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Designing Your Kitchen: Deep Thoughts for Your Sink

Article By: Jennifer Ott

I tend to think bigger is always better. Maybe it’s because I live in Texas. So when it comes to working in my own kitchen, I do love having a nice, wide sink. It offers plenty of space for food prep and cleanup, perfect for our two-cook household. But what about bowl depth? Sure, an extra-deep sink is good for hiding dirty dishes, but it can also do a number on your back, especially if you are of a shorter persuasion. 

Here are some tips for selecting the correct sink depth for you and how you use your kitchen. 

Kitchen sinks have been steadily growing in bowl depth. Most sinks used to be as shallow as 6 inches or less; the average today is 8 to 10 inches, and they can go as deep as 12 inches. If you repurpose a vintage sink, such as the one pictured here, it will likely be on the shallow side. 

When to Go Shallow

A shallow bowl depth — say, less than 8 inches — is going to be the most comfortable bowl depth for those who are 5-foot-4 or shorter or who are very tall (6-foot 2 or taller). A shallower bowl depth allows a shorter person to work in the sink without having to lean into it to wash items in the bottom. Taller folks can work in a shallower sink without having to crouch down or hunch over. 

 

Shallow sinks also take up less space in the sink cabinet below them. Not only does this free up storage space, but it also makes it easier to install and access the garbage disposal and the plumbing fittings. Shallow sinks also tend to cost a bit less than deeper versions.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When to Go Deep

For those who, like me, seem to dirty every dish in the house when making a meal, a superdeep sink is ideal. You have plenty of space for prepping meals, and in a pinch you can hide your dirty dishes in there until you are able to wash them. This is a nice sink for bakers or others who are regularly washing large sheet pans and cutting boards, too. A sink depth of at least 10 inches will give you the room you need to wash larger dishes without splashing water all over the floor and surrounding countertops. 

Keep in mind that if you are going with an undermount sink, you will gain the additional depth of the countertop thickness. You can offset this, however, by using a raised sink grid, as shown here. 

Try One On for Size

When selecting your kitchen sink bowl depth, it’s all about finding one that is just right for your height and how you use your sink. If you can, check out kitchen showrooms that have a variety of sink sizes on display —mounted at the standard 36-inch countertop height — to see what sink depth feels most comfortable.

Install Your Kitchen Sink for How You Like to Cook and Clean

Article By: Jennifer Ott, Assoc. AIA + LEED AP

Once you’ve decided on the material for your next kitchen sink, you’ll want to decide what kind of installation to do. There are four basic categories of sink mounting types: 

  • Apron front sinks, also known as a farmhouse sinks, have a broad, exposed front edge and are usually quite wide and deep.
  • Undermount sinks get attached to the underside of the countertop for a clean look.
  • Drop-in sinks are installed on top of or over the countertop.
  • Integral sinks are made from the same material as the countertop, often fabricated as a seamless unit within the countertop.

Usually aesthetics and cost rule this decision. Drop-in sinks tend to be the most budget-friendly, primarily because you can easily install them yourself in an affordable laminate countertop. Undermount and apron front sinks often require professional installation and can only be mounted to a sturdy and non-porous countertop material, which can add considerable cost to the project. Integral sinks are generally the most expensive type, due to the cost of the material and fabrication. Read on for more information and examples of each to help you make your selection. 

 

Apron Front or Farmhouse Style

These charming sinks are right at home in traditionalor cottage-style kitchens with their exposed fronts and potential for decorative detailing. Apron front sinks are typically wider, deeper and heavier than the other sink types, so they require at least a 36-inch-wide sink cabinet. The sink cabinet must also be able to accommodate the apron front.

 

Of course, apron front sinks are no longer just for old-world or farmhouse-style kitchens. There are many stunning modern versions of the apron front sink available today, such as the brushed stainless steel beauty pictured here. Also, while these sinks have traditionally come with a single bowl, they now also come in divided, two-bowl versions.

These are certainly attractive sinks, but if you are considering installing one in your kitchen there are a few issues to keep in mind. I’ve heard a few complaints about how easy it is to accidentally break a dish or glass against the apron when aiming to place the item in the sink. 

Also, if you go for a stainless steel or copper version, be aware that the apron could get scratched up from contact with belt buckles or metal buttons on your jeans. And, unless it is installed as an undermount (with the countertop extending over the sink edge), there will be a seam between the sink and countertop, where moisture and gunk can collect. 

Undermount

This is my favorite mounting type for a sink. I like the clean look, not to mention the easy-to-clean design. You can undermount a sink to any sturdy, non-porous countertop, such as natural stone, concrete, quartz and solid surfacing. I have heard of successful applications to wood countertops, but extra care must be taken to protect the wood from water. There are also laminate countertop manufacturers that claim you can undermount a sink to their material. Discuss with your countertop retailer to see if this is an option for you. 

 

Depending on your particular undermount sink, you may have some options regarding the reveal — or how much or little of the top of the sink is visible just below the inside edge of the countertop. I tend to prefer a no-reveal, or zero-reveal, look — just a smooth, straight drop from the countertop into the sink. This makes the sink and surrounding countertop area super easy to clean, as there is no ledge for food particles to collect in. You can also specify a “negative reveal” where the countertop extends over the edge of the sink. 

I think a slight negative reveal —⅛ inch or less — is fine, but any more than that and you run the risk of breaking dishes on the overhanging lip of the countertop as you lift them out of the sink. I would also be wary about not being able to see and maintain the water-tight seal between the sink and countertop — it can be difficult to view with a negative reveal.


 

 

 

Drop-in

This is a popular sink style for those on a tight budget, for those installing a sink within a porous countertop body material (such as wood or laminate) or those looking to repurpose a vintage sink or get a vintage look.

This type of sink is installed over the countertop, into a cutout, and then sealed around the edge where the sink lip meets the countertop. The obvious downside to a drop-in sink is that the raised lip makes it more difficult to wipe food particles directly into the sink, as you can with an undermount sink.

 

 

 

 

 

Where undermount sinks have a clean, minimalist feel, drop-in sinks are very charming and work well in rustic or farmhouse-style kitchens. Similar to apron front sinks, drop-in sinks can be a real eye-catching decorative element in a kitchen.

 

Integral

If you’d rather your kitchen sink blend in, and you are installing stone, metal, solid surface or quartz countertops, think about having an integral sink fabricated. Your countertop fabricator simply forms a sink using the countertop material. The look is very clean and seamless — perfect for a contemporary kitchen. 

 

Here’s a close-up of an integral sink. These sinks have no nooks and crannies for food particles to collect in, making cleanup a breeze.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An integral sink is one of the more expensive mounting types because these sinks are usually custom designed and manufactured. You are paying for the raw material as well as fabrication and installation, which can be costly. But for those with the budget for it, it’s certainly an appealing option.

 

Kitchen FAQs: Selecting Your Sink Material

Article By: Jennifer Ott, Assoc. AIA + LEED AP

Anyone who has built or renovated a kitchen knows what it can feel like to make so many decisions in a very short amount of time. Educating yourself about your options beforehand can help cut down on some of that stress. Here, we take a look at sinks — specifically the choices you have when it comes to materials.

