Main Line Kitchen Design
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Main Line Kitchen Design believes the best resource for unbiased information on appliances comes from Yale Appliances located in New England. The Yale web site supplies PDF tutorials on a vast range of appliance topics and has insightful blogs that honestly appraise new trends in the appliance market. We trust Yale’s evaluations above less reliable information from Consumer Reports and JD Power.

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For actually purchasing appliances we advise using local suppliers as any problems or damages during shipping or delivery can be more easily addressed. Kieffer’s Appliances in Lansdale PA is the local appliance dealer we like the most. Main Line Kitchen Design customers working with Kristen at Kieffer’s will receive preferred pricing and she can help coordinate appliances with our designs. Below is her contact information:

Kristen Cossa Outside Sales Representative Kieffer’s Appliances

(215) 852-3910 cell

kristen@kieffers.com email

www.kieffers.com

If customers choose other appliance dealers that’s fine too. Main Line Kitchen Design will assist any appliance dealer in our area.

Here are the links to the website and the blog of Yale Appliances. They originally assembled their PDF’s for employee training purposes and now generously supply them to the world:

https://www.yaleappliance.com/       Main web site for Yale – pay special attention to their Learning Center

http://blog.yaleappliance.com/          Yale blog. What’s new and interesting in Appliances!

http://blog.yaleappliance.com/best-new-appliances-architecture-digest-design-show-2017

 

Hoping your appliances help create the kitchen of your dreams… and as always…

Bon Appetit!

Paul

Main Line Kitchen Design is proud to have two kitchens featured in The Ardmore Library Kitchen Tour. The general contractors on the projects were Jack Gardiner of Third Generation Contracting and Al Panaccio of AD Panaccio Inc. We have worked with both Al and Jack on many projects and they are always a pleasure to collaborate with.

We invite you to join the Ardmore Free Library as it hosts the 2017 “Recipe for Renovation” Kitchen Tour on Sunday, April 23. This library fundraiser presents seven kitchens on the lower Main Line recently renovated by some of the area’s talented kitchen designers, architects, and builders. The kitchens reflect innovative solutions to a host of spatial challenges and demonstrate the stylistic diversity to be found in current kitchen design. Whatever the style, each of the kitchens has eye-catching elements and its own individual character.

Here is a link to information about the tour:

http://www.ardmorekitchentour.org/information/

And here is a preview of each of our featured kitchens:

 

 

 

Hope to see you on the tour, and as always . . .

Bon Appetite!

Main Line Kitchen Design

Here are Main Line Kitchen Design’s rankings for the top selling kitchen cabinet companies in the United States. All the designers that gave us input on the cabinet lines below have greater than 20 years experience in our industry. When possible all construction specifics were double checked on the web sites for each cabinet line.

Main Line kitchen design acknowledges that we are dealers for the following cabinet lines: Wellsford, Bishop, Brighton, Fabuwood, 6 Square, and CNC.  We could be prejudiced towards ranking these lines more favorably, but we have tried to be impartial. However, since the cabinet lines we carry were chosen specifically for their construction quality and value, our ranking them well should not be a surprise. 

Below is our comprehensive list of the top selling cabinet manufacturers in the United States and how they rank for construction quality and  for value considering the price point of each cabinet line. Price point is rated from 1 to 6 with 6 being the most expensive cabinetry on the market.

We rate cabinetry assuming each line is upgraded to the top level of construction available. A grade of A for construction quality will not be equal across different price levels, as the more expensive price point cabinets will have far nicer finishes and construction options.

The value grade we give is not a rating about the quality of the cabinetry but a rating of how good an investment a cabinet line is considering it’s cost. For example, many of the most expensive well made cabinet lines receive lover marks on value even though as designers we think the cabinetry is the best in it’s class. These lines receive lower grades on value simply because there are competitors offering the same quality at slightly lower prices.

Note: The highest grade for Quality in any frameless European style cabinet line is a B. While frameless cabinetry is easier to access and is sleeker looking, it is also less durable than the best made framed cabinetry.

