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12 Ways to Make Your Home Feel New Again

Treat your furniture, walls, floors and countertops to some TLC, to give them a just-bought look for a fraction of the cost!

Photo Credit: The Marshall Kitchen | American Cabinet & Flooring, Inc.

Shopping is the easy part for some – the thrill of the chase, the flutter of excitement at bringing a new treasure home, choosing a new paint color or materials for a remodel. But what happens to those glorious finds and finishes months or years later? Before you give in to the urge to shop for new stuff, consider some home maintenance to show off what you have in the best possible light. You may find that after giving what you already have a little extra TLC, your craving for new stuff fades. You never know; you may even find yourself falling for your home and decor all over again.

#1 – Maintain Upholstery

Regular maintenance can go a long way toward keeping upholstery looking as good as new for as long as possible. Vacuum the fabric and rotate cushions each time you clean the living room, and clean spills and mend small tears right away.

Even if a stain has been there for a long time, it can still often be removed with stain removal or hydrogen peroxide; treat it repeatedly until it fades. Just be sure to test new cleaning products on a less-visible area of fabric first.

#2 – Remove Scuff Marks and Touch Up Paint

Small things like scuff marks from shoes and bags, tiny dings and chipped corners can make a space feel worn out. Spend a day scrubbing, patching and touching up paint, and you’ll notice a world of difference.

#3 – Make Furniture Gleam

If you can’t remember the last time you polished your wood furniture, doing so will probably make you wonder why you don’t do it all the time – the difference is amazing.

The type of finish on your furniture will determine what you use to polish it. Midcentury teak pieces are often finished with oil alone, so simply rubbing in a bit more teak oil from time to time will suffice. Finished wood pieces may respond well to a furniture paste or wax – read the directions thoroughly before trying any new product. 

#4 – Remove Stains from Marble

This porous surface is prone to staining, so it’s important to wipe up spills immediately. Of course, there are time that just doesn’t happen. No matter how or when it happened, there still may be hope for restoring the beauty of your marble. Check the chart available from the Marble Institute of America for methods of removing all sorts of stains. If you still can’t get it out, call a pro – improving the counters you have is still cheaper than getting new ones. 

#5 – Care for Wood Counters

Remove scratches and stains on your wood countertops by gently sanding the area; then rub in a food-grade mineral oil with a soft rag. To prevent future damage, always use trivets under hot items, wipe up spills quickly and cut items on cutting boards, not on the counter.

#6 – Refresh Old Wood Floors

Even if you don’t want to have your wood floors refinished, there are still ways to make them look their best. What you use to refresh your floors will depend on the type of finish your wood floors have.

Floors with a natural oil-rubbed finish can be shined up with wood oil. Really old, worn floors may do well with a wax. Floors finished with polyurethane can be cleaned with a solution of white vinegar and water. Just avoid getting the floors really wet by applying the solution with a barely damp mop and wiping dry with a towel immediately after. Excess water on wood floors of any type can potentially cause damage.

#7 – Refluff Area Rugs

Fluffy rugs like flokatis and sheepskins look amazing when you first bring them home, but… less amazing after several months of wear and tear. Most small natural flokati and sheepskin rugs can be hand washed (or even machine washed on delicate) in mild soap and then air dried.

Between washings, simply shake out and then brush your rug with a dog brush. Just be sure to read the cleaning instructions before deciding on a method.

#8 – Deep Clean Wall-to-Wall Carpeting

Regular vacuuming and spot cleaning will get you only so far. Every once in a while, it pays to rent, borrow or buy a steam cleaner to give your carpeting a deep clean. To help the floor dry as quickly and completely as possible, wait for a dry day ant set up a dehumidifier in the room afterward.

#9 – Condition Leather

Leather furniture can actually look better with age, provided that it is properly cared for. Use a leather conditioner a few times each year to keep the leather from drying out and cracking.

Keep it looking fresh by vacuuming and then buffing with a dry microfiber cloth as needed. Wipe up spills as soon as they happen, using a dry cloth to soak up any liquid. 

#10 – Brighten Whites

Slipcovers, pillow covers, curtains, towels and more can all use a good refreshing from time to time. If you don’t want to use chlorine bleach on your whites, try an oxygen – or hydrogen peroxide-based nonchlorine bleach instead. 

#11 – Touch Up Appliances

Years of use can create all sorts of stains and scratches on the once-pristine finish of your washer and dryer. If new appliances are not in the cards, consider painting yours with a product designed for the task, like the Appliance Enamel paint from Rust-Oleum. You can also use appliance paint on wornout finishes to the dishwasher. Do not use it on surfaces that get hot, like stovetops. 

#12 – Stock Up for Proper Maintenance

Beyond your usual cleaning tools, if there are any special items that would make it easier to care for your home and belongings, go ahead and make the investment. If you have lots of carpeting, for instance, a good steam cleaner could be a worthy addition. Leather conditioner, wood oil, furniture polish – having the little things you need at hand can help you keep your home looking its best. 

