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 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.

Whether you are gearing up for a full kitchen remodel, replacing a countertop that is damaged, or installing a new stone countertop for any other reason, you are going to want to spend a little time studying your options for this fairly significant investment.  True, it’s not the biggest investment that you might make in your home, but it’s something that will cost enough money and time that, once completed, it is unlikely that the thought of ripping it out and replacing it with something new, at least in the immediate future, will be something that you will want to deal with.  There’s no way to put every option available into this short article, but the information below should, at least, give you a good start on the journey.

Stone Type Materials

Quartz:  Made from ground quartz, nearly as hard as diamonds, that is then mixed with resin. This is easily one of the most durable materials available; the only danger for a quartz countertop is heat.  The other things that are common dangers to a countertop, however, such as knives and utensils, won’t be a problem with a quartz countertop. Also, unlike natural stone and concrete, this material does not need to be sealed.

Granite:  A very durable and heat resistant material, it can be on the pricey side and requires sealing to resist stains.  It is, however, far more available than it used to be and available in a wide variety of colors and patterns. 

Marble:  Another well-known natural stone, marble can’t be found in as many colors and patterns as quartz, or even granite, but its beauty is unmistakable.  Feel free to use it for beating dough and rolling pie crusts, but use caution with knives, and acidy citrus.

Man-Made Materials

Laminates:  You may remember the brand name “Formica,” but forget what your parents or grandparents had on their countertops!  Today’s laminates come in a dizzying array of patterns and colors and may provide a great, less expensive though somewhat less durable and heat resistant alternative to other materials.

Solid Surface:  Most commonly sold under the brand name “Corian,” this material is durable, available in a wide variety of colors and patterns and can be molded to fit many applications.  It can be damaged by hot pans and also scarred with knives, but much minor damage can actually be sanded out. Further, it does not require sealing.

Tile

The great thing about tile is that, if you have a little imagination, the possibilities are literally endless.  You can customize a countertop with solid white tiles from end to end, mix up a pattern of every color or texture in the rainbow or anything in between!  Further, if a tile ever cracks, they can be easily replaced. Add to this the fact that tile is very scratch and heat resistant and, overall, it can be a very durable, as well as customizable, solution for your new kitchen countertop!

If nothing in this list suits you, ask your local home center or contractor about limestone, crushed glass, butcher block, or even concrete for that industrial look!

It’s time to choose tile for your project. If you have never done this before, you are probably realizing that it’s not as simple as going with the “standard” tile that your contractors pick. Tile is a huge part of the room and will be there for a long time. Selecting the right tile requires some thought and planning. There is no clear right or wrong answer, it is largely up to you and your taste. That being said, there are a few things that should be considered when choosing the size of your new tile.

Create A Plan and Visualize

Consider the size and layout of the room to be tiled. Is it a larger room that you want to have a more open space feeling? If so, large rectangular tiles are going to give the room a wide elongated feeling. If you are tiling a smaller room and want to have a more complex look, then small tiles will give it more of a busy look and will be perceived by the eye to be larger than it is. The tile will set the tone for the room, so be sure to develop and understand the look you are aiming for.

Grout Lines

The smaller the tile, the more grout lines you will have. Conversely, the larger the tile, the fewer grout lines. The more lines there are, the busier the room looks. Use this to your advantage – in a bathroom where there are sinks and toilets to go around, the smaller tiles will be beneficial and fit without making as many cuts. Small tiles with more grout lines are also good for grip, keep that in mind when selecting tile for the shower or outdoor patios. Large tiles in small rooms lead to needing to make several cuts to the tile for it to fit around objects. Something to keep in mind, the grout should be as close to the color of your tile as possible. By doing so, you will avoid turning your floor or walls into a giant grid.

Let’s Cut to the Chase

If you are still unsure of the right tile for your project, here are some general “rules of thumb” to get you in the right place. Use large tiles for living rooms, kitchens, and dining areas. Consider laying the tiles in a diagonal pattern rather than the standard method. Diagonal tiles make the space look larger.

Small tiles are great for smaller rooms or for making borders around larger tiles. Borders accent the room and create a more complex pattern. As mentioned, small tiles are better for areas that need extra grip like bathrooms and showers.

Once you have a general idea of the size of the tile you want, get some samples. It’s a good idea to see the actual tile in the room it is going to be in. You will be able to gauge better the size and how it will look in the space. It’s much easier to change your mind and go a different direction when there are only a few tiles in the room versus the floor being completely finished.