Cost, functionality and aesthetics should all weigh in when you select your sink material. For instance, you can get a well-priced stainless steel sink, but be aware of how easily it can scratch and show water marks. White fireclay or cast iron sinks are beautiful, but may require some elbow grease to stay bright and white. Integral quartz sinks are becoming increasingly popular, but they can be expensive and aren’t necessarily bulletproof. 

Not sure what’s right for your kitchen? Read on to learn more about these popular material options for today’s kitchen sinks. 

Stainless Steel

By far the most popular material for kitchen sinks, stainless steel sinks are heat and stain resistant and are available in a variety of types, styles and sizes. I recommend going for a brushed or satin finish rather than a mirror finish — water marks and scratches will be less noticeable. Also, look for sinks that have sound-absorbing pads on the bottom. Consumer Reports recently tested stainless steel sinks and found that these pads, rather than sound-absorbing spray or a thicker gauge of steel, performed best in reducing the noise commonly associated with stainless steel sinks.

Prices for stainless steel sinks run the gamut, but you can get a decent quality stainless steel sink for not a lot of money, making it my pick for those on a tight budget.

Cost: $100 to $800 is typical, but prices can go higher depending on gauge, size and mounting type. 

Composite Granite

Composite granite sinks are my go-to sink, both for my clients and my own kitchen. They are good-looking, durable and don’t show water marks or scratches the way stainless steel sinks do. They come in a variety of neutral hues, but I prefer the darker grays, browns and black because they camouflage food filth the best. This is my own sink pictured here, and I must confess, I don’t clean it nearly as often as I probably should because it never looks dirty. Although these sinks are durable, they can crack if mishandled — I’ve heard stories of sinks being damaged during shipping. Always inspect your composite sink thoroughly before installation to make sure it suffered no trauma during transit.

Cost: $300 to $600 

Fireclay

Manufactured from clay fired at an extremely high temperature, fireclay sinks are highly resistant to scratches, staining and chipping. Cleanup is easy — just dish soap on a sponge, or use a mild abrasive cleanser for tougher marks. These are the sinks I recommend for anyone who wants a white kitchen sink.

Cost: $400 to $1,000

 

Cast iron

Clad in a tough enamel finish, this is another highly durable sink I recommend for white sink fans. It comes in other colors, too, but I’d suggest avoiding faddish colors for items that you want to keep around for a long time, such as your kitchen sink. Keep in mind that cast iron sinks are heavy, so make sure your cabinets are structurally sound and you provide adequate support for the sink.

Cost: $300 to $900 

Natural Stone

If you are putting in natural stone countertops, such as beautiful soapstone, think about installing a sink to match. Some stones are susceptible to stains, though, so get a sample of the stone you are considering and test it out to make sure you are happy with how it stands up to staining. Soapstone is fairly stain resistant, but it is a softer stone, so you either need to be careful with it or be OK with it developing a patina over time.

Cost: Varies depending on the stone but typically starts around $1,000

 

Quartz

If you’re going with a quartz countertop, you have the option of installing a matching quartz sink. One thing to keep in mind with quartz however, is that the darker, more solid-colored quartzes tend to show scratches and dings much more than lighter colors that have more aggregate or patterning to them.

Cost: $800 to $1,200

Solid Surface 

Like natural stone and quartz, solid surface sinks can be integrated into the countertop for a smooth, streamlined appearance that’s super easy to clean. Again, it’s best to get a sample of the material you are considering and put it to the test to make sure you are OK with its durability, as some solid surfacing shows scratches.

Cost: Solid surface countertops start at around $50 a square foot; there is typically an additional fabrication and installation charge for an integral sink. 

Copper

In the market for something different? Copper sinks are big on charm and also happen to be rust-resistant and antimicrobial, making them a great choice for the kitchen. Just be sure to select a high-quality copper sink that is at least 99 percent pure copper — a small amount of zinc may be added for strength. Avoid harsh chemicals with these beauties and instead clean up with a mild soap and water, according to the manufacturer’s recommendations. 

Cost: $500 to $1,200 but can go up depending on gauge and any hand-crafted detailing.

Universal Design for Kitchens

A Few Simple Changes Can Enhance the Functionality for Any User

Unlike universal kitchens designed years ago, universal design today doesn’t mean boring design, but quite the opposite. It is important to note that universal design practices are broader than that of barrier-free design, and are in fact universal. Almost without exception, features or flexibility added to a product to accommodate individuals with temporarily or permanently reduced abilities in some areas have proven to be beneficial to users in general. In many cases, more people without a disability will find features useful than the number of people in the original target audience.

A curb cutout is a good example. First, they were implemented for people in wheelchairs; however, they are used much more often by people on bicycles, baby strollers, pushing grocery carts or wheeled luggage than by people in wheelchairs.

If you’ve been designing kitchens with your clients’ needs in mind, you’re probably utilizing universal design. Your clients most likely have specific needs for their families. When designing a universal kitchen, you have to keep in mind the capabilities of each person utilizing the space. In most situations, we are dealing with families with small children, parents and in some cases, even grandparents, so we will take this scenario into consideration. Following are some simple ways to incorporate universal design into a kitchen.

Photo: KraftMaid | Passport Series

Surfaces: make sure they’re firm and stable. If there are overhangs on countertops such as snack bars, make sure they are supported well enough for anyone that might use it as an aid for getting up from their chair.

Dish Storage: the bottom shelf typically is the only shelf accessible to average-sized women, and it can also be too high to get a stack of dishes in and out of easily. Utilizing base cabinet drawers as dish storage will make dishes more accessible to people in wheelchairs, shorter people, elderly and for children. When possible, bring wall cabinets down to countertop height to allow more wall storage for dishes. 

Dishwashers: when able, raise the dishwasher 6 to 12 inches from the floor by adding a drawer below or by using two dishwasher drawers mounted side-by-side or on either side of the sink. 

Cabinet Pulls: there are several different options you can use for this application. The touch-latch option for doors and drawers on full overlay or European door styles make the doors longer than the cabinets to create a lip where you could put your hand behind the door to pull open. Knobs and pulls remain good options as long as they are not petite and smooth. Look for larger pieces with plenty of room for your fingers. 

Appliances: some refrigerators are extremely difficult and take way too much strength to open. If designing for somebody with little upper body strength, I would avoid large appliances with heavy doors. Microwave and refrigerator drawers would be better options. 

Light Switches: switches with large flat panels will work best.

Lighting: create well-lit space using combinations of under-cabinet lighting, general lighting, task lighting and decorative lighting. A dimmer switch on each fixture will allow adjustment for every user.

Counter Edges: A countertop that is a contrasting color from surrounding cabinets and the backsplash or countertop, with a contrasting front edge, makes for a visual aid to determine where one surface ends and one begins. 

Wall Ovens: Mount double ovens side-by-side rather than stacked, and mount them at about 30 inches above the floor. 

