Find answers to recurring questions and myths about Remodeling.
Kitchen Remodeling FAQ
What is the purpose of a soffit?
Most soffits were built over cabinets to give them a tight built-in look with no air space over them. They rarely have structural purpose.
Should I have the soffits removed?
There is a significant cost to removing soffits and repairing the drywall and insulation. There is also extra costs because you are ordering taller cabinets with more molding on top. You can have a great remodeled kitchen without removing your soffits but removing them will typically give you the best look and the most storage.
What is involved in removing soffits?
Soffits were frequently used as a short cut for the pipes and wires that would have otherwise been be routed inside the ceiling and walls. If your remodeler removes the soffit he will need to re-route these.
What is involved in re-routing pipes and wires found in the soffit?
If your new cabinets will have crown molding that touches the ceiling you still have about a 3” void on top of the cabinets in which to run plumbing and electrical if they are not easily relocated to the wall or ceiling.
What about HVAC ducting in the soffit?
This is a much bigger challenge since ducting is usually at least 6” in diameter. One frequent solution to this problem is to order cabinets which are 36” high [instead of 39”] and have a two piece/ 6” crown. This leaves a 6” void over the cabinets in which to re-work the ducting keeping it as flat and close to the ceiling as possible.
How do I know what is inside of my soffits?
Your remodeler needs to drill a few holes in your soffit to inspect before you order cabinets so everyone knows what to expect.
What kind of lighting works best for kitchens?
Can lights are most commonly used to replace fluorescent lights or a single ceiling mount fixture. Pendent lights are a popular choice over islands and peninsulas.
What kind of under cabinet [task lighting] and in cabinet lighting works best?
Xenon or LED lights work well. It is better to have the lights wired direct to a central wall switch. Lights that are controlled at each fixture tend to not be used as often because they are too much trouble. Lights that do not require outlets and wiring inside of cabinets are preferable.
Which type of flooring is best for kitchens?
Hardwood looks great in any room but is vulnerable to water damage from the sink or dishwasher. Vinyl flooring some times called linoleum is cost effective and water proof but vulnerable to cuts from sharp objects and is generally considered a lower end product. Tile floors are both durable and water proof. Attractive patterns of interlocking stone are available as well as special stain resistant grouts.
Should I include an island in my new kitchen?
Homeowners often ask to have an island included in their design until they see how little room is left. The clearance to stand and walk between the island and any other object needs to be a minimum of 36” all the way around. A space of 42” is better. An island in some kitchens tend to be a “turn around” type of road block. If the island interrupts the “work triangle” [Sink-Range-Refrigerator] consider moving, shrinking, or eliminating it. An island is a beautiful functional part of a new kitchen but only if you have room.
What if I do not have room for an island?
A Peninsula is an extension of the main run of cabinets which is open on three sides. Because peninsulas only require a minimum of 36” on one side they often work in medium size kitchens where an island does not work. They also create an efficient kitchen layout that wraps around you.
Should I have an elevated eating bar at the island or peninsula?
An elevated section of counter top at the back of the island or peninsula is a popular feature when entertaining adult guests. The cook is separated from the guests who are sitting or standing but still able to engage them in conversation. The elevated feature also provides some visual screening between the kitchen work surface and the dining area. There is a small backsplash area between the main counter top and the elevated bar surface which allows for placement of an electrical outlet which is not possible without the elevated bar.
What features should I consider when ordering cabinets?
A List of the most popular features include a garbage bin pull out, roll out trays instead of fixed shelves in base cabinets, and soft closer on doors and drawers. If you will have under cabinet lights you should order “light rail” molding which goes along the lower edge of wall cabinets and helps to screen or hide the lights.
Which cabinets should have glass doors?
If you will have clear glass you may find it is practical to limit the amount of glass to one or two upper cabinets since these cabinets are not typically used for storing non decorative or common use dishes. Many new kitchens include glass cabinets in a drybar or buffet area which is between the kitchen and dining room.
How can I improve the sink area in my kitchen?
In some kitchens there is enough room to pull the sink base cabinet 3” forward away from the wall. This helps to add visual interest and shape by breaking up an otherwise straight run of cabinets and counter top. There is little or no cost to this change and give a much wider counter surface between the back of sink and backsplash. You can also order the sink base with a valance toe kick which effectively creates furniture legs on the front corners. This is another way to achieve an upgraded look at minimal cost.
What is the best way to shop for cabinets?
Take a copy of the scaled drawing provided by your remodeler to the cabinet supplier. Let them know what appliances you plan to buy which must fit into the cabinets. Ask the cabinet supplier to create a cabinet layout based on the drawing. Then have your remodeler review the layout and double check all measurements and review cabinet features. You can then order with confidence.
What is the best kind of counter top material?