There are many benefits to creating your patio with stone tile. For starters, repairs and upkeep are much easier and cost much less than other materials do. Instead of spending a day or days fixing chips and cracks, with stone tile, we’re talking minutes or at most an hour to make quick repairs. No more wasting money constantly sealing or staining your patio. Here’s a guide to building your own patio with stone tile.

Gather Tools and Materials

You are going to be measuring, digging, and tamping. You will need a tape measure, a level, shovels, a hoe, and a pickaxe. You will also need to have a wheel barrel to transport the dirt you dig up, a tamp, and a broom. As for materials, pick out your stone tiles, a landscape cloth, and some sand. This is not the time to be frugal – buy a few more tiles than you think you will need. If you have some extra, they will be good to hang on to anyway for future repairs.

Start the Work

Mark off the area you want to make your patio and measure it. Measuring the area will assist you in cutting your landscape cloth to form a good fit. Before putting your shovel into the Earth, double-check that there are no plumbing lines or buried electrical cables where you will be digging. Once you confirm it’s all clear, pull your wheel barrel nearby and start digging. A good depth is at least six inches. Ensure you are past all vegetation. If you are still running into roots and plant matter, dig a little deeper. Lay your landscape cloth when finished digging to prevent weeds from growing under and through your patio.

Create a Level Base

Once your digging is complete, pack in the base. Do yourself a favor and rent an automatic tamp. It will make the job a little less physically exhausting and enable you to focus on the quality of the job, not how tired and hungry you are. Make sure the base is smooth and level. To help with drainage, you should create a 1/4 inch drop for every two feet of distance, that way the rain will run off the patio instead of soaking or creating puddles.

Lay Tiles and Finishing Touches

It’s time to lay the tile. Make sure they are as close together as possible. After the tile is down, go around the edges and shave off any pieces to create the even edge of your patio. You don’t want any corners sticking out, giving it a sloppy appearance. To complete your new patio, pour sand on top of the tile and fill the cracks. You want to get sand in between the tiles and overtop of them as to fill in any voids there may be. The sand will also assist with drainage. Once you have cleared the sand and packed the cracks, you are ready to start enjoying the result of your hard work! 

Homeowners looking for long-standing appeal often turn to gray stone countertops, as they add elegance, durability, and an upscale feel to their kitchens and bathrooms.  The natural, singular quality that gray stone provides gives your home a timeless appearance that will please you for a lifetime.  

Homeowners also tend to need ideas for decoration that will showcase their investment.  If you’re reading this blog, you’re probably looking for a way to make your counters a showpiece in your home.  Continue reading for advice on complementing your counters with a variety of home decoration ideas.  

Gray Stone Counters-The Draw

Your gray stone counters leave nothing to be desired. Stone is durable and traditional and gray is compatible with almost any color palette.  Gray stone counters will continue to serve your home well throughout your life, yet they are able to complement the newest of appliances and fixtures.  

Gray Color Schemes – The Upside

Designing your kitchen or bathroom around your gray counters is an intelligent choice. Again, gray will work with the most modern appliances, but can still be versatile in its range.  Do not think that a gray counter is automatically a dull, lifeless thing. Instead, select from options such as greige, taupe, slate, and gray-green. The possibilities are varied and regardless of your choice, you will be able to change the look of your room without having to update your counters.  

Therefore, once you have chosen the stone and palette, a room can be designed around it. 

How to Complement your Gray Stone Counters

There is a myriad of ways you can design your kitchen around your new Gray Stone Counters.  Below are a few choice options:

  • Cabinets: While a two-tone gray might be popular, white or traditional wood tones make the best contrast that will make your new counters shine.  Remember, choose a color or finish that matches the undertone of your counters. 
  • Appliances: Obviously, you have many choices as almost anything will go with your new gray counters.  Black, white, and gray will all look wonderful and help your counters. Stainless steel is also an option that many choose, which complements the counters well. When you make your selection, decide whether you wish for the appliances to be the star, or if your counters will catch the eye of anyone who enters. 
  • Backsplashes: While gray stone counters are anything but bland, you might be worried about whether the color will bore those around it.  A patterned backsplash can attract the eye and increase the elegance of your room. 
  • Walls: Though it may be tempting to keep to a mono-tone palette, having your walls and your counters gently contrast one another will add to the visual appeal of your room.  White and soft grays pair well, as do dark gray and white with warm tones.    

