Advantages and Disadvantages of 5 Popular Kitchen Counter Top Materials

January 19, 2019

Kitchen Improvements

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Counter tops play a crucial role in setting the mood in a kitchen. They also have a functional role to play as they serve as a suitable worktop for your cooking, baking, prepping, and other needs. Such work surfaces in the kitchen can be made with many materials. Each of them works for different interior settings, and has its own set of advantages and disadvantages. Here is a look at 5 popular picks for kitchen counter tops.

• Granite

Granite is possibly the most widely used materials for kitchen counter tops. This mottled appearance of granite displays a beautiful array of colors and patterns that works just fine traditional and transitional themes. Each piece of granite is unique, so you also bring in this exclusivity to your kitchen when you opt for this material. Additionally, splashes, nicks, cuts, heat marks etc. do not show up on such surfaces, and hence, wear and tear is less visible on granite counter tops. On the downside, granite needs to be sealed well to avoid stains. The material is also extremely heavy, so it can only be fitted over cabinets that are strong and sturdy.

• Marble

Marble is a material that looks and feels rich in any interior setting. Its luminescent surface and unique veining make it an unmatched choice for traditional homes. The elegance exuded by a marble counter top is unmatched by any other stone. It tolerates heat well, and hence is an apt choice for pastry and baking needs. However, marble forms stains easily, even when sealed. It also forms cracks and chips easily. As a result, it becomes less sensible to use marble throughout the kitchen counter top – most home owners restrict the use of marble to a limited space.

• Zinc

This metal that is seen in commercial kitchen is now a favorite in residences too. This old-fashioned material is a good pick for those who love metallic counter tops. Zinc has a soft, matte look, and develops a rich patina with time, and over use. The material is also malleable, making it a great pick for detailing. The anti-microbial properties of Zinc also add to the appeal of this metal in kitchen work surfaces. Zinc can also be cleaned easily with just a swipe of a cleaning cloth and mild liquid. The metal however, is expensive. It develops scratches and heat marks easily, which can spoil the appearance of the counter top. Acids and liquids can also react with the surface and leave undesirable marks on the worktop.

• Laminates

Laminate counter tops are made with a blend of paper, resins, and particle boards fused to one another. It has been a popular pick for decades, also owing to its considerably lower cost. Laminate counter tops today are as stylish as work surfaces made from any other material. Many improved designs mimic actual stones, wood, and other expensive materials, but can be fitted at a fraction of the cost of the original. Laminate is also easy to clean and maintain, and can be fitted over light cabinetry as well. On the other hand, this material is prone to scratches, burns, and some kind of stains. Also, the layer that make the laminate can peel over time and use. Laminates also don’t work with under mount sink, and can be difficult to repair or replace if damaged.

• Wood/Butcher’s block

Wooden counter tops are a classic addition to kitchen spaces. They always retain their freshness, and are ideal for country, rustic, and cottage styled kitchens. The warm and natural feel of wood tones is inviting in kitchen spaces. Even if scratches develop, you can buff them down, or leave them as is for that shopworn look. On the downside, wood expands and contracts with exposure to moisture and heat. It can also warp or crack if not treated properly. The block also needs to be oiled to fill in scratches, and to keep the counter top well protected.

In addition to the above, you can use soapstone, engineered stone, recycled glass, pewter, and many other materials on your kitchen counter tops.


Lighting and your Kitchen – How to Design a Lighting Plan that Cooks!

January 19, 2019

Lighting

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Your kitchen, more than any other room in your home, needs a good well thought out lighting plan. Today’s kitchens have many more functions than just cooking a meal. For many families it is the most frequently used room in the house. Besides the obvious preparation of meals, kitchens today are also a place for the kids to do homework, parents to pay the bills, reading, eating and watching TV. For this reason it is important that the light not only be adequate but flexible.

The first place to start in any room when devising a lighting plan is to address general lighting. This is the light that will be used most of the time. In the case of a very small kitchen, one light in the center of the room will provide the general light. With most of today’s kitchens being larger, a single light fixture in the center of the room probably won’t satisfy your lighting needs. The most common solution is recessed lighting. Depending on what part of the country you are in they may be called high hats or pot lights or can lights. All these terms mean the same thing. Recessed lighting is a good way to provide general lighting in a kitchen in a neat and clean way.

The placement of the lights is very important. When designing a layout for the general lighting in a kitchen, we want to take into account the areas where tasks will be done. This includes counters, islands and tables. In most cases, by designing the light to illuminate these areas, the rest of the room gets a good spread of general light as well. Try to have the recessed lights fall out on the ceiling so that they are directly above the outside edge of the cabinets. The key here is getting the lights close enough to the work area so that you don’t create a shadow with your body. Putting the lights to far away from the counters is a sure formula for shadows. Don’t overlook any nooks that may be dark.

