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Solid countertops with easy maintenance?

Friday, June 10th, 2011

Like a big-name star, granite can be a glamorous prima donna in the countertop maintenance department.   Cheer up! If you want natural stone, or a solid countertop with real color choices beyond earthy neutrals, Silestone and mineral/resin choices like Corian have your back. Either alternative requires very low countertop maintenance. You don’t have to tip-toe around cooking chores with an ever-present fear of stain blotches from oils, fats, water rings, mustard, wine, and many other foods. No flour and peroxide “poultices” to treat stains. No testing the clear coating every few months for wear and possible re-coating. With Silestone and other solid countertops,  just sponge ‘em down and you’re out of there!

Engineered stone and mineral/resin countertops

So exactly what are these easy-going wonder boys? Each has its own attributes.

  1. Silestone,  Caesar Stone and others: These engineered countertop materials are  mostly natural small quartz stones with a resin and pigment binder. The variations in color and texture are a delight. Choose from solids in white, black, blue, red, green, gold, and browns, or light stone specks, to a veined  granite-like look. Mercifully, quartz is much harder than granite. Only diamonds, sapphires and topaz are harder. It is more heat resistant than many solid countertops, although heat exposure should be limited. Surfaces can be matte (recommended) or glossy, with some colors available in a leather-like or slightly pebbly, volcano-stone surface. Sinks can be integral to the countertops. Combinations of one color for the countertops and another for the backsplash are among design possibilities. Yes, seams will show. But Silestone surfaces clean with a soapy sponge at best, or the scrubber side of the sponge at worst. It’s easy to keep it bacteria-free.  Fifty or more colors are available.
  2. Corian and other mineral/resin countertops: Corian is perhaps the best known of a number of solid countertop brands which  include  Swanstone, Staron, Formica, LivingStone,  Wilsonart and others.  These easy maintenance countertops combine minerals of fine to heavy textures in an acrylic resin. The material is non-porous, seam-free, repairable, anti-microbial, mold and mildew-resistant, heat and burn resistant, and usually less expensive than granite or quartz. A soapy-water wipe-down is all that’s needed for most cleaning, or a mild cleaner for stubborn residues. Colors?  Mind-boggling at well over 100. They range from neutral, pastel, and bold solids, to fine stone-like textures, to remarkably granite-like varieties. Cove the backsplash or sink seamlessly into the countertops, or choose a complementary solid and textured combination.  Color samples fire the imagination.

Solid countertop ballpark prices

Silestone and solid countertop prices range from roughly $45 to $95 and more per square foot, installed. Corian-type products are around $35 to $80 and more per square foot, installed. The more stone-like the look, the more costly.

Options for Cabinet Refacing

Sunday, July 11th, 2010

There are plenty of refacing options for your cabinets. You may be refacing them to change the look or style of your kitchen. Perhaps you’re considering refacing because the cabinet doors, hardware, or drawer fronts have fallen into disrepair. Or you may be readying your home for sale and want a alluring look in the kitchen.

One of the benefits of refacing is that you can change the look of your cabinets to match flooring, counters, or backsplashes that you’ve added over time that no longer fit with the old cabinet fronts.  Face Your Kitchen offers some great suggestions for refacing styles, including country, contemporary, romantic, old world, and craftsman.

Finding the Right Hardware

You should speak with your contractor about the kinds of hardware available for the refacing scheme. If you’re considering a country-style refacing project, you may want slightly distressed beadboard veneer along with open shelves for accents. Contemporary hardware is typically slender or sparse in ornamentation. Craftsman cabinetry is often highlighted by glass paneled doors and iron hardware.

Repair Home suggests using simple peel-and-stick backed veneer to change the color scheme. It’s a cost-effective way to achieve dramatic new effects without breaking the budget. Allison E. Beatty at Old House Web recommends coordinating lighting, flooring, and metal accents to complete the overall theme. She suggests hiring cabinet refacing professionals by their specialty in your era or period décor.

I’d add that unless you have direct successful experience in doing the job yourself, you get professional help. Potentially botching the job may mean sacrificing the considerable savings that a refacing produces over a complete new cabinet job.

It’s Not Your Grandmother’s Laminate Counter

Friday, June 11th, 2010

Today’s laminate kitchen countertops are not the same crackly, ugly countertops you once saw in diners or low-brow cafes. Laminate manufacturers now offer options in kitchen color schemes and patterns to match your flooring, cabinets, and backsplashes. You can even get inventive with your design scheme and bring out the best of your remodeled kitchen by going with laminate.

For one thing, Homeowner Net reports, there are luxury laminate options today that are more durable than your grandmother’s laminate counters and offer a selection of high-end metal edges.

Low-Cost Kitchen Countertops That Add Sizzle

Laminate counters are usually available at the bottom of the price range—certainly when compared to engineered stone, granite, or tile. You’re also ensured of a consistency of color and patterns across the entire treatment, unlike the random effects from stone.