In the end, you are the one who will be using and living with your counters.  Take your time and make a decision you know you will enjoy for years to come.

In today’s world of DIY, flipping, or design hacks, it’s easy to mistake quality work for that of a wannabe Chip Gaines on a budget! When it comes to your home, you do not want to skimp on quality for aesthetics; YOU LIVE HERE. Trust me when I tell you, at 11 pm when an electrical socket stops working, you’ve cut power to the entire home, and you are pulling that socket out to examine it, the last thing you want to hear is your “custom backsplash” falling off of the wall and crumbling. Here are some tips to ensure your backsplash looks great and stays that way:

Poorly Prepped Walls:

A backsplash update can seem so unassuming; just go, pick out some tiles that make your heart smile, grab a little grout and go! Quick weekend project, right? While it can be, the preparation of the walls is fundamental to the quality and longevity of your work. Adhesive and tiles will not properly stick to walls with grease stains and fingerprints, common demons in the high traffic kitchen area! Before you hit your local hardware store, be sure to give your kitchen a deep clean!

Ugly Grout:

Tile can be a beautiful statement to any room, but if the grout is not spread or treated properly, your project will be unnoticeable under this mistake. Crisp and clean grout lines will keep the tile work looking wonderful, and regular maintenance and cleaning will keep it looking new for years!

Not Accounting for Water and Humidity:

If you are installing tile in an area that water frequently reaches, a waterproof backer board will need to be installed to stop water from seeping into any small cracks. This oversight often leads to warping, or damaged tiles, which can become unsightly!

Proper Measurement for Outlets:

When cutting your tile, or tile sheets, electrical outlets need to be accounted for. Even the most precise measurements can leave small gaps around outlets, so we recommend saving trimmed pieces to fit into those tiny areas to guarantee a professional finish to your project.

Caulk with Caution:

Much like ugly grout, a bad caulk job can totally take away from all of your hard work. Using a caulk that matches your grout, and a dripless caulk gun can make sure that the area is sealed, and seamless!

Don’t Forget the Clean Up:

Tiling can be tedious work, and after completing your project you are going to want to sit back and admire! But once the grout film has dried, be sure to circle back and diligently clean away any remaining film or debris with a microfiber towel. Failure to finish this step can lead to excess grout drying on the new tiles and creating a filmy or muddy haze that will be impossible to eliminate!

If you cannot consult a local professional to help with tile installation, be sure to follow this guide for the best results! Happy DIY’ing!

The modern-day kitchen is not only a place to prepare our meals but to enjoy quality time with family while making precious memories, to entertain guests with good food and good times, and should be a comforting place in the home that exudes the character and love shared by its inhabitants.  Therefore, the kitchen should not only represent each homes unique style but remain functional and maintain a stress-free cooking environment. Here are some tips to help create a kitchen that is functional, enjoyable, and stress-free.

Make Use of Shelves

Shelves are a simple way to take advantage of the vertical space your kitchen provides. Whether floating on the wall, inside cabinets or an island, make sure they are adjusted properly to most efficiently use the space.

Keep Items You Use Most Often Within Reach

You can hang kitchen utensils for cooking on a rack at eye level, or in something such as a jar or pitcher on the counter next to the stove for easy access. Place items you use less often above or below functional height as you need to retrieve them far less.

Use Racks to Store Plates and Baking Pans

Installing a vertical slat system within a cabinet is an easy way to organize better and store slim items such as plates, baking sheets, trays, and cutting boards.

Straighten Out the Clutter Under the Sink

Make use of stackable organizers, baskets, and hooks for your doors to revamp the mess under your sink and turn it into an easy to access storage space.

Use Labels, Containers, and Jars

Have a designated container with the appropriate label on it to store things like sugar, flour, baking soda, cereal, and other food items that can be more easily stored when stacked and clearly identified.

Consolidate Soaps

Keep your counter and sink area free of clutter and soap scum by using a dish or stand to keep your soaps together and up off your counter surfaces.

Upgrade the Pantry

Overhaul your pantry with shelving and hanging rack systems that are able to use the area on your door and wall space in your pantry to better store food and other kitchen items out of sight and out of your way.

