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Cabinetry Care Guide

Cabinetry Care

As with any product constructed of wood, a few moments of care and a little common sense can go a long way in keeping your new cabinets looking their best. Here are a few simple suggestions to make your cabinet care easier.

  • Clean cabinets as needed with a mild detergent or with soap and water (use sparingly) and dry well using a lint-free cloth for both washing and drying.
  • Wipe up spills, splatters and water spots as they occur, keeping cabinets and countertop surfaces dry.
  • Give special attention to areas near the sink and dishwasher that come in contact with moisture.
  • Use cleaners and polishes designed for wood cabinets and clean all surfaces as needed.

Cabinetry Care Kit: contains all the materials required to repair nicks and scratches

Touch Up Marker: used to re-stain small scratches (one-step application, stain only)

Putty Stick: used to fill nail holes, minor nicks and dents

Stopping Problems Before they Occur

DO NOT use abrasive cleaners, scouring pads or powdered cleaners! These materials may penetrate the cabinet finish allowing moisture to enter and cause deterioration.

  • Do not use aerosol sprays containing silicone or paste waxes.
  • Do not leave wet cloths on or near cabinets.
  • Do not allow oven cleaners or other caustic cleaners to touch the cabinets.
  • Follow instructions carefully for self-cleaning ovens and other kitchen appliances around cabinets.

Remedies For Common Kitchen Accidents

Most problems can be prevented by wiping up any spills as soon as they occur. Follow these first aid suggestions for common household accidents. When removing a spot, begin at the outer edge and work toward the middle to prevent the spot from spreading.

Food Spots / Water Spots

Clean cabinets as needed with a mild detergent or with soap and water (use sparingly) and dry well using a lint-free cloth for both washing and drying. Use cleaners and polishes designed for wood cabinets and clean all surfaces as needed.

Greasy Spots

Rub grease, lipstick, crayon or oil with a damp cloth. Use cleaners and polishes designed for wood cabinets and clean all surfaces as needed. 

Chewing Gum / Candle Wax

Apply a plastic bag filled with ice on top of the deposit until it is brittle enough to crumble off. Use cleaners and polishes designed for wood cabinets and clean all surfaces as needed.

Nicks / Dents

Most nicks and dents can be repaired with a cabinetry care kit from your cabinet manufacturer. 

Scratches / Cigarette Burns

Most common scratches or burns can be repaired with a cabinetry care kit from your cabinet manufacturer. Rub the area with fine sandpaper until you have removed the scratch or burn. Re-stain with the cabinets color-matched touch-up stain and apply a light coat of clear sealer finish. Use cleaners and polishes designed for wood cabinets and clean all surfaces as needed.

Always treat your cabinets as you would fine furniture!

ConsumerReports.org Buying Guide: Flooring

Photo: American Cabinet & Flooring Designer Clay Bernard

Getting Started

Begin by considering where the flooring will go and how much traffic, sunlight, and other wear and tear it will get. Vinyl proved tops in our moisture tests and most linoleum. Plastic laminates, and solid wood fared nearly as well. But many engineered woods, as well as some solid woods, and a linoleum product we tested flubbed that test – a serious drawback in a busy kitchen. And while the best vinyls and plastic-laminates fended off wear better than solid wood, they can’t be refinished when worn. 

How to Shop

Before settling on a product, spend a few dollars on two or three samples. That can be a lot less expensive than winding up with flooring that looks great in a catalog or on a website and then awful in your home. Manufacturers generally match most wood or engineered-wood flooring for color or grain. But variations can occur from one batch to the next, so buy the flooring you’ll need all at once. All the plastic-laminate floorboards in a package often have a similar pattern, so you may want to pull from multiple packages to avoid repetition.

To determine how much flooring you’ll need, measure the room’s square footage by multiplying its length times its width. (Divide an irregularly shaped room into smaller rectangles, calculate the square footage of each rectangle, and then add them together.) Then buy 7 to 10 percent extra to allow for mistakes, bad samples, and waste. You might also want to invest in an extra box of flooring for future repairs or additions. 

Where to Save

One way to save is on overstocks. Also, take advantage of mistakes. You can often save on opened or damaged boxes or on flooring with minor flaws that no one will notice.