Faucets: choose faucets that have levers you could operate with a fist, or better yet, faucets with touch control options. Avoid faucets with controls that take a lot of finger strength or dexterity to operate.

Flooring: slip-resistant and non-reflective floors, distressed wood and slate are two examples of universal flooring.

Counter Heights: consider a table height for children, people in wheelchairs, and for those that find sitting and working easier. Create a standard countertop height for an average user, taller heights for taller people and for people that have difficulty bending over. The taller counter height can be anything higher than 36 inches and should be determined by the user.

The Latest Looks You’ll Love for 2013

Which design trends are interior decorators seeing as the “next big thing” for 2013? Chevron patterns, glass backsplashes and retractable towel rings are just a few making their way into the latest remodels. Keep in mind that as much as you may want to incorporate the latest design trends in your home, it’s important to choose ideas that are practical and will stand the test of time. Here are some suggestions on the freshest finds out there.


chevron pattern.jpg

Photo: Chevron Pattern | MoenThe time for bold, yet neutral Chevron has come! This pattern is showing up everywhere: on kitchen walls, backsplashes, floors, throw rugs, pillows and shower curtains. Most Chevron patterns alternate black then white then black, but by playing around with alternative colors, you can lessen the impact of the design and achieve a more serene look. 

Another surprising look involved the resurgence of wallpaper and the introduction of wall decals. Since the 60s, people have been using wallpaper to add an accent and some personality to a room. Both wallpaper and wall decals are now removable and a popular option to spice up your home. 

When it comes to spicing up your kitchen, you’ll find that creative and beautiful backsplashes are a great way to go. Large, back-painted glass panels require no grout and are one of the hottest looks right now. In the past, backsplashes were a purely functional surface that protected a kitchen or bathroom’s walls from sprays and splatters: but today, they’re an easy and attractive upgrade.

Photo: American Cabinet & Flooring | Designer Clay Bernard

Photo: Moen MotionSense FaucetIf you’re looking for a convenient and eco-friendly upgrade, consider Moen’s MotionSense faucet. With just a wave of your hand, you’ll trigger the flow of water. Wave your hand again, and you’ll turn it off. Its state-of-the-art technology helps to maximize performance, minimize waste and make everyday routines faster and easier.

For another green option in the kitchen, check out the many advantages of bamboo flooring. It’s easy to clean, ideal for allergy sufferers and long-lasting. Environmentally friendly (a quick renewable crop). It has extremely low formaldehyde emissions and makes an excellent floor for a healthy home.


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Photo: Moen Retractable Towel RingHead to the bathroom for a smart innovation that’s quickly growing in popularity: Moen’s Retractable Towel Ring. If you’re tired of hand towels cluttering countertops, doorknobs and floors, this is your solution. The ring secures your hand towels in place, expands out to 11″ and effortlessly retracts back to its original position. It works well in every room with a faucet, including bathroom, kitchen, utility room and garage.

Rounding out our list of updates is the new nature-inspired bathroom. Think rustic tiles. A rock wall in the shower. Wicker baskets. A range of earthy patterns and colors. They’re all designed to achieve the feeling of a relaxing, private spa. It’s easy to create a beautiful room that feels like you’re entering an enchanted grotto or canyon.

These ideas represent just a few of the trends tat are destined to become traditions. You can feel confident knowing that as current as they are, these improvements will easily stay in vogue for years to come. 

Bathroom Remodeling Guide: Dos and Don’ts

Seven Upgrades That’ll Make You Happy & Seven You May Regret

An expertly remodeled master bathroom will provide years of pleasure and comfort. But do an amateur job and you’ll be reminded of that fact every day. It’s a tricky space, unfortunately, with lots of moving parts crammed into a tight footprint, not to mention the volumes of water ready to exploit any and all leaks. Setting a budget and planning ahead are two ways to keep your project on track and also take care to choose the best sink, countertop, and toilet for your space. The following list of dos and don’ts will help you master the remodel, whether you do the work yourself or hire it out.

Photo: American Cabinet & Flooring Project Manager Randy Wilson

Seven Good Ideas

When you’re investing in a home remodeling project, you want to make sure that the results not only please you but add value to your home and save you money on energy and water as well. These seven steps will help you take advantage of the latest design trends, technologies and products.

#1). Budget for the Unexpected

Hidden water damage is a common problem in bathrooms, whether from a leaky shower pan or running toilet. “If the floor feels spongy, that’s a sign of serious water damage,” says John Petrie, owner of Mother Hubbards Custom Cabinetry in Mechanicsburgh, PA. Other issues are truly hidden, for example a vent stack inside a wall that you thought you were going to knock down. 

An experienced contractor will do exploratory work early in the project to sniff out as many issues as possible. “In the case of the vent stack, we’ll investigate above the bathroom to see the pipe coming up through the house,” says Petrie. But contractors can’t see through walls, so don’t expect them to catch every possible pitfall. That’s why it’s important to build a 10 to 15 percent cushion into your budget. If nothing goes wrong, you’ll have a nice little windfall. 

#2). Hide the Toilet

A master bath that’s stylish and functional can also be discreet. That’s why it’s nice to hide this fixture away, either in its own “room-within-the-room” or behind a half wall. A piece of furniture – an armoire or dresser, say – can create the necessary barrier without the expense of a framed wall.

#3). Do Choose Appropriate Surfaces

Your master bathroom’s surfaces do more than just contribute to the overall aesthetic. They also take lots of abuse. Porcelain tile is a favorite among designers, for use on the floors and walls alike. “You can find some versions in the $5 per square foot range that look like natural stone,” says Petrie. He recommends larger tile sizes to minimize grout lines, easing the upkeep. That might mean 18-by-18-inch tile on the floors and 12-by-12-inch on some or all of the walls, perhaps transitioning to 6-by-6 tiles on the diagonal with a glass mosaic transition strip.

Porcelain is also a popular option for bathroom sinks, though it proved prone to chipping in our tests. Enamel-on steel sinks were especially durable and stain-resistant, as were stainless steel sinks, which are becoming more popular for use in bathrooms. Solid-surface sinks are another durable option that allows the sink to be integrated with the vanity countertop and, if you like, the adjoining cove or backsplash.

When it comes to the countertop, granite and quartz have migrated from the kitchen into the bathroom, where they deliver the same durability and visual interest. Laminate and solid surface are still popular as well, and can be cost-effective options, though both scratch easily.

#4). Splurge on the Shower Photo: American Cabinet & Flooring Designer Clay Bernard

The empire of the Roman tub is officially over. “People started to realize that they could count on one hand how many times they actually used the tub,” says Petrie. “We’re now using that space to create larger showers, often with his and her showerheads, body sprays, and even steam generators.”

To create this sensual experience, you’ll need a shower stall that measures at least 4-by-6-feet, larger than the 3-by-3-feet box that used to be standard. If you can take the stall up to 5-by-7-feet, you may also be able to do away with the door, since the showerhead(s) can be direct in a way that the spray doesn’t reach beyond the shower area (an L-shaped design is helpful). This will eliminate a sizable expense, especially if you were planning on a frameless door, which can be pricey. One caveat: Don’t eliminate the bathtub if there aren’t any other bathrooms in the house with a tub. 