Hang Measuring Tools on Cabinet Door

Hooks on the inside of an upper cabinet door are a great way to store your measuring spoons according to volume and usage.

Drawer Dividers

A simple drawer divider can be slid into place and used to keep larger kitchen utensils organized and maximize drawer storage space.

Pull Out Shelves

Replace fixed shelves in lower cabinets with pull out drawers to easier access and make use of even the back of your cabinets.

Store Appliances You Use Less Frequently

Appliances such as blenders, mixers, can openers, and toasters can be put away so as to have less clutter and more open counter space to make use of for cooking preparation and everyday living.

These ideas are simple yet effective in producing a kitchen that is beautiful as well as practical, furnishing your home with a space of warmth and convenience to take pride in.

The simple answer to this question would be yes, it is possible to dye marble countertops, but the seemingly more difficult question to be answered would be, is it worth it? Although it can be done, the task can be quite difficult and require plenty of practice before obtaining the most ideal results. Most marble installers are willing to leave behind cutout pieces such as the sink drain hole, or their dealers may be willing to part with smaller remnants so that you are able to fine-tune your dyeing skills before applying them to your actual countertops. If you are willing to take on the extensive project, here are some tips to point you in the right dye-rection. 

Finding the Right Dye

Certain marble dyes are sold by retailers, just remember marble is a natural surface, so picking a color closer to the original will assure you the best result. You can also use wood stain to cover imperfections or darken your current tops.

Clean the Surface Area

Clean and prep your countertops of dirt and build up with vinegar or lemon juice. You can use a scraper gently when necessary, keeping in mind to not scratch or damage your surfaces.

Prepare the Dye

Depending on the dye or stain you will be using you will possibly have to mix it with wax, alcohol, lacquer or dilute it with other spirits so that it is properly prepared for the job. The best way to know if the dye or stain needs to be mixed is to read its directions label thoroughly.

Heat the Marble/Tile

Heating the surface opens up the pores in the material and better allows it to absorb the dye. This is best done with a heat gun covering smaller sections to sustain the heat while applying the dye.

Applying the Dye/Stain

Using a brush or sponge, apply the product evenly across the surface to produce a uniformed appearance and result. Allow the dye to dry before applying more coats as needed for the desired result.

Seal Countertops

Once you have produced the desired appearance you’ve been looking for, you will want to protect it with a marble or natural stone sealer. You can find these online at your local dealers and simply follow the directions to preserve your hard work.

Buffing

If you are looking for a more polished and vibrant appearance that really pops, you can buff your tops with a car or counter wax that will bring out a shinier, more glossy finish.

Maintenance

Make sure to remember when cleaning your new surfaces that they are natural stone and should be treated as such. Use only cleaners approved for natural stone and materials that will not scratch or deface your beautiful new countertops.

This DIY task may be very difficult, but it is not completely impossible. It can produce a dramatic effect to completely renew an area of your home at little cost. If you are willing to take on the challenge, the results could be rewarding and satisfactory.

Marble and other stone countertops have been in vogue for years and years. Most stone countertops offer timeless beauty, are durable, appreciate in or maintain their value, provide a very unique variety as every piece is just a little bit different, and are readily available. But unfortunately, some stone and marble, in particular, is relatively soft and very porous, which means that certain substances can be extremely damaging. Vinegar, in particular, can create lasting damage if not treated right away.

Removing Vinegar from Your Marble Or Stone Surfaces

Follow these six steps to remove vinegar from your marble or stone surface.

  • Blot away any vinegar that is lingering on the surface. Be sure to do this immediately after the vinegar has been spilled.
  • Sprinkle a small amount of baking soda onto the surface.
  • Gently wipe the baking soda into the marble with a soft, damp cloth. Be cautious to ensure you do not scrub too hard, as that can damage the surface.
  • Rinse with water and dry with a soft towel. Be sure to use water and not another surface cleaner. The water will help to neutralize the pH in the vinegar, which can help prevent further damage.
  • Gently wipe away any remaining baking soda. As a reminder, baking soda is a light abrasive and it is also a natural disinfectant. So, be sure to use caution when wiping down the marble surfaces. Make sure you remove all traces of the baking soda so that any that is left doesn’t scratch the surface.

