Choosing Between Quartz and Granite Counter Tops

If you are in the market for counter tops, you are wise to be choosing between quartz and granite. They are both trusted and strong surfaces that have gained popularity for many different reasons. Many people may not be able to pinpoint the subtle differences between these various stone counter tops, but in this article, we will share a few pros and cons of both granite and quartz counter tops. You will then be able to make a more informed choice.

When making the ultimate choice, it is a matter of taste, and because of the variety out there, manufacturers are sure to have the perfect counter top to match your needs. Before you rush out to look at samples, however, there are a few main factors you should consider. We will talk about a few features you might want to think about when choosing a tailor made counter top.

Processing Differences

Granite counter tops are naturally quarried (the equipment used has come a long way since Obelix’s granite menhirs), and are cut into large flat sheets to ease the process of transportation and installation. Granite counters made of 100% natural rock.

On the other hand, quartz counter tops are artificially manufactured with between a 90-95% quartz content and mixed with various polymer resins and coloring. This means that although quartz counter tops look like marble or granite counter tops, they go through an artificial manufacturing process and come with a full guarantee.

Appearance

Granite is a naturally occurring rock, so it has a 100% unique appearance, which means that you should keep in mind that the rock you choose as a sample will not be a perfect match to what you receive. Many people love the natural coloring and venation of granite.

Even though granite comes in a few different colors, quartz counter tops offer a greater diversity when it comes to the range of colors available for purchase. The results are more constant and standardized, so each slab can look relatively similar which makes for a more even finish if that is what is preferred.

Cleaning and Maintenance

Granite counter tops may look glamorous and may rank high on the durability scale, but when compared to quartz, they don’t quite meet the mark. The counters need to be regularly wiped down to avoid staining and need to be sealed usually on an annual basis (may vary depending on the quality of the sealant).

The engineered quartz counter tops have the upper hand on the granite counters as they contain a resin-based sealant that means that they are more resistant to stains, heat, and chipping. Unlike granite they are non-porous, so they require a lower level of maintenance.

Price

The price of granite can vary based on may features including where it was sourced from, how common or rare the stone is, what color you want it in, etc. But it usually runs on a square foot basis and can start as low as $65sqft in some places, but rocket to over $200/sqft in others.

And it’s a good idea to add installation charges when calculating the cost which usually adds about 15%.

Next, comes the edging. The edge or profile of the countertop will affect the price, depending on how fancy you go. A simple square edge is usually the cheapest and still looks great.

Quartz counter tops have quite the price range too, with costs coming close to that of granite but usually sit a little higher. Remember that that price is also based on the thickness of the slab you order, but a thinner slab is weaker and more prone to damage.

Environmental Impact

Most modern consumers are looking for ways to reduce their carbon footprint by choosing the most environmentally friendly products. Granite counter tops are the less environmentally friendly option here because of all the energy that goes into quarrying and transportation. Look for distributors that source rock from places near where you live.

As quartz counter tops are engineered, it is easier for certain manufacturers to be more environmentally conscious and look for greener solutions in production. Look for brands like Cambria or Silestone that pay attention to their impact on nature and concentrate on recycling energy used for manufacturing quartz countertops.

So now the choice is yours. If you want the natural stone look that has been a crowd pleaser for generations, go for the reliable granite counter tops. If you want a bigger selection of colors, and a surface that boasts great hygiene, it is the quartz counter tops that you should be looking at. Either way, they’d both be great choices.

The Difference Between a Freestanding Range, Cooktop, and Slide in Range

The kitchen is the place from where great tasting things come, making it the most loved place for many people. A great number of hours are spent here, and much of this time is purely dedicated to the task of cooking food. A trustworthy kitchen range is what makes all this possible. In the developed world, a kitchen stove is a necessity, no matter who you are; a professional chef or a housewife.  The questions is, what type of stove is best for you and your home?

freestanding-range

How Cooking Ranges Changed with Time

The invention of the first kitchen range is credited to a man named Benjamin Thompson who designed a machine that could produce heat and could also be modulated. He continued reinventing his design until he came upon a brick structure that had some of the same basic components of a modern range: a metal plate that could heat up pots and kettles, and even an oven-like metal roaster that was built into his model.

England embraced the idea of this efficient design, and it gained immediate popularity. With time, the stoves became smaller, ran on different kinds of fuels, and became more accessible to middle-class households. Gas and electric stoves were introduced in the 19th century, and since then, they never lost their popularity.

Now you can find so many varieties of ranges in the market, partly due to their long history, and the many lives that had a part in improving the quality of the products they offered. Today ranges come in many different shapes and sizes. Let’s look at the popular types of stoves, and discuss what makes them so special.

The Freestanding Range

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Freestanding models are the most commonly purchased stove type as they are affordable and are usually the least expensive type of range. They are stand-alone models that don’t need to be attached to kitchen counters as they have a complete, finished look. This means that there are no installation costs, and with the variety out there, there is sure to be a freestanding range that will fit any empty space in your kitchen!

