Category Archives: DIY

How to Choose the Right Kitchen Countertop

The sink might be the workhorse of the kitchen, but the countertop is certainly no slouch. Not only does it have to stand up to hot pans, things getting dropped on it and the occasional gouge, the countertop has to look great, too, no matter what.

Fortunately, there are only a handful of materials for countertops out there; it’s the color, pattern and edging choices that create a little havoc.

Stone – Easily the most expensive countertop material available, it’s also one of the most popular because of its association with high-end finishes. Granite, soapstone and slate come in a riot of colors and patterns, and can be cut in long slabs to minimize seams. Natural stone does require some maintenance like resealing, but also stands up to hot pans, isn’t easily scratched and doesn’t dent if something heavy is dropped on it.

Solid surface – Quartz is the industry leader for solid surface countertops because of its versatility and because it is virtually maintenance-free. Like other solid surface products from brand names like Corian, quartz is stain and scratch-resistant and stands up to heat and cold. Solid surface countertops are repairable and come in hundreds of color combinations, including those that look like natural stone.

Laminate – Tried and true, laminate – or Formica, as its known – continues to be a go-to countertop material because of its economical price point and the variety of colors, textures and patterns available now. Matte or fine matte finishes at 1/16″ thickness should only be used for countertops while 1/32″ can be used as a creative backsplash.

Wood – Butcher block is the most well-known of wood counters, but it’s not the only wood up for consideration. Wood slabs are used in kitchens but primarily for secondary surfaces like islands or butlers pantries. Both the butcher block and the slabs require a fair bit of maintenance, though, including regular sealing, and they don’t stand up well to heat, moisture and stains.

Eco-friendly – Recycled glass, bamboo and paper composite have a small foothold in the countertop market, but they aren’t the friendliest materials to work with. Glass can chip and break; bamboo needs to be sealed just like other wood; and paper is easily stained and scratched. Still, all three are easy to clean, and glass is both heat and scratch resistant.

How to Choose the Right Kitchen Flooring

So much goes on in the kitchen that the floor needs to stand up to a lot of use and abuse. Wood is warm and beautiful, but tile is tough and resilient and vinyl is so easy to clean … the choices for kitchen flooring are almost endless.

To help cut through the chatter, homeowners should answer a few questions to determine which flooring option best suits their lifestyle:

  • Is there a lot of cooking?
  • Was the home designed with an open floor plan or is the kitchen a little more isolated?
  • Is low- or no-maintenance a priority?
  • Is environmentally-friendly materials important?
  • What is the budget?

Hardwood – up to $20/square foot installed

Warm, beautiful and timeless, hardwood can stand up to some serious traffic, but it’s also susceptible to contraction and expansion because of the amount of moisture generated by cooking. Hardwood is a great flooring choice in open-floor plan homes because it ties the living spaces together seamlessly.

Tile – up to $30/square foot installed.

Ceramic and porcelain tile are the workhorses of flooring, especially in the kitchen. Both materials hold their looks for years (with proper care) and provide one of the most durable surfaces available in such a variety of colors, patterns and textures – including the look of wood! – it’s almost impossible to not find a tile that will work in a kitchen.

Cork – up to $20/square foot installed

Cooking can often involve hours of standing and moving around, so flooring that is both durable and kind to joints like knees and backs might be the right choice. Cork fills the bill on both counts, and it’s eco-friendly because it’s harvested every eight to 10 years from trees that regrow their bark.

Vinyl – up to $10/square foot installed

If the kitchen is the heart and stomach of the home, vinyl might the perfect flooring choice. Not only is it extremely durable – waterproof and almost maintenance-free – vinyl is also the least expensive flooring choice, which can be important if budget is an issue. Color, pattern and texture choices are also almost unlimited so finding the right vinyl is a snap.


Top 5 Kitchen Design Trends for 2015

Kitchens in the last several years have moved from strictly utilitarian design to primary gathering space for family and friends, and that trend shows no sign of diminishing.

