Tag Archives: kitchen remodel

Decorating with Ceramic Tiles

Ceramic tiles are one great option for adding color and style to your home.  The variety of styles and types give them greater versatility for all kinds of applications.

Ceramic tiles are among the most durable flooring options available.  A ceramic tile is a mixture of natural clays that have been molded and fired at high temperature.  Tiles are also now made from such recycle materials as auto windshields, fluorescent bulbs and ground glass.

Tile offers advantages over other flooring options such as marble and wood, including durability, resistance to fire and moisture, resistance to tread wear and abrasion, easy maintenance, slip resistance, thermal shock and color permanence. They are easy to clean and provide an upscale look to your living space.

Ceramic wall tiles are considered an ideal choice for counter top and wall applications.  These are glazed with a matte or semi-gloss surface.  They are available in designer styles, featuring luster painting, transfer painting and carving.  Sometimes they are inlaid with white pipe clay or mosaic in diverse patterns including seashells, leaves, flowers and even Asian mythological figurines.

They arrive in myriad sizes, shapes and colors.  The biggest challenge you may face will be whittling down the number of choices to a manageable few.  Take time to consider not just  the style that appeals most to you, but determine which are the easiest to clean and maintain.

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Value-Added Remodeling Projects

Before you undertake a home remodeling project, there are a few things to consider.

How long do you plan to remain in your home?  How will your remodeling project affect the resale value if you plan to move within the next few years?  The remodeling project that seems wonderful to you may not be considered a value-added project for potential buyers.

Keep within the bounds of your neighborhood.  For example, a $50,000 home theatre is neat to have, but if you live in a $100K-$200K neighborhood, this will not add much to your resale value, as you are outpacing and outpricing the area in which you live.

Similarly, game rooms, saunas, pool and bars generally have much lower resale values, since these aren’t every homeowner’s cup of tea.  If you plan to remain in your home for years to come and want to enjoy such amenities, they can be a great add-on.  If, however, you anticipate moving within two or three years or your career might easily take you to another city, these won’t be great investments.

Home offices, screened porches and refurbished basements are somewhat better choices, but experts advise using caution when undertaking projects such as these.  The return on investment is higher; some of these are partially tax deductible, and trends indicate a greater appeal for these items.  However, the general rule is to stick with the traditional; check with local furniture stores or even local realtors before adding something avant garde or unique.

Decks, fences and bathrooms are better value-added remodeling projects, increasing your home’s appeal and averaging an 80-90% return on investment.  Some of these are costlier undertakings, but compensate by increasing a property’s functionality.

Kitchens and bathrooms are considered the absolute top-of-the-line upgrades, with a return on investment somewhere around the 100-110% level.  Though again, analysts recommend caution.  Don’t outprice your home by installing appliances or high-end materials that far outstrip other homes in the area if there’s a good chance you won’t be staying there long enough to take full advantage of them.

Bottom line, of course, is to go with what your heart desires and what your pocketbook can tolerate.  But it’s always a good idea to proceed with caution and only after having done some careful research.

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Ways to Modernize Your Home

Modern design, with clean lines and a good connection to the outdoors is the leading housing trend these days.  Homebuyers are responding more to simple spaces that are light, soothing and uncluttered with the clean lines of a modern house.

A minimalist interior is the first step toward the modern style. Smaller spaces can be overwhelmed with stuff. Fewer things are easier to display and keep the focus on the architecture. Mid century modern furniture, with clean lines and functional design, is very popular. It is a perfect combination with a light, open interior. Sparse décor, hard surface floors, white walls, and lots of glass give a cleaner, simpler look.

Space for Living & Working

The downturn in the economy and the trend toward green living has led to more efficient use of space in homes. There is an interest in livability, rather than showiness. Bathrooms are smaller and more sensible, but closets are still generous. Formal living, media, or exercise rooms that are unconnected to other core areas tend to not be used. These spaces may be converted to studios or home offices. Buyers who work on line are growing in number, and they need work space at home.