 

Cabinet line                   Price level 1-6     Quality     Value
6 Square 2 B+ B+
American Woodmark 3 B+ B
Aristocraft 2 C C
Bertch 4 A A-
Bishop 4 A A-
Bishop Framelss 5 B B+
Bremtown 6 A+ C
Brighton 4 A A+
Brookhaven 4 A B
Cabico 4 B B
Candlelight 4 A A
Canyon Creek 3 B B
CNC 1 B+ A
Collier 5 A B-
Crystal 5 A+ A
Decora 4 A A
Design-Craft 4 B B
Diamond 4 B B
Durasupreme 5 B+ B
Durasupreme frameless 3 C C
Dynasty Frameless 4 B C
Dynasty Pinnacle 5 A B
Fabuwood 2 A A
Fabuwood Frameless 3 B A+
Fieldstone 4 B+ B+
Grabill 6 A+ B
Haas 3 B B
Hanssem 1 ? C
Homecrest 3 B+ B
IKEA (frameless) 1 C C
Innermost framelss 3 B B
Kabinart 3 D D
Kemper 3 B C
Kitchencraft Frameless 3 C B
Kith 2 C C
Kountry Kraft framed 6 A B
Kountry Kraft frameless 6 B B
Kraftmaid 4 A A
Legacy 3 B+ D
LifeArt 1 C+ A
Marsh 6 B B
Medallion 5 B C+
Merillat 2 C D
Mid Continent 2 C C
Mouser 5 A A-
Mouser Frameless 5 B A
Ovation 4 B C
Plain and Fancy 6 A B
Poggenpohl frameless 6 B C
QuakerMaid frameless 4 B B
Rutt 6 A+ A
Schrock 3 B B
Schule 5 B C+
Shenandoah 3 B+ B
Shiloh 3 C C
Showplace 3 B+ B-
Solid Wood Cabinets 1 A A
St. Martin 5 A+ A
Starmark 4 B+ B+
Thomasville* 4 B- C-
Timberlake 3 B+ B
Ultracraft Frameless 2 C C
Village 5 A A
Waypoint 2 B B
Wellborn 4 A A
Wellsford 5 A+ A+
Wolf 1 B B
Wood Harbor 2 C C
Woodmode 5 A+ A
Yorktowne 3 C D

* Note: Home Depot changes who manufactures this line on a regular basis.

Remember that choosing the designer, the cabinet dealer, and the installer you are working with is just as important as the cabinet line.

Below is a more general review of cabinetry from 2015:

2015 Popular Kitchen Cabinetry Brand Comparison.

Hoping you make all the right choices . . . .

and of course . . .

Bon Appetit!

Main Line Kitchen Design

Paul, Ray, Ed, Tom, and Julie

 

 

 

Designing a kitchen well means creatively moving appliances, sinks, cabinetry and even room openings around to promote working in the kitchen while making the design as attractive as possible in the style that your customer prefers. Becoming good at this takes years of experience and an unusually good grasp of spacial relations. Obeying simple design rules like the “kitchen work triangle” between your sink, range, and refrigerator can help avoid the worst floor plans.  But beyond that the primary kitchen design rules are too simplistic to find the great kitchen that is hidden in any particular space.

One of the most important ways I evaluate how well a kitchen is designed is by analyzing how the countertop in the kitchen is likely to be used. Imagine if we were to create a drawing of the shape of your countertop. Next we shaded that drawing from white to red according to how often the countertop was used. If the countertop was used frequently it would be shaded red and if it was hardly ever used it would remain white. Using this technique a well designed kitchen would have pink countertops showing that all the countertop in the kitchen was being used. While a poorly designed kitchen would have a bright red spot between the sink and the range and all the rest of the countertop would be nearly white.

Lets look at two examples.

Example of poor countertop function

Example of poor countertop function. This is most definitely NOT a Main Line Kitchen Design kitchen.

Look carefully at the kitchen in the photo above. Think about how the countertop here will be used. Imagine you are cooking at the cooktop. The countertop both left and right of the cooktop is only 12″ wide and too narrow to stand in front of and cut and chop. In fact the countertop on the left of the cooktop will be covered by the refrigerator door every time it is opened. And when the refrigerator is open the person putting things away or taking them out also won’t be able to use the counter that the door to the refrigerator is covering! The only place to work at or place things conveniently on the countertop close the cook top and refrigerator is the countertop left of the sink. This means as shown in the photo that a drain board or drying area will have be to the right of the sink.  So people working at the sink will also want to use the countertop left of the sink. All the countertop on the peninsula in this kitchen is too far away from someone cooking to be convenient using, and the person at the sink will be forced to bypass the drain board every time they go to the peninsula. The peninsula may get used making sandwiches but it isn’t where you need the greatest amount of top in your kitchen. This kitchen is a perfect example of a poorly designed kitchen. Using the shading technique there would be one bright red area of countertop left of the sink and everywhere else the countertop would either be shaded lightly or not at all.

