Category Archives: kitchen remodels

How to organize and prepare for your kitchen remodel

It seems like a daunting task – how will you cook, and will you be able to access the fridge? Where will you wash the dishes? Possibly the biggest question – how long will my kitchen be out of commission?

Length of time depends a lot on the level of renovation you are having done. Let’s assume the most extreme; complete kitchen remodel. The cabinets, counter tops and sink will all be torn out, new flooring and an island added. A new stove, dishwasher and refrigerator will be installed.

A full kitchen remodel can take up to two months. The National Association of the Remodeling Industry recommends that you sort out the details of your project with your contractor to ensure your project goes smoothly and your life can stay as normal as possible in the interim.

Have the contractor spell out the process clearly. Ask what specifically will be done, when and how long each task will take.

Plan for extra storage. The contractor will have tools, materials and equipment in the house to complete the project, so you’ll want to find a good spot for them.

Have the contractor’s phone number handy. Designate one family member as the go-to person so the possibility of miscommunication is reduced or eliminated.

Check locks and keys. You might need to share keys with the contractor. Be sure you know who is responsible.

Keep clear. Make sure you, your kids and pets stay out of the way of the work crews.

Contractor vehicles will have to park on or near your property, set aside space for them.

Expect the unexpected. There are myriad things that can go askew during a remodel – the bigger the project, the greater the potential – like late deliveries, strikes, wrong parts, adverse weather, on the spot changes, and the like.

Image

Remodeling Moods

So, everything in the kitchen must be moved out! Pack the dishes and move any food items you keep in the kitchen to a good storage location – meaning you will have to get into them at times during the remodeling project.

Set up a temporary mini-kitchen; dining rooms work well because you already have a table there. Set up small appliances on folding tables around the room. Try to be close to a sink if possible. If the weather is nice, use your patio grill.

Cook some meals in advance and freeze them. Eat out a lot. I like this one, but it has it’s limitations, especially if you have children. Take-out food works though, if your dietary requirements allow. Deli-food from your grocery store is a good alternative to drive-throughs.

To reduce clean up, use paper plates and plastic utensils.

Finally, relax as best you can and try to view this time as a family adventure. Before you know it, you’ll be in your revamped kitchen.

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How to avoid remodeling headaches

backsplash_countertop

Beautiful stainless steel kitchen exhaust

Give yourself plenty of time to plan your remodel project, so that no changes will be needed when the work is being done. Changes to the scope of work are the costliest problems when remodeling. Leave time for research and create a comprehensive project plan or written contract, if hiring a professional. List every product to be used in the remodel and include your choice of finish.

Assume there will be unexpected surprises when walls, floors or ceiling are opened up. There can be previously unknown water or insect damage, structural problems, plumbing piping or electrical wiring issues uncovered. A good contractor will do his best to anticipate potential concerns, helping you to budget accordingly. However, even the best contractor does not have x-ray eyes; just be aware that when a wall or floor is opened up, you may find something that must be repaired before proceeding.

The current economic conditions are keeping contractors prices low, but at a certain point they may have to walk away from a potential job if the homeowner insists on too low a bid. Contractors have to make enough to pay overhead and their employees and subcontractors. Those who go with the lowest bid end up spending more for labor, averaging $1,500 extra on kitchen remodels and $1,000 on bathrooms. Do check the contract to eliminate a lot of open-ended amounts for products and materials.

It’s advisable to check your contractor for current license, insurance and workers’ compensation policies. The most up-to-date information can be found on the Washington State L & I website at: https://fortress.wa.gov/lni/bbip/Search.aspx. Type in the company name and you will get all the information on insurance, any complaints, etc. Don’t forget to check references from the contractor’s previous clients.

When planning your renovation, be sure to include the less exciting things that never the less need to be done; ventilation (kitchen and baths need good exhaust), lighting, location and convenience for use of trash cans and recycle bins.

Once you have done your homework, have fun! A newly renovated kitchen is a joy to be in, and there is nothing more pleasurable than a totally new bath, perhaps with a relaxing steam shower?

Check out this blog to get an interesting perspective on cheap vs. more costly contractors:

http://kathysremodelingblog.com/will-you-choose-the-cheap-contractor-or-the-craftsman/

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No home is perfect until you remodel it!

resized kitchen photo1

Rose Construction Inc, Kitchen remodel for Bellingham homeowner

So what is a perfect home? The basics are that every system is functioning just as it should, with minimal maintenance and everything up to code. There should be electrical outlets where you need them; plumbing working properly and heating (and cooling if desired) should keep the house at just the right temperature. The roof will be doing its job to keep the rain out; the kitchen, bath and laundry room exhaust fans should be efficient and quiet. All structural elements should be doing their thing; no sagging joists, roof beams or decking. Proper lighting is where it’s needed and the flooring is just the way you like it . .  I could go on, but you get the picture.