New Countertops

In the recent past, to upgrade a house was to “granitize” it. Today, granite is moving aside in favor of new choices. Recycled glass and engineered stones are growing in popularity, in line with the green trend. Soapstone, long used in labs, is in demand. The organic look of limestone, concrete, and marble have a following. Stainless steel is a good fit with modern styles.

Retro Is Back

Updated mid-century modern homes are very much in demand. Geometric patterns and big flower designs from the 1950’s and 60’s are in. Older traditional homes can be updated with sleek finishes, such as industrial light fixtures, flat cabinet doors, hard surface floors, and exposed windows. Open shelving in kitchens are a good fit. Today’s flat screens fit in easily, and the trend is to have more of them in places like kitchens or baths. Modern design with a retro feel will be the leading edge in the next five years.

Grey is the new Neutral

Red and gold are out. Thick texture on walls is out. Heavy faux is out. White and off whites are in. Pastels are in. Taupe and grey are combined with white for a sophisticated look. Add a splash of deep color – turquoise, chocolate brown, plum – and you have today’s look. A soft organic pallet, such as cream, sisal, and raw wool is in. On wood, both the natural bare look and dark stains are used.

Hard Surface Floors

Hard surface floors are a part of the green trend. Carpets hold dirt, dust mites and other allergens. Concrete, stone, cork, natural linoleum, bamboo, and wood are popular floors today. Bamboo, which grows a foot per day, is attractive and sustainable. Ceramic tile continues to be a good fit for baths, and is being explored for kitchen counters. Large ceramic pieces set tightly together offers a new look with lots of new colors.

Outside is In

More than ever, buyers want to experience the outdoors. Large, sliding glass doors and screened porches have made a comeback. On tight urban lots, glass walls open the interior to a private yard. Backyard gardens, covered patios with outdoor kitchens, and pools are all desirable to today’s buyers.

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Your Complete Kitchen Planning Guide

The kitchen is the heart of your home and is more than just a place to prepare, cook, serve, and eat meals. Modern designer kitchens should be the ultimate representation of your lifestyle yet provide compete functionality.

When we say ‘lifestyle’, we really mean how will the kitchen be used and by whom? How much time do you typically spend preparing meals, what type of meals…gourmet or fast food? How are your meals prepared…made from scratch or pulled from the freezer and placed into a microwave? Are your meals eaten in the kitchen, a formal dining room, or in front of the television? Do you have pets to be considered in your new kitchen design? Do you have hobbies which also are done in the kitchen?

The best kitchen designs are laid out with work zones in mind. Using what’s called “the work triangle,” kitchen designers place everything from ovens and cooktops to sinks and refrigerators — as well as the cabinets themselves — within various zones. Space planning or work zones should be driven by your needs to maximize storage, accessibility and comfort in your kitchen.

• Storage Space – Is there enough? Storage should be accessible to people of all ages and it should accommodate work needs and storage preferences. Don’t overlook the important needs of handling your refuse, garbage, and recycling bins. Well designed storage spaces provide enhanced functionality for your kitchen.

• Work Zones – The basic work stations in your kitchen include a) storage for refrigerated and non-refrigerated items, b) cooking and/or heating, and c) meal preparation. Each work station must complement the other and the distance between each station should be as short as possible and without impediments.

• Open Floor Plans – Reflecting today’s more informal living; open floor plans are very popular in new and remodeled kitchens.  Open floor plans create new design opportunities and can help you eliminate bottlenecks, improve traffic flow, and even create a perception of more overall space within your home.

Your Kitchen – From Floor to Ceiling

• Cabinets – There are literally thousands of options to consider when choosing kitchen cabinets. Your task can be made easier by narrowing your options using these five things – Price, Material, Type, Color, and Style.

• Counter Tops have an enormous importance on the look and feel of your kitchen. The many choices available offer varying aesthetics, cost, weight, durability, and upkeep.

• Sinks – Material for your sink should blend with your décor; options include stainless steel, composite granite, cast acrylic, cast iron, and copper. The size of your countertop may limit your options for size and number of bowls within your sink. Drop-in or dual-mount sinks work well with existing countertops while undermount sinks offer a clean and stylish look with replacement countertops.