Granite is an excellent counter top because it is a natural stone with a high gloss polished surface which is unaffected by heat from pots and pans. The process of picking the granite you want can be time consuming and a hard choice. Because no two pieces of granite are identical you will be asked to tag the specific slab from which your want your counter tops cut. Ask your granite fabricator to include application their best sealer. Man made solid surfaces are easier to select because the samples you are shown are consistent with the final product you will receive. Man made stones however typically do not have the solid polished shine that granite does because of the resin that hold the aggregate together. It is our experience that homeowners are consistently happy with their choice either way and any type of solid surface is a major upgrade to a laminate top.
How do I pick the right granite color?
When picking granite or a man made solid surface remember to find a balance between light and dark in the kitchen overall. If you have ordered dark cabinets you may find that a lighter color counter top works best especially if the floor is also dark.
How do I select the right backsplash material?
There are basically three options for backsplashes. You can have the solid surface installer provide a 4” backsplash of the same material. This looks good but leaves painted wall exposed above the splash. You can have a solid surface go all the way up to the bottom of the wall cabinets. This gives a rich look and an excellent backsplash however it can be a bit monochromatic with too much of one material showing. Tile is the third option and it is the one most often used in custom kitchens. One common mistakes is selecting backsplash tile that is busy and multi colored making it clash with a counter top which is equally busy or multicolored. We compare this to someone who wears a striped shirt with plaid pants.
Which is the best tile to use in the kitchen for floors or backsplashes?
There are three major types of tile used in kitchens: ceramic, porcelain, and natural stone. Typically the more natural stone that your kitchen has the richer the look. Ceramic and porcelain may give just the right look for a contemporary kitchen and also cost less on the average. A good mix of both natural and man made tile can also give you a great finished product in a variety of applications.
What kind of range should I purchase?
For smaller kitchens the most practical is usually a 30” range. If your kitchen size and budget allow you can select a wider commercial type range. Most serious cooks prefer gas to electric when it is available.
Should I get a range or a cooktop with a separate wall oven?
A range takes up less space in the kitchen than a cooktop and wall oven combined. A range can also be more cost effective than two separate appliances. If you do opt for a cooktop then you can order the wall oven as a full double oven. You can also order a double oven with a microwave or warming drawer built in.
What kind of range hood should I purchase?
Here again the size of the kitchen is a big factor. A 30” “spacesaver” microwave with built in exhaust fan over a 30” range is the most efficient use of space in small to medium kitchens. A regular hood mounted under the cabinet over the range works well but also makes the placement of a microwave somewhere else in the kitchen necessary. For the high end, commercial, or gourmet look stand alone hoods come in either wall or ceiling mount styles.
What style of kitchen sink is best?
Undermount sinks are standard for solid surface counter tops. Farmhouse sinks are typically undermount sinks which have a front apron that extends just past the front of the cabinet base. Both look and work great.
What kitchen sink material works best?
Stainless is a popular choice and goes well with nearby stainless appliances. Nothing is 100% scratch proof, just be sure to get a high quality stainless steel. If you had a low grade stainless sink in the past you are in for a treat. Cast Iron and composite sinks are also popular choices and provide a quality alternative to stainless steel.
What refrigerator will work best for me?
A counter depth refrigerator is a major advantage in most kitchens. Most regular depth refrigerators protrude into the room and expose the side of the refrigerator. If wood side panels are ordered with the cabinets to enclose the refrigerator the final effect is similar to a built in refrigerator which costs several times more.
Bathroom Remodeling FAQ
What is the best way to deal with mold or rot in a bathroom?
Remove all water damaged and molded wood and start with all new materials.
What type of vanity does today’s remodeled bathroom typically include?
Except for bathrooms near children’s bedrooms taller vanities are today’s standard. Vanity tops are now the same as kitchen counter height. The exceptions to this are vanities which will have a vessel sink set on top of the vanity? Many vanities now are furniture style and stand on four legs instead of a recessed toe kick. Vanities which come with their own integrated top and sink are often a practical alternative to ordering a custom granite top. Purchasing these complete vanity sets also shortens the construction time considerably since there is no need to wait for granite fabrication.
Should we include a soaking tub or a Jacuzzi style jetted tub in the master bath?
A jetted tub looks and feels great but often they go unused by homeowners. Many of our current remodeling customers are having us replace Jacuzzi type tubs with soaking tub which have no pump system. Ask yourself I you will really use the jetted feature. If your lifestyle is busy and you rarely use anything besides the shower then you may want to consider investing more of the remodeling budget in a custom shower.
Can we add a niche to our shower area?
A built in niche is not only functional but adds an attractive accent to the shower wall. They are not typically located in an exterior wall due to displacement of insulation.
Is a built in bench a good idea for a shower?
If your shower area is large enough to add a bench and still have a normal sized shower floor it might be a good idea. Alternately a shelf style corner seat anchored to the wall only might give you the seat or leg rest you want without making the shower floor smaller.
What is the advantage of a custom shower door?
A custom glass door for your new shower is always a good idea and gives you a much better look with frameless thicker glass and quality hardware. The cost is about three times more than a shower door kit but it looks three times better.
What are the trends in modern bathroom remodeling?