Islands can provide a great outlet for adding a decorative fixture or fixtures to the room. There are a multitude of pendants to choose from that can really enhance the room. I find it is probably one of the most commented on aspects of a kitchen lighting plan when the homeowner sees the finished product. Simply installing 2 or 3 pendants in line over an island can be quite stunning.

The next step is the task lighting. In a kitchen this is the light directly over the counters, stove and sink. Having one or two small recessed lights on a separate switch over the sink is both attractive and useful. The stove these days is almost always lit from a fan hood or microwave but if it is not it should be addressed. The way the counters are illuminated is with under cabinet lighting. This can be in the form of simple fluorescent fixtures on an economical level. A very nice effect is to use low voltage linear track. These can be dimmed and provide very good light to the counters. There are also xenon fixtures and halogen fixtures. If you can try and stay with xenon as they burn cooler and have a longer bulb life than halogen.

After you have your general lighting and task lighting covered the last thing to consider is any accent lighting. On some kitchens where there is a space above the cabinets, lighting on top of the cabinets can look spectacular. Tray ceilings with crown molding can also benefit greatly from this type of lighting. Using either a low voltage type track or rope light, you can add that extra touch that makes your kitchen unique.


The Benefits of Under Cabinet Lighting in Your Kitchen

January 19, 2019

Lighting

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Installing under cabinet lighting in your kitchen has many benefits. Under cabinet lighting uses low-voltage bulbs to make tasks easier and safer by delivering directed light to a specific area. Under cabinet lighting can provide two functions in your kitchen. It can provide task lighting for countertop food preparation and accent lighting to highlight your countertops and backsplash. Although under cabinet is also useful in workshops, garages, and basements, here we will focus on the kitchen.

Benefits of Under Cabinet Kitchen Lighting

1) Energy efficient – Can save energy by eliminating the need to light up an entire room.

2) Variety of bulbs – Energy efficient lights bulbs are most often used for under-the-cabinet lighting fixtures. Common under cabinet light bulbs include fluorescent, halogen, LED, and xenon bulbs.

3) Eliminate shadows – Under cabinet lighting reduces the shadows created by wall cabinets and overhead ceiling lighting. Proper spacing of under cabinet lighting eliminates the dark shadows under your countertops. To eliminate shadows, install one light for every 20-30 inches of counter space.

4) Add unique style and distinction to your kitchen – Many kitchen countertops are made from granite or marble. A kitchen under cabinet light can make your stone countertops shine.

5) Simple installation – Many DIYers can install under cabinet lighting in just a few hours.

Types of Under Cabinet Lighting: Strip Lights, Puck Lights, Linear Lights

Strip Lights: These are rectangular shaped fixtures and they work well with fluorescent bulbs. They are great for providing diffused light to the kitchen.

Puck Lights: These are round fixtures that got their name from their round, hockey puck- like size and appearance. These lights are best for highlighting countertops and backsplashes. Puck lights work with LED, halogen and xenon bulbs. Puck lights can be mounted in different positions to either aim downward or at the backsplash. As an alternative, puck lights can usually be recessed into cabinets.

Linear lights: Linear lights are often used with fluorescent bulbs. They are the most popular types of fluorescent under cabinet kitchen lighting because they are thin, which allow them to be concealed behind the cabinet trim.

Types of Bulbs Used: Fluorescent, Halogen, Incandescent, LED and Xenon.

Fluorescent bulbs – These are commonly used for under cabinet lighting fixtures. They create a bright work area by providing clear light. The disadvantage of fluorescent lights is that they cannot be dimmed and they sometimes flicker.

Halogen bulbs – Homeowners seeking a bright, white light choose halogen bulbs. The light emitted from a halogen bulb is warm and bright and provides a nice amount of light from under the cabinet. These bulbs have an extremely long life, lasting up to 2,000 hours.

Incandescent bulbs – These bulbs are the least popular under cabinet bulb type as their light is not very bright. Incandescent bulbs are not energy efficient and they emit heat. They last half as long as halogen bulbs.

LED bulbs – These bulbs are becoming a more popular choice among homeowners as they become more commonly available at lighting and home improvement stores. LED bulbs are available in different colors they and provide homeowners with the ability to create unique decorative features. LED bulbs are best for puck lighting.

Xenon bulbs – These bulbs have the longest lifespan of all under cabinet light bulb options. They can last up to 10,000 hours. They are energy efficient as they do not create heat.

Tips for Successful Under Cabinet Lighting

o One 12-inch lighting fixture or 3-puck light fixture should be installed for every 4 ft. of countertop.

o Install the lights toward the front of the cabinet so that they will highlight the surface best.