• Appliances are the workhorses in your kitchen. Appliances should be attractive, powerful, quiet, easy to clean, and safe. If buying new, look for super-high energy efficiency ratings to guide your choice.

• Flooring – The best time to lay a new floor is immediately after your old kitchen has been stripped out and your plumbing and electrical work has been completed. New flooring should cover the entire area, as the additional cost is negligible compared to the time it takes to cut around cabinets. Like your countertops, kitchen flooring should be durable, stain resistance, and complimentary to your overall décor.

• Lighting – Given the plethora of functions your kitchen performs, sufficient ambient and task lighting is critical. You need to have the correct lighting at all the conceivable spaces for whatever task may be done at that spot. The type of surface, which is being lit, will also have an impact to the lighting choices you need to make. Colors also play an important role in your lighting selections.

Your Kitchen – Delivery and Installation

Consult skilled experts in a variety of fields, especially if you plan your kitchen remodel as a ‘Do-It-Yourself’ project. Since a complete kitchen makeover can be a fairly expensive undertaking, it is recommended that you seek and use skilled professionals with design and installation expertise. If you do not select a full service company with this capability as your source, you must be prepared to serve as your own ‘scheduling contractor’ and perhaps, even purchasing agent. Consider these final tips to get the most value from your investment:

1. Put your plan to paper – draw a plan and make a list to help you determine costs.

2. Hire a reputable contractor experienced in complete kitchens. Get references and a timeframe in writing. Labor costs can be estimated at approximately 30% of the total remodeling job.

3. Do it yourself – coordinate with your contractor for the pieces of work which make sense based on your skill and experience in remodeling. Unless you are licensed, hire reputable plumbers and electricians.

4. Keep at least 10% of your budget for unexpected costs. Who knows what lies beneath those old walls or floors?

Buying a new kitchen is not something you do every day; plan wisely to ensure getting the most for your investment. Remember that fitted kitchen products and services are not ‘off the shelf’ items so make sure your plan also includes the delivery of items so installation is not stalled. A ‘build your plan’ and ‘follow your plan’ approach will ultimately save you money and provide you with the kitchen of your dreams.

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The Art of Choosing Kitchen Cabinet Doors

One of the more prominent features in a kitchen is the look of the kitchen cabinets.  As much or more than the appliances and the countertops, the doors on your cabinets define the character of the room and, by extension, the character of the family that lives and cooks there.

Glass in cabinet doors creates a more casual, open feeling, lending either a traditional or “retro” air to the room.  On a functional level, it enables both resident and guest alike to know at a glance where everything in your cupboards is located.

If standard glass seems boring or run-of-the-mill to you, you can add texture and color with leaded or stained glass.

There are multiple choices available in simple wooden door cabinets, as well.  You can opt for a recessed panel, raised or curved, beadboard or slab.  If you want an airier kitchen with a more relaxed feel, lighter-colored woods such as ash, birch, oak or elm will better suit your needs.  For a more austere and solemn feeling opt for a darker wood, such as maple or cherrywood.  Additionally, teak, mahogany and rosewood provide a nice variety in textures and hues.

Some woods take lighter stains better and can accent the grain of the wood to great effect.  Though polyester paint is a lesser-considered choice, it provides a glossy, shiny finish that lends a distinctive appearance to the kitchen’s look and feel.

A visit to a local home design shop or home improvement center can yield a wealth of ideas for cabinetry.  The choices are far-ranging, each bringing a unique look and feel to the room that is at the heart of your household.

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Soapstone Counters – A Popular Alternative

Soapstone counter tops are becoming a popular alternative to granite or quartz.  They require very little maintenance and blend well with many design themes.

Soapstone counter tops are durable, and heat- and stain-resistant, like granite.  They are simple  to install and nearly indestructible.  A unique feature is the ability to integrate a soapstone sink into the design, as well.

Also called steatite or soap rock, it is a metamorphic rock composted mostly of talc, and has been used for carving in many cultures for thousands of years.  Soapstone counter tops are smooth, but feel somewhat “soapy” when touched.  They are commonly used in chemistry labs and industrial kitchens since the material resists acid and does not stain or absorb liquids.

