.
  5. Elements like lamp shades, sconces, and pendants (chandeliers) lighting featured hammered copper or dull silver.
  6. Hardware for cabinets was of handsome, sturdy, ironwork.

Select unique elements for your Craftsman kitchens

Every feature of your Craftsman kitchen doesn’t have to be expensive or custom-made to give it your personal touch. In fact, just one or two special choices can create a unique architectural character.

  1. Cabinetry: Cabinet wood species and techniques offer countless choices within Craftsman’s signature flat center panel, squared-edged doors. Bead-board or narrow vertical planks; book-matched figured woods or veneers; burled wood; curly maple, cherry, oak or birch; and regional favorites like madrone, hickory or walnut are among many options. Yes, use a very simple-grained frame and contrast it in hue and grain pattern with the center panel. If featuring dramatic woods, downplay other elements to showcase the woods. Painted cabinets are great, too. Keep paint or wood stains medium to light in a dark or small kitchen.
  2. Glass: Many inset glass styles for upper cabinet doors were used in original Craftsman kitchens. Six or nine panes were common. Mullion styles include a single crossing horizontal and vertical mullion that parallels each side of the frame just a few inches in, or three vertical panes in the top third over a solid pane of glass, or even diamond panes. If your budget can’t handle fancy wood or glazed cabinet doors, feature a geometrically patterned clear or stained glass window over the sink. Stained glass or mica lighting pendants are additional options.
  3. Hardware: If your budget dictates some good cabinets ordered through a home improvement store, splurge on unique door handles and pulls from companies that specialize in Craftsman hardware. They’ll give you that one-of-a-kind look.
  4. Appliances: Complete your kitchen Energy Star 1920s- or ’30s-styled new appliances from companies like Heartland and Almira. Self-cleaning ovens, electric or gas, ice cube makers — don’t give up any conveniences for that authentic retro appliance exterior!

Any one of the above ideas can make your kitchen stand out from the Craftsman-look kitchens up and down your street. Start researching sources today for a Craftsman kitchen that reflects your special vision.

Home sellers: Forget fancy-pants kitchen remodeling

April 2nd, 2012

It’s interesting how delightful your home feels when it’s just you looking at it. But the minute you decide to sell it, you have to start  thinking like a judge in a “best and worst-dressed star” competition. Then you need to create a budget and prioritize items that will bring you the best return for the least outlay.
The seller’s remodeling basics are: Fix roof leaks, termite damage, slow-draining plumbing, sagging doors, and other obvious or safety concerns. Maximize curb appeal by cleaning or painting the siding.  Spruce up the yard. New entry doors have a very high return on investment (ROI.) Save $$ by throwing an “elbow grease” party. Get capable family and friends to help in return for your famous enchiladas and flan dinner.)
Inside the house, kitchens, bathrooms, and storage sell a home. Kitchens are usually the most costly to update. Be objective if  your kitchen seems smaller and more thread-bare than teen jeans. But this is not the time to be bumping out walls and ordering a six-burner kitchen range. Instead, replace essential items. Here are some critical elements:
1.   Appliances: Buy ENERGY STAR appliances so you can list them as an asset.  Stainless steel exteriors are as popular as those pricey designer pants, but black appliances can save you $$.  Look for sales featuring discounts for multiple appliance purchases. If your kitchen isn’t plumbed for an ice maker in the fridge, forget it. If  only one major appliance is budgeted, replace the range. Get a 30″ kitchen range that has a smaller oven above a larger one.
2.   Cabinets: Have a realtor show you similar nearby houses for sale. Study the kitchens. Those sparkling cabinets may have been cleaned up and had the doors replaced, or sanded and re-stained. Cabinet refacing is usually one-third to half the cost of new cabinets. At the least clean your  cabinets, replace hinges, and door pulls. Avoid dark finishes in smaller kitchens.
3.    Countertops: Today’s kitchens often have granite countertops. Save a bit by buying granite tiles instead of solid granite, or use granite-looking laminates or synthetics.
4.    Walls: Strip off wallpaper, wash off paste residue, and paint walls in a neutral color. White is OUT. Choose a light taupe or very soft mossy green. Replace  window curtains with blinds matching the wall paint.
5.    Plumbing: Replace that leaky faucet with an arched, pull-out kitchen faucet.  If necessary, buy a new stainless sink.
6.    Floors: Strip wax buildup. Patch if possible. Replace only if essential.
Compared to a major kitchen remodeling, these replacements and repairs can look as good as those thrift-store slacks that fit you so perfectly.  Save the fancy pants for your new house.