Hiring a pro to do the installation? You can trim hundreds of dollars off the job by doing the time-consuming prep work like prying up the old flooring, leveling or filling the subfloor, and removing any baseboard that’s in the way. 

Green Floors That Didn’t Cut It

Bamboo is considered renewable because it’s a fast-growing grass. The best bamboo floorings we tested area stranded products such as the EcoTimber solid and Teragren engineered flooring, which are made of fibers that are shredded and compressed for strength. Cork floors are made of tree bark in a process that doesn’t kill trees.

Know How Rough You’ll Be

The best products in every category were also the best overall in our simulated foot-traffic tests. For less busy kitchens, you may want to consider the top engineered wood or bamboo, with its blend of natural veneer and easy installation.

Pick a Factory Finish

Prefinished wood and bamboo floors cost about 40 percent more than unfinished products. But you’re likely to save overall because a factory finish tends to last longer-and paying a pro to apply the finish adds costs, mess, and hassle. Factory finishes are also warranted by the manufacturer. 

Check for Certification

Vinyl floors with the industry’s FloorScore certification emit relatively low levels of volatile organic compounds, substances linked to health problems and pollution. All vinyl we recommend has that certification. For wood flooring, certification by the Forest Stewardship Council and the Sustainable Forestry Initiative offers some assurance that it comes from responsibly managed forests, a plus for the planet. The product and manufacturer must be certified; check the packaging. 

When You Get it Home

Before installing wood or laminate flooring, unpack it and let it sit for one to three days in the space where it will be installed so that its temperature and moisture match the levels in the room.

Keeping New Floors Looking Good

If you need to heat the room soon after installation, raise the temperature gradually over the course of a week – especially if you have radiant heat – to allow the flooring to adjust. Sweep or vacuum floors with a soft broom or brush, and clean with a damp but not overly wet mop. Check the manufacturer’s guidelines for recommended cleaning products. And put felt pads under furniture to prevent scratching. 

Types of Flooring

Though you’ll find a growing array of styles, most flooring falls into one of these six types. The type of flooring you choose will depend on your taste, needs, and budget.

Solid Wood

Photo: Mohawk Solid Wood in Oak ButterscotchAdvantages include its natural warmth and the ability to be sanded and refinished several times, along with impressive wear resistance for some. But except for the best solid bamboo, all the solid-wood products we tested dented easily, and some wore quickly and became discolored from sunlight. Pre-finished floors should hold up better than those finished on site, and their warranty comes from the factory, not the installer. But you may not like the beveled edges on many pre-finished products. While unfinished flooring costs about 40 percent less, higher installation costs can offset those savings, since the floor must be sanded and finished over several days to seal it from moisture. Wood flooring shouldn’t go in basements and other damp spaces. 

Engineered Wood

Photo: Mohawk Engineered Wood in Oak Natural

This flooring uses a thin veneer of real wood or bamboo over structural plywood. Most engineered wood doesn’t wear as well as solid wood or plastic laminate. It also dents easily, and small spills can damage it. Most can be carefully refinished once, but the veneer on some may be too thin. 

Plastic Laminate

Photo: Mannington Laminate in Black Forest Oak

Generally made of dense fiberboard with a photo beneath a clear plastic protective layer, laminate can mimic nearly anything from oak to marble. Some brands use real cork beneath the clear layer. But the repetitive pattern on some products compromises realism. The best laminates resist scratching, denting, and discoloration from sunlight better than most wood products, but as with engineered wood, a big spill can cause damage. You may be able to touch up minor flaws, but you’ll have to replace the flooring when its outer layer wears through. 

Vinyl

Photo: Shaw Resilient Vinyl Tile in Grey Skies

This option can be especially good at fending off wear, dents, scratches, discoloration from sunlight, and stains. Easy installation is another plus, especially for tiles or planks, as are more color and design choices than before. Premium vinyl does a better job of imitating stone, tile, and even oak, but even the best products still look like vinyl. And the best can cost at least as much as the best solid wood and laminate floors. 

Linoleum

Photo: Armstrong Linoleum in Firebird Red

Made of linseed oil and wood products, linoleum is a natural, resilient material. Today’s products offer far more styles and colors. Linoleum tends to fend off discoloration from sunlight, but resistance to wear, scratches, dents and moisture has varied widely in our tests from product to product. Linoleum can also be relatively expensive. 