Now look at a kitchen with a similar amount of countertop designed by Main Line Kitchen Design.

Well designed kitchen with functional countertop arrangement.

This is a well designed kitchen with functional countertop arrangement.

722 Argyle Ave-1

Notice in the kitchen above that the countertop both left and right of the range is wide enough to comfortably work at. The countertop left of the sink has an expanse of countertop that can be worked at and the area right of the sink is not very narrow. The refrigerator is in a separate area with countertop of it’s own, and while when the refrigerator door is open only a portion of the countertop will be covered by the refrigerator door and the peninsula in back of the refrigerator is also close enough to be useful loading and unloading the refrigerator. The peninsula is also serving double duty for the people sitting at the peninsula. Shading this countertop according to how often the countertop will be used will show a completely pink top with some areas slightly darker than others.

Creating this design required closing a window that was formerly above the range, relocating all three of the “kitchen triangle’s” components and removing the wall between the kitchen and dining room. However the added construction costs to make these changes was only about $4,000 and so about 10% of the total cost of the project. Money well spent in my opinion. Some customers will spend that much money just upgrading their range to a professional range or their refrigerator to a Subzero. Those changes while nice have a very limited impact on the overall beauty and function of a kitchen.

Check out our Facebook page to see a slide show of this and other kitchens set to music.

https://www.facebook.com/Main.Line.Kitchen.Design/

Hopping your countertop is “all pink” . . .

and of course . . .

Bon Appetit!

Paul

 

Most people believe they can’t do it or that it will be too expensive.  And, they’re wrong.

It’s almost always doable, usually costs nothing and can even save money.

What IS the best investment your in your new kitchen?  It is changing the lay out!

Barely a day goes by that a customer doesn’t  say to us “I have a small kitchen so there isn’t much that I can do.” or “We are on a budget so we need to keep the layout of our kitchen the same.” Actually, there are many design possibilities with nearly every kitchen and improving the layout costs next to nothing.

Most of our customers don’t realize that just moving a sink, an appliance, or a doorway can dramatically improve an entire kitchen and incur little or no addition construction costs.  A kitchen renovation includes installing flooring, drywall, lighting, cabinetry, backsplash, molding,  fixtures and appliances.  Changing the location of a sink or appliance rarely impacts the total construction costs.  Even moving a doorway which might cost $500 could be offset by design improvements that make the cabinetry more standard and less expensive.

Berwyn PA Kitchen after

Many choices make kitchens expensive but improving the layout is not one of them.   Homeowners  frequently select a doorstyle that is 25% to 40% more than that of a similar less expensive style.  Adding a glaze to cabinetry generally adds 10% or more to the cost.  Higher price level granite, quartz, soapstone, or marble countertops can cost thousands more than similar looking selections that wear equally well.

Upgrading appliances can have the greatest impact on a kitchen budget.  But all these expenses have a very limited effect on what the finished kitchen looks like.  For example, the difference between a stainless steel shallow depth GE profile refrigerator costing $3,000 or a Sub Zero costing $9,000 is barely noticeable.  Good designers want to see you get the most for your money and will suggest similar, less expensive options.

Kitchen Pictures 06152012 008

 

The layout of a kitchen can change an entire home for the better, sometimes increasing the home’s value far more than the cost of the renovation. Even removing a wall which can cost a couple of thousand dollars could save overall costs because it reduces the number of wall cabinets.  If because of the reduced wall space, the design also switches from having a wall oven and cooktop to a range, the reduced price of the appliances and cabinetry saves far more than the cost of removing the wall.

Selecting the doorstyle, finish, countertops, and appliances is the easy part of a kitchen renovation but not the first part.  Layout possibilities, available materials, and many of the details kitchen designers help clients with have the most impact on your happiness with the finished project and the cost.  That is why it is so important to shop for your kitchen designer first, and cabinetry and materials second!

