Monday, July 27, 2015

5 Little Remodeling Touches That Make a Big Difference

by Samantha Schoech

Make your life easier while making your home nicer,
with these design details you'll really appreciate


When we did our remodel, our contractor suggested a thousand things I had never really thought about. They weren't necessarily design considerations; they were more quality-of-life considerations — just little things you didn't know you were missing until you had them.

Here are five little touches I didn't know I couldn't live without until I lived with them. What are yours?


1. A built-in dish soap dispenser. Because I don't care how nice the bottle is; it's just one more thing cluttering up your countertop.



2. Soft-close hinges. It is impossible to slam a drawer or cabinet in my kitchen. Each closes with a small whisper. It's calming somehow.




3. Large kitchen drawers. Looking down into a well-lit space is much better than looking deep into a dark cabinet. In this kitchen large drawers have completely replaced cabinets. Just make sure they are all soft close.



4. Undercabinet lighting. I know this seems like a no-brainer, but before I had it I never knew how useful it could be for task lighting and mood lighting. But spring for LEDs. We opted for fluorescent to save money, and we regret it.




5. Dimmer switches. Because there are a thousand stops between on and off.


Ready to get started on your kitchen remodel?  Stop by Cabinet-S-Top located at 1977 Medina Road, Medina, OH  44256 ~ 330.239.3630 ~ www.cabinet-s-top.com


Monday, July 20, 2015

Kitchen Details: Out-of-Sight Paper Towel Holder

by Mary Jo Bowling

See how some homeowners are clearing the counter of clutter while keeping this necessity close at hand

I recently wrote about a house that has a great kitchen. As the homeowner described what she loved about her cooking space, she casually mentioned the paper towel holder. Stop the presses. “The paper towel holder is one of your favorite things about your kitchen?” I (incredulously) asked. “Oh yes!” she replied. “I spent a lot of time thinking about the paper towel holder!” Readers, this is how stories are born.

I wrote about that kitchen, complete with a shot of the paper towel holder provided by the homeowner. It turns out she’s not alone in her consideration of this workaday detail.




This is the paper towel holder in question, the first of its kind I had ever seen. As the homeowner said: “I love this idea because it keeps the towels handy but hidden.”

The kitchen was created by interior designer Jennifer Tidwell, architect Heidi Richardson and the homeowner. “This is the room I spent the most time on during the planning phase, and we went through several designs,” the homeowner said. “It was worth it, because this is where I spend most of my day.”

It’s probably a safe bet that most Americans who use paper towels have them sitting on the counter in a free-standing vertical holder or hanging from a horizontal bar that’s mounted to the wall or underneath an upper cabinet. No one would accuse these rolls of being decorative (the prints of flowers or retro appliances notwithstanding), but anyone who has just spilled a glass of milk or has their hands covered in cooking oil will attest to the fact that easy-to-access paper towels are a must.

The benefit of having the roll mounted under the counter is twofold: First, you’re keeping a utilitarian item close at hand without making it a kitchen focal point. Second, you now have one less thing cluttering the countertop.



Interior designer Cherie Miller of CDH Designs liked the idea so much that she added the feature to her own kitchen. She says she had her cabinetmaker create one as a trial run for a job she had coming up. He used a dowel rod, and for ease of changing rolls, the top of the opening is a little wider than the bottom (you pop the dowel up and out when the roll is empty). In Miller’s kitchen, the opening is roughly 13 inches wide at the top and 5 inches high. “The height is a bit of a squeeze for some of the larger towel rolls,” she says. In the subsequent project, she used a retractable rod (similar to most toilet paper holders) and made the opening 13 inches wide and 5 1/2 inches high.

Miller notes that a cabinet to store a trash can would normally need to be 18 inches wide. In this case, because of the width of the peninsula, she designed a cabinet that is 21 inches wide. “ I use the extra room to store additional rolls,” she says.

Interior designer Sarah Robertson of Studio Dearborn says that moving the paper towel holder off the counter is a nice feature for kitchens where the sink is in the island, thus avoiding having the holder standing, sentry-like, in the middle of the room.

In this kitchen, Robertson put the paper towels by the trash can (as Miller did). “Having the paper towels right by the trash can is handy for using and discarding, and puts paper towels within reach of children so they can help clean up their messes!” she says. “It is actually closer to counter level, where the action is, than a roll up under a wall cabinet.”

Robertson says she and her cabinetmaker have redesigned paper towel holders at least five times to improve functionality. “Previous iterations were not large enough to hold a jumbo paper towel roll,” she says. “We’ve also redesigned the dowel several times to make changing the roll easier.”

Robertson says she now makes the holders with a roomier box and spring-loaded dowels. “Make sure your cabinetmaker considers the functionality and design carefully before having this built in!” she says.

Designers at Crystal Cabinets solved the ease-of-changing problem with a customized drawer.



The secret is revealed when the drawer is open. You can see how the paper towel rod slides up the carved channels.

Interior designer Tom Spanier of TZS Design created a similar drawer. In his version, extra paper towels are stored at the back.









Now for paper towel holders that roll a bit differently. This one, by designer Sandra Bird, is off the counter but hangs from a more conventional wall-mounted holder.










A narrow pullout drawer is home to a roll of paper towels in this kitchen by David Heide.
















The same idea, but on a larger scale, is seen in a pullout pantry by Rutt HandCrafted Cabinetry.










Then there’s this paper towel system by kitchen and bathroom designer Richard Landon. He says the idea is simple. “Mount the paper towel holder inside the wall cabinet near the sink. Cut a slot in the bottom of the wall cabinet and pull the end of the roll through. Shut the door, and the roll is hidden, yet the end of the roll is easily grabbed,” he says. “We use an eccentric holder [a bar that is not round]. That makes it easy to tear off a sheet.”

Many would agree that good design is in the details. These are just a few ideas to consider before you throw in the towel.






Cabinet-S-Top ~ 1977 Medina Road, Medina, OH 44256
 www.cabinet-s-top.com ~ 330.239.3630


Monday, July 13, 2015

How to Clean Your Hardwood Floors

by Bonnie McCarthy

Gleaming wood floors are a thing of beauty.
Here’s how to keep them that way


Although installing hardwood flooring is usually more expensive than rolling out new carpet, it’s an investment worth considering, according to data from the National Association of Realtors. Surveys show that 54 percent of home buyers are willing to pay more for a house with hardwood floors. The question now: What’s the best way to clean and care for that popular flooring and keep that natural beauty (and value) shining through? Here’s how.


It’s not the wood — oak, maple, mesquite, bamboo, engineered hardwood or something more exotic — that determines how the floors should be cleaned, but rather the finish.


Surface finishes, often referred to as urethanes or polyurethanes, are among the most popular treatments today and are usually applied to hardwood floors after installation to protect them and make them more durable and water resistant. These finishes create a protective barrier. There are four types of surface finishes, according to the American Hardwood Information Center: water based, oil based, acid cured and moisture cured.

Homes built before 1970, including historic residences, may have original wood floors that were sealed with varnish, wax or shellac. These require a different approach to cleaning. The American Hardwood Information Center says these types of finishes work by penetrating the wood to color the planks and form a protective shield. Using a wax coating after staining provides a barrier against wear and tear and gives the floor a beautiful low-gloss satin sheen. The classic look requires a little extra TLC, however, since water-based products and mopping can damage the finish.


How to Determine Your Wood Floor Finish

To figure out whether or not your wood floors are finished with a polyurethane, shellac, wax or varnish, or have a finish that has worn away and is no longer providing coverage, the American Hardwood Information Center suggests these tests:

  • Run your hand over the wood. If you can feel the texture of the grain, the floor has a “penetrating” finish (usually a combination of a natural oil, such as linseed or tung oil, mixed with additives for drying) topped with wax.
  •  In an out-of-the-way spot, dab on a little paint remover. If the finish bubbles up, it is a surface finish, like polyurethane, which coats the floor in a protective layer.
  • In an out-of-the-way area, place a few drops of water. If the water beads up and does not soak into the wood, the finish on the floor is intact. If the water is absorbed into the floor or leaves a dark spot, the wood is unfinished or the protective layer has worn away.
  • If you sprinkle on a few drops of water and white spots form beneath the droplets after about 10 to 15 minutes, the floors are sealed with wax. To remove the white spots, use a piece of fine steel wool lightly dampened with wax and rub gently.
  • If you suspect a varnish or shellac, take a coin and scratch the surface of the floor in an inconspicuous corner. If the floor has been sealed with one of the older finishing methods, it will flake off.


Preventing Dirty Wood Floors

Not wearing shoes in the house is one of the best ways to significantly reduce dirt, scuffs and daily wear and tear, and lessen cleaning time.

The National Wood Floor Association, or NWFA, is more specific and warns against walking on wood floors with cleats, sports shoes and high heels. It also offers this cautionary example: A 125-pound woman walking in high heels has an impact of 2,000 pounds per square inch. Furthermore, an exposed heel nail can exert up to 8,000 pounds of force per square inch.

Whether you got out your calculator or not, the possibility of impact and denting appears to be undeniable. However, while you can’t always ask guests to shed shoes at the door, it might be a policy worth considering for family members.



What Not to Do

No matter what type of wood flooring you have, the NWFA advises against using cleaning products meant for vinyl or tile flooring. Their take: Self-polishing acrylic waxes cause wood to become slippery and appear dull quickly.

Another no-no: wet-mopping wood floors, since standing water can dull the finish, damage the wood and leave a discoloring residue. Along the same lines, avoid overwaxing unfinished wood floors in an attempt to restore luster. If a waxed floor has become dull, try buffing the surface instead.

Regular Wood Floor Cleaning

Cleaning floors with contemporary polyurethane wood finishes (for floors installed after 1970) starts with vacuuming, sweeping or dust-mopping the surface.

Vacuuming. Vacuum wood floors daily, or at least once a week with a vacuum fitted with an attachment for wood floors. For regular machines, the American Hardwood Information Center advises turning off interior rotating brushes or beater bars if possible.

Regular vacuuming helps remove dust and dirt particles that play a leading role in scratching and dulling the surface of the floor.


Sweeping. The American Hardwood Information Center says choosing a broom with “exploded tips,” also known as synthetic fiber ends, is step one.

Damp mopping. Damp mopping should be done with a simple solution of pH-neutral soap (like dishwashing soap) and water; or one capful of a mild cleanser such as Murphy Oil Soap in a bucket of water; or a solution using products specially formulated for wood floors, such as Eco Mist Colloid W, Dr. Bonner’s or Method.

In conscientious cleaning circles, controversy swirls around whether to use a mixture of vinegar and water for damp-mopping wood floors. Ultimately, everyone has to do what works best; however, within the past 10 years this method has lost favor, and popular belief now holds that the solution causes floors to dull more quickly and is not as effective as simple soap and water.

To begin mopping, dampen the mop in the prepared solution, wring it out completely, and mop in the direction of the wood grain. Repeat as necessary. As the water in the bucket becomes dirty, dump it out and refill. Many experts (including Martha Stewart) believe scrubbing wood floors with a damp cloth by hand is the ultimate cleaning strategy — unless abundant square footage or protesting knees prove problematic.

But avoid cloths or mops dripping with water. If your floors do get wet or worse, dry them immediately!

Another technique: After the floor has been swept or vacuumed, put your cleaning solution of choice in a spray bottle and mist the floor, then use a dry microfiber mop or cloth and mop in direction of the wood grain.

It’s important to note that just because a floor is clean doesn’t necessarily mean it will be shiny. If the floor has lost its luster, it may be time to have it refinished professionally. Whatever you do, don’t wax a polyurethaned finish.


Unfinished or Waxed Floors

Unfinished or waxed floors, like those in older and historic homes, as well as floors in which the protective seal has worn away, should never be treated with water or liquid cleansers, which may penetrate, stain or warp the wood. Instead, according to cleaning experts, sweeping with a soft-bristled broom and vacuuming should be done as the primary line of defense. The NWFA says to step away from the mop: Never damp-mop a waxed floor.

Beyond basic care, buffing and waxing the floors once or twice a year should maintain the shine.

Old-fashioned shellacked floors are not common in most homes. However, if you find yourself the proud owner of this vintage flooring, regular care should include sweeping and vacuuming often. Avoid water and liquid cleansers.


Engineered Wood Floors

Engineered wood flooring is created with a thin veneer of hardwood fused atop a plywood base. The material is stronger and more durable than regular hardwoods, and as a result has become a popular choice.

The cleaning procedure for this type of wood is the same as for hardwood floors with urethane finishes. Keep clean on a daily basis by sweeping and vacuuming and use a slightly damp mop as needed.


Painted Wood Floors

Painted wood floors make a strong style statement and are a clever way to disguise wood flooring in less than perfect shape. To clean them, sweep, vacuum or dust-mop regularly. Avoid scratching or damaging the painted surface by staying away from abrasive cleansers and opting for a simple soap and water solution for damp mopping. Experts suggest drying the surface immediately by hand to avoid streaking and unnecessary moisture.


Cabinet-S-Top
1977 Medina Road, Medina, OH  44256 
www.cabinet-s-top.com ~ 330.239.3630









Wednesday, July 8, 2015

How the Heck Do You Clean a Glass Shower Door?

by Bonnie McCarthy


Get the answers to keeping those glass shower walls
and doors sparkling-clean now and forever



Most people loathe household chores. But is any cleaning task more difficult to stick to than squeegeeing shower walls and doors after use? The squeegee rule, a seemingly reasonable request to reduce hard-water stains, mineral buildup and mildew, is great unless you’re short on time, patience, energy or all of the above.

In fact, for the squeegee-averse, opting to use the guest bathroom and its shower with a curtain instead of a glass door is a timesaving trick that is not uncommon. My friends recently admitted that they shower in their guest bathroom so they don’t have to clean their newly remodeled, all-glass master bath shower. There’s got to be a better way. And I think there is.


First, the bad news. Hard water and soapy buildup allowed to accumulate on glass shower surfaces can cause etching and permanently damage the glass. If glass shower doors have a cloudy look, this may be the culprit. Cleaning will eliminate buildup, but it will not reverse etching, which is why the first and best defense is to prevent it from happening by wiping down the shower after each use with either a squeegee or a microfiber cloth.


Squeegees and Microfiber Cloths

A squeegee is a windshield-wiper-like tool with a handle and a long, flat rubber blade used to clean or remove something (in this case water) from a surface.

Some squeegees have suction cups for attaching to walls for easy access and storage, while some come in colors or stainless steel for the style-conscious. Do they all work the same? In a nutshell, yes.

For many, including Debra Johnson, a home-cleaning expert for the housekeeping company Merry Maids, microfiber cloths are the weapon of choice against water spotting and buildup and are prized for their ability to get into hard-to-reach places, such as beneath door handles or in tight corners.

After each use, the experts advise, wring the cloths out tightly, and launder them at least once a week.



Daily Shower Cleaners

Either way, once the shower has been wiped down, finish the job with a quick misting of daily cleaner such as Method Daily, Tilex Daily Shower Cleaner, Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day Tub and Tile or your own concoction (see below).

The best part about daily maintenance: You won’t need to deep-clean the shower as often and the glass will stay sparkly.



Make Your Own Daily Shower Spray

Beverly Leestma, DIY expert and author of The Make Your Own Zone, offers these directions for a chemical-free shower spray that saves both money and the environment: Mix together a half-cup of hydrogen peroxide, a half-cup of rubbing alcohol (a natural degreaser), 1 teaspoon liquid dish soap and 1 tablespoon dishwasher rinse aid in a 32-ounce spray bottle. Next, fill the bottle with water and, after capping, rock the bottle gently back and forth to combine the ingredients without making them foam up. Store away from sunlight.




Deep Cleanings

Life happens, however, and when it does, things like daily maintenance can take a backseat. For glass shower enclosures, this means buildup, grime and the bath time blues. Sadly, it also means it will take more than a simple squeegee to get back to clean.



For scrubbing scum (a four-letter word) and hard-water stains, many consumers swear by products such as the Magic Eraser sponge, while others suggest repurposing dryer sheets (simply wet and scrub). Since these products contain chemicals, consider wearing gloves to protect your skin.



Another technique is to repurpose the powdered version of Bar Keepers Friend in the bathroom. To use, wet the glass surface and shake the cleanser onto a nonabrasive sponge, then scrub. Rinse with warm water or vinegar, then squeegee for the finale.

Jan M. Dougherty, cleaning expert and author of The Lost Art of House Cleaning, recommends using Krud Kutter, a biodegradable, nontoxic cleaner-degreaser. Her advice: Mix one part Krud Kutter with five parts water in a spray bottle.

Tip: Be sure to put the water in the bottle first, then the product. Otherwise foaming bubbles could make work even more of a chore.



A Natural Alternative

A mixture of baking soda and water makes a scum-fighting scrub that many experts swear by. Measurements for the mixture will vary depending on how much you need. To get started, try using a half-cup of baking soda, then add water as needed to make a thick paste. Using a nonabrasive sponge, scrub the glass and rinse it with vinegar.




Long-Term Solutions

Once you’ve achieved a clean, sparkly surface, there are a few things you can do to make it last longer.

The big idea here is that hard water and soap scum won’t build up if they can’t stick to the surface. Think Teflon shower. Several products are designed to wick water away from surfaces, and although they weren’t created for bathroom use, the concept still applies. Rain-X and Water Armour, both found in the automotive department, are marketed for repelling water off windshields, but they can do the same for glass-walled showers.

How to do it: Spray the product on clean glass (being careful to avoid tile, metal and the shower floor) and reapply every three to four weeks). Some folks swear that after this treatment, they can skip the squeegee.



Cleaning Those Pesky Metal Tracks

To clean the buildup and grime that accumulates in the hard-to-clean metal tracks that often frame sliding glass doors, Jill Schoff, author of Green Up Your Cleanup, has a solution. Literally.

In her book, Schoff recommends plugging any drainage holes or crevices in the track and filling it up with vinegar. Let the vinegar sit overnight and wipe clean in the morning. It gives new meaning to rise and shine!



Ban the Bar Soap

Finally, if you want to significantly reduce the amount of soap scum on glass without eliminating showers or using the facilities at the gym, cleaning experts offer this advice: Ban the bar soap.

Almost all bar soaps contain talc, which produces the buildup. Consider switching to a non-talc-containing soap (such as Dove or natural soap), or opt for liquid soap instead.

Of course, there’s no escaping water spots, so some regular maintenance will still be required. It just won’t be as much.

Cabinet-S-Top's kitchen and bath showroom is located at 1977 Medina Road, Medina, OH  44256 ~ 330.239.3630 ~ www.cabinet-s-top.com