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Countertop Guide: The Benefits & Limitations Of Every Surface

Posted on 05/05/2011 at 8:45pm

Unlike cars or electronics, most people don’t spend much time contemplating what “the next big thing” in countertops might be.  Because of this, thre is limited knowledge on the products and services available to you when renovating your home.  Until now…

LAMINATE: Many homeowners looking for new countertops want anything other than laminate, but it is the most cost-effective product on the market and you might be pleasantly surprised by the selection.  Laminate is a high-density material that is adhered to engineered wood and heat-treated to achieve multiple edge treatments.

The Benefits

  • Laminate has the widest variety of colors available and many degrees of texture and durability.
  • Laminate is low maintanence.
  • It will sustain slight scratches.
  • It’s affordable.
  • Laminate doesn’t require upkeep like sealing.
  • It’s completely non-porous.
  • It can be easily replaced.
  • It lasts many, many years.
  • There are a variety of edges available.

The Limitations

  • Laminate is suseptible to discoloration when extremely hot items are placed on the surface.
  • You don’t want to use laminate as a cutting surface… that will result in visible damage.  Use a cutting board.

SOLID SURFACE: Solid surface countertops are made of acrylic and polyester blends.  The proportions differ based upon the brand and the level of the product.  When choosing a solid surface, it’s best to pick the color, finish, and texture you want first.  Then, choose your brand.

The Benefits

  • All solid surfaces have color that goes all the way through the slab so if your countertop gets scratched or stained, you can remove the damage with a little Comet and a Scotch Brite pad.
  • Solid surface countertops are SEAMLESS!  One solid, smooth surface.
  • Solid surface is the only countertop that allows for “integrated” sinks and backsplashes of the same material.

The Limitations

  • Depending on your choice of sink, you may see a seam, but you won’t feel it.

GRANITE: Granite countertops have become increasingly popular over recent years but that popularity may decline with the variety of new and interesting quartz surfaces now available.  When selecting granite, a good partner is going to recommend that you pick your own slab because there may be a discrepancy from a sample in the store and the full pattern of the slab.

The Benefits

  • No two slabs of granite are alike, each has its own personality making your kitchen unique.
  • There are a variety of edges available.
  • Backsplashes can be set-on or you can opt for tile.
  • It’s very strong and can withstand heat and scratching.
  • There are lots of colors to choose from and they range in price based on quality, durability, and availability.

The Limitations

  • Granite requires annual maintenance through a sealing process, usually done once a year.
  • Granite is porous and can retain bacteria.
  • Granite requires an under mount or drop-in sink.
  • There have been concerns that granite countertops can pose health risks because they are capable of emitting radiation through the presence of differing levels of radon and uranium.
  • Be sure that you are getting a high-quality grade.  Not all granite slabs are the same and slabs mined in regions such as South America and China can be riskly selections.

QUARTZ: Twice as strong as granite, quartz is one of the hardest and most abundant minerals on earth.  Quartz surfaces are man-made stone.  Quartz has the appearance of natural stone but it’s actually stronger and requires less maintenance than granite or marble.

The Benefits

  • Quartz is completely non-porous so it never needs to be sealed.
  • Quartz surfaces are heat-resistant and capable of withstanding cutting (though a cutting board is always recommended).
  • There are no visible seams with Quartz.
  • Sinks can be under-mounted or self-rimming drop ins with lots of choices for style and color.
  • Quartz offers lots of edge treatments.

The Limitations

  • Backsplashes can be supplied but are only available in a set-on so most homeowners choose tile.

Cambria

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Which Home Improvements Make Cent$?

Posted on 09/04/2010 at 12:25am

You don’t have to go overboard when making home improvements.  Small upgrades can go a long way in increasing your home value.

  • Complete Kitchen Renovation vs. Countertop Replacement and Cabinet Refacing

Why renovate the entire kitchen, when you can upgrade your countertops, sand your cabinets and replace the fixtures.  You’ll be surprised at the look of your kitchen.

  • Installing a New Pool vs. Adding a Deck

There’s no need to add on a complete patio when the addition of a deck can increase your chances of selling your home… and you might make a few extra bucks too.  Decks are a great way to add value to your home.  Additionally, a nice deck is something that you’ll come to enjoy all summer long.

