News & Information

Uneven kitchen flooring is common in older homes in which foundations and beams have settled and shifted over time. It is typically not a safety concern as much as it is aesthetically unpleasing. Even a slight slope in the floor can be noticeable and may cause differences in the height of your counter at opposite ends of the kitchen. It can also throw off any wallpaper or flooring designs, which may draw attention and lead to frustration for homeowners who see the flaws daily.

However, it is not necessary to have a perfectly flat and level floor in order to have your new cabinets and countertop turn out level. Drastically sloped floors will always be best if carefully leveled and strengthened. But, for minor slopes or ridges, a few techniques can help avoid the tedious work involved with leveling floors, leaving you with a beautifully balanced countertop.

Leveling New Cabinets with Shims

In some cases, leveling the floor is not an option. If you have already installed new flooring, such as tile or wood, you will not be able to easily level the floor without causing damage to the layer you have installed. In this case, the first technique for getting level countertops is to level the cabinets themselves. This would be appropriate for homes in which you are installing new cabinets or where you are able to detach and reposition the old cabinets.

New cabinets can be carefully leveled by using shims during installation. Shims are thin pieces of wood carefully sloped from one end to the other to give very precise control over spacing. If your floor dips on one side beneath your cabinet, place the smallest end of the shim under the low side of your cabinet. Using a hammer or mallet, carefully tap the shim into place until that side of the cabinet is level with the higher side.

Depending on the length of the cabinet, you may need several shims along the low side to hold the cabinet up. Drastically low sides may require the thickness of several shims on top of each other to get the right height. Once the top of the cabinet is level, you can secure the base to the floor or wall as directed by the manufacturer. Do this for old cabinets you are repositioning as well.

Leveling CounterTops on Sloped Cabinets

If your cabinets are already secured in place, or you do not wish to reposition them, the second option is to simply level the top of the cabinets themselves. Again, this is possible by using shims along the top of the cabinet underneath the countertop. On whichever side or section is low, position the shims to support the low side of the countertop and lift it to be level with the high side before securing the countertop in place.

Both of these techniques can ensure a beautifully level countertop for your kitchen while a piece of trim can provide a finishing touch to hide the gap between floor and cabinet or cabinet and countertop. For more helpful home improvement tips, see our blog!

If you are redoing any of the flooring in your home, chances are good you are wondering how to properly transition between the carpet and tile in different rooms. Without a solid transition, the edges of your flooring can quickly become damaged with wear or unraveling carpet. In some cases, a bad transition can also be a tripping hazard. Not what you want in a safe and cozy home.

The right tools and transition strip can make a big difference. Let’s look at a few methods for transitioning carpet and tile to find the technique that’s right for you.

Installing Tile Before Carpet

If you are installing new carpet and tile, it’s often best to install the tile first. Tile is messy and requires mortar and grout, along with a cleaning process, in order to set and secure it properly. If you are laying tile right next to fresh carpet, you might get some of the mortar or grout on your plush carpet. This is a hassle to clean. The best process is to lay the tile before the carpet whenever possible.

Transition Strips

Some transition strips can be installed directly into the fresh mortar while you are laying the tile, creating a really strong bond between the strip and the floor. Other types of strips can be installed after both layers of flooring have already been laid. One of the more common types is a T strip, which has a base that is nailed to the subflooring between your carpet and tile. The top of the strip then has small arms that cover the edges of both sides of flooring. These are commonly made of wood, but similar styles can be found in vinyl or metal.

Carpet Installed Before Tile

In some cases, the carpet may already be installed when you are remodeling a home, such as when you take out old vinyl flooring in the kitchen to upgrade to a low-maintenance tile flooring. This is not a problem, and there are several excellent transitioning methods to consider using.

Z-Bar Transitions

Z-Bars are metal fixtures that are fashioned in a Z shape. The flat base is placed into freshly spread mortar before the tile is laid over it at the edge of the transition. The top of the Z shape then covers the edge of the carpet that is already secured to the floor either by adhesive or tack strips. It’s one of the most secure ways to protect the edge of your carpet as it is cemented with your tile. If you want to use this method, it must be installed while you are laying the tile next to the existing carpet.