Marcy Tate is a home improvement writer with over a decade of experience in the electric field.


The Importance of Good Kitchen Lighting

January 19, 2019

Kitchen Improvements

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With the kitchen being one of the most traveled rooms in many homes, good kitchen lighting is important to its overall design and feeling.

The practice of implementing good lighting design is a popular and cost effective project that many homeowners choose to undertake in order to give their kitchens an extra personal touch and have it stand out from others.

There are several places, many of which some don’t ever consider, to add lighting. Did you ever think about kitchen cabinet lighting or kitchen lighting over the sink? These are just two places where extra lighting to go in order to accent your appliances and other kitchen fixtures.

Through the right design decisions, you can improve your kitchen’s look and create a positive ambiance that you, your family and guests will greatly appreciate.

In order to do that, however, it’s important to know what the different types of kitchen lighting are and how they are typically implemented into the design of a kitchen.

The four types of lighting to consider before beginning a kitchen remodeling project are task lighting, ambient lighting, decorative lighting and accent lighting. Each of these types of lighting serves a different purpose than the others, so getting acquainted with each one would be to your advantage while you’re in the planning stages of your project.

Ambient lighting is often the most prevalent type of lighting. Its low intensity creates a soft glow that makes it safe to work in most areas of the kitchen. Many people associate ambient lighting with setting the mood in a room not just in kitchens, but in places like restaurants and bars as well. The right amount of ambient light can make a room welcoming and homely.

Task lighting is a type of kitchen lighting that provides a more high intensity glow. It’s because of this that task lighting is often limited to places like the sink and cabinets, where being able to see is important. To get the most use out of this type of lighting, look into putting it not only over your sink, but over type other heavy-use kitchen items like cutting boards and stoves as well.

Accent lighting is designed to show things off. If you have an expensive new refrigerator or another item in your kitchen such as rare dishware that you want people to notice, then this is the type of lighting to use for that. It doesn’t make the working areas of your kitchen more functional places, but its aesthetic value has made it popular with homeowners performing kitchen renovations nonetheless.

Lastly, there is decorative lighting. This type of kitchen lighting allows you to make the space truly your own. Whatever the design of the lights, it’s important to remember the old adage of “less is more” with decorative lighting. Overdoing it with decorative lighting can make for a gaudy and flashy appearance whereas a minimalist approach can bring an understated refinement to the room.


The Benefits of a Large Kitchen Set

January 19, 2019

Kitchen Improvements

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Every kitchen has got the potential for functionality, display, and storage. The saddest part of life is the fact that many of our kitchens do not have all these things. Having a large kitchen helps you solve the issue. It also looks beautiful. When you are choosing or designing a home, it is a great thing if you are able to have one at your disposal. Some of the benefits include:

Storage and Cabinetry

If you have ever used a kitchen that doesn’t have adequate space for storage, then getting a big one will be a great thing for you. You can have as many shelves and drawers as you possibly want. You can also install recycling bins and any other component that you may have always felt is necessary for your home.

Enough for the Kids

A large kitchen is always a perfect option where kids are involved. Regardless of what you want them to help with, a large kitchen will accommodate all of you without the cramped feeling. You can have them in there so as to watch them easily. You can also install amenities like refrigerated drawers and microwaves in the reach of the young ones in case they need something without you around. You can place amenities for your kids comfortably within reach so as to teach them some bit of independence.

Seating Space

Having some extra seating space is always a great asset for homeowners. This is an area where you can have your informal dining. When your extended family or friends join you for dinner, preparing and serving your meals doesn’t become as hectic as it is normally where there are smaller kitchens.

Versatility

Sometimes one needs more floor space while others you need some extra counters. A large kitchen allows you to do whatever you feel is necessary. This becomes evident when you are making a huge meal for a lot of people who want to help.

Additional Kitchen Amenities

When you have a large kitchen, it becomes very easy to have all the amenities that you may have always wanted in the same place. This is how you make the kitchen a functional area that is useful for you and your household. This is how a kitchen becomes the main cooking and entertainment hub.

Material Options

There are many materials that you can choose from for a functional large kitchen. There are budget materials and costly ones according to your budget. A countertop dealer can help you when you are choosing the best material.

Everyone now has a legitimate reason as to why they should have a large kitchen since the benefits are many. You can enjoy the better seating area and versatility at all times. Many people struggle with decoration and design of the kitchen due to the limited area that is usually available. So as to make such a kitchen functional and look great at the same time, a lot of work has to be done. A small kitchen makes you sacrifice a lot of things but with the larger option, the styles that you can have within have no limits. There are a lot of things that can be done so as to make the space look very special.