Soapstone is available in a limited color range, and the colors differ depending on where it  was quarried.  Untreated soapstone normally has a solid light green or gray color to it, but applying a coat of mineral oil can darken it to a shiny black.

It is easy to work with; virtually any custom size or shaped sink can be created.  Because it is chemical- and heat-resistant, regular household cleaners can be used without worry, but care should be taken when cutting or chopping, since nicks and scratches can occur.  Blemishes can be easily buffed out with sandpaper and mineral oil, however.

installing a new countertop, soapstone is a viable option with a lot of advantages.  You’ll enjoy its beauty and resiliency throughout years of use.

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Home Improvement Projects That Provide the Best Return On Investment

home-improvementWhen you give some thought to doing home renovation and other “touch-up” projects, it’s beneficial to consider both your own immediate needs and desires and also the improvements that will give added appeal to your house when the time comes to list it for sale. Here are some of the best ROI (“return on investment”) renovations you can make to your property:

1. Major Kitchen Remodels (75-85% ROI) .

Buyers want to envision themselves in a gorgeous newly renovated kitchen where they can actually see themselves preparing meals for their friends and family, where the kids nestle into a cozy banquette doing their homework, or where guests mingle around that gorgeous island.

A major kitchen remodel may need to include a new floor plan to improve on a poorly designed work triangle. Replacing cabinetry, appliances, lighting, flooring, finishes and fixtures and perhaps adding new French doors and windows are ways to grab a buyer’s attention. Kitchens and baths tend to be the costliest rooms to renovate, so this can be a particularly appealing selling point.

2. Family Room Additions (75% ROI)

The family room is the second most popular space in the home after the kitchen; most homes already have one, but if yours doesn’t, you can consider transforming an existing room (den, dining room, sewing room) into one. If space and your wallet permit, you can also consider putting an addition on your property. If you have a family room already, you might want to consider brightening it with renovations as French doors, floor to ceiling windows, or even a skylight. Perhaps it’s even possible to add a deck just outside the French doors? And speaking of decks…

3. Deck Addition (72-95% ROI)

Deck additions are quite possibly the best investments these days. They naturally transition the interior to the exterior, expanding your living space. The design can be as simple or elaborate as the home it’s attached to: Multi-leveled or single, built-in seating or casual seating areas, hot tubs, and outdoor kitchens. Decks are more popular than pools and relatively easy to build. Design it to complement the character of your home’s exterior architecture; it should be proportionate to the size of your yard. Be sure to incorporate energy efficient solar or LED lighting.

4. Main Floor Master Bedroom Addition (73% ROI)

Adding a 400 sq.ft. master bedroom suite and spa-like bath provides a private retreat and appeals to many home buyers. The trend is toward first-floor master bedrooms; empty nesters and others who no longer want to tackle stairs prefer to have their bedroom and bath retreat on the main floor level of the home. Immediate access to a gorgeous deck or patio outdoors also adds to the return.

P.S. Creating Home Office Space

There is a marked trend towards creating home offices, space that enables people not just to conduct “office work” at home, but also a sanctuary of sorts, a place free of distraction to pay bills or even to operate their own home-based business. Oftentimes, the least-used room in a house—the den, the spare room—can easily be transformed into a pleasant and productive workspace with a minimum of effort. Increasingly, buyers are drawn towards property that offers this option.

So while investing the time, effort and finances necessary to complete a few home improvement projects, do these with an eye towards what will add appeal to your house, not just for you and your family, but for potential buyers when the time comes for you to move to your next dream home.

Planning Your Kitchen Remodel

kitchen-remodelWhether you’re doing a major kitchen renovation or a moderate upgrade, planning a kitchen remodel can create an extremely stressful and challenging environment for everyone in the household. So before you hire the contractor or pick up a hammer, consider these valuable insider tips to help you make the best choices when tackling your kitchen re-design and avoid costly mistakes.