Using Reducer Strips

Reducer strips may be the best option if one of your flooring layers is higher than the other. This is fairly common with remodels, in which layers of subflooring and mortar cause the tile to be higher than the layer of carpet that butts up against it. The reducer strip is slanted in such a way that it protects the edges of the higher and lower layers without an abrupt cliff edge above the lower layer.

Transition strips, no matter which type you choose, are a wise way to protect your flooring investment and prevent unnecessary damage from occurring. For more home improvement tips, be sure to follow our blog!

Open concept kitchens are very much sought after by today’s modern homebuyer. An open concept kitchen makes the area appear larger, and it creates more space for a family to be together because they are usually connected to the family room or dining room or both. Open concept means that barriers do not exist. One room flows into the next, and it can create cohesiveness and togetherness in all of these spaces. 

Floor Plans

Most commonly, the open concept kitchen will combine the kitchen, family room, and dining room. There will be no walls between these spaces, but these spaces will still have some distinct features. This floor plan also creates a space completely designed for gathering and socializing. Cooking, eating, and relaxing can all take place in the same area.

Another way that the open concept kitchen can be created is by combining the kitchen and the dining area. This allows for food to be prepared, served, and enjoyed in the same place. There are a lot of positives to these floor plans. Overall, entertaining in open concept areas is easier because it allows for the host to cook while guests have room to mingle or you can drink your coffee while you watch the morning news.

 Design

Because all rooms are connected to one another without any barriers, the design is important. You want each room to have a cohesive feel, and incorporating design elements that help one room flow into the other is important. Using the same paint color throughout is a good idea, and using similar accent colors also helps bring each room together. You can do this by choosing throw pillows for your family room couch that match the window treatments in the kitchen and the decor on the dining room table. 

Positives of the Open Concept

Now, as we have touched upon throughout this article, the open concept kitchen can be great in so many ways. It creates a space for socialization and community within the home. It also allows more light in because there are fewer walls, and it can make your space feel bigger because it eliminates structures (walls) that are unnecessary.

Drawbacks of the Open Concept

Finally, there are some drawbacks that exist when it comes to the open concept design. First, it does require more organization and cleaning because each room is connected to one another. This means if there is a mess in the kitchen, you will be able to see it in the living room. The open concept also creates a more informal look to the home. If you are someone who wants a formal dining room or living room, the open concept may not be for you. Also, you may lose some storage capabilities because you lose some walls. This means that there is less place for cabinets.

Overall, the layout and design of your home is a very personal decision. The open concept kitchen fits the needs of some people, but it may not be what everyone wants. Thinking about how you want your space to function is important before deciding on the layout of your home. Hopefully these points help you with your decision. 

Stone tiles are a great addition to any home that will stand the test of time. Unlike other flooring options, stone tiles are largely fixable and resist a good amount of wear, making them able to last your family for years to come.  

When considering home renovations, it’s important to know the facts around stone tiles so that you can ensure that they are a great fit for your household. 

1. Color Variety

Contrary to popular belief, stone tiles come in many colors outside of black or gray. Slate alone can come in deep metallics, green, purple, and blue. 
If you’re looking for a more natural look, natural stone varieties such as marble and Limestone come built with beautiful colors and patterns to brighten up any room. Natural veins and cracks in the stone can convey a more rustic look, and add to your patio’s atmosphere. 

Without a doubt, you’re able to find stone tiles that will match the preexisting color palette of your home.

2. Multiple Uses

Stone tiles are not just limited to flooring. Stone is one of the oldest building materials on the planet, it’s no wonder that it’s so versatile.

Many stone varieties are naturally porous, which makes them excellent water absorbers. That being said, stone tiles are a perfect addition to your shower wall or any outdoor construction. With all of the color variety, stone tiles make ornate kitchen backsplashes to add a pop of color to your home. 

Stone tiles can be used in the kitchen as countertops. In fact, marble white counters are very trendy and appear in the kitchens of many celebrity chefs. The stone alone has begun to convey an idea of luxury. 

3. Made to Last

One of the best parts about using stone tiles is that they are nature’s creation, meaning that they can certainly handle the wear and tear of home life since they are constructed to resist intense weathering. 

It’s no surprise that famous buildings such as St. Peter’s Cathedral or Michaelangelo’s David have continued to inspire artisans for years to come- Not only are these projects beautiful, but since they were constructed out of stone, they are able to last for centuries to come. 

Most stone can handle a good amount of moisture and is very easy to fix. You won’t have to worry about kids or pets damaging your stone tiles, as stone can always be restored. 

4. Texture Variety

When picking out your stone tiles, it’s important to consider texture as one of your deciding factors. Stones naturally have different surface types, and perforations and indentations can add unique patterns to stone, giving your home the niche look you’re seeking. 

Moreover, you should also look into the level of gloss. Stone is super flexible in terms of appearance, and a matte/glossy look can completely alter the aura of a room. 

All in all, stone tiles stand as a durable, beautiful home decorating material. Have fun using nature’s building blocks to make your home yours. 

Why does grout matter?

While it may not be the first thing guests notice when they step onto your kitchen or bathroom floor, grout is quite literally part of the foundation of lasting tilework. In addition to acting as a bonding agent, grout increases the beauty of tile flooring by smoothing out irregularities in the tiling and prevents water from permeating a floor’s substrate. But even though grout is durable and can last about a decade, factors such as time, the normal settling of a home, and improper initial application can cause grout to deteriorate more quickly than expected.

As a homeowner, you want to be aware of the danger signs and recognize when your grout may be due for a facelift as well as what your options are for fixing the problem.

Here are three signs that it’s time to renew the grout.  

The Reoccurring Mold Story

Mold is pretty common in bathrooms due to the constant moisture and humidity. In most cases, mold can be cleaned up fairly easily and at minimal cost or risk. However, if mold reoccurs in the same area, or permeates the surface of the tile, it’s quite probable that there’s a bigger problem—one that requires a fresh application of grout.

Grout itself is porous. As mold spreads over the surface of the grout, it is possibly also growing within it. To avoid potential health risks and maintain a healthy floor, if you notice reoccurring mold, contact a grouting professional as soon as possible.

Cracked Grout

If you notice that the grout lines between your tiles are cracked, chipped, or worn away altogether you want to replace the grout as soon as possible. Keep in mind that grout acts as a barrier between moisture and the underlying layers of your floor. Without a firm layer of grout between the tiles, you run the risk of extensive water damage below the tiling surface—a problem that can be very costly to fix.

Loose Tiling

Have you noticed that the tiling in your kitchen or bathroom floor seems a little loose? It may be a sign that it’s time to renew your grout. As the porous particles of grout begin to deteriorate, the spacing between the tiles increases which allows the tiles to shift. As a result, the tiles in your home may become unstable, presenting a hazard to yourself and your loved ones or pets. If the tile slippage is minor you may be able to fix the problem yourself. But if the grout has been in place for several years, it may be in your best interests to regrout.

We’re here to help

As a family-owned and operated business, Castles Home Service knows the value of making your home feel like a castle. With a passion for floor restoration and the experience to match, we are California’s natural stone cleaning and restoration experts. If the job seems a little more than you’re ready to take on, give us a call at (831) 444-0991, email us at info@castleshomeservice.com, or message us on our website: www.castleshomeservice.com

When taking care of your marble and stone, it is important to know what substances can cause long-term damage, stains, etching, and discoloration to the surface. Here are some everyday products and cleaning solutions you need to avoid to best care for your marble and keep it in top condition.

Acid & Alkaline


There’s a wide variety of acidic substances that cause natural stone or marble damage and etching, but it’s important to note what makes it acidic. Acidity is measured on a pH scale, and the scale goes from 0-14 (basic to acidic). If a substance measures with a pH level of 7 or below then it is acidic-based and it should avoid contact with your natural stone.