Kitchen remodeling’s secret weapon? A kitchen designer

March 30th, 2012

It would be magic indeed if your kitchen remodel was accomplished with the wave of a wand and a sprinkle of stardust. More likely it will be a wave of upheaval and a liberal sprinkling of sawdust. Nevertheless, there are resources, both online and in real life, that can simplify the enormity of your project and provide direction that, at times, may seem purposefully sent. Utilizing these resources could result in your saying, “I never would have thought of that!” as opposed to “How was I supposed to know?”

The kitchen remodel assistance league

Here’s an approach that can help create order out of the chaos of problems and solutions that are whirling around your brain when you think about how your kitchen looks now and what you would like it to look like:

  1. Prioritize: Make a list of all your kitchen design elements: appliances, cabinets, ceiling, colors, countertops, doors, floors, layout, lighting, plumbing, size, walls, and expected uses like homework area, bar, computer desk, cookbook storage, and disability access. Under each element, list existing negatives in one column and potential solutions in another. Rate each solution A, B, or C in terms of the importance you give to creating a remedy.
  2. Idea file: You may have already started files of magazine photos, home show brochures, and ideas you’ve discovered at friends’ homes, through home tours or home improvement stores, or even online or on TV shows. If not, start right now and spend some time building out a collection.
  3. Software: It takes a couple long days of learning, but it can be rewarding to utilize computer software programs to create and revise potential kitchen remodel solutions. Look for a middle price range program. Take out your idea file — you’ll be surprised at how many graphics the programs contain to help you fit your ideas into a design. Consider this time well spent when you come up with two or three possible solutions.
  4. Kitchen designer: So why hire a kitchen designer if you’ve done all of the work above? The answer is education, which is often two to four years of schooling plus an internship. Other reasons include access to current information, experience, resources, professional contacts with suppliers and contractors, possible savings, and more. A professional will also have the ability to oversee the entire project, if desired. While your idea file and computer design printouts will save you time and money, a designer spends his or her time keeping on top of budgeting, new technologies and products, the latest techniques and more. They can also help you discover customized solutions to your remodeling dreams. To choose the best kitchen designer to help with your needs, set up appointments with two or three professionals today to find someone who is timely and communicative and aware of your needs.

Your kitchen is the most high-tech, complicated room in your house. The professional input from an experienced kitchen designer can result in the difference between something-you-kind-of-like and a kitchen beyond your dreams.

Granite countertops 101: effective maintenance strategies

February 29th, 2012

Whoever coined the phrase “Your best defense is a good offense” must have had granite countertops in mind. For all its weight, popularity and glamour, granite qualifies for a Most Vulnerable Player award.  But you may discover its Achilles tendons after wine, beet juice, or mustard have tackled it. Unlike other countertops that require only a sudsy sponge, there are lists of granite maintenance products for weekly, monthly, and annual use, plus a number of kits for repairs.

Taking the defense

1. Disinfecting: Granite is a porous stone. That’s why bacteria can form and stains can sink in. Use a disinfectant appropriate for granite.

2. Remove stains: There are stain removal products or various “poultices” that can be used to minimize or eliminate stains. Remember that the treated area has lost all protection and shine and must be polished and sealed.

3. Everyday grime: Ask householders, including kids, to clean up spills or food residues with a sudsy sponge the minute that they occur. Offenders include acidic fruits, vinegar, wine, and strongly colored products such as Jell-O, ketchup, mustard, pomegranates, beverages and food dyes, to name a few.

4. Game plan: Apply polish at least weekly in food prep areas, and monthly over all granite countertop surfaces. This buys time if food residue isn’t cleaned right away. If water standing on granite creates a dark area after just a few minutes, the granite’s pores need polish and sealer.

5. Injuries: Stone repair kits are available for scratches and chips, or call in professionals.

6. Seal: At installation, and every year or two, depending on how heavily you use your countertops, do whatever steps above are needed and then apply a stone sealer.

Offensive action

You can be less cautious with granite countertops if you provide physical barriers to damage-prone work areas.  Fortunately that’s easy and cheap. Clear, tough acrylic cutting boards have a lip that curves down over the countertop edge to keep the board in place.  Although these boards aren’t heat resistant like the granite itself, they are very tough for any cutting and cooking tasks, and come in 16 by 18″ and 24 by 18″ sizes.  They clean up with a sudsy sponge, are top-rack dishwasher safe, strongly chip-resistant, and easy on your knives. They let your gorgeous granite shine through even if the boards eventually show some wear.  Best of all they cost under $30 and can last for years.   Sort of like having modest quarterbacks, if that’s not an oxymoron. Sign up one or two on your granite maintenance team.

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