An example of a great freestanding range is the GE Profile™ Series 30″ Free-Standing Electric Convection Range with Warming Drawer that has received constant praise from its users. In addition to the fact that the heat distribution is constant and even in every component of this machine, it also has a self-cleaning function, a fast preheat mode and a delay bake option.

A Slide in Range

A slide-in model is designed in a way to ‘slide in’ to your kitchen counters and cabinetry. The sides do not have a finished look unlike the freestanding models, so they need to be sandwiched in between your kitchen countertops. An advantage to this is that they are a good fit, so they are easy to clean, and you won’t have to clean any spills and food that falls through gaps like the freestanding types. They also fit into the kitchen better as they are a built-in part of the continuous line of your countertop. They are however usually more expensive than freestanding models.

The Samsung NE58F9710WS 30 Inch Slide-In Electric Range is commonly thought to be one of the best slide-in ranges on the market. It has a great stainless steel finish, and has duo oven capabilities as its inner compartments can be split using creative dividers, and therefore food can be cooked simultaneously at different temperatures. That’s innovation at its best!

Cooktop Ranges

Another great option is a cooktop range. This means that the traditional stove top is added to your kitchen as a separate component to the wall oven (which a kitchen should already possess if this option is to be pursued). It gives the kitchen a cleaner, sleeker finish as it can be added to the top of your cabinetry, and allows you the freedom to place it at any height that is comfortable for you. This is also a slightly pricier option as there are installation costs involved, and you still need to budget for another separate oven component.

A cooktop range that is highly recommended is the Bosch 36″ Gas Cooktop 800 Series NGM8655UC because of its price and great features. It’s equipped with five powerful burners including an 18,000 Btu central burner that speeds up cooking time. This option truly has a sophisticated feel but is also satisfyingly affordabl

 

There is great diversity in the types of ranges out there, and you are sure to find a perfect range for your kitchen if you carefully compare the prices, the functions and the finished looks of all three types mentioned above.

 

How to Seal and Protect Your Natural Stone Surfaces

How to Seal and Protect Your Natural Stone Surfaces. Article 10.The use of natural stone in houses, and even outdoors has been gaining great popularity of late, but it’s a practice that has been handed down through the generations. One only needs to look at the pyramids, the Roman columns, or the Greek carvings to realize that our ancestors had a keen understanding of the true value of natural stone.

Over the years, people used stone because of their natural beauty, strength, and durability. The rules are simple with natural stone surfaces: if you care for and maintain your stone surfaces well, you will have them looking beautiful for a lifetime. You need to be able to invest your time and energy into protecting your natural stone, and a key part of this process it to seal the surfaces.

Why is it Important to Seal Natural Stone?

 There are several reasons why some igneous and metamorphic stone surfaces are vulnerable, and stones like marble, granite, travertine, sandstone, limestone, slate, flagstone and basalt are affected because of several different reasons.

Natural rocks are porous by nature, which means that they absorb liquids that are on them, albeit at different rates. This means that they can stain and get discolored unless proper care is taken the seal and to wipe off liquids that are on them daily.

Salt spalling is also another result of liquids being absorbed into the stone. As the salts dissolved in the liquids also get into the capillary channels of the stone, they sometimes crystallize close to the surface of the stone. Salt crystals have the tendency to build up and expand, thus weakening the stone and causing the spalling and weathering of the surface. The only way to prevent this is by sealing the surface of the stone.

Corrosion is another enemy of natural stone and can spread and destroy the quality of your stone forever. This is one of the ways stone can be permanently destroyed, so sealing your stone against rust is a definite must.

Things You Should Consider Before Sealing Your Stone

How, and how often you seal your stone depends on a few factors like stone type, what it is used for, its location, its finish and its porosity. Looking at these factors will not only help you realize how often you should seal your surfaces but also what you should be using to seal them.

Natural stone sealers are of three types:

  1. Topical sealers: these sealants have either have acrylic, wax or plastic compounds in them to form a film over the surfaces in order to protect them from stains. They come in 2 forms: strippable and permanent sealers. Strippable sealer wears out relatively quickly, so more maintenance is needed, and is thus not recommended for floors as the coating will not be so effective. Permanent sealers are made to last and are difficult to remove once applied.
  1. Stone enhancer sealer: this is a highly recommended sealant, especially for surfaces that need to look extra beautiful. It enhances the colors and brightens up the countertops it is applied to. They last for different periods of time, but it is recommended that you reseal surfaces on an annual basis to experience the best results.
  1. Impregnating sealers: they are the best sealants to use if you don’t want the natural beauty of the stone to be compromised. They are breathable sealers that are made to be either water or solvent based. They can be bought for varying lifespans, and some of the most expensive sealers have several add-on benefits.