Products high in alkaline, which include a lot of cleaning and kitchen products, should also be cautioned in contact with marble. Since marble is so porous, the alkaline salts in these products can have a chemical reaction when exposed to the surface, leaving permanent deep marks and stains that can not be cleaned or wiped off.


The following list of products could damage your marble upon contact.

Juice
: Lemon, lime, tomato, orange, cranberry, and even kid’s fruit juices can be absorbed into marble and create darker spots on countertops and floors. Depending on the color of the juice, the acid can absorb into the stone, leaving a darker or lighter-colored spot. It can also dull the stone’s shiny finish.


Soda
: A majority of colas contain phosphoric acid that rate high on the pH level scale (2.5 to 3.5). It’s important to clean up spills immediately.

Toilet Bowl Cleaner
: Toilet bowl cleaners are the most acidic product that you can use in your home. With a pH level as low as 1, they can wreak long-term havoc on your stone and marble floors. To steer clear of this issue, use a product that is naturally-based and free of this acidic threat.

Vinegar
: Many people consider vinegar to be the greatest cleaner on earth, but it can damage marble upon contact almost instantly. Replace it with a neutral cleaner that is more suitable for natural stone surfaces.
 

Milk
: Any milk products can damage your natural stone as it contains lactic acid which can rank from anywhere to 4.5 to 6.5 on the pH scale. So make sure to keep those sippy cup lids on tight when on your marble countertop.
 

Ammonia and Heavy Duty Cleaners
: Many of the cleaners under our sink have a high level of alkaline and have damaging effects on marble. Consider replacing these out with natural home products that are safer for your stone surfaces.


Restoring your etched and damaged Stone/Marble

You may find a slew of DIY solutions, but be careful to read up on ingredients so as to not to damage your surface more. If you have stains or etch marks on your natural stone surfaces, contact an expert like Castles Home Service to help you professionally restore your stone and ask to learn more about long-term preventative measures that they recommend, like their professionally installed solution – MORE™ Surface Care AntiEtch™.

Are you in the process of a home remodel and questioning if you should restore your stone surfaces and flooring by yourself or leave it to the pros? Grinding down or polishing your marble and stone is possible to DIY, but you need to know what to look for. Here are some important tips, tricks, and insights to set your stone restoration project up for success.

What to expect

Stones such as marble are very porous and soft and can be easily chipped, scratched, or cracked. If neglected, stone surfaces can take on major buildup from harsh cleaning products, wax, food, or even water which can lead to discoloration. Depending on the age and condition of your stone, it may be impossible to get it to its original finish, but you can bring back the vibrancy and shine and have a result well worth your time.
 


If your stone has deep cracks, holes, or fractures, then a DIY approach to your stone restoration could lead to even more problems down the road. If you are unsure, get a professional stone restoration expert to examine and offer their advice on how you should tackle the project.

A clean slate

Sweep and/or vacuum the surface to start the process. Next, use a soft cloth and warm water to see if elbow grease can do the job alone. If basic cleaning won’t do, use a neutral stone cleaner to see if it can get the results you want before you turn to the grinding process. Make sure that this cleaner is not acid or alkaline-based since these could further damage or etch your stone.

Make your repairs

If it appears the only solution to revive your stone is by grinding, it’s important to fix any problem areas in your stone. Failure to repair cracks or holes can lead to more chips and scratches. There’s a variety of epoxy resins in various colors that you can use to fill these spots; these can be purchased at your local hardware store or online. Always make sure to thoroughly read instructions for these products and properly set them before the grinding process starts.

 The grinding process

Diamond-abrasive disks are the best choice for grinding large flooring areas like foyers, kitchens, or living areas. They are simply attached to floor buffers and remove the uneven tile ledges (lippage) and scratches to flatten and renew the stone’s surface. During this process, the fine grit of the disk also polishes, shines, and removes discoloration of the stone bringing it back to life.

It will take several passes with the floor buffer to achieve a quality, finished result. Operating the machine in a side to side motion, you move the buffer over the floor making sure to overlap the areas you just completed to create a smooth, consistent finish. During the process, it is necessary to change out the abrasive disks from a coarse to fine finish for the ultimate result.