The Benefits of Cleaning Your Marble Surfaces With Baking Soda

Baking soda is an excellent solution for many cleaning needs due to its affordability. Baking soda also serves as an effective sanitizer, stain remover, and deodorizer. Since it does not contain any harsh chemicals, baking soda is less likely to scratch your marble or stone countertop or other surfaces.

With marble, it is crucial to avoid the use of basic household cleaners as they can inadvertently scratch or leave etchings in the surface of the stone. Either use a marble specific cleaner or a baking soda and water mixture. While vinegar is often recommended as a cleaning product, especially for kitchen surfaces, using vinegar on marble is a bad choice. Since vinegar is very acidic, it will furiously react with your beautiful marble and will create dull white marks (often referred to as etch marks) on your marble.

If you did not catch the vinegar stain early enough, and if the sprinkled baking soda and water combination does not remove the stain entirely, there are other more aggressive options. In some cases, a marble poultice will work. A poultice is a liquid chemical cleaner (such as hydrogen peroxide, acetone, ammonia, or a commercial rust remover) that is then mixed with a white absorbent material (such as baking soda, chalk, or powdered talc), which forms a peanut-butter type paste. The poultice is gently wiped over the stained area with a wooden or plastic spatula and is then covered with plastic and left for between 24 and 48 hours. This thick paste-like mixture well then pull the stain out during the time it is left to penetrate.

The best way to avoid vinegar stains is to avoid the use of vinegar products near your marble or stone surface. Ensure that family members, as well as any professional cleaners, know not to use vinegar in your kitchen for cleaning.

If none of these approaches work, Castles Home Service is always here to help! Our Natural Stone Restoration services and marble Anti-Etch treatments with 10-year warranties are extremely effective and will get your countertops looking like new for years to come!

Outdoor kitchens are becoming more and more popular for homeowners. In some cases, homeowners are forgoing the more traditional wooden deck instead of stone patios, complete with built-in kitchens and outdoor ovens. These outdoor kitchens used to be common for the rich and famous, but are now making their way into more modest backyards as well. Most homeowners that opt for these outdoor spaces view the indoor kitchen as just another room in the home, but the outdoor kitchen is one that provides an array of experiences for family and friends.

Today’s outdoor kitchens boast pizza ovens, stoves, built-in grills, sinks with running water, and fireplaces or fire pits for roasting marshmallows. In addition to all of these fun features to help with food preparation, these outdoor spaces are often outfitted with canopies, overhead lighting, refrigeration, bar space, and much more. But as more and more people look to design these kitchens, also important is the countertop surface that much of the food preparation takes place on.

What Surfaces Are Best for Outdoor Kitchen Counters?

When outside, today’s backyard chefs want all of the comfort and convenience that they have in their indoor kitchen. And in many cases, they want their outdoor cooking space to be above and beyond what they have inside. For that reason, the countertop material that is used is especially important to ensure both functionality as well as pleasing aesthetics. Thus, most homeowners select one of the following surface materials for their outdoor kitchen countertop.

Granite is the most popular choice for these unique outdoor spaces. This durable stone can hold its own even in the most extreme of elements, and homeowners can select from a wide range of colors to match the look that they are going for. Granite can withstand heat, and when it is sealed properly, it can also resist mold, mildew, and a plethora of stains.

Soapstone is also a popular choice. As it is a dense material, soapstone doesn’t need to be sealed and it does not fade over time. However, soapstone counters should be treated on occasion with mineral oil to enhance the natural darkening process that the stone will experience.

Tile is trendy for outdoor kitchens in climates that are warmer year-round. Porcelain and granite tiles are less likely to fade than ceramic tile. But grout can easily stain, so a darker grout color is best, especially for use outdoors.

Concrete does an excellent job of withstanding the elements, but these counter surfaces need to be sealed regularly to prevent staining. It is also recommended that concrete be installed by a professional to prevent cracking.

While quartz and Formica are very popular for indoor kitchens, they are not as effective in exterior environments. Quartz can fade with prolonged exposure to the sun, and Formica is not designed to handle moisture and humidity. If the home is in a humid climate, the Formica countertop will likely warp and quickly deteriorate.

When designing an outdoor kitchen, it is essential to take time to research the surfaces that will work best based on the geography of your home. As these outdoor cooking spaces are often created as backyard focal points and are intended to create special experiences, it is crucial that the right materials and countertop surfaces are used during initial construction. This will help homeowners to avoid costly repair and replacement later on.