The path to getting the best design and spending a kitchen budget effectively can be elusive.  At Main Line Kitchen Design we look forward to finding and taking that path with you.

All the best, and as Julia said……

Bon Appetit!

Paul

 

 

So many kitchen designers are less than competent that I thought I’d give customers a cheat sheet to help them evaluate the designer they might be working with. Here are my top ten warning signs. If several apply to your project then you are almost certainly working with a less proficient kitchen designer.

Shaker Kitchen

  1. Your designer is not a full time kitchen designer. IE they are an architect, interior designer, contractor, family friend, or real estate agent. Kitchen design is a complicated profession and anyone not designing and selling cabinetry full time for a number of years can’t have learned enough to be good at it. Would you pick non professionals to replace your transmission or cut your hair? If that would worry you then why are you using a non professional to be your primary adviser on a 20 to 200 thousand dollar renovation?
  2. You are planning on keeping the footprint of your kitchen the same just replacing the old cabinetry with new. Every kitchen we see can be improved. And since most customers mistakenly believe that they have limited design possibilities and that design changes have a large effect on costs, it is almost certain that if you are keeping the foot print of your kitchen you are making a mistake. For the same money you could always get a better design because that’s what good kitchen designers do; show you how better designs than you realize are possible.
  3. You have serious design issues and the designer can’t find a solution. Examples of serious design errors would be: having a  range or cooktop next to a doorway, having the primary sink without at least 18″ of countertop on one side and 24″ on the other, having a cooktop or range under or immediately next to a window, or having cabinetry or molding within a few inches of the ceiling without reaching it.
  4. You are getting a side by side refrigerator and your refrigerator is within 12 inches of a side wall so that one of the doors can’t open completely. The smaller freezer side hitting the  wall would be the worst case scenario.
  5. The designer has 24″ wide cabinets in your kitchen with single and not double doors. This is one of the first lessens kitchen designers should learn. 24″ wide doors sag over time and look out of proportion. NO good kitchen designer will EVER use a 24″ cabinet with a single door.
  6. You have more than one or two types of unusual gimmicky cabinets in your kitchen. Examples would be corner drawers, tall pantry pull outs, Magic Corner or Lemans corner cabinets, mixer lifts, chefs pantries, or more than a couple of lift doors. There are always design issues associated with these unusual conveniences, that’s why they are unusual. They are also expensive and are less efficient in using space. If your designer has added several of these items without letting you know about their limitations it means that they probably don’t know about them and that they are spending your money ineffectively.
  7. You are getting frameless cabinetry and your designer hasn’t warned you about durability issues. Frameless cabinetry looks best when your kitchen is a contemporary or modern slab door style. But because there is not a front face frame on the cabinets the hinges, doors, and drawers are all attached to often only particle board sides. IKEA cabinetry is the most common example. Kitchens using this less durable style of cabinet construction need to be designed to minimize stress to the cabinetry. If your designer hasn’t mentioned this then it is unlikely that they understand the limitations of the cabinet line they are designing your kitchen in.
  8. Wall cabinet doors are NOT the same width on either side of your sink or cooktop. Assuming that there are wall cabinets on both sides of your sink and cooktop it looks odd if the doors to the cabinets are different widths on each side. Good kitchen designers will be able to accomplish this when designing a kitchen.
  9. All the wall cabinets align with the base cabinets in your kitchen. This is a novice kitchen design error. Good kitchen designers know where symmetry is important and where it is not. Aligning all the base and wall cabinets usually means that your designer has only designed a few kitchens in their lifetime.
  10. Your designer is placing great importance on centering tables and islands with windows. This is another novice error. Since alignment can only be determined from a single perspective in a room, centering an island or a table with a window is usually less important that maintaining the correct travel space around it. Having light fixtures centered over the table and island will make them feel like they are in the correct position while leaving you the functional space you need for a well designed kitchen. Many customers worry about this concept but when their kitchen is done they are always grateful that the didn’t give in to their concerns and let space override alignment when designing their kitchen.

Traditional Kitchen

Kitchen design is a profession I love for many reasons including the creativity involved, the people you meet, and the sense of accomplishment when you do a good job.  But, the biggest reason I love designing kitchens is that it is an incredible challenge.