On the other hand, you can order the newer laminate products that resemble veining and patterns found in natural stone. Reliable Remodeler says that you can even order laminate with zebra patterns, if that floats your boat.

Pricing runs from $35 a linear foot for the most basic pre-fabricated laminate up to $65 a linear foot for custom-edged laminate counters. Compare that with the $300 a linear foot for marble or $750 a linear foot for stainless steel, and laminate is a bargain. If you’re up against a tight budget for your kitchen remodeling project, the cost of laminate can help you get in under the wire.

Even with choosing this low-cost option, you’ll save yourself a headache by having a professional do your installation. Before you cringe, give the new laminate options a closer look.

More About Backsplashes

Sunday, June 6th, 2010

Since many of you appreciated the blog on kitchen backsplashes last April, I thought I’d add a couple of ideas about materials. I’ve seen everything from recycled construction bricks to laminated children’s fingerpaintings on paper for backsplash materials. It ultimately comes down to what floats your boat—that, and whether it complements your kitchen cabinets and counters.

Better Homes and Gardens has a nice rundown on the range of materials, with ample photos to give you an idea how great backsplashes can look. Let’s review some of the basic materials they recommend:

Stainless Steel
Stainless steel can be employed in sheets or tiles, depending on your look. If the materials work well with your cabinets, counters, and flooring, steel makes a great choice. Why? Because you can spatter a gallon of spaghetti sauce all over it and clean it off with a sponge and dish soap!

Slate
Slate creates a handsome look in modern, craftsman, or even farmhouse kitchens if you choose the right color stone. You’ll have to seal it, though, because the material can be porous enough to absorb liquids and become discolored.

Limestone
Limestone also needs sealing against stains and liquids, but it lends a European look with subtle contrasting colors. Be sure to bring home sample tiles to match the stone with your existing cabinets and counters.

Ceramic Tiles
Ceramic tiles come in such a wide range of colors and textures that you’re bound to find a good match. Better Homes recommends using a faux brick arrangement of tiles for creating great flair.

Glass
Glass, used as a plate surface or as tiles, can be the perfect complement in a modern or contemporary kitchen where black and white tones are the norm. You can install it right over a painted drywall or over another thin covering. And everyone knows how to clean glass!

Have You Planned for Under-Cabinet Lighting?

Friday, May 14th, 2010

If you’re ordering up new cabinets, backsplashes, and counters, don’t stop there. Many homeowners have their cabinets refaced or put in new countertops, only to find out they’ve blocked key light sources from illuminating the most-critical food prep and cleanup areas. Including under-cabinet lighting in your plans means that your contractor can get the wiring right for the latest efficient, low-wattage kitchen lighting systems.

An under-cabinet light can bring out the charm of a new stone countertop or cast warm lighting against your stylish new backsplash. One rule of thumb is to install an under-cabinet light for every 25 inches of counter space for maximum lighting. Of course, you may want spot lighting on cabinets and displays, on wall hangings, or cutting boards.

Installing Under Cabinet Lighting

According to Lowes, low-voltage puck lights are a great way to get candle power without burning a lot of energy. Halogen lights are less inexpensive than the newer Xenon lights, but both are affordable.

Buy an under-cabinet kit that has a transformer to convert 120 volts to the lower voltage needed to power the lights. Because the wires are routed through the cabinets, it just makes sense to include the lighting design and installation project right along with your kitchen remodeling plans.

Starting your plans? We have handy kitchen design tools that you can download for free. Or, we can help you decide whether it’s time for kitchen cabinet replacing or cabinet refacing.

Kitchen Cabinet Handles and Knobs

Thursday, April 16th, 2009

In this short video, Vache Moroyan shows examples of many popular kitchen cabinet knobs and handles and discusses the different styles and how they can complement your kitchen design.

From antique brass cabinet knobs, to wooden, brushed nickle, or gold plated handles, our kitchen cabinet guru will take the mystery out of chosing the right kitchen cabinet knobs and handles by explaining how to use a finish selector and a pull size guide.

Fixing a crooked cabinet with European hinges

Thursday, April 9th, 2009

Does your kitchen cabinet have a crooked door? If the cabinet has a European style hinge it will be fairly easy to adjust. Vache Moroyan shows an example of a cabinet with this modern hinge and offers tips on how to fix your wobbly cabinet door in this short how-to video.

Custom Kitchen Cabinets Overview

Tuesday, March 3rd, 2009

Welcome to our first in a series of kitchen remodeling and kitchen cabinet related videos. We plan to bring you a variety of different kitchen looks, or “Kitchen Cases” as we’ll refer to them, over the next several months. In this video, our intrepid kitchen cabinet guru, Vache Moroyan, discusses ways to incorporate custom kitchen cabinet details throughout the kitchen layout for a cohesive overall kitchen design.

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