Do Your Research. – Do your due diligence and educate yourself on what’s out there in the design world and marketplace. There are an endless array of cabinetry, countertops, backsplash, appliances and flooring materials on the market – so get to know what works best for you. – Grab some kitchen design magazines, and focus on the styles of kitchens and interiors you’re drawn to. It doesn’t matter if it’s a window style, a cabinet detail, or a paint color you’re in love with. Just tear out the pages and make notes indicating what you specifically love about it. Is it the 6-burner stainless steel stove, those gorgeous French doors, or the overall kitchen layout? – Create an inspiration file and use this as your starting point. Once you know what you like, you will be more decisive in the planning stage and that will save you time and money.

Resist The Latest Fads. – Fads in products and interior design don’t have the longevity of an established style – or even a new trend – which could have a long-term influence. – For example: the glossy photo of the turquoise French Oven that you fell madly in love should stay on the pages of the magazine. Ask yourself: Will you still love that range in 10 years? A color like that will instantly date your kitchen – so opt for more timeless neutral colors and finishes. – Keep all the big-ticket items such as cabinetry, appliances and countertops more elegant and timeless – but dress up the backsplash for punch. If it’s that green “appletini” color you’re craving, paint out a wall or two and install some accent pendant lamps over the island to give your kitchen the color infusion you need.

Efficiency Is Key. – Design your kitchen for the way you really live and don’t sacrifice function for design. Of course your new kitchen should look spectacular but not at the expense of overall efficiency. Make it a working kitchen. Your kitchen layout should be top of your list of priorities and should be designed with precision planning and great attention to detail, making every inch count.

Don’t Do It Yourself. – The reality is that DIY projects typically take 3 to 4 times longer than a highly trained contractor to do the job, and eventually 20% of ambitious home remodelers will need to call for some professional back up – not just to complete the work, but repair the damage that the homeowners themselves have caused. If your kitchen renovation is more than staining, re-facing or painting your existing cabinets (and you’re not that handy) then hire a professional to do the job.

Remember: Careful planning and a little research before you jump into a major remodeling job will yield better, more satisfactory results, and a kitchen that you—and the next owner of your home—will find both beautiful and efficient.

DIY From Handyman Matters: Update Your Kitchen With a New Tile Backsplash

backsplash-over-sinkIf you want to give your kitchen a facelift, consider replacing or adding a new tile backsplash. This can give your kitchen a bright modern appearance without a lot of effort. The nice thing about adding a new backsplash is that it is not very hard to do. If your existing backsplash is painted drywall, it’s quite straightforward. Even if you have an old tile backsplash, it is still not difficult – just messier in the beginning.

Planning the Project

If your existing backsplash is painted drywall, you can install your new tiles right over the top. Just sand the area to rough up the surface and get ready to install. If you have an existing tile backsplash, your best bet is to remove it totally. This will involve actually cutting the existing backer (usually drywall) and getting rid of both it and the attached tiles. For the best results consult with a professional to determine if you need to replace the drywall before installing the new tile. Handyman Matters can help answer all of your questions. Determine the length of your backsplash, and then measure the distance from the top of the counter to the bottom of the wall cabinet to calculate the area you’ll need to cover with your tiles (length x width = area). Now that you know how much space you have, figure out your tile pattern. Use graph paper and draw a scale outline. The most common tiles used for backsplashes are 4 x 4, 6 x 6 or 3 x 4 subway tiles. You could also use 1 x 1 tiles attached to a back mesh if you like the appearance better–the choice is yours.  Find the one that best fits your style. Just be sure that the tiles are glazed when you get them; this will help prevent stains, moisture and grease from ruining your tile. When you calculate your tile quantities, don’t forget to add about 10 percent for cutting and waste.

Installing the Backsplash

  1. Remove the stove and range hood and anything else that will be in your way when you are working on the backsplash. Shut off the power to any outlets or switches and remove the cover plates.
  2. If your tiles are going to be running over any gaps (like where the range will be), install a temporary ledger board along the base of your tile line to help hold them in place during installation.
  3. Mark the visual focal point of your layout and use a level to draw a starting line through it. You’ll use this to line up your tiles vertically. Now, lay out your tiles on the countertop or the kitchen floor so you can follow the pattern.
  4. Starting at the center, begin the bottom row by applying tile mastic (a ready to use tile adhesive) or thinset mortar to a small section of the wall using a grooved trowel. Put the edge of the first tile on the vertical line leaving a gap of about 1/8″ on the bottom – this leaves space for a bead of caulk later in the process. Press and wiggle the first tile into place, then put in a temporary 1/8″ spacer (vertically for easy removal when the mastic dries).
  5. Install the second tile using the same process. Continue installing tiles working away from the centerline, wiggling them into place and putting spacers between each. Follow your pattern and install any decorative/highlight tiles as part of the field.
  6. When you get to a place where you need to cut or trim a tile (under a countertop, end of a row, around an electrical outlet), cut the tile as part of the installation – don’t leave an opening and plan to come back.
  7. Cutting a Tile