Hoping your designer is one of the best …

And of course …

Bon Appetit!

Paul

Here’s another  time lapse kitchen renovation from one of our recently completed jobs, curtesy of Jack Gardiner Third Generation Contracting. Jake Ferry was the Videographer.

Bishop Richmond Medium Stain

Bishop Richmond Door Style in a Medium Stain. Designed by Paul.  Installed by A.D. Panaccio. Photographed by Linda McManus

“What kitchen cabinet line is best?” and “What kitchen cabinet line do you recommend?” are the most common questions we receive. The answer depends on several factors including budget, how fast cabinetry is needed, and how long you want the cabinetry to last.

Every cabinet line is trying to fill a certain niche in the cabinet market. About half  of them are trying to compete for contractor and builder business.  These cabinet manufacturers and the builders they primarily sell to tend to rank construction quality below finish, style, and availability. So, if cabinet durability is a priority for you, these lines should be avoided.

The reason for this is that builders and people renovating to sell homes have less incentive to pay even small upgrades for well made cabinetry as their responsibility to the seller only lasts 12 months.  A good example of how little home builders value cabinet construction is that an expensive home builder like Toll Brothers uses the lowest construction quality Yorktown cabinetry in their new homes.

Cabinet manufacturers that are trying to sell to home owners usually make cabinetry that either comes well constructed or can be upgraded to acceptable standards. The following is Main Line Kitchen Design’s criteria for quality construction:

  • A face frame made of 1 1/2″ x 3/4″ thick solid hardwood.
  • 1/2″ plywood sides, bottoms ,and tops with 3/4″ plywood shelves.
  •  A solid wood 3/4″ hanging rail or a 1/2″ plywood back. A 3/8″ back is OK but not preferred.
  • Ibeam construction and  wooded corner blocks are preferable to plastic corner blocks.
  • Solid wood dovetail drawers and Blumotion tracks and soft close doors are mandatory.
Example of well constructed cabinet

Example of well constructed cabinet

It is surprising how many higher cost cabinets do not meet these construction minimums. On the other hand, after meeting these construction minimums cabinetry should last a lifetime so there is very little advantage in paying for cabinetry that exceeds the criteria. Generally, the best choice for most consumers is the least expensive cabinet line with the desired wood species, finish and custom features.

Home owners and kitchen designers must balance the cost to be in different cabinet lines with how well those lines meet design and finish preferences. It is not uncommon for small compromises to save a significant amount of money. For example, the most expensive cabinet lines are high priced because of their ability to customize or to do unusual finishes. This means if you don’t need cabinetry customization or you are getting a solid painted finish, you could be paying for the availability of features you won’t be selecting. Beaded inset doors, furniture grade stained finishes, distressed finishes, and glazes and paints with visible brushstrokes are features only available in higher priced cabinetry. These expensive and distinctive finishes usually aren’t perceived as superior or more expensive by the general public and aren’t chosen when ordering cabinetry. A home owner not opting for these features does just as well in a less expensive cabinet line as long as the cabinetry being ordered meets the recommended minimum requirements.

Beaded Inset Cabinetry

Beaded Inset Cabinetry – Doors and drawers are recessed into the cabinet face frame.

Main Line Kitchen design sells 7 cabinet lines and all 7 meet our requirements to be considered well made. The 5 major cabinet brands Main Line Kitchen Design carries are Fabuwood, 6 Square, Bishop, Brighten, and our custom line Wellsford. We selected these lines because all are well constructed and all also do more customization than comparable lines at their price point. This also makes each of them a great value for designing more complex kitchens.

Which line is best? Well of course, the most expensive full custom one Wellsford. Can our customers recognize the difference between Wellsford and even the least expensive line we carry Fabuwood? Surprisingly, most can not. So extra money spent upgrading to higher cost cabinet lines often goes unappreciated.

On the other hand, almost all our customers prefer and can recognize a well designed kitchen when we show them one. And, most of the designs we see done by designers from home centers and other dealers are poor. Accordingly, home owners should focus on finding a good kitchen designer over spending time determining “which cabinet line is best”.

