Tag Archives: Kitchen remodel

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 Everything from outdated styles to fixtures and cabinets that have worn out over time and much use should be replaced when that time comes.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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What is the best kitchen faucet for you?

Kitchen Sink Faucets

Kohler high-rise kitchen faucet

There is an incredible variety of kitchen faucets these days, and it can be daunting to decide which is the best for your kitchen. Especially if you want to buy a quality faucet that will last a long time with little or not maintenance and you plan on spending a significant amount; you want to be sure to get just the right design and quality.

Here are some basic style possibilities:

  • Single handle
  • Single handle with pulldown
  • Two handle
  • Two handle wall mount
  • Water filtration
  • Pot filler

That is just the beginning; there are more types under each of the main categories listed above!

First, are you replacing your countertop and/or sink? The basic faucet style is determined by the number of holes it requires and whether it is countertop mounted or wall mounted.

For most discerning homeowners, the kitchen faucet is selected to coordinate with the existing appliances and cabinets. Kitchen faucets can be everything from works of art or sculpture to those that appear to come out of an old farmhouse, including antique-styled water pump. Styles vary from contemporary, sleek designs to traditional.

Kohler old-fashioned style kitchen sink faucet
Kohler old-fashioned style kitchen sink faucet

The faucet handle can be the traditional two handle type, or the single lever type. The type of grip for two handle faucets may be blade-type, straight, curved, flared, cross-cut, or the old-fashioned wheel type. The spout for your kitchen sink may be only a bit higher than the body of the faucet. However, kitchen faucets are available with high neck, or gooseneck design that feature dramatic height of sometimes more than 10 inches.

Integrated sprays that pull down or pull out are also available, and are the best solution for tasks like rinsing or filling large pots and washing vegetables. A traditional side spray is mounted beside the faucet on the countertop or sink, requiring an additional hole.

A pulldown or pullout spray is made into the faucet spout and delivers a high volume of water when sprayed. The pulldown or pullout spray may be attached to a hose that is can be as long as 54 inches. They will use a spring-loaded mechanism that allows it to recoil when not in use.

Water filtering faucets save money over the cost of buying bottled water.

The guts: A high quality (usually more expensive) faucet will have durable valves that will last a long time with little or no maintenance. Though price is usually a pretty good measure of quality, it isn’t necessarily the best measure. With a good valve, water temperature shouldn’t change abruptly as you adjust from cold to hot. In addition, to prevent burns, a scald-guard or temperature-limit feature is offered by several makers for single-control faucets.

Warranties vary. The best ones offer lifetime protection against leaks and drips, ensuring that your faucet will provide years of trouble-free service.

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Is Competitive Bidding the Best Way to Hire a Kitchen or Bath Remodeling Contractor?

Bellingham complete kitchen remodel by Rose Construction Inc.

You may have had the question posed to you: “Do you want to fly in an airplane that you know was built by the lowest bidder?”

Hiring the contractor with the lowest bid for a remodeling project may be just as foolish. So the question then is, why? Let’s look at some of the reasons:

You won’t have complete plans for each contractor to look at in order to get an “apples to apples” bid. So the honorable contractor will include all the elements (like molding, light sockets and so on) that are not on the plans, but should be. An inexperienced (or shady) contractor will not include those things, and therefore will give you a lower bid.

When it is too late to change contractors, you will have to pay for those extras.

Some people get bids in order to see how much the project their architect designed will cost. That takes an enormous amount of a contractor’s time for a job he may not get. Many contractors will no longer do competitive bidding.

Since competitive bidding is still viewed by some as the only way to control construction costs, lowest price may be over emphasized at the expense of quality, value and service. A contractor who does engage in the competitive bidding process incurs the expense of estimating as well; and, because that contractor usually has to bid a number of jobs in order to secure one construction contract, he/she has to work that expense into his/her pricing on contracted projects to recover costs.

What are the alternatives to competitive bidding? Find an excellent contractor (whom you judge by face-to-face meeting, talking to staff, talking to references, visiting prior jobs, searching to internet, considering awards and professional certifications), and an excellent architect or designer (judged by the same criteria), and put these two stellar individuals together to design and build your remodel.

Or hire a design-build firm where the designer and builders are in the same firm. This way, when the designer comes up with an idea that would blow your budget, the contractor will make that known immediately.

Or, if your project doesn’t need a designer or architect, go with a reputable contractor that you have done your homework on.

Bath remodel by Rose Construction Inc

Bath remodel by Rose Construction Inc. 4 by 4 built-in tiled shower with 1/4 inch clear tempered glass enclosure.

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