What is changing a bit are the details; kitchen trends for 2015 are all about improving functionality while maintaining an overall vibe of warmth and welcome.

1. Wood cabinets – Wood tones are making a comeback, but not necessarily the generic golden oak hues that have been a favorite among builders for the past decade or so. Decorator’s Wisdom noticed that stained wood in darker shades is gaining popularity and so is cherry in major metropolitan centers like Chicago and Philadelphia.

2. Warm metal finishes – Polished chrome and stainless steel still have their place, but homeowners are increasingly turning to the warmer side of metal like brushed brass and oil-rubbed bronze. Style at Home notes that brass adds sparkle and warmth and looks great with both white and grey.

3. White cabinets with white appliances – Despite the uptick in wood tones, white cabinets remain a top choice, and white appliances are being chosen as well. Homeowners who flocked to stainless steel are now buying white stoves and refrigerators to create a more seamless look and easier clean-up since fingerprints and smudges aren’t as obvious.

4. Multiple Storage Solutions - Walk-in pantries, roll-out cabinet shelves, and clever pull-outs to maximize storage is a necessity in the kitchen of 2015 because making life – and food prep – easier is the name of the game.

5. Smart appliances/docking stationsUsing a smartphone to control when the coffee starts to brew and having a built-in charging station for an iPad to better read recipes or follow a how-to video are becoming more prevalent in 21st century kitchens, according to the National Kitchen and Bath Association.

The bottom line is that kitchens in 2015 have to be livable spaces where every member of the family – including pets – feels comfortable. But, kitchen remodels – no matter if the job is a complete gut or just an update – should also strike a balance between classic and trendy because the changes are expected to last for years.

What must-haves are on your list:

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Is Your Outdoor Space Ready for Summer?

Spring is officially a month old, and it is time to get the patio and/or deck ready for get-togethers and relaxing summer nights outside.

Furniture that’s still in good shape will need a little love before putting it back to work for the season. Metal and wood pieces may need cleaning and a fresh coat of paint while plastic or resin should be cleaned with a solution of bleach and water to kill any mold and mildew.

But, for homeowners who need to replace outdoor furniture, the most noticeable design trends for 2015 are built-ins, indoor/outdoor rooms and bold patterns, according to the Lawn & Leisure blog.

A key outdoor design element for 2015 are built-in appliances, furniture and fire pits. Grills, prep sinks and bars – essentially an outdoor kitchen – are growing more popular as homeowners look for unique ways of adding living space outside.

Likewise, benches with plenty of cushioned seating and permanent fire pits perfect for roasting marshmallows are also part of current landscaping trends.

“The conventional backyard is being replaced with an oasis for the family and entertaining friends,” Glen Goldberg of Four Seasons Garden Center told Lawn & Leisure.

Expanding indoor entertaining to the patio or deck is also becoming increasingly popular, if the photo galleries at are any indication.

Many of them have titles and a dozen or more photos on how to bring the indoors out for comfortable and relaxing seating and optimal entertaining. Another photo gallery features the network’s favorite outdoor rooms from viewers.

Outdoor spaces are also mimicking interior design by mixing materials, colors and patterns in new and exciting combinations.

The goal is to create a space that echoes the homeowners taste and style even if the starting point is a set purchased from a local big box store.

The idea is to put your own personal spin on a space,” Sally Falk Nancrede of the IndyStar told Lawn & Leisure. “Patterns are also in fashion, and they don’t need to match — they simply ought to not clash.”

Mix paisleys with plaids and birds with geometrics; the key is to use complementary colors and varying shades of the same hue.

Designer Vicki Payne reminds everyone to measure their spaces before embarking on a shopping spree.

Before you make your final selection, take the time to measure your patio to make sure the pieces you want will fit. Don’t purchase a chaise if you don’t have the space for it,” she wrote on her blog.

Have you turned your backyard into an outdoor room? We’d love to hear about it and see photos.

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