It should be noted that European frameless cabinetry is in a class of it’s own and no frameless cabinets meet our minimum construction requirements for a well made cabinet. Because contemporary and modern door styles look so much better with the ultra tight gaps between doors and drawer fronts only possible with frameless construction, they are only available that way. So, The ONLY reason to purchase the lower quality frameless construction is if you are getting extremely modern and contemporary door styles. Main Line Kitchen Design’s Bishop line has the greatest door style and finish selection in European frameless construction. And Bishop, Fabuwood, and Wellsford all make their frameless cabinetry with 3/4″ plywood sides – the best possible way to make a European cabinet.

Frameless Construction

Frameless Construction Bishop European Cabinetry

Since Main Line Kitchen Design’s customers are 90% home owners, we put kitchen design and cabinet construction quality first. We only offer cabinet lines that provide our customers the highest quality at the best price.

Here are two other blogs concerning what constitutes a well made cabinet:

2015 Popular Kitchen Cabinetry Brand Comparison.

If You Are Buying Kitchen Cabinets, Beware!

 

Have a wonderful rest of the summer … and of course …

Bon Appetit!

Paul, Ray, Ed, Tom, and Julie

Main Line Kitchen Design

Below is an edited response to the question above from one of our blogs:

Kitchen design and cabinetry is complicated. And because customers are always looking to price compare and copy the design work done by kitchen designers, the cabinet industry intentionally makes it very confusing to shop for cabinets. One way this is done is that the same cabinet companies have different names at different locations and even if the brand name is the same the doors styles and finishes can have different names at different retailers.

Wayne pa

Getting reliable cabinet reviews is also hard because Consumer Reports and other review sites don’t ask professionals to rate cabinets, they ask consumers. And reviews are written by staff reporters that know nothing about cabinets. Often customers that aren’t aware of what to expect complain when surveyed about the construction, style, and finish they selected, or about problems that their installer was responsible for. Here are the two most extreme examples of misleading and inaccurate cabinet company reviews:

IKEA is constantly reviewed favorably by almost everyone except professionals, here’s why:

  1. IKEA cabinets are inexpensive, easy to purchase, consumer expectations are low, and the finishes that IKEA carries are simple and don’t vary much so “what you see is what you get”.
  2. The instructions to assemble the cabinets are not frustrating and people are happy that they got a new kitchen that initially at least, looks pretty good.
  3. Consumer Reports, JD Power, and on line consumer reviews are all published or posted a short time after a kitchen is purchased.
  4. Market Research has also shown that consumers feel more favorably towards a product they assembled themselves over one that was built for them.

No one follows up 20 years later and sees the IKEA kitchen that is falling apart. And even if they did they would need to compare it to the same kitchen in a better made product to understand the profound difference in cabinet longevity. As a professional I see these IKEA kitchens 20, 10, and even 5 years later when I am called upon to replace them.

Kraftmaid (which Main Line Kitchen Design does not carry but is the best example of the other extreme) consistently gets bad or mediocre reviews from consumer publications and home owners. There are several reasons for this:

  1. Customer expectations are much higher because they are purchasing the more expensive cabinet at the home center or showroom they are working with.
  2. In more expensive cabinet lines wood characteristics and cabinet finishes can be inconsistent because they are supposed to be, and this can lead to buyers remorse.
  3. Kitchens designed in a high end semi-custom line like Kraftmaid can be complex and this makes mistakes more likely. And since home centers like Lowes and The Home Depot carry Kraftmaid and their designers are less experienced in general, and because the environment in a home center is loud, confusing, and interruption filled, problems and misunderstandings are almost guaranteed.
  4. Home center customers tend to be price driven, that’s why they are shopping for a kitchen at the home center in the first place, so they often don’t pay for needed cabinet and hardware upgrades. They may not even be told that they should be getting them, but they could expect them to be standard in a more expensive cabinet line.

The issues above create a recipe for consumer dissatisfaction.

thumb0325.jpg

The best example of this disparity between what is real and perceived was 11 years ago when Consumer Reports gave IKEA a top rating while Krafmaid received a relatively low rating. At that time Kraftmaid was on a 7 year winning streak for the best value in cabinetry as rated by cabinet professionals. Those same professionals would agree for the most part that IKEA was just junk. Kraftmaid may not be quite the same cabinet line it was then, but IKEA is, and IKEA continues to be rated near the top in Consumer Reports and in JD Power rankings.