Ceramic Tile

Photo: Shaw Ceramic Tile In Cappuccino

This classic material tends to resist wear, moisture, scratches, dents, and stains. But tiles can crack and grout can stain, and dropped cups and dishes break more easily on its hard surface. It’s also relatively expensive and hard to install. While some can now be floated without the usual cement and grout, that makes replacing cracked tiles a challenge. 

Flooring Features

Different flooring materials require different installation techniques. Homeowners install about half of all flooring. Floated floors that go down without glue or fasteners are easiest. In the case of vinyl, planks or tiles; they are easier to install than sheets. 

  • Nail- or Staple-Down Installation: These are the methods of choice with solid wood and engineered wood over a wood subfloor. Standard, ¾-inch-thick solid-wood strip and plank flooring is traditionally nailed to the subfloor; thinner solid or engineered material is almost always stapled. The fasteners are usually driven diagonally through the tongue side of the material and into the subfloor (blind-nailed) so they are invisible once the floor is finished. Solid flooring can also be nailed straight through the surface (face-nailed) with decorative cut nails or fastened with screws, which are typically countersunk and concealed with wood plugs. Installers often sandwich a layer of 15-pound felt or rosin paper between the subfloor and floor to prevent moisture between the two and to deaden sound.

  • Floating Installation: This works with engineered wood, plastic laminate, linoleum and some ceramic tile over a wood or concrete subfloor or existing flooring. Tongue-and-groove planks or tiles lock together mechanically. Some products must also be glued together at the joints. The material generally goes over a thin foam or cork pad, which fills minor flaws in the subfloor and absorbs sound. Installations over concrete require a thin plastic vapor barrier.

  • Glue-Down Installation: Engineered wood, vinyl, linoleum, and tiles are typically glued. You trowel adhesive onto a clean, flat, wood or concrete subfloor or existing flooring and lay down the sheets, planks, or tiles. No vapor barrier is required. Some glue-down flooring is simply peel-and-stick, the easiest to install. You’ll also find vinyl flooring in sheets and easier-to-install tiles.

Flooring Brands

The national flooring brands listed below are sold by home centers and specialty flooring retailers. Use these profiles to compare flooring by brand. 

Armstrong manufactures flooring under the well-recognized brand names Armstrong and Bruce, and the speciality brand Robbins. Armstrong is also the brand leader in vinyl sheet and vinyl-tile flooring, dominating the category with more than 40 percent of sales. The Armstrong brand also includes wood and laminate, a line of linoleum flooring, and has recently added ceramic tile. 

Mannington is a one-stop floor manufacture with products in every flooring category. They are among the top three leading vinyl flooring brands and have a foothold in wood, laminate, and porcelain tile. A recent innovation is the Adura Luxury line of premium vinyl tile and planks that mimic the look of hardwood and ceramic tile. Mannington is available only through speciality flooring stores. 

This leading carpet manufacturer crossed over to hard-surface flooring through acquisitions and partnerships and now offers wood, laminate, and vinyl flooring.

Mohawk sells stone flooring under the American Olean brand and laminate under the Quick-Step brand. Their Dal-Tile brand accounts for half of the ceramic tile category sales.

In vinyl, Mohawk distributes the Congoleum brand through its vast dealer network. Mohawk flooring is sold through mass home centers and specialty floor stores and is one of the few flooring manufacturers that takes part directly at retail by licensing its trade names – Mohawk Floorz and Mohawk FloorScapes – to locally owned flooring specialty dealers. 

This leading carpet manufacturer now offers wood, laminate, and ceramic-tile flooring; it recently expanded its presence in wood through the acquisition of Anderson Flooring. Shaw is available through home-center chains and specialty flooring stores and has its own retail programs – Shaw Design Center and Shaw Flooring Alliance that offer local dealers expanded product lines, display assistance, and training.

Tarkett

Originally a European manufacturer of linoleum, Tarkett is now among the largest flooring manufacturers worldwide. Tarkett offers wood, laminate, and vinyl flooring under its own brand, and luxury vinyl tile from Nafco. Tarket also makes FiberFloor, a water-resistant flooring that combines the qualities of carpet and vinyl. Tarkett is available through mass home centers and specialty flooring retailers. 