Monte Carlo Simulation Proves Safety of Granite Countertops

Supreme Granite Kitchen Island – Project Manager: Randy Wilson. A comprehensive new scientific study sponsored by the Marble Institute of America definitively shows that granite countertops are an insignificant source of radon in the home and that 99.95% of countertops produce lower radon concentrations than are typically found outdoors in the U.S. The study also concluded that in normal applications there is no risk granite countertops will produce radon concentrations even close to levels the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says require remediation (4 picocuries/liter).

Radon is a natural radioactive gas found in soil and stone. Most radon seeps harmlessly into the atmosphere. Prolonged exposure to high concentrations of radon can cause lung cancer.

“Our analysis shows that the likelihood of a granite countertop leading to a negative health impact due to radon is almost a statistical impossibility,”said Dr. Joseph Allen of Environmental Health & Engineering Inc., who led the study team. “The most typical granite countertop installation would produce radon concentrations in the home that are 10,000 times lower than the EPA action level, and are so low that they are not even measurable.” Dr. Allen also stated that their model predicated that there was only a one-in-a-million chance of a granite countertop producing radon concentrations in the home that approached the EPA action level of 4 pCI/l, and that specific simulated countertop purchase involved an unrealistic scenario where 13& of the home’s surface area was countertop. Dr. Allen reiterated the final conclusion in their paper, “this research supports evidence previously published in the scientific literature that the health risk of radon exposure from granite countertops is negligible.”

The independent study, sponsored by the Marble Institute of America, involved a Monte Carlo simulation, a computer analysis to determine risks associated with various purchase decisions. The study simulates the installation of 1 million countertops of different kinds of granite in homes of different sizes and with different air exchange rates. The goal was to determine the probability that any countertop would produce significant radon concentrations. 

Monte Carlo simulations analyze the results of radon emissions for the full spectrum of granite installations including extreme possibilities, such as installing unrealistically large countertops in small, tightly insulated homes. The original analysis method was developed by scientists working on the first atom bomb. It is commonly used to assess risks in finance, engineering, insurance and other industries that deal with the interaction of many variables.

“Science again proves the safety of granite,” said G.K. Naquin, MIA president. “Because the beauty and durability of natural stone is unparalleled, some manufacturers of competing materials have tried to scare the public into believing it may be dangerous. This study shows granite is safe.”

The analysis will be submitted for publication to a peer-reviewed, scientific journal. This is the third MIA sponsored granite study to be submitted for publication. The first two, published in the Journal of Exposure Science & Environmental Epidemiology, appeared in 2010.

The MIA has invested in several studies to determine the safety and durability of natural stone countertops, to provide clear, unambiguous information for consumers to make educated decisions and to also protect the industry from baseless attacks by manufacturers of competing materials. 


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What Others Are Saying About Natural Stone

Natural stone is a key part of two of the top 10 elements of design in the home that are resonating with today’s buyers: the desire for low-maintenance/no-maintenance materials and the use of natural materials inside and outside the home.

-Builder Magazine

National Association of Home Builders

Homeowners who remodel recover the following percentages of their remodeling costs at resale (note -upscale projects include stone):

  1. Bathroom remodel-upscale: 92.6%

  2. Bathroom addition-upscale: 84.3%

  3. Kitchen remodel-upscale: 79.6%

-Cost vs. Value Report

Remodeling Magazine

In a study of materials for kitchen countertops, granite had the highest number of “excellent” ratings of any surface.

-Consumer Reports

If, like us, you define value as ‘performance over time’, then natural stone should be your material of choice and engineered products will never be ‘just as good’ as natural stone until they pass the same test of time.”

-Ed Walsh, Sturgis Materials, Inc.


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Types of Natural Stone

Granite

An excellent choice for kitchen countertops, floors, and other heavily used surfaces

Granite, quarried from the mountains of Italy, the U.S., India, and dozens of other countries, is one of the most popular natural stones on the market. Available in a striking array of colors; granite’s durability and longevity make it ideal for kitchen countertops and other heavily used surfaces including table tops and floors. 

While some synthetic surfaces scartch easily and melt under hot cookware, granite resists heat. Granite is also one of the most bacteria-resistant kitchen surfaces and it is not affected by citric acid, coffee, tea, alcohol, or wine. It is also nearly impossible to scratch and with proper cleaning will not stain under normal use (ask your professional contractor; like American Cabinet & Flooring, about sealants available to further improve resistance to staining.)

A leading consumer magazine recently compared granite with engineered stone, ceramic tile, laminate, butcher block, and other manufactured surfaces. Granite received the hightest overall performance rating as a kitchen countertop material.

Because of its exceptional strength, granite is well suited for exterior applications such as cladding, paving, and curbing. 

Marble

Ideal for foyers, bathrooms, floors, and hearths

Marble is found in the mountainous regions of Canada, Italy, Germany, Spain, and the U.S., and other countries. Because of its beauty and elegance, marble is a popular choice for countertops, floors, foyers, fireplace facings and hearths, walls, and windowsills.

Marble adds a sophisticated element to your home, and its wonderful appearance, superior engineering characteristics, and ease of maintenance make it a natural choice for floors, wall coverings, table tops, and bathroom walls, floors, vanity tops, tub decks, and showers. 

Marble should be cared for as you would a fine wood finish. Using coasters on table tops and cleaning up spills immediately will preserve marble’s natural beauty.

Another option for marble-loving homeowners is using a serpentine for kitchen counters. