Thursday, August 17, 2017  

The Personality of Your Home  

Are you tired of your kitchen or bathroom but not sure just where to begin sprucing them up? Have you tried buying new rugs, curtains or towels but still not getting the bang you were looking for? Why not think about replacing your countertops? Upgrading or just changing the color of your countertops can be a simple beginning to an entirely new look for your kitchen or bathroom. (We all know that a homes’ countertops set the personality for the entire house.) The choices in material and colors are never ending. Perhaps you have been contemplating the switch but just not sure where to turn. Options today include standard tile, environmentally friendly quartz and elegant marble and many, many more in between.

The reason to purchase new counter­tops will lead you in the direction of which materials to use. Homeowners may want a different countertop material, a new color or they may be looking to sell their home and need to upgrade a few rooms to help with a quicker sale. There are several professionals in our area that are capable of guiding you in the right direction to fit your lifestyle. They keep up with the trends and popular colors and materials and can show you styles widely available today.

When looking for a new countertop you also need to keep in mind what kind of cleaning and upkeep is required for each type. Some countertops, such as tile, will require a little extra cleaning and sealant on the joints, granite must also be sealed but corian doesn’t need a sealant. A few will be completely seamless or solid surfaced while others will necessitate seams at the corners or have grout joints. A solid countertop is more sanitary than one with seems or joints because there is no space for bacteria to grow and for germs to hide. Homeowners must also look at the long term maintenance of different types of tops. Some require sealant to be applied every year or more often, while others just need to be buffed and cleaned with specific cleansers. Most natural countertops should not be cleaned with abrasive cleaners either.

Ceramic Tile is where you get the most bang for your buck and is trendy in kitchens or bathrooms. There are millions of different color choices to mix and match and you have the option of textures, adding murals, a border or design anywhere you choose. There is a great price range difference from highly decorative expensive tiles to standard single colors and just as many shapes and sizes to choose from. Other selling points for tile are that it is highly durable, it’s finish can take heat from hot pans and it is fairly easy to clean. The most prominent maintenance task of ceramic tile is to seal the grout on a regular basis to keep it from staining. Also tile is prone to chipping or cracking if something heavy is dropped on it. Leveling at installation may be challenging for a beginner and because some tile is man-made, each piece will not always have the same thickness. A professional installer will know how to deal with both issues.

Silestone is a type of Quartz countertop and can stand up to harsh kitchen conditions. Almost impossible to chip, scratch or stain this makes them a great addition to any kitchen, bathroom or bar top. Silestone is a man-made product combining natural quartz (an element found in granite) mixed with a binding resin and coloring agents. Even though quartz countertops are resistant to acids, chemicals and heat, it is still advisable to use hot plates or pads in order to protect the surface. Also avoid using a bleach cleaner and always use cutting boards when cutting. This is a non-porous surface so it can handle common mild household cleaners but do not use abrasive powders or pads on the surface. Quartz is also one of the strongest materials and the most low maintenance as it requires no chemical treatments or sealing but may be done if you desire. Silestone does come with “Microban” which is an anti-microbial treatment.

The ever popular Laminate is usually the standard installed in kitchens in home building today as it has always been. At one time called formica, it is made out of plastic coated synthetics with a smooth surface and is easy to clean. New to the market are the high definition colors which have a huge selection and some even emulate granite. The biggest advantage of laminate is obviously its affordability and the range of pattern/color choices. It is relatively durable and easy to replace if stained or damaged. Drawbacks include the fact that it scratches easily, will show any type of cutting marks made by accident, cannot hold hot or warm pots and cannot tolerate water. Sitting water can seep into seams and cause the underlayment wood to swell and crack beyond repair.

Concrete has become en vogue in kitchens nowadays. If you have an unusually shaped countertop, concrete can be custom made to fit your needs to make your countertop one of a kind. It does claim an elevated price tag but the look is worth it. If you desire the look: chemical stains, coloring pigments, various aggregates, and epoxy coatings can simulate the look, texture, and feel of quarried stone such as marble, granite, and limestone which makes concrete very versatile. The most amazing idea to use with custom made concrete countertops is to embed seashells, coins, tile, glass or anything for that matter, to add your personal touch. There are many advantages with concrete, such as your choice of custom colors to tint it with and it will almost never crack. A major negative is how porous the surface is but sealant on a regular basis can take care of that. Also, due to the concrete “curing” over the first few months, your color will most likely lighten over time. Because the color or tint is added during the process, it is not likely to get an exact match to the same counters in the same room.

Corian, a solid surface countertop, became all the rage over 20 years ago and is still going strong. The most amazing thing about corian countertops is the fact that scratches and stains can actually be sanded away to correct them. Corian also does not require a sealant. On the flip side, corian is soft which means it can also dent and abrasive cleaners will possibly scratch the surface. You must also use trivets when placing hot pans on its surface. This engineered stone is fashionable in kitchens, baths and bar-top areas as well. With proper care corian ages very well and adds value and grace to any room you install it in.

Granite is very popular in both kitchens and baths, especially if you are going for an upscale look and not on a budget. It adds the look of elegance to any décor, no matter what the size. Granite can also be sold as a solid piece with no cuts or seams at the corners which makes it more sanitary. There are a few drawbacks to granite though, a main one being that it should be sealed about twice a year to protect its finish if used in a very busy kitchen. This is due to its natural absorbent quality. Never allow acidic juices or cleansers on granite because they are likely to damage the sealant which will make the entire countertop prone to possible discoloration and/or staining. There have also been some concerns about elements being released from granite, so please talk with your installer and do your research before making your decision.
Engineered Stone is com­posed of quartz particles and often mistaken for granite because it has a similar look and finish. The quality differs from brand to brand and has many pros in common with granite. A major difference being that it is easier to clean and maintain. Added benefits would be the nonporous surface, it is scratch resistant and it is available in a larger color selection than granite.
Marble is the epitome of elegance and luxury. It is more likely to be used as flooring or a countertop in a bathroom but many lavish kitchens boast solid surface marble countertops as well. The rich tones of the marble color palette are plentiful encompassing creamy whites and neutrals, dreamy yellows, soft oranges, ocean greens and amazing blacks. Also the dramatic veining looks spectacular on marble countertops and floors and will easily complement most other design elements and themes. Marble is known for its polished mirror-like sheen that adds to its beauty but isn’t necessary. It is very high maintenance, stains easily, scratches easily and is required to be sealed each year. An added drawback is that it is highly reactive with acids (fruit juice, soda, coffee, alcohol, salad dressing, etc.) and will “etch” upon contact with acids. Etching destroys the polish leaving a dull, light spot. You’ll get these dull spots all over with marble countertops in the kitchen which makes it better suited for bathrooms.

Wood or Butcher Block countertops in the kitchen have become increasingly popular and offer a rustic look. Care depends on the type of wood used because they come in a wide range of finishes and timbers but all require oiling and sealing. Hardwoods such as oak, walnut, cherry or maple are the most common. They can be sanded and resealed when damaged, or after ample wear and tear, to look as good as new. On the other hand, wood will stain over time and can be damaged by water. It will show knife marks if used as a true cutting board, can be affected by excessive heat, it can even burn and, unfortunately, wood is prone to absorb odors and stains from food or drinks.
There are several variations of all the countertop surfaces described above. Some dealers offer similar types of countertops, the main difference being which company actually produces the materials. There are also newer, environmentally friendly surfaces being produced every day for the eco-minded homeowner.

After choosing the type of countertop you wish to have installed you must then chose the color and the type of cut along the edge. The several examples of countertops listed above give homeowners the option of rounded, square or designer corners and edging angles, such as beveled or bull nosed, to name a couple. After choosing your material, color and style, you will be well on your way to surrounding yourself with sophistication. Your choice can add a sense of elegance to your décor for years to come. Isn’t it time to capture the latest trend in your home? And what a better way to do that than to upgrade your countertops to fit your homes personality?
A special thank you to Fairleigh Schoolar from The Top Shop, in Tappahannock and Kathy Gouldman from The CabinetWorks, in Colonial Beach for sharing their expertise.