Is there really any house that meets all these criteria? Probably not, unless of course, you have just remodeled yours! Even if it is a new or nearly new home you just moved into, probably someone else picked much of the flooring, countertops, cabinets and bath fixtures. In the case of a home, perfection is in the eye of the owner!

Every home has something that could be “tweaked” to fit the tastes and lifestyle of the current owner, to make the home work more efficiently for them. Some older homes could really benefit from upgrading and even moving a wall or two and adding on!

Spaces that really do not age well are the bath and kitchen. Everything from outdated styles to fixtures and cabinets that have worn out over time and much use should be replaced when that time comes. Part of the need for renovating these rooms is their heavy use, and the accompanying irritation that must be endured when the space does not perform as needed.

Consider a toilet or shower that drips constantly, or a kitchen faucet that unpredictably sprays the water out sideways! Then there is that kitchen cabinet door that just won’t stay shut. These problems are getting to be serious, as the leaking fixtures can cost the homeowner a lot of money over a year.

There is another class of problems that while they do not cost money, since they do not affect utility bills, still can be serious issues. Some of these are cabinets that are worn out or depressingly dark; kitchen tile that is cracked and just cannot be cleaned properly any longer; old enameled kitchen sinks that have developed cracks over their lifetime. Again, there are a myriad of these issues that can be addressed when remodeling your home. They can be tacked one or two at a time, spreading the cost out over several years, if desired.

resized bath shower

Bath remodel we did recently for a Bellingham resident, showing beautiful tile workmanship and glass shower doors

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Would you want a concrete countertop?

You might not have heard of the relatively new countertop choice; of all things, concrete! The first image that comes to mind is a sidewalk or a driveway. Not very appealing, as something to put in the kitchen. But as they say, “Wait, that’s not all!”

Concrete is giving granite a “run for the money”. Granite has been the epitome of luxury, uniqueness and long-lasting kitchen countertop materials. But concrete has been increasing in popularity, as it compares favorably to most of the qualities that make granite popular.

How is that? When it comes to appearance, there is no way to match concrete in terms of variability. Blue pigment and broken glass can be mixed into the concrete to create a luminescent, sea-like look. Neutral pigments and river stones can turn a kitchen counter into a sleek dry riverbed. Irregular pigment mixes can mimic granite, marble or any other type of stone. The possibilities are endless.

A concrete countertop can have all sorts of curves and all sorts of built-ins and embedded objects, such as drain boards, sinks, trivets, knife slots, and more. Colored concrete can be created by one of three processes:

  • Integral pigment is a colored powder that’s mixed into the wet concrete, resulting in a color that penetrates the full depth of the slab. Color choices are unlimited.
  • Acid staining is done on hardened slabs and results in a permanent color change, but offers a reduced number of color options. Metallic salts react with the concrete, creating the color.
  • Dye is a liquid available in a wide range of colors, is applied to cured slabs and penetrates only the top layer of the concrete. Some dyes are not UV stable.

Acidic products like lemon juice might eat through a concrete sealer over time, but it can also damage a granite finish. Both granite and concrete countertops are strong enough and hard enough to handle whatever culinary activities you can throw at them. The main issue distinguishing the two materials has to do with maintenance. Concrete is a porous material, so it will require re-sealing more often than granite to prevent staining.

There are two types of sealers for concrete countertops; penetrating and topical. Penetrating sealer soaks into the concrete and is barely detectable once dry. This sealer keeps stains from penetrating, but stains can occur on the surface. Topical sealers are made of wax, urethane, acrylic or epoxy. They coat the surface and vary in appearance and performance. Epoxy and urethane are thick and glossy; wax performs poorly as a sealer. Acrylic coating look and perform fairly well but scratch easily. So the conclusion is that while concrete countertops are nearly indestructible, the sealers should be selected with care – they can be scratched and damaged, requiring re-application.

Granite and concrete countertops weigh about the same, for equivalent thicknesses. They both weigh about 20 lbs per square foot for a 1.5 inch thickness (BobVila.com)

Both materials are not “green:; some granite has been found to emit possibly unhealthy levels of radon, and concrete could contain heavy metals that are present in some pigments and finishing materials.

Granite and concrete are both high-quality options. Cost estimates per square foot vary, due to the variety of options available in concrete, as well as the variety of granite finishes – edges, source, etc, but a rough estimate runs $100 to $150 per square foot installed.

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Kitchen Remodel, Part IV: Choosing your kitchen faucet and sink

Recent complete kitchen remodel in Bellingham, showing 2 compartment kitchen sink and single handle faucet

Recent complete kitchen remodel in Bellingham, showing 2 compartment kitchen sink and single handle faucet

When remodeling your kitchen it is an excellent time to select a new sink and faucet designed to work reliably for many years, with minimum upkeep (re: as few as possible repairs)!

Not everyone uses their sink in the same way, so the first thing to consider is how will it be used in your home?

Sink Options

Kitchen sinks are typically made from stainless steel, enamel-coated cast iron, or solid surfaces and composites. Stainless steel sinks can be under-mounted, which works well with granite or engineered stone countertops. Stainless steel is also the best option if the homeowner is prone to dropping or throwing things in the sink. (re: kids in the home?) Recall that it is the lower gauge stainless steel that is thicker and thus stronger.

Enamel-coated cast iron sinks can be quite good looking, but are prone to scratch and wear over time, so if one is tough on sinks this may not be the best choice.

For cleanup, a solid surface sink that’s an integral part of a countertop is best. Solid surface sinks have a much smoother clean up area between the sink and the countertop.

An option for the budget-minded are the new composite sinks, polyester/acrylic being one of these. They have a lower initial cost and come in many colors, but are not as durable as other sink options.

The traditional kitchen sink has 2 compartments, either 2 bowls the same size, or one larger paired with a small compartment. Kitchen sinks also are commonly made with just one large bowl, as the reason for 2 compartments of the same size was origionally for dish washing, which is commonly done in a dishwasher now.  However if desired, this style sink can still be purchased. A large bowl can be used to wash large pots, pans and baking sheets. The number of sink compartments and sizes depend on how the homeowner will use them.

Faucets

Style selection is entirely individual but you should know about the quality of finishes and the interior valves that make the faucets do their job. Most faucets use one of three types of valves; cartridge, ball or ceramic disc. Ceramic disk and solid brass base materials will be the most durable.

Faucets come as either two handle or single handle. This also is a matter of personal preference, but having a single handle style can be helpful when one hand is holding a pan!

For the high use area of a kitchen, recommended faucet finishes are chrome, polished nickel, brushed nickel or pewter. Bronze finish is also popular and durable.

Other options that come along with the faucet selection are spray arm, instant hot water dispensers and garbage disposals.

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Kitchen remodel Part II of IV: Choosing the best flooring

Pearwood flooring installed in kitchen remodel

Kitchen remodel included pre-finished, 1 by 6 T&G Pearwood flooring.

OK, so you’ve decided to remodel your kitchen; the reasons can be any of the following:

  • Outdated or worn out appliances, countertops, flooring, cabinetry
  • The arrangement doesn’t work well
  • Need to expand a tiny kitchen
  • Kitchen is too dark

The last posting discussed “How to Choose Countertops”. This one will be reviewing flooring options. Kitchens are high traffic areas; are subject to liquid spills and crumbs, everything from popcorn kernels (hard to round-up all the little rolling things) to bits of veggies that escape during prep work. A floor that tends to resist stains and is easy to clean is important. Dishes and glasses get accidentally dropped as well. Some materials are more resilient than others.

So, what are our material choices? Here we go:

Vinyl

One of the most inexpensive flooring options, it comes in a wide range of designs and finishes. It is available in sheets or tiles and is made to look like stone, wood, ceramic tile and more. It is easy to clean and comfortable to stand on. The best choice for kitchens is sheet vinyl, as every seam is a potential failure point and will wear faster. It is recommended to select vinyl with less embossing, as the texture tends to trap and hold dirt, making them hard to clean. Strong sunlight can fade it, and moving heavy objects such as refrigerators can tear the material; protection must be used. Cost for installed vinyl is comparable to longer lasting materials. Uninstalled costs are about $1 to $5 per square foot.

Linoleum

An all natural material made from linseed oil, resins, wood flour and more, it has green credentials and a retro-look. It is affordable, durable, and easy to maintain. It can wear and fade with time and use. It is better to get linoleum that the manufacturer has added a protective coating; without this, the floor will need periodic waxing and polishing. Cost is about $4 to $7 uninstalled.

Marmoleum

Made of linseed oil and natural materials, the colors tend to be earthy to retro bright. It is much more resistant to damage than vinyl. It is an extremely long-lasting floor. It does need to be waxed and periodically stripped to maintain a cleanable shine. Two Forbo production facilities in the Netherlands and Scotland produce Marmolem, and Armstrong is making it as well. Cost is about $3 to $8 per square foot, uninstalled.

Hardwood

Select material with no grooves for an easy to clean wood floor. Grooves catch spills and hold things like sugar and are very difficult to maintain. Hardwood flooring can be either pre-finished or finished after installation. Pre-finished flooring wears longer and the installation is quicker, plus the cost of installation is much less. Liquids can cause damage if they’re not wiped up right away. Wood dents and scratches easily, so it will need periodic refinishing. The cost is about $5 to $12 per square foot, uninstalled.

Ceramic tile and stone

Tile and stone floors are beautiful in the right setting and appropriate on the right substrate. Color and texture choices are endless. Most tile floors are installed with a substantial grout line that creates a cleaning problem and an uneven surface. This can be a safety issue. Items dropped on a tile or stone floor will break if they are breakable and the hardness of the materials make them uncomfortable for standing any length of time. If you like to walk about barefoot in the kitchen, they will feel cold. Tile flooring runs between $3 to $8 per square foot, and stone about $15 to $30 per square foot.

Concrete

Concrete is virtually indestructible and it can be stained, stamped, scored or acid etched for added style. However it must be sealed to prevent stains, and as with tile and stone, it is uncomfortable to stand on for long period of time. It stays cool even in hot climates, so it great for that; not so much here in Bellingham! Costs for uninstalled range from $2 to $15 or more per square foot depending on the finishing you want, and you will need professional installers for this product.

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Kitchen Remodeling Part I: Choosing cabinets

There are many reasons and benefits associated with a kitchen remodel. Whether your kitchen is falling apart, outdated, or your family is just in need of an upgrade, kitchen remodeling can bring new life to a previously inefficient and awkward part of any home. The kitchen can be the central activity hub of the home, with most of the entertaining and conversing going on in and around the kitchen.

Bellingham kitchen remodel completed summer 2012

Custom kitchen cabinets completed this summer by Rose Construction Inc.

 Cabinets usually take up the bulk of a kitchen remodel budget, so you want to make sure you are choosing the best cabinet option for your kitchen and budget.

If the existing cabinets are of good quality, are in excellent working order and the layout functions well, the most affordable option is to re-stain or paint. Another option, is  re-facing, which means to installing new veneer on the exterior of the cabinet box and replacing the doors and drawer fronts.

Be forewarned, however, 60 to 70 percent of the cost of the cabinet is the door. So, if you are considering this option, you might want to just go all the way and replace the cabinets and drawers.

OK, so you have decided to replace the cabinets. The next step is selecting custom cabinets or going with stock. Going with custom cabinets gives unlimited material choices and layout (within your budget constraints and space). However, custom cabinets have the most lead time and is the most expensive option.

Semi-custom cabinets are made to the homeowner’s size requirements. The manufacturer produces them in predetermined increments. Often a spacer may be needed to conceal unused wall space, causing loss of some potential storage. Choice of materials, designs, finishes and accessories will not be as broad as with custom cabinets, but the cost will be less.

Stock cabinets are the least expensive of new cabinet options. They are pre-made and come in standard sizes. You can find stock cabinets made of solid wood – so no need to immediately throw out this option!

No matter what type of cabinet is selected, it’s important to evaluate the quality of hinges, doors, drawer systems and finish. It’s a good rule of thumb to select cabinets that have at least a 5 year warranty.

Traditional painted kitchen cabinets

Traditional painted kitchen cabinets

Next, think about the construction type and door style. Framed cabinets have a front frame around the cabinet opening to which the door is attached; this adds rigidity to the cabinet and they are easier to install than frameless.  Frameless, or European-style cabinets, have no front frame. The door attaches directly to the side of the cabinet. Frameless cabinets are often used in contemporary kitchens; they offer an advantage over framed, there is open access to the cabinet interior.

Door styles come in 3 basic styles: traditional-overlay doors that cover some of the frame, full-overlay doors that cover the entire cabinet frame, and inset doors that sit inside the cabinet frame.

Combination of glass-front and wood cabinet doors.

Custom kitchen cabinets

Now, I bet when you started this article you thought we would be discussing cabinet door styles, such as shaker, flat panel, raised panel, etc. We’ll leave that totally up to you!

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