Does restoring your own stone surfaces sound daunting? Then leave it to the highly skilled professionals at Castles Home Service! The finished result will drastically enhance your home’s appearance and value.

Have you just chosen that gorgeous, new natural marble countertop for your kitchen renovation and now you need to decide on a sink?  Type in “kitchen sink” into the search bar of a home center’s website, and the sheer number of choices might well leave you exasperated.  We are going to look at some of the options here, and hopefully leave you feeling more confident when the time comes to select an appropriate sink to perfectly suit that new natural stone countertop and make your kitchen complete!

MATERIALS

What do you want that new sink to be made of?  Here are the common options:

Stainless Steel:  Stainless steel sinks have been a popular option for many years for a good reason.  They are durable, inexpensive, they don’t chip and are available in every shape and size you might need!  The only concerns are, generally, that they can scratch and sometimes become water spotted. Some people dislike the noise they can make when items are dropped into them. The noise issue, however, can be minimized by choosing a model with noise deadening coatings on the underside.

Enameled Cast Iron:  Often seen in older kitchens, but still a popular choice today, this material is sturdy but can be prone to chipping of the enamel coating.  They are available in a variety of colors and are quieter due to the weight and natural vibration dampening quality of the cast iron.

Composite:  This type of sink is molded from quartz or granite mixed with resin, and generally come in colors or patterns designed to resemble granite.  They have a reputation for heat and damage resistance but can be on the pricey side. 

Vitreous China:  Think of the typical toilet, and you know what vitreous china is.  Normally reserved for bathroom fixtures, kitchen sinks are now available in this material.  It is scratch-resistant and attractive but can be prone to chipping if you’re not careful.

STYLES AND MOUNTING OPTIONS:

How do you want it to be installed?  How many bowls do you need?

Single or Double Bowl:  When making this choice, consider how food will be prepared, and the needs of the cook.  If your kitchen is large enough to have a separate food prep sink, you might not need a double bowl sink and can consider a larger single bowl to accommodate washing larger items.  If you like having a separate place to rinse washed dishes, go for a double bowl.

Vitreous China:  Think of the typical toilet, and you know what vitreous china is.  Normally reserved for bathroom fixtures, kitchen sinks are now available in this material.  It is scratch-resistant and attractive but can be prone to chipping if you’re not careful.

STYLES AND MOUNTING OPTIONS:

How do you want it to be installed?  How many bowls do you need?

Single or Double Bowl:  When making this choice, consider how food will be prepared, and the needs of the cook.  If your kitchen is large enough to have a separate food prep sink, you might not need a double bowl sink and can consider a larger single bowl to accommodate washing larger items.  If you like having a separate place to rinse washed dishes, go for a double bowl.

Drop-in mount:  Installed from the top with a small lip that overhangs onto the countertop, and then secured from underneath with brackets, or from the top with adhesive.

Undermount:  Installed from underneath, and more difficult to replace if they ever need to be. Some find that this type of sink gives a more polished look to the installation. 

Apron Front:  These are typically wider and deeper, and mounted so that the front (“apron”) extends out from the counter to give your kitchen an “old world,” rustic look.

All in all, when choosing a sink, first keep in mind how you will use it, and you won’t likely go wrong!

Renovating a kitchen is a big project that can disrupt even the calmest household. One of the biggest steps in getting a new kitchen is bringing in a new countertop. It’s also the one step that has the biggest wow factor, especially if your current countertop is incredibly dated and worn and you’re going for new material. Once you’ve decided to have a granite or stone counter installed, there’s just a bit of work to be done to make the installation process that much easier for the pros doing the work (and do leave it to the pros to do it).

Talk to Your Contractor

Ask your contractor any and all questions you have. If you have a new sink coming in, make sure they’re aware of its dimensions. One important question for your contractor is whether or not your existing cabinets can support a countertop made from a heavier material. This should be covered in an initial consultation, but like most obvious questions, it can be missed.