Cutting tile can be a hard task; the easiest way to cut a tile is using a tool called a scoring cutter. Using one is a two-step process – mark the tile where you want to cut it, then place the tile in the tool and score a mark in the tile surface. Then, using a sharp motion of the tool handle, the cutter will break the tile along the scored line. Cutting openings for an electrical outlet can be more challenging. Depending on where an electrical outlet fits into your pattern, you may be need to cut two tiles using the scoring cutter, and then use tile nippers to cut out the opening and put them on each side of the outlet.

Grouting

After the tiles are installed and the mastic has been allowed to set up overnight, it’s time to grout. Use a sandless grout (to avoid scratching the tile surface) and mix it according to manufacturer’s directions. Apply the grout using a rubber float. Push it well down into the gaps between the tiles, then holding the float at a 45-degree angle remove the excess.

Finishing Up

Allow the grout to set up for about an hour and then clean off the hazy surface on the tiles. Use wet sponges, rinsing them often in clean water to wipe away the film. Buff the tiles with a clean dry cloth to bring out their natural beauty. You will likely need to install box extenders to your electrical outlets before you can reattach the cover plates.  Finally, apply a bead of tub and tile caulk (the same color as the grout) all along the bottom seam where the backsplash meets the countertop. Following the steps above will help you install a new backsplash into your kitchen. Make sure you pay attention to details and follow each step, but if you happen to come across a problem, the professional craftsmen at Handyman Matters can finish the project for you, or help you along the way. Click here or call 866-FIX-MY-HOME (866-349-6946) to find a location near you.

What Do You Want In A Kitchen?

..it depends on when you were born.

A 2011 survey conducted by Masco Cabinetry of Taylor, Michigan yielded some interesting results.

The company surveyed 1,027 households among homeowners, aged 18 to 65 with the assistance of Harris Interactive. It turns out that, while there are a number of features desired by just about everyone of any age when it comes to the ideal kitchen, there are also some marked differences.

Everyone—Baby Boomers, Generation X-ers, and Generation Y-ers, favor an open floor plan, something with wider walkways and easy access to everything. The reasons may be slightly different, however. Baby Boomers are seeking easier mobility, whereas Generation X-ers appreciate uncluttered space.

Generation X-ers, born between 1966 and 1978, like to have a computer near the kitchen, enabling them to attend to cooking while simultaneously having access to their social-media accounts and, when necessary, answering homework questions.

Generation Y-ers, those born between 1979 and 2002, want a kitchen that meets the needs of a household with small children, like high chairs and such.

X-ers rely on friends for advice more than any other group, while Y-ers look to the internet for advice, so a kitchen design for older groups (X-ers and Baby Boomers) is likely to come by way of friends or facilities they’ve seen in other homes.

X-ers prefer taller (bar height) tables, while Baby Boomers are transitioning to a preference to standard-height tables.

All groups appreciate both organization and easy access to supplies and utensils, but the definition of “easy access” varies from group to group. Baby Boomers want things within quick reach, whereas X-ers prefer creative places for hiding small appliances, rather than having them on countertops or in plain view. Y-ers have a preference for pull-out drawers and, interestingly, want a specific location delineated for spices, in particular.

So, taken as a whole, what relevance do these facts provide?  Well, it’s believed that building and design professionals who have a strong understanding of solutions that meet clients’ multigenerational needs will be more likely to have in creating kitchens for universal living.

Info compiled from ‘Multigenerational Kitchens’ article by Sarah Reep, Qualified Remodelers Magazine.