Proper Application Procedure

  1. Make sure the stone surface is clean before applying the sealer (you can use a mild detergent and warm water to remove any dirt and residue). Also, run a dry cloth over the surface to remove any moisture.
  1. Methodically apply the selected sealer with a soft cloth.
  1. Check manufacturer’s instructions about how long you need to let the sealer saturate (it usually takes a few hours). Some surfaces may require a second coating.
  1. Make sure that you do a final cleaning after the waiting period is over with warm water.

Natural rock is an investment, and if the sealing procedure is done well and regularly, you are sure to have the best-looking stone surfaces around. When in doubt, follow manufacturers instructions, but never neglect to seal surfaces that need them. People are sure to notice if you don’t. Always remember that prevention is better than cure!

How to Properly Clean Grout

Grout is usually such a small part of the construction industry that it is often forgotten until the time comes for it to be cleaned. Then it becomes a homeowner’s biggest headache. As opposed to the tiles it surrounds, it is generally quite tedious to clean because a regular tile cleaning doesn’t always reach the grouted areas. This means that stains remain for longer on grout, and are more difficult to clean because of the nature of grout and the prolonged contact. Cleaning grout doesn’t always have to be this difficult, and we have explained a few steps that will help you get rid of stains and discoloration on grout in the simplest way possible without needing to use store-bought products.

If you need help you can always contact a cleaning company to do it for you. There are many maid services around town. In my areas I would just do a search for House Cleaning Services in Vancouver, BC (Yes I’m from beautiful Vancouver, Canada) and I would have an abundance of cleaning companies that would be willing to do this for me. And cleaning companies these days are relatively cheap. Especially since there are so many companies competing with each other.

Grout is a paste that is used primarily to seal, join and fill various gaps between tiles, glass and other surfaces on floors, walls, countertops etc. Grout comes in many colors and textures, and depending on what purpose it fulfills, it generally is a semi-solid paste made from cement, water and fine sand before it solidifies into place.

Types of Grout

Before going on to clean grout, it is important to identify the type of grout used to know how much resistance it has to cleaning liquids, and how the stain or damage is going to affect the grouting. Some grout needs to be regularly maintained (usually specified on the manufacturer’s instructions), whereas some grout is hardier and needs to be checked upon less frequently. Let us look at the main types of grout available on the market:

  • Epoxy grout: it is the most resilient and durable type of grout, and is also by far the most expensive as well. This type of grout is made from cement, filter substances and epoxy resins. This means that this chemically cured grout doesn’t need a sealer because of the material mixed into it, and it is also more waterproof. It can handle stronger cleaning products as well. If you don’t fancy regular cleaning, but still would like your tiled surface to look great, epoxy grout is the best choice for you.
  • Sanded grout: the sanded variety has grains of sand in the cement mixture to give it strength. The size of grains used depends on the desired finish and required strength of the grout. This grout helps support heavier tiles and building materials (like glass and stone) and is the preferred choice for larger gaps between surfaces. This grout requires a sealant. Because if it’s course texture, it is often more difficult to clean and traps a lot more dirt on its surface than other varieties of grout.
  • Non- Sanded grout: this grout is easier to work with and easy to apply into place, but is also the least durable, and is sometimes prone to cracking and staining and requires more maintenance than other varieties. It too requires a sealant that needs to be checked regularly. It, however, is easier to clean than the sanded variety because of its smoothness.

Simple Steps to Cleaning Grout

How to properly clean grout? Firstly, it is very important to gather the necessary equipment before cleaning grout. Make sure you have a brush to clean your grout with and remove any dirt. There are ready-made grout cleaning brushes available in stores, but if not, a toothbrush should suffice. Make sure you have warm water to flush out the cleaning liquid, and a mop or a vacuum to dry the area after cleaning. Have a spray bottle that contains the desired cleaning liquid.

  • When it comes to cleaning liquids, it is better to go for milder mixtures first because harsher liquids can damage the grout and the surrounding tiling or stonework. A few recommended mixtures are as follows:
  1. The mildest solutions are achieved by mixing baking soda, or salt with water and sprayed on the grouted area.
  1. If the previous mixture wasn’t enough to remove dirt, heavily dilute the vinegar with water and spray on the baking soda solution. This will cause a chemical reaction that will aid the cleaning process.
  1. For the stains that are deeper and tougher to remove, use a hydrogen peroxide and water mixture. This works particularly well against bio growth stains like lichen, mildew, and mold.
  • Make sure you protect and cover any surrounding areas that may be harmed by your cleaning chemicals.
  • Brush and sweep the area before cleaning.
  • Spray cleaning solution (handle with care and use gloves when spraying).
  • Scrub well, but be mindful not to damage the underlying grout.
  • After leaving the cleaning solution on the grout for a few minutes, rinse away with warm water.
  • Thoroughly dry the area and check to see if the grout needs resealing.