#5). Consider Water Efficiency

Showerheads, toilets, and faucets have all become more water-efficient in recent years, thanks to the Environmental Protection Agency’s voluntary WaterSense program, which labels products that are 20 precent more efficient than federal standards. Our tests have found many WaterSense winners, including low-flow showerheads that deliver a satisfying pulse while meeting the flow rate of 2.5 gallons per minute. “You can even have a rain showerhead these days that’s low-flow,” says Petrie.

As for toilets, several WaterSense-qualified models that use just 1.28 gallons per flush make the recommended list of our latest toilet ratings. That could save you at least 4,000 gallons and some $90 per year in water bills if you’re replacing a toilet that dates from 1995 or earlier. Choosing a faucet with an aerator can reduce the water flow in your bathroom sink by 30 percent or more.

#6). Make Room on the Vanity

Since grooming is the main task at the vanity, it’s important to have plenty of surface area to put things down. While the his-and-her double sink configuration has been popular in the past, it often makes sense to have a single sink and more counter space. “Couples I work with usually realize that the second source of water is less important than the additional countertop,”says Carolyn Cheetham, president of Design Works by Cheetham in Alberta, Canada. Besides maximizing the counter space, opting for a single sink vanity saves you the expense of the second sink and faucet. And eliminating a set of plumbing expands the available space inside the vanity. 

#7). Provide Adequate Ventilation and Light

Moisture not only breeds mold and mildew, it can take a toll on finishes and painted surfaces. A bathroom fan is the best defense. Guidelines from the National Kitchen and Bath Association call for a ducted system that’s at least 50 cubic feet per minute, though you may need twice as much ventilation if the space is larger than 100 square feet or if you plan to install a steam shower. Consider a humidity-sensing unit that will automatically turn on and off depending on the amount of moisture in the air.

As for lighting, the goal is to bring different layers of illumination into the room. A ceiling fixture is suitable for general lighting, but it will cast shadows on your face when you’re seated at the vanity. That’s why you’ll also want sconces or other vertical fixtures mounted on either side of the vanity. Some medicine cabinets are available with vertical lighting strips.

The shower and toilet should also have a dedicated task light, such as a recessed canister light. Consider fixtures that use LED bulbs. Many provided bright, even illumination in our lightbulb tests with the promise of 50,000 hours, though they do cost more. Remember to put the fixtures on dimmer switches so that light levels can be adjusted depending on the mood and task at hand. 

Seven Costly Mistakes

Avoiding these seven common goofs could save you thousands of dollars on the project, especially if you’re planning an upscale remodel. You’re also likely to enhance the comfort, style, and efficiency of the finished project.

#1). Don’t Rush the Process

Now that you’re committed to the idea of a new bathroom, you probably want it done tomorrow. But poor planning is the leading cause of cost overruns on these projects. “Nothing is more expensive than doing things twice,” says Elizabeth Goltz, owner of Design by Orion in Kansas City. Depending on the size and scope of your bath project, you should spend several weeks to a few months on the planning process. If you don’t have a Pinterest account yet, consider one. This website lets you keep a digital ideas file of inspiring images you find on the Internet, say for tile styles, favorite fixtures, and clever designs. 

As you plan the space, try to come up with a design that keeps the major plumbing lines in place. Moving the toilet from one wall to another will mean relocating a 3-inch drain line in a home, which can cost thousands. “If you can keep the toilet, shower, and sink where they are, you’ll save significantly on the project,” says Petrie. 

#2). Don’t Skimp on Skilled Labor

The do-it-yourself approach can be an effective way to trim costs, but it’s best to focus on the front and back ends of the project, say, ripping out the old tub during demolition and handling the finish painting. Leave the more complicated installations to professionals, ensuring they’re highly skilled. “A good tile setter can make a low-cost tile look expensive,” says Goltz. “On the flipside, you could spend a fortune on tile, and a bad tile layer will make it look cheap.”

Given how many trades are required for a typical bathroom remodel – plumbers, electricians, tile setters, cabinet installers, and more – it pays to find a top-notch general contractor to manage operations. Meet with at least three contractors, preferably those you find through word of mouth. Make sure the person you settle on has an up-to-date license and insurance, including workers’ compensation. And scrutinize the contract; it should list every product down to the model number and finish. And don’t automatically go with the lowest bid.

#3). Don’t Cut Corners on Key Materials

Another common mistake is cheaping out on those items that get the most use. Lifetime warranties that cover leaks and stains have become more common on all but the cheapest faucets. PVD (physical vapor deposition) finishes resisted our best attempts at scratching them, but drain cleaners can stain them slightly. Chrome was also pretty durable in our tests, but can be scratched if you rub it with a heavy duty scouring pad.

Tile is another material that you can touch and feel each day. While you can find quality options for $5 per square foot, super cut-rate tiles may have slight size inconsistencies. The results will be crooked lines that make a bathroom look shoddy.

So where can you save? Light fixtures tend to perform the same across most price points – it’s the high design that costs more. You might also find that opting for a basic finish on faucets and fixtures saves you hundreds of dollars without compromising quality. And you definitely don’t need to blow your budget on a luxury toilet, like Kohler’s $6,390 Numi, with its motion-activated lid and built-in bidet. Those are cool features, but toilets costing as little as $300 delivered the best flush in our tests. 

#4). Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow

You may be the picture of good health today, but you can’t predict the future. What you can do, however, is ensure that your bathroom will serve you and your loved ones regardless of your abilities by following the basics of Universal Design (i.e. aging in place). “It is absolutely coming onto people’s radar, even younger clients,” says Alan Zielinkski, president of NKBA.

And you don’t have to worry about ending up with an institutional look. Many universal design features are now part of mainstream bathroom design. For example, the larger shower stall that’s in favor today offers easy access and universal use, provided it has a zero-threshold and a built-in seating platform. “The bench is also a nice place for an able-bodied women to sit and shave her legs,” says Cheetham. Regarding toilets, so-called comfort-height models that are easier to get on and off of are now just as common as standard-height models. Even grab bars have enjoyed a design upgrade; many now match towel bars and other accessories. And they’re not just for the elderly. Grab bars make it easier for pregnant women or young children to get in and out of the bathtub.

Even if you don’t incorporate every element of universal design into the bathroom now, it’s worth putting in the structural framework, such as blocking in the walls for future support bars. Make sure your contractor makes a drawing of the wall so that you can find the blocking if, and when, the time comes.

#5). Don’t Forget to Factor in Water Use

Bathroom fixtures have become more water-efficient, especially if you choose WaterSense-qualified models. But the trend toward tricked-out showers, often with his-and-her “shower towers” that might include multiple showerheads and body sprays, will likely result in your water and energy use going up. It also means your bathroom’s existing drain and plumbing lines might require an upgrade. “You may need to resize your water lines from half-inch to three-quarters,” says Petrie, an upgrade that can add hundreds, if not thousands, to your project.

