Friday, September 30, 2011

Top Picks for Kitchen Counters

Check out this great article from on kitchen counter choices:

There are lots of options on the market for kitchen countertops. Our list of top picks gives the pros and cons of the top 10 choices so that you can make an educated choice when you remodel your kitchen.

1. Granite Counters:

Granite is the countertop material of choice when there are no other things to think about - like money. It defines elegance in a kitchen. As the use of granite becomes more widespread, the price comes down. The beauty of the stone contributes to the beauty of even the most modest kitchen.
holds up to heat; comes in a range of almost 3000 colors; looks permanent and substantial; will last a lifetime; new sealers are almost maintenance-free; 2nd highest hardness rating after diamonds; has a high value to home buyers.
expensive, but becoming more affordable; requires some maintenance; some stones absorbs stains if not sealed; knives can become dull if you cut on it; can crack if stressed or improperly installed.

2. Engineered Stone:

Engineered stone is composed of 93% quartz particles. It is available in a larger range of colors than granite and has a nonporous surface that resists scratches. It's easy to maintain, without the annual sealing required by natural stone. Some brands on the market include DuPont Zodiaq®, LG Viatera®, Cambria Quartz, and Silestone®.
Pros: Resistant to stain and acid; easy care.
Cons: Expensive.

3. Solid Surface:

Because solid surface counters are just what they're called, solid, any scratches can be sanded out. The countertops are custom-made to your specifications by companies such as Avonite, Corian, and Swanstone.
Pros: comes in a rainbow of colors and patterns; seamless; stain resistant.
Cons vulnerable to hot pans and stains which can damage the surface; can be moderately expensive.

4. Ceramic Tile:

Ceramic tile is durable and easy to clean. Add to that inexpensive and you've got a really good choice for countertops for the average home. Because it's installed a section at a time, it can be done by most resourceful homeowners.
Pros: takes hot pans; easy to clean; wide range of price, color, texture and design.
Cons: counter surface is uneven; tiles can easily chip or crack; grout lines become stained; custom-designed tiles are very expensive.

5. Laminates:

Laminate counters bear trademarks such as Formica, Nevamar, and Wilsonart. They're made of plastic-coated synthetics with a smooth surface that's easy to clean. The pieces are cut to size and finished on the ends.
you can buy laminates in lots of colors; easy to maintain; durable; inexpensive.
scratches and chips are almost impossible to repair; seans show; end finishing and front edge choices can be pricey.

6. Wood or Butcher Block:

Wood countertops offer a beautiful warm look and are available in a wide range of colors and finishes. Hardwoods such as maple and oak are most often used as countertop woods.
Pros: easy to clean; smooth; can be sanded and resealed as needed.
Cons: can be damaged by water and stains over time; scratches must be oiled or sealed according to manufacturer's instructions.

7. Stainless Steel Counters:

For a really contemporary and industrial look for your kitchen, stainless steel is a good choice. They are heat resistant and durable. Because they're constructed to your specifications, you can have a seamless countertop.
Pros: takes hot pans; easy to clean.
Cons: Expensive; noisy; may dent; fabrication is expensive; you can't cut on it.

8. Soapstone Counters:

Soapstone is generally dark gray in color and has a smooth feel. It is often seen in historic homes but is also used in modern homes as both a countertop and sink material.
Pros: rich, deep color; smooth feel; somewhat stain resistant.
Cons: requires regular maintenance with applications of mineral oil; may crack and darken over time.
9. Marble:
Because of it's extremely high price tag, marble is not often seen on the countertops of whole kitchens. To get the luxurious look, use it on an island or inset at a baking center. Marble requires constant maintenance, as it easily stains. Some new sealers retard staining.
waterproof; heatproof; beautiful.
expensive; porous; stains easily unless professionally sealed; can scratch; may need resealing periodically as per manufacturer.
 10. Concrete Counters:

If you have countertops in unusual shapes, concrete may be a good choice, as they're often cast right in your kitchen. The high price tag may be beyond most people's budget.