Photo: American Cabinet & Flooring Showroom

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

Armstrong’s Countdown to Cabinet Construction


Armstrong.jpg

Four thousand cabinets a day!

That’s the current output at Armstrong Cabinet Products, a division of Armstrong World Industries.

In business since 1860, Armstrong World entered the wood products industry in 1998 following its acquisition of Triangle Pacific’s cabinet and flooring businesses. Fiscal 2011 net sales for the Lancaster, PA-based corporation were $2.9 billion, with the cabinet division accounting for $136.4 million. 

Sales of the company’s semi-custom kitchen and bath cabinets are driven by both multi-family as well as single-family new construction and remodeling markets, which are slowly showing signs of improvement. Armstrong sells its cabinet products through independent retailers; like American Cabinet & Flooring, Inc., and building supply distributors nationwide. It recently announced an agreement to also work with 84 Lumber for sales of its products.

Armstrong currently offers four series of cabinet constructions targeted at a variety of price points and environmental requirements:

  • Allwood Series: this top-tier series features an all-plywood box construction, hardwood plywood sides and bottom panels, six-way adjustable concealed hinges and wood dovetail drawers. Available in traditional – contemporary – transitional – and causal country styles with a variety of door options.

  • Premier Series: with similar features to the Allwood; this series has a composite panel construction and is available in a wood grain or laminate exterior. Available in traditional – contemporary – transitional – and causal country styles with a variety of door options.

  • Origins Series: available on most cabinet styles, this series is environmentally friendly and uses urea-formaldehyde-free, soy-based adhesive PureBond panels from Columbia Forest Products; which the company says can contribute to LEED NC EQ Credit 4.4.

  • Extreme Series: targeted for the public housing segment, with hardwood plywood end panels and multi-ply plywood top and bottom panel construction, and a pine drawer box.

Lean and Green Manufacturing

A proponent of green manufacturing, Armstrong has its Town & Country maple wood cabinets, part of the Origins Series, featured in Disney World’s Epcot Vision House in Florida.

All cabinets are manufactured to order at the company’s 300,000-square-foot facility, located on 27 acres in Thompsontown, PA. Approximately 450 people work at the cabinet plant. 

Panel processing, frame manufacture, drawer box construction, finishing and assembly are done in-house, with cabinet doors and drawer fronts currently outsourced. Approximately 90% of production is kitchen cabinets, with the remaining 10% for bath vanities. The majority of the product is veneered, in species that include: cherry – maple – oak birch – and plantation hardwood.

Armstrong sources the veneered panels with laminated panels laid-up, in-house. Panels are cut-to-size on one of four Schelling saws before being sent to the Andi CNC routers or the company’s new Keystone Automation end panel machine for further processing.

In another area, Koch bore and dowel machines are used for frame construction. Armstrong uses a variety of sanders throughout the production and finishing process, including Timesaves, Costa and DMC.

Output at the machines is tracked throughout the plant. “With the lean process, you can see the movement of the product on the floor and know at a glance if you need to produce more. It’s a very visual management tool, ” says Tim Clontz, plant manager. 

Parts are finished before being married up in assembly. The company uses a combination of hand spraying and UV coating, with specialty finishes available on its higher-end lines.

Continually looking for ways to improve, Armstrong recently conducted a value stream mapping of the area, which identified a bottleneck in the door finishing process for topcoating. In a quick resolution to the problem, by early May, the company will have replaced a tow-hang line with a Superfici flatline system, which will provide significant improvements in the workflow speed and process, Clontz says. 

Another area targeted for improvement is assembly, Clontz says. Moving from three long lines to five shorter ones will not only speed production, but reduce overall handling on the cabinets, while enabling workers to “have more involvement” in the finished product. “Lean is a never-ending journey,” he says. “Every day we’re trying to get better.”

Safety in Numbers

Armstrong also is aggressive about emphasizing the safety of its employees. Placards throughout the plant illustrate correct methods of operation. In addition, twice daily employees perform stretching exercises as part of the work routine. 

Clontz says he is proud of the recognition the cabinet plant received recently for going more than 600,000 hours without an accident. “Our best resource is our employees,” he adds.