Some consumers mistakenly focus on a cabinet lines warranty as a way to judge quality. However, many well made cabinet lines have the industry standard 5 year warranty, while IKEA has a 15. A lifetime Warranty doesn’t mean much either as all life time warrantees on cabinets are limited lifetime warranties, and cover very little. And, several terribly made cabinet lines offer a limited lifetime warranty.

For a consumer wanting a great kitchen, shopping for a kitchen designer and cabinet dealer is a better strategy than focusing on a cabinet line. When looking for a kitchen designer to work with make sure that they have a minimum of 10 years experience, and because kitchen design is such a complex profession a bright well educated person often makes a better designer than one with a design degree or certification. Some of the best kitchen designers I have met are on second careers or never studied design in college. The best designers are all very bright people with great spacial relations skills and a willingness to learn and to teach. Educating customers about what to value and expect is the hallmark of a good designer. So learning a lot from a designer in a short time speaking with them is a good sign. And if they give you a few ways you can save money without compromising on quality, that shows that they also are looking after your best interests.

Hoping your research helps you find the best designer and the best cabinet for you… and of course…

Bon Appetit!

Paul

With so many types of countertops available we thought shedding a little light on the topic would be helpful.

Soapstone Countertop

Soapstone Countertop

Here is a comprehensive list of the most common types of countertops used in kitchens, the advantages and disadvantages of each, and approximate pricing.

Laminate – Sometimes referred to by the brand name Formica, plastic laminate countertops are actually made by several different companies. Formica and Wilsonart are the most popular brands. The popularity of laminate countertops in the past was due to it’s substantialy lower cost than solid surface countertops like granite, quartz, and Corian. However the price for laminate tops has gone up over time while the cost of many solid surface tops has gone down. Nowadays, laminate tops rarely make financial sense.

There is one exception – If you have a galley type kitchen, straight premade laminate tops called blanks are much less expensive than custom tops. They can look very similar to solid surface tops and cost a fraction of the price. L-shaped or U-shaped tops are more sensibly done in an inexpensive granite if you are trying to stay on a budget.

855 Meadowcroft_ScottFrederick_1 - Copy

Granite Countertop

Granite – Granite is a natural stone and is very hard to scratch or chip. It does not etch (lose it’s shine from exposure to acidic liquids like lemon juice) and especially with the less expensive colors does not stain easily. Granite should be sealed yearly, an easy process that takes about 20 minutes. Now that most granite comes from third world countries, it can be the least expensive of the solid surface tops.

There is no limit to how much exotic granite patterns can cost. Level 1 colors start at around $43/sq ft in our area. The more expensive colors are higher priced not because they are “better”, they are simply less common, or more fragile and so harder to fabricate or mine.

Marble – Recently marble has become a popular stone to use for kitchen countertops. But be careful and make sure you understand it’s limitations. Marble looks beautiful, but is very soft. A dinner plate dragged across a top can scratch it. It also stains easily and so should be sealed often. The biggest complaint about polished marble tops is that they etch. Etching is when acids like lemon juice, cleaners, or even ketchup remove the shine from the top. If you decide on a marble top then treat it gently and expect it to have a worn and used look over time. Many feel this is still beautiful, and as long as this natural look is something that appeals to you, there will be no surprises. Marble prices start at around the price of level 5 granite so approximately $85/sq ft.

Quartzite – Quartzite is a natural stone that can look like a marble but has more of the properties of granite. It is very hard, and like granite is difficult to scratch, chip, or stain. However some quartzite tops can etch (lose their shine) when expose to acids. Ask you sales person or better yet test a sample of your quartzite with lemon juice to see if the color you are considering etches easily. Quartzite prices start at around the price of a level 5 or 6 granite.

4 Michaels Way_ScottFrederick_7

Quartzite Countertop

Serpentine – Serpentine is a striking and veiny  natural stone sometimes used for countertops. While it can be quite beautiful, it will also scratch, chip, stain, and etch easily. Choose it understanding this. It is also not inexpensive and prices start around the cost of the more expensive stones.