Pros: heat and scratch resistant; can be color-tinted; looks exotic and unusual; new treatments eliminate cracking; additives reduce porosity; new finishes are more decorative.
Cons: mid to high range on cost due to custom work; cracking is possible; can look somewhat industrial; porous but can be sealed.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Replacement Windows vs. New Construction Windows

New construction windows provide access to the open space in wall studs around window openings, making it easier to add insulation to improve the energy efficiency of the windows.  New construction windows also offer the ability to replace wooden sills which may have deteriorated.  If you have any issues with the wood moldings surrounding your existing windows then new construction windows are the way to go.  With this option you could also make your windows larger if wanted.

Since replacement windows utilize the wooden sills from prior windows, the conditions of the wood will determine the efficiency and longevity of replacement windows.  While they do probably provide better insulation value than your existing old windows – there is no way to add any insulation around the window. Replacement windows also offer the benefit of faster installation.

The reason most homeowners put in new windows is for better insulation value.  If you are looking for better insulation value, a great window and new woodwork then new construction windows are the way to go. 
If your existing woodwork is in great condition and you are happy with your current insulation then a replacement window is an easy way to get new, more efficient windows.

Lenny & Lisa

Friday, September 2, 2011

Getting ready for the cold weather….

While we don’t want to be the bearers of bad news – it is obvious to most New Englanders that the cold weather will be here before we know it.  Here are some tips you can do to help “cold-proof” your home as much as possible:

  •  Clear leaves from gutters – it’s a slimy job but the task will protect your siding and basement from expensive water damage.  Accumulated leaves can be a problem in other areas as well.  Check the valleys of your roof and check drainage ditches and culverts.
  •  Check your roof for any loose or curling shingles.
  • Make sure entryway stairs are stable.
  •  Make sure silcocks are turned off.
  •  Check to make sure garage doors are closing properly and seals are in good condition.
  •  Check exterior doors for drafts and replace weather stripping if necessary.
  •  Check windows for drafts.
  •  Have your boiler serviced.
  •   Get programmable thermostats installed. You'll save about 3% on your heating bill for every degree that you set back your thermostat full time. (Turn it back 10 degrees when you go to work and again when you go to bed, and you can save about 14% on your heating bill.) Put on a few extra blankets at night and turn down the temperature 10°.  You may actually feel a lot better in the morning due to the increased humidity at a lower temperature.
  • Take advantage of "cheap solar heat". On the side of your home that is exposed to the sun during the day, keep the windows treatments and drapery open to let as much sun shine in as possible.  This is what's referred to as passive solar heat.  Conversely, all windows coverings should be closed at night, or when the sun is not shining.
  •  Wash your clothes in cold water.  New detergents work well using cold water settings, which can save a substantial amount of money for big families that run many loads of laundry.
  •   Install a fireplace heater grate.  There are a lot of folks that enjoy the warm cozy crackle of a fireplace during a cold winter night, but the truth of the matter is that most of that heat goes right up the chimney!  A fireplace heater grate captures heat from your fireplace and circulates it into the room.  Typically these units can capture 30-50,000 BTU's of wasted heat from a fireplace and effectively heat that room or part of your home.
  • Maintain moisture in your home.  Forced hot air heat and wood stoves can rob your home of moisture.  A touch of moisture makes heated air feel warmer.  A furnace mounted humidifier is likely your best answer if your home has forced hot air.  If you have a wood stove a non-whistling tea kettle or pot filled with water and placed on top should take care of it.
  • Check your homeowners policy to make sure it covers damaged caused by cold weather.
  •  With the holidays approaching maintain your large appliances by vacuuming your refrigerator condenser coils and front lower grill, cleaning oven and stove drippings and cleaning out your garbage disposal (pack with ice and ¼ cup baking soda, turn on, after ice grinding stops pour in a kettle of boiling water).
As always, we are here to help with any of the above processes that you may wish to take care of – no project is too big or too small for us.

Enjoy your Labor Day Weekend.....

Lenny & Lisa