Schedule Everything

You’re going to want to schedule a day for this process with nothing else getting in the way. A best-case scenario would have this procedure taking roughly two hours. But as you know, best cases don’t always happen. You want to be there (or have another appointed decision-maker) on hand for any last-minute decisions. If you do have to have other work done in your house on the same day, just make sure they’re in another part of the house or otherwise out of the way. 

Removing the Old

Most likely you’ll have the installer remove the old countertop. If that’s not the case, this obviously needs to happen before the new one goes in. And not right before! Make sure the whole removal process is absolutely finished before the installation starts. The removal contractors should also make sure that the cabinets the countertop rests on are completely level. It’s possible this wasn’t the case with your initial installation, so best to make sure. 

Everything Must Go

It’s best to remove everything from your kitchen that’s loose and not a heavy appliance, even from the overhead cabinets. Best to not risk anything breaking or getting in the way. Lastly, make a clear path for the workers to travel to and from the kitchen. They’ll be transporting very heavy materials, and anything you can do to make that go easier is better. On the day of the installation, you’ll want to secure away any pets.

Finally

Once the job is done, there will no doubt be clean up to be done and epoxies that need to dry. Again, ask any questions with your contractor and see when it is safe to bring any food into the kitchen, when you can move items back into it, and when any other work (such as having a plumber install a sink) can proceed.

Taking care of these tasks can ensure that both you and your contractors will have as stress-free an experience getting a new countertop. And think of the rewards: at the end of the day, your kitchen will be completely transformed into something newer, better, and inspiring.

 You know what you like in a kitchen countertop’s aesthetics, but you probably don’t think too much about its strength. Can your countertop resist a range of scratches and temperatures? It’s pretty easy to just assume your kitchen counter can take anything you dish out, but depending on what it’s made out of, you might do damage to your counter by pushing it too far. Listed below are several materials that most kitchen countertops are made of along with their strengths and weaknesses.

Laminate

Laminate countertops are made of a plastic combined with paper or particleboard, usually giving the appearance of other materials (like wood or marble). As expected with any sort of hybrid plastic product, they are not very heat resistant (a cup of coffee can discolor or mar the surface of a laminate surface). Laminate is most often the most economical solution.

Solid-surface

Solid-surface counters are slightly better than laminate, but not by much. They are also a composite of inorganic materials, including roughly one-third polymer resins. They have a little more heat resistance, although they can crack from extreme cold or extreme temperature changes.

Granite

Granite is exceptionally heat-resistant/tolerant as a natural material, so it works great as a kitchen countertop. A hot pan can be placed right on a granite counter without leaving a mark. However, extreme changes in temperature (such as putting something frozen where there was immediately before a hot pan) can potentially cause cracking. Best to use some sort of heat protection, like a trivet.

Quartz

What is marketed as quartz countertops are usually a hybrid of natural quartz and inorganic materials. The quartz itself is very heat resistant, but the polymers incorporated with them can discolor with heat or direct sunlight. Because of this, they are seldom used outdoors. 

Marble

Marble is comparable to granite for heat resistance/tolerance. However, untreated marble countertops can have issues with scratching and marring since it’s a relatively soft stone, requiring the use of trivets or other means of heat protection.

Terrazzo and recycled glass

While aesthetically very pleasing, Terrazzo and recycled glass countertops are not very common. Although their durability compares to granite, they can crack when they encounter extreme changes in temperature (just like granite). The level of resistance of the material depends on the quality of the glass used. They are also very expensive compared to the other materials listed here.

Concrete

Concrete has a very high heat resistance/tolerance. But just like a sidewalk, it can develop cracks over time. The process of installation is also very expensive and difficult.

Metal

Metal countertops are usually made from stainless steel, aluminum, or copper. While metal is very heat resistant, it’s also very heat conductive, meaning you need to be careful touching any surface that’s recently had a hot pan on it. They also scratch very easily. 

Clearly, there is no one size fits all answer to ‘what is the best kitchen countertop?’, but armed with a bit of knowledge, you can make a decision for your kitchen that makes sense. Consulting with your contractor can also help you with this decision.