Quartz – Quartz countertops, also called engineered stone, are man-made tops composed of pieces of quartz, glass, and a bonding resin that glues everything together. The resin is a not stone and melts at 440 degrees Fahrenheit. So don’t treat quartz tops like other stone tops, they can be burned. Since quarts tops are artificial they have some advantages. They never need to be sealed, can’t be stained, and are almost as hard as granite. They are also somewhat flexible and don’t need the exacting installation requirements that real stone does because they are less likely to crack. There are many quartz manufacturers such as Zodiaq, Avanza, Silestone, Cambria, Ceasarstone, and Hanstone. All engineered quartz tops use the same patented manufacturing process so the differences from one line to another are purely aesthetic. Quartz pricing starts at about $70/sq ft with the most popular colors costing much more. The exception is the Cambria  line where all the colors are the same price. Presently Main Line Kitchen Design sells Cambria for $80/sq ft.

“Green Tops” – Beware of the over priced “green” and “recycled” tops. The construction of these tops vary with the majority being quartz tops with some recycled glass or paper added to their resin mix. Other type tops include, 100% paper tops, Bamboo tops, recycled glass tops, and new ones pop up every day.  The companies making these tops are smaller and less reliable than larger manufacturers and many of the claims to be green are dubious upon close inspection. Most reputable fabricators steer clear of these products even though consumers ask about them constantly because they find the tops through Google searches.

Concrete and resin tops – These tops will be more expensive than either concrete or quartz but have unusual finishes and unlike concrete are not porous. These tops usually start at at least $100/ sq ft.

 

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Concrete Countertop

Concrete – Concrete countertops have some beautiful acid washed finishes. They  also start at the cost of the more expensive stone tops and the need to be sealed to be sanitary. Usually bees wax is used as the sealer.

Acrylics – Corian, Wilsonart Gibralter, Formica, Meganite, HiMax, and other brands make 100% acrylic countertops. The difference in brand is only aesthetic, but the bigger name brands definitely have nicer and more dramatic patterns. Be careful with hot pots. The melting temperature for acrylic is just over the temperature of boiling water so things taken out of the oven or off the stove cannot be placed on the countertop EVER! Pricing for acrylic tops will range between $60 /sq foot and $100 /sq ft depending on the color.

Glass – Solid glass countertops can be as dramatic as they are expensive. $200 /sq ft is not an uncommon cost for a glass top. Modern and Contemporary kitchens are usually the style that compliments a glass top.

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Granite Island and Quartz Perimeter

Solid Wood or Butcher block – Butcher block and single piece wood tops can be beautiful. They start at around $80 /sq ft. Particularly striking solid slices of old growth timber can cost twice as much as butcher block tops. Wood tops come polyurethaned or sealed with oil. Tung oil is a common sealant. If you plan on cutting or chopping on your top then use the oil sealant. Wood tops scratch and burn easily.

Stainless Steel Countertops – Custom stainless steel countertops are most often used in restaurant settings. While they can be used in residential applications, finding an installer that will fabricate custom residential stainless steel tops can be a challenge. Tops start at over $100 per square foot. Outdoor kitchens frequently have stainless steel tops although most are pre-made tops incorporated into the design.

Tile Countertops – Ceramic, Porcelain, or granite tile countertops have lost popularity because the costs to build and install the tile no longer makes these tops less expensive than lower level solid surface tops. If you are making a tile top yourself the materials will be inexpensive but be prepared for a lot of work. If you are hiring an installer then you may be spending the same or more for what most people consider a less desirable top.

Soapstone – Soapstone may seem familiar to you since it is typically used for high school or college chemistry class countertops. Soapstone can’t be damaged by anything hot found in a kitchen. It also is not porous and so can’t be stained. Soapstone colors range from dark black to grey/black with white or green veining. Soapstone turns grey over time. However, it’s original finish will return when treated with mineral oil. Soapstone is also soft and scratches and nicks easily, but scratches are minimized when it is refreshed with oil. Soapstone top prices start at level 5 or 6 prices and go up from there.

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Soapstone Countertop

There are positives and negatives about any type of countertop. So don’t be afraid to ask your designer or stone supplier questions to make sure you are getting the right top for you.

Hoping your countertop selection makes you as happy as our cabinets will ….and of course…

Bon Appetit!

Paul


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