Plate glass mirror are out and framed mirrors are in. Individual sconce lights are often placed on either side of mirrors for a boutique look. Soffits over tubs are often removed to get a full height ceiling and more spacious feel. Can lights over tub and shower area are very popular and help show off beautifully crafted tile work. Dark colored toilets and tubs are out. In their place gleaming white fixtures look great with natural stone or other tile and will not go out of style in a few years. Heated floors are well received by the bare feet of family and friends. Linen tower which rest on the vanity top help solve the problem of storage.
How can we prevent water damage to our new bathroom?
All tile on the floor or shower wall will be installed over a cement board underlayment with other waterproofing steps taken. To complete the water protection ask for tile skirting along the base of all walls instead of a wood base trim. This option looks great and never rots.
What is the best way to coordinate and select tile?
Stores which have full vignette displays with tile installed and integrated with fixtures give you a much better idea of what the tile will look like in your home. The closer you come to a display which is exactly what you want your bathroom to look like the easier it is to purchase materials you know will look great together. Merely looking at sample boards leaves too much to imagination and uncertainty. Magazine photos are helpful if you can find the tile to match what you see. Trying to piece together all the items you need from the shelf of a box store is the purchasing method that comes with the most uncertainty.
Basement Finishing FAQ
What do we need to consider before finishing our basement?
The first consideration is water infiltration. Does your basement leak? If so you first need to have a company which specializes in sealing basement fix the leak. Do not proceed unless you are sure your basement is watertight. Second: Make replacement of your sump pump and installation of a battery back up pump part of your construction plan for finishing your basement.
Do we need to replace the basement windows when we finish the basement?
If you do not have double pane vinyl windows in the basement you should include this as part of your construction plan.
Can we add a bathroom in the basement?
If you live in a home that was built recently and was pre-plumbed for a future bathroom hookup then it is a very straightforward process to add a bathroom. If this is not the case you need to find out if the sewer exits the home below slab grade or through the foundation wall. If the pipe exits through the basement wall you will need to install a sewer pump to drain the new bathroom. This works well enough except the pumps are prone to clogging and jamming since they pump solids.
Should we install a drywall ceiling or suspended ceiling?
If there are many wires, pipes, and shut offs you need to keep accessible a suspended ceiling on a hanging grid works fine. If this is not the case a drywall ceiling is the most solid and straight forward way to finish the ceiling.
How do you deal with lowered beams and ducting in the basement?
Your remodeler will frame around these and drywall the frame to create a soffit.
What kind of flooring works best in basements?
Wood and laminate floors look great but are vulnerable to water damage with even minor flooding. Tile floors are unaffected by water but tend to be cold underfoot. Carpet provides a warm soft floor covering. It can be replaced without removing base trim if that is ever necessary. Carpet also goes over uneven concrete floor with no extra steps necessary.
How do we finish the basement around the furnace and water heater?
Typically you do not finish the furnace area. Rather your remodeler will wall it off and install an access door. An unfinished area around the sump pump is also common.
What kind of lighting works best in basements?
The majority of the basement can be effectively illuminated with groups of can lights.
General Remodeling FAQ
Is wall paper still popular in interior remodeling?
Wall paper is much less popular than in past decades as more and more homeowners have discovered that it is very difficult to remove when it goes out of style. Faux finish painting has become more popular but smooth one color walls are really the norm. We have discovered that decorating with things that can be easily replaced makes more sense.
What is the best way to pick wall paint color?
One simple technique is to simply ask the person at the paint store to show you a few popular color for the type of room you want to paint. Bring home a few samples and paint them on the wall. Seeing is believing!
What is the wrong way to pick a wall color?
If you buy a gallon of paint or more based on a color swatch you like your chances of regretting your purchase are very good. Paints consistently look twice as dark on the wall as they do on a color swatch in your hand at the store. We have often been asked to paint over a color which a customer picked and then decided was too dark.
What is the best way to plan and shop for a remodeling project?
Meet with the remodeler and ask him for a list of items you need to select and shop for. When you go shopping take a copy of the drawing for your project to show sales people who help you. This will help them to visualize what you might find difficult to describe in words. They can also use the drawing to calculate the quantity of material you will need. At each stop get samples of materials you are considering. When you are shopping for a kitchen remodel for example if you come home with a cabinet door sample, a small piece of granite, and a tile sample you have made great progress. You can now see how those items look together in your home and begin to finalize your decisions.
Is remodeling a good investment if I plan to sell my house?
It is difficult to raise the appraised value of your home by the same amount you spend on a remodeling. It is easier to justify the expense of remodeling if you are planning to live in the home and enjoy the remodel and then sell some years later.
Is a partial room remodel a good idea?
A partial remodel of any room creates some difficult decisions. It is hard to know where to stop. A partial remodel can make sense if you can proceed without trapping old fixtures under new materials. For example we never suggest putting new solid surface counter tops on top of old cabinets. Likewise it is not advisable to place new cabinets on an old floor.
What is the best way to keep my remodeling project on schedule?
Be decisive and order everything on your list. Buy plenty! It is better if your remodeler has ten extra tiles than to be short by one.