Thirsty fixtures may require you to upgrade your water heater as well, say, from a unit that holds 50 gallons a day to one that holds 80 gallons. That could cost you another $1000 or so – figure on roughly $2000 if you choose one of the energy-efficient hybrid water heaters that Consumer Reports’ test have found to be good long-term investments.

#6). Don’t Buy Products Online Without Seeing Them in Person Photo: American Cabinet & Flooring

Going online is great for researching products and design ideas. But materials and finishes aren’t always as they appear on your computer screen. That blue-gray quartz vanity top might be more blue than gray in real life, or the light fixtures that look understated online could overwhelm your actual space. That’s why we always recommend visiting a showroom or design center before you buy. While you’re there you may even get the showroom to meet or even beat the online price. 

#7). Don’t Forget About Storage

Running from the shower to grab a towel from the hallway linen closet gets old – and cold – fast. A closet inside the bathroom is ideal, though an armoire or even just a simple chest can hangle the essentials. And a medicine cabinet is still the best place for you various health-care and first-aid essentials. 

Photo: American Cabinet & Flooring’s Showroom Bathroom Display

Copyright © 2006-2012 Consumers Union of U.S., Inc.

ConsumerReports.org Buying Guide: Sinks

Getting Started

Most people tend to fall in love with the look of a sink first, and then think about functionality. That’s the opposite of what they should be doing, according to kitchen designers.

Forget Brand Names

Months of testing showed that a kitchen or bathroom sink’s maker isn’t as important as its material. Similar materials performed similarly across brands, so the ConsumerReports.org based their evaluations of sinks entirely on materials.

Count the Holes

Most kitchen and bathroom sinks come with mounting holes drilled for faucets. If you’re buying a new faucet for an existing sink or vice versa, you’ll need to match the hardware to the number and spacing of the holes in the sink. You can install a base plate to cover an extra hole in the sink or countertop, but don’t try to drill additional holes in an existing sink or countertop.

Think About Installation and Repairs

Replacing a faucet and sink together is easier because the faucet can be mounted in the sink or counter before the sink is put in place. Most kitchen and bathroom faucets come with a lifetime warranty that covers leaks and stains. But if you have a problem, the manufacturer will give you just the replacement part, it will be up to you to install it. 

Kitchen Sinks 

You may not cook everyday, but is there ever a day when you don’t use your sink? We subjected more than 20 double-bowl sinks from major manufacturers to a barrage of hot pots, scouring pads, dropped weights, and stain. The results of the ConsumerReports.org sink tests are as follows: 

Stainless: Gauge doesn’t matter

More people buy stainless-steel kitchen sinks than any other type. We tested 18-to-23-gauge sinks; the lower the gauge, the thicker the steel. We also listened to the noise made by running water and dropped weights. We found the gauge had little to do with performance and sinks with sound-absorbing pads, placed on the exterior’s bottom and side, were quieter than those with a spray coating. 

Enamel: Colorful and Easy to Clean

These sinks, sold in two versions (enamel on cast iron or lighter, less expensive enamel on steel), are available in many colors and are easy to clean. Our hot-pot test didn’t damage them, but when we dropped a 5-pound weight, similar to dropping a heavy pot, enamel-on-steel sinks chipped or cracked. Enamel on cast iron chipped when we dropped a sharp, light object, similar to a knife, on them. Damaged enamel can cause the metal underneath to rust. Acrylic sinks might look like enamel but they scratch more easily and heat can be damaging. Our hot pot melted the surface. 

Solid Surface: Sleek and Seamless

These sinks can be paired with counters made of the same material for a seamless look. In our tests high heat and dropping a sharp, light object, similar to a knife, damaged solid surfacing.

Count Inches

Double-bowl sinks let you soak a pot in one bowl while you rinse in the other. Just be sure that at least one of the bowls is wide enough to fit large pots or roasters. The easiest way to do this is to take a large pot with you to the store to check size. Sinks that are rectangular shaped are standard, but D-bowls have a curved back and offer more space, front to back. 

Think about Depth

Bowls are usually 6 to 12 inches deep. The deeper ones reduce splashes, but depending on your height, it may be uncomfortable to reach the bottom of a very deep sink. Remember that under-mounted sinks will be up to 1½ inches lower than a drop-in.

Types of Kitchen Sinks

While it may not be as fancy as the appliances or the cabinets, the kitchen sink is the focal point of the kitchen. In this case function is certainly as important as form because you’ll be using the sink all day for everything from hand washing to scouring pots and pans.

Moen Double BowlDouble Bowl

Double-bowl sinks have a partition that separates them into two sections. A rectangular shape is most common, but D-shaped sinks with a curved back are also available. They’re handy because they let you perform two tasks – say, soaking and rinsing – at the same time. But a single bowl may be more practical where space is tight. The narrower sections of a double-bowl sink may not accept large pots or roasters.

BLANCO Apron FrontFarmhouse

Also known as apron front, farmhouse sinks usually have a deep single bowl with the faucet installed in the countertop or wall. This stylish choice can provide a traditional or country-kitchen look, and stainless-steel versions can work well with modern designs. But they’re expensive and require a special cabinet. Water can drip on and damage the cabinet. 

Top Mount Moen Top Mount Double Bowl

Also called drop-in and self-rimming, these sinks are lowered into the counter, with the lip overlapping the countertop. On the plus side, they work with any countertop material and are relatively simple to install, so they’re a good choice for a tight budget. But a top-mount sink can detract from the look of a fancy countertop. Grime can build up around the lip of the sink.


trough sink (kohler).jpg

Trough

These are best for use as prep or bar sinks. They’re narrow and long, from 8 to 14 inches wide and up to 50 inches long. If you don’t mind sharing, the longer versions can be used by more than one person at a time. But trough sinks are expensive and more fun than functional. And because they’re narrow, they may require custom cabinetry.

Under Mount BLANCO Under-mount

Rather than being lowered onto the counter, under-mounted models are raised into place from below. Under-mount sinks provide a sleek look and easier cleanup. Because they sit slightly below the surface of the counter, you can wipe spills and crumbs from the countertop directly into the sink. Also, there’s no lip or crevice to catch dirt. But under-mounted sinks are more expensive to buy and install. The faucet may need to be installed in the counter or mounted on the wall. And because they are up to 1½ inches lower than top-mounts, they may require you to bend slightly more. And they shouldn’t be mounted on a countertop that isn’t waterproof, such as laminate or most woods. 

Bathroom Sinks

Move over, porcelain: Glass and even stainless steel are among the choice of materials that are changing the style and shape of bathroom sinks. 

Vessel sinks, a modern twist on the original bowl and pitcher, sit on top of a counter or cabinet. You’ll find them in glass, stainless steel, and other materials. 

Some of these new materials can cost about the same as standard porcelain, known as vitreous china, and several materials were better at resisting spills, and other mishaps. But most have at least one Achilles’ heel. You can also install the sink beneath the countertop for a sleek look that emphasizes the countertop itself. These under-mount sinks are also easy to clean since there’s no lip to catch debris. 

Glass: Tough Up to a Point

Drain cleaner, nail-polish remover, and other tough staining agents didn’t leave a mark on our tempered-glass sinks. Heat and scouring wasn’t a threat. But these sinks shattered into small shards when we dropped a pointed 2.5-ounce dart from a height of 20 inches.

Pick the Mount

Under-mount sinks make cleanup easier. They sit below the surrounding counter, so there’s no lip or crevices to catch dirt. But they cost slightly more, are harder to install, and usually require a waterproof countertop. So consider your countertop, then the mount.

Don’t Forget the Faucet

Consider the height of a vessel sink when buying a faucet. Make sure that any faucet extends well into the sink to avoid drips onto the counter. Don’t choose a large faucet for a small sink, which can cause splashing. We also suggest faucets with a physical vapor deposition (PVD) finish and a lifetime finish warranty. These finishes mimic copper, nickel, and other materials and have performed well in our faucet tests. 

Types of Bathroom Sinks

Replacing a bathroom sink can be a good way to freshen the room without spending a lot of money. Here are the types of bathroom sinks to consider. 


Kohler Pedestal Sink.jpg

Kohler Pedestal SinkPedestal Sinks

Some homeowners prefer pedestal sinks for smaller bathrooms such as a half bath that may seem crowded if fitted with a vanity. Pedestal sinks come in many styles, from old-fashioned to sleek and modern. But while a pedestal sink may make a small bathroom seem more open, you lose storage space beneath the sink and counter space above. 

Top Mounts Top Mount Sink

Also called drop-in and self rimming, these sinks are lowered into the counter, with the lip overlapping the countertop. On the plus side, they work with any countertop material and are relatively simple to install, so they’re a good choice for a tight budget. But a top-mounted sink can detract from the look of a fancy countertop and grime can build up around the lip of the sink.

Under Mounts

Under Mount Sink

Rather than being lowered onto the counter, under-mounted models are raised into place from below. Faucets are installed in the counter or mounted on the wall. Under-mounted sinks provide a sleek look and easier cleanup. Because they sit slightly below the surface of the counter, you can wipe water from the countertop directly into the sink. Also, there’s no lip or crevice to catch dirt. But under-mounted sinks are more expensive to buy and install. The faucet may need to be installed in the counter or mounted on the wall. Because they’re lower than top-mounts, they may require you to bend slightly more. And they shouldn’t be mounted on a countertop that isn’t waterproof, such as laminate or most woods. 

Vessel Sinks

Vessel Sink

These above-mount models, the latest style option, rest proudly atop the counter. You’ll find them in glass, stainless steel, and other materials. Make sure that the faucet extends well over the sink to avoid drips onto the counter. The style is the big attraction. But vessel sinks may require new faucets and other changes that are likely to add cost. 

Sink Features

What a kitchen or bathroom sink is made of is the main factor that determines how well it stands up to everyday use. Some materials are sturdier than others, but most have some drawbacks. Here are materials to consider:

Enamel Over Cast Iron or Steel


enamel over cast iron sink.jpg

These materials come in many colors are are easy to clean. In our tests of kitchen sinks, neither enameled cast iron nor enameled steel suffered any damage in our hot-pot and scouring tests. But when we dropped a 5-pound weight, similar to dropping a heavy pot, on enameled-steel sinks they chipped or cracked. Enameled cast iron chipped when we dropped a sharp, light object similar to a knife.

Our tests of bathroom sinks found that enameled cast iron wasn’t as good as enameled steel at resisting stains and chipped when small objects were dropped on it. Damaged enamel can allow the metal underneath to rust.


stainless steel sink.jpg

Stainless Steel

This is the most popular material for kitchen sinks and it’s becoming more popular in the bathroom. It tops both our ratings of kitchen and bath sinks. Stainless steel comes in different thickness, or gauges. While thicker metal typically costs more, gauge made little difference in our tests. 

Solid Surfacing

A skillful fabricator can integrate a solid-surface kitchen or bathroom sink with a countertop made of the same material for a sleek, seamless effect. But if either is damaged you’ll have to consider replacing both. Solid surfacing resisted stains but heat was a problem. A hot pot and a hot curling iron marred the sinks. 


Karran Meridian Acrylic Sink.jpg

Acrylic

It may look like enamel, but it scratches more easily, and a hot pot melted the surface and a hot curling iron left a visible mark. 

Glass

Believe it or not, a tempered glass bathroom sink can take a beating. Drain cleaner, nail-polish remover, and other tough staining agents didn’t leave a mark on the glass sinks we tested. But the sinks shattered into small shards when we dropped a pointed 2.5-ounce dart from a height of 20 inches, similar to what could happen if a pair of scissors or nail clippers fell out of your medicine cabinet.

Vitreous China

This is a fancy name for old-fashioned porcelain. Vitreous china is still popular for bathroom sinks, even though some newer materials are tougher without being more expensive. Dropped objects are a particular problem with vitreous china. The surface chipped when we dropped a small, pointed dart on them.

Fireclay

This material offers a choice of colors. It withstood stains, scouring, and heat in both our kitchen and bath sink tests. But resisting chips and cracks from dropped objects was a challenge.

In our kitchen-sink tests, the fireclay cracked severely when we dropped a 5-pound weight on it, similar to dropping a pot. Our tests of bathroom sinks found that pointed darts, weighing only 2.5 ounces, chipped the fireclay.

You can spend as much or as little as you want on a sink. But keep in mind that the more you spend on the sink, the less you’ll have for other parts of your renovation. Match the style of sink to your space, needs, and budget!

Copyright © 2006-2012 Consumers Union of U.S., Inc.

Bathroom Remodeling Tips

A single bathroom remodeling tip could inspire fresh thinking for your entire remodeling project. Trends area always being updated, so it’s useful to know what’s new in home bathroom design. You’ll find bathroom remodeling advise and inspiration here.

Express Yourself

Choosing Colors: A fresh coat of paint is an easy way to give your room an instant face-lift. Single color schemes make small rooms larger and a neutral palette can expand your space more. Or, add drama with colors like deep reds, eggplant, ochre, and dark blues or greens. 

The Personal Touch: Collections and objects that express your personality or your family history will make your home interesting to your guests and more enjoyable for you. 

Imported Ideas: Consider letting a favorite hotel or restaurant, or an outdoor spot that you enjoy, provide the inspiration for your bedroom, dining room or bath. 

Planting Style: One beautiful plant can be a strong design statement. Your style sense will determine whether a dramatic green plant or a bright floral bouquet is best for you.

Dynamic Design

The Right Finish: Now more than ever, you have choices for kitchen and bath fixtures. While matte or polished chrome are always popular, homeowners are choosing darker finishes such as oil-rubbed bronze and wrought iron. Consider the look and feel you wish to create when deciding. 

Bright Ideas: Halogen downlights and scones provide whiter light and fresh designs. Visit the lighting section of your home improvement center to get a better idea of these styles.

Quick ‘n Easy: Multi-purpose rooms need to switch moods easily. Today’s high-tech dimmers let you fine-tune your lights – even dim or raise them with a remote. 

Mix It Up: Today’s larger kitchen has room for variety. Mix-and-match styles and wood types for an eclectic feel that adds a unique look, from baseboard to hanging cabinets.

Packs a Punch

High-Performance Shower: Today’s shower design offers unprecedented opportunities for adding deluxe features – massaging vertical spas, rain shower showerheads and luxurious materials such as glass, tile and stone. 

Organized Kitchen: Specialized storage systems, appliances and fixtures speed meal preparation and keep entertaining organized. Choose open shelving for quick access. Locate a faucet next to the range to fill big pots quickly and conveniently.

Design Focus: A single, dramatic focal point for a room you’re remodeling makes the improvements more obvious. Try a special piece of furniture, an interesting piece of art or one wall that’s boldly colored.

Double Duty: Lighting is a sculpture as well as illumination. Choose light fixtures in shapes that are pleasing to look at – whether they’re switched on or off.

Works for Me

Getaway Baths: The bath can be a relaxing, serene environment. Add massaging or rain showerheads, a deep Zen soaking tub and even music and candles to enhance the revitalizing experience. 

Counter Space: If your bathroom is being shared by the family, counter space is critical. Consider a vanity with cabinets for extra storage and organization.

Ageless Amenities: Features usually associated with older homeowners – easier access, brighter lighting and convenient handholds – are helpful at any age. Adding them with your remodel could improve your home’s resale value.

Bed and Breakfast: Adding a morning bar to a master bedroom with an elaborate, built-in countertop and sink is a great way to add luxury and functionality.

Practical Approach

Finding Your Design: Start a scrapbook of design ideas you find in magazines and online. This will help you establish a foundation for your remodeling project. 

Sketch Your Layout: This will help you understand how you would like your new room to look and help you change the little things that you don’t care for in your current design.

Set a Budget: By outlining how much you can spend on each phase of the project you will be able to see if you can splurge on the extras; like a contractor or if you need to cut and do it yourself.

Set a Timeline: This will help you keep on track and allow you to achieve your remodeling goals. 

Planning Multicook Kitchens

There Are Ways to Accommodate Multiple Cooks Without Causing Accidents


multicook kitchen.jpg

Pictured Above: This kitchen has a third prep area visible beyond the island with access to the prep sink, microwave and island.We have been crowding into kitchens to enjoy the camaraderie of friends and family since house parties were invented. Candice Olson, in the the introduction to her book, Candice Olson Kitchens and Baths, puts it this way: “Today’s kitchen is all about a well-planned space that makes cooking a completely interactive experience between family and friends.”

Regardless of a kitchen’s size, there are ways we can modify spaces to encourage socializing and helping.

Average – to smaller – sized kitchens can be enhanced by incorporating a pass-through opening into the kitchen. An extended counter will encourage conversation and can hold hors d’oeuvres. A slight adjustment in the positioning of the available counter space adjacent to the sink or cooking surface could provide enough space to act as a secondary prep area.

Duality or redundancy of appliances can be beneficial in medium to large kitchens by creating additional activity centers. Still, each work center should have its own work triangle if possible. The primary work triangle is defined by the large refrigerator, corner sink/cleanup area and the range top. Microwaves, drawer dishwashers and refrigerators can anchor the work triangle along with a hospitality sink. Sharing a major appliance also works well as long as individual work triangles do not cross paths.

Islands and opposing countertops should be a minimum of 48-inches apart to allow for crossing traffic. The perfectly designed multicook kitchen will have very few occasions when preparers would need to cross paths. However, this minimum spacing will accommodate persons crossing paths while carrying plates or trays. 

Avoid positioning major appliances directly across a walkway from each other. A secondary sink should be far enough from the primary sink so it defines a discrete work center, and the addition of an under-counter refrigerator and the extra countertop space it provides will make an excellent salad or baking prep area. 

Not all multicook kitchens will be this inclusive while some might duplicate each appliance – specifically, an additional cooking surface. Two-burner cooktops, fastcook ovens, steam ovens or another secondary device might be incorporated. 

An Angie’s List Guide: House Cleaning

House Cleaning

Keeping your house clean is an increasingly challenging task for families in which everyone is busy. Here are tips on how to get the chores done efficiently yourself, or how to hire a good house cleaning service to do the heavy lifting for you.

Room-by-room tips

American families have less free time than ever to tend to housecleaning, but it becomes an overwhelming task if you don’t keep up with it. Here are some tips from professional house cleaners on how often to clean the most frequently used living areas of a home:

Kitchen & Eating Areas

If you do nothing else daily, make sure you wash the dishes and clean the sink and countertops. Wipe up messes on the stove and inside the microwave. Floors are a constant cleaning job depending on what’s been dropped, but if you’ve managed to keep it reasonably clean, mop weekly. Every few weeks, run a cleaning agent through the dishwasher to prevent buildup and ensure sparkling dishes.

It’s also a good idea to clear out the refrigerator before your weekly shopping trip. This way, you’re removing what’s spoiled and making room for fresh groceries. Every six months or so remove all the items from your cabinets and wipe down the shelving. This also is a good time to go through your canned and other packaged goods and throw away items that have expired.

If you use a table cloth, shake it out and wash it regularly. On a weekly basis, dust all surfaces and mop or vacuum the floor. 

Living Room and Family Room

The main problem here is clutter. Make it the responsibility of every member of the family to put away items they left out.

Dusting should be done weekly, or at least every other week. If you can write your name in the dust, you’ve waited too long. Wipe down often-used surfaces like table tops, mop floors and vacuum carpets. Some people like to move their furniture around a couple of times a year so they can reach areas they don’t routinely clean, such as under the sofa or chairs or behind book cases. 

Bathroom

This room can be the dirtiest and cleanest in any house, so weekly cleanings are important. Start with the bathtub. Wipe all surfaces to prevent mildew and soap scum. Clean the sink to remove any build-up from toothpaste or other toiletries.

When cleaning the toilet, spray or add cleaning solution to the bowl then go clean other areas of the bathroom. This allows the toilet cleaning agent to activate for several minutes before scrubbing the bowl clean. Mop the floor last so you leave a clean floor drying in a clean room.

If you have a cabinet or linen closet, remove all contents every six months and wipe down the shelves. This gives you time to sort make-up and other toiletries and throw away items that are expired or empty.

Bedrooms

Even if you don’t feel like making the bed first thing in the morning, doing it every day will help you achieve the feeling of a clean room in just a few minutes. Wash the linens weekly to help reduce allergens and dust mites.

Make sure you put dirty clothes in a hamper and take the time to fold and put away clothing. Regular dusting of furniture and vacuuming carpet or dusting floors and baseboards can also help to reduce allergies.

What You Missed

If you’re not a professional house cleaner there are probably some things you’re overlooking – even if you clean regularly.

Ceiling Cobwebs and Baseboard Dust

Look up. Cobwebs collect along the top edge of the wall where it meets the ceiling — and especially in corners. Use a long-handled dusting tool on these at least monthly. Wipe down your baseboards and trim, which tend to collect dust. This can be done with a furniture polish or with a rag dampened with water. 

Doorknobs and Telephones

Why clean doorknobs? Because lots of hands touch them every day and leave germs behind. Telephones and other frequently touched surfaces should get the same treatment. Use an antibacterial wipe or a rag dampened with any household cleaner to wipe these surfaces clean. Remember, some of the most contaminated surfaces in the home involve places touched by multiple hands. Be sure to include them in your weekly cleaning routine.

Novice cleaners should read the labels of cleaning products before tackling a home cleaning. Knowing what you can and can’t use on each surface in the house will save time, money and a potential disaster in the long run. Using the wrong product can do severe and sometimes irreparable damage. Also, some products can be harmful to children or pets if used too aggressively.

Hard-to-Reach Areas

Whether you’re hiring help or tackling the cleaning on your own, think about the last time you cleaned these hard to reach areas:

Behing and Under Major appliances

We often take for granted that nothing is going on under and behind the stove, refrigerator, washer or dryer. But the kitchen appliances attract grease, which provides a perfect surface for dust to stick. Other appliances collect dust and lint from laundry and daily living. 

You may need help moving your major appliances a couple of times a year to ensure the area where you cook is as sanitary as it can be. In addition to cleaning the area around and under your washer and dryer, you will want to clean out the dryer vent to prevent a fire hazard. 

Behind the Toilet: The toilet itself is pretty obvious, but the walls and floors behind and around the toilet, as well as the pedestal of the toilet should be cleaned thoroughly. A wet rag or mop will help pick up and remove dust and lint rather than sweeping it to another area in the bathroom. 

Ceiling Fans: As the blades spin they likely are throwing dust across the room. You may be able to reach the blades with your vacuum cleaner attachment or a special long-handled ceiling fan brush. However, the best thing may be to get on a ladder and wipe down the blades with a little soapy water. Vacuuming might be required if you were unable to catch all the dust yourself. 

Ceiling Corners: Depending on the height of your ceilings you may be able to reach the corners with one of your vacuum cleaner attachments. Rooms with high ceilings may require you to climb a ladder to get at the cobwebs.

Tops of Cabinets: Whether you have space between your kitchen cabinets and the ceiling or an armoire in a living room or bedroom, it’s probably time to get out a ladder. 

Remember, whichever room you clean, it’s best to start high and work your way down because dust and dirt will become dislodged as you clean and make their way downward.

Don’t forget to clean your cleaning tools! Though we’ll drop dishcloths and dish towels into the washing machine, we often leave the dust in the broom and forget to wipe out the bucket and clean the mop. 

Tools and Supplies

Before you begin tackling the challenge of cleaning the house, you will want to make sure you have all the necessary items on hand.

From tools of the trade, such as vacuums and rags, to cleaning products like Windex and baking soda, this list can serve as a comprehensive guide to assist you with house cleaning.

Vacuum Cleaner: The best way to begin cleaning a room is to eliminate dust, dirt and visible debris. Go over all carpeted and bare floors with an upright or handheld vacuum cleaner. Regular vacuuming will also significantly improve the appearance and life of your carpets!

Mop: Once the floors in your home are vacuumed, a mop is vital for getting rid of stains and eliminating bacteria from the floor. Choose a mop with a longer handle so that you are comfortable using it, and pair it with a bucket full of warm water and a cleaning solution.

Windex: This cleaning product is designed to remove smudges and stains on your glass items, such as tables, windows or mirrors. Spray it directly on the glass surface and wipe it off with a clean rag or wipe it down with a squeegee. 

All-purpose Cleaner: If you have only one cleaning product in your home, it should be a spray bottle of all-purpose cleaner. It can be sprayed on most household surfaces and wiped off to easily remove bacteria, germs, smudges and stains. 

Baking Soda: This inexpensive item is a staple for cleaning the home. Not only does it have cleaning properties, but it is also a great way to remove unpleasant odors. Use it as a paste with water on spills to clean the carpet and eliminate smells. 

Rags: A supply of rags is vital when cleaning a home. Use them for cleaning bathrooms, windows, kitchen countertops and more. 

Gloves: If you are using lots of chemical cleaners, washing dishes or scrubbing toilets, you will need a pair of gloves to protect your hands from harsh chemicals. Choose a rubber pair that extends up to your elbows for the best protection.

Polish: While your all-purpose cleaner will work to clean many surfaces in the home, invest in a few specialty polishes for surfaces like stainless steel or wooden tables.

Be Green As You Clean

If you’re concerned about climate change, resource depletion and recycling, consider these environmentally-friendly tips for cleaning your home.

Reuse Instead of Throw Away

Whenever you consider throwing something away, make it a practice to try and find another use for it. Instead of using paper towels try rags that can easily be laundered and used again. Instead of throwing away floor cleaning pads consider using equipment that make use of steam and pads. 

Since steaming tools use water to help with the cleaning process, they tend to be healthier for the environment than many toxic-laced commercial products. Also, weigh whether the use of recycled products may be more environmentally friendly than taking up the resources you would use for laundering. 

Make Your Own Brew

Rather than purchasing products with hazardous ingredients, try making natural cleaning solutions.

  • Use a lemon juice and water mix to clean glass and mirrors. An old tee shirt torn to make rags can work well to clean those messy glass table tops without leaving streaks.

  • Mix lemon juice and olive oil to make a great smelling furniture polish.

  • Make a paste of salt, vinegar and flour to polish metal surfaces.

  • Throwing a handful of salt into a wood burning fireplace can help loosen up the soot buildup.

  • Use vinegar and water on bare floors to leave them fresh.

  • Use vinegar and baking soda to clean out clogged pipes and drains, or to deodorize your kitchen sink.

  • Use lemon juice and hot water to remove foul smells from your garbage disposal.

If you prefer not to do the cleaning work yourself, there are many professional house cleaning services that use green cleaning products. 

Hiring a House Cleaning Service

You don’t have to be wealthy to hire a cleaning service. Many busy families arrange for a service to come in once a week, once a month or something in between. Professional house cleaners can take care of tasks like vacuuming, dusting, mopping floors and so on while family members focus on keeping control of clutter and light cleaning of the bathrooms and kitchens. 

When hiring, ask questions:

  • Are you insured?

  • Do you hire all your employees or are independent workers used?

  • How many workers do you use?

Have the prospective cleaner meet you at your home so you can walk from room to room asking what type of cleaning they will do and with what products. Most cleaning companies provide their own products, but if there are special products you prefer that they use this may cost extra. 

Most experts recommend keeping consistency in cleaning. It’s preferable to use the same person every time if the experience is satisfactory as different cleaners are likely to clean in different ways. 

Finally, trust is extremely important. Unlike most other service providers, house cleaners typically come to your home while you’re at work so you need to feel comfortable allowing them access to your home. If you are a member of Angie’s List you will be able to search for house cleaners in your geographic area and pick someone who has consistently received high grades from other customers.