  • An Extra Bathroom

This is an upgrade that is sure to increase the value of your home.  In fact, it could be the reason a buyer chooses your property over another.  It can also be the reason a buyer walks.  Most buyers today demand at least two full bathrooms.  You can add on an extra bathroom (full or half) with minimal costs, nice upgrades to countertops and flooring, and still make that back upon the sale of your home.

  • Green Upgrades

Green upgrades are relatively new, but common questions involve the cost of electric and water bills.  Potential buyers want a solid estimate of what their monthly expenses will be and that definitely includes utilities.  So, if you can show the energy efficiency of green upgrades, you’ll step up your property’s resale value.

  • Landscaping

Nothing makes a strong first impression like a well-manicured garden.  You may even enjoy gardening, so this upgrade could be the least expensive and most beneficial.  Add perennials or annuals, plant a tree, have fun with it!

This topic is popular, you can check out the Wall Street Journal‘s SmartMoney article on Which Home Improvements Pay Off by clicking here. 

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Selecting Your Countertop Style

Posted on 08/23/2010 at 5:22pm

Decorating style is what makes a house a home. It is personal expression. Figuring out your style sounds more difficult than it really is. The simple answer is that your style is the one that suits your life and works for you and your family. You do not have to adhere to a specific look or even the fashion of the moment. Style is really combining color, pattern, shapes and texture with the architecture of the house in a way that is pleasing to you.

Start by looking at your own home. If you were to pretend to visit your home for the first time, how would you describe the decorating style? Think traditional, casual, contemporary, formal, eclectic, country, rustic, southwestern or old world? Pick one that best focuses on your taste. You have some clues in your existing furniture about what defines your style.

Then begin by gathering ideas. You’ll find them in decorating magazines. Clip out the pictures that please you. It could be a color or pattern or texture that grabs your attention. Maybe you like the new countertop in one of the homes of neighbors or friends. Take a photo of that installation. Visit model homes as well for other ideas. These visual clues will help you narrow your choices and will prepare for making a style decision.

Ask yourself about your own personal entertaining style, as this will help you determine what you select. Do you entertain a lot? Does everyone gather in the kitchen? Do you use your kitchen as a buffet? Or are you likely to entertain in the dining room away from the kitchen? Do you and your children cook together? Are their friends often in your kitchen? The answers to these questions will reflect your decorating selections and preferences.

You may want your new kitchen to be casual, not formal. Think of surfaces that are matte in finish, as they will blend with the other colors in the room. Try Wilsonart® HD®, that uses both matte and gloss finish to mimic the variations in nature’s own finishes.

If you want your kitchen to have that old world charm, then a great choice is the elegant marble looks of the Fusion series in deep green, blue and black as well as neutral tones. This is the perfect complement to this style.

Maybe your home is very traditional, but you want a more updated look in the kitchen. Don’t go too high-tech, because the results will be out of balance with the rest of the rooms in your home. Instead, pick a color found on the wall or on fabric used on a nearby dining chair. You can easily find a matching choice in the Wilsonart® Standards. If you want to be a little more adventurous, the Roca series expertly replicates time-worn stone and is a natural fit.

If you like a clean, minimal look, then use the countertop to add a touch of metallic or texture. Take a quick look at Wilsonart® Decorative Metals or Metalaminates, which are great for backsplashes. For countertops with a pearl or metal feel, check out these patterns – Pearl Dust LS, Satin Stainless, Windswept Pewter, Windswept Bronze or Pewter Brush. If you prefer stone looks, glance at stone patterns with the Quarry Premium Finish, which has the beauty of stone without the price.

With hundreds of options for your countertops and kitchen surfaces, it’s best to narrow the scope by deciding on your color scheme and picking the texture that suits you best. Choose what you feel that makes you most comfortable. Order samples from Wilsonart to help you decide. Tape the samples up on the walls or on your existing counter. Examine them both in daylight as well as at nighttime. Lighting can change the way you look at your color choices. And you are on your way to defining your personal decorating style.

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3 Steps In Hiring A Contractor

Posted on 08/07/2010 at 4:05am

Every year thousands of Americans are victims of home improvement contractors who perform shoddy work.  Take the steps to protect yourself by following these three simple steps.  It may take a little extra time, but you’ll save yourself a lot of aggravation:

  1. Always have a written contract.
  2. Negotiate permitting, budget, timing, and warranties and include them in the written contract.
  3. Know the elements of a home improvement scam and AVOID them.

Click here to learn more about protecting yourself from unscrupulous contractors.

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8 Most Overrated Home Projects

Posted on 07/25/2010 at 5:30pm

We love the article Melinda Fulmer of MSN Real Estate published.  We would have to agree that there are certainly a lot of overrated home improvement projects out there.  I meant who really needs an indoor bowling alley, basketball court or home theater?  Preferences that are really specific to your personal styles and tastes are not going to add to the overall value of your home.  However, upgrades to your kitchen and bathroom are always a hit.  There were very positive words for Quartz countertops!  Click here to read the full article on the 8 most overrated home improvement projects.

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Color Meaning

Posted on 05/25/2010 at 6:10pm

Colors can influence our emotions, our actions, and our responses to various stimuli.  A great deal has been studied and written about color and the impact that it has on our daily lives.  It’s a known fact that color can have a direct impact on our general mood.  So, we thought it would be beneficial to cover general colors and what they symbolize.  As you can see from this website, whether you choose Wilsonart®HD®, Cambria Quartz, or Meganite Solid Surface, there is no shortage of COLORS!  So, what colors represent you?  What colors represent your family?  What tone do you want to set in your home?

Here are basic colors and their meanings:

  • Red implies action, confidence, courage, and vitality.

    Cambria Classic Color Collection

  • Pink symbolizes love and beauty.
  • Brown symbolizes earth, order, and convention.
  • Orange symbolizes vitality and endurance.
  • Gold represents wealth, prosperity, and wisdom.
  • Yellow symbolizes wisdom, joy, happiness, and intelligence.
  • Green represents life, nature, fertility, and well-being.
  • Blue represents youth, spirituality, truth, and peace.
  • Purple symbolizes royalty, magic, and mystery.
  • Indigo represents intuition, meditation, and deep contemplation.
  • White represents purity and cleanliness.
  • Black symbolizes dealth, earth, and stability.
  • Gray represents sorrow, security, maturity, and trust.
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7 Steps to Choosing the Right Partner for Your Renovation Project

Posted on 05/05/2010 at 7:40pm

Step 1: Make a short list of qualified remodelers. Start by clicking here for our dealer locator. Consider consulting friends or family members who have already been through the experience. They may have a referral for you. Google can be a starting point for you. A Google search for “kitchen renovators in South Jersey” or “Philadelphia Remodelers” will yield several links to referral services. Don’t consider these dealers to be any more reputable than one you might find in a phone book. Dealers merely pay this referral service for each lead they send.

Step 2: Narrow your list. The internet and this website can be a resource to help you do this. When you run a Google search, you’ll find some of the top unpaid responses to be reviews of various businesses. Run your list of remodelers and see what people are saying about them. If you don’t find anything, that may be a good thing. People are more likely to voice negative experiences than positive ones.

Step 3: Avoid the 3 bid myth. Many homeowners think they are safe if they get three bids and pick the cheapest. That may work if you’re buying a bicycle, furniture, or even a computer, but it doesn’t work when selecting a remodel partner. Remember, you are going to be sharing your kitchen with this person for the next couple of weeks. Bottom line, don’t base your decision on price alone.

Step 4: The interview. Once you narrow your list, call each of the “finalists” and schedule a meeting with each one. Think of this meeting as a job interview. Ask for references and samples of their work. You want to look for someone who is asking questions about you, your usage habits, your vision of the ideal kitchen, your family’s routines…

Step 5: Check references. Call your “finalists'” references. These questions will allow you to gauge which partner will be the best match for you:
-Were you happy with the quality of work?
-Did he/she provide knowledgeable guidance throughout the process?
-Did they complete the proces on time and within budget?
-Was the workspace kept clean?
-What would you have done differently?
-Were the workers professional?
-Was he/she accessible throughout the process?

Step 6: Plan your budget. You probably had a budget figure in mind from the beginning. It is safe to over-estimate for unexpected challenges like plumbing issues, depending on your project. A good partner will make recommendations, based upon your goals. Just keep in mind that renovations often involve more than countertops and cabinets. You’ll need to consider the backsplash, fixtures, possibly appliances, and plumming/electrical connections.

Step 7: Communication. As with every project, communication is key! Your remodel partner should be in communication with you before, during, and after your project. You don’t want someone who is unresponsive to messages and difficult to reach. Communication is key in making the renovation process a smooth one.

Following these 7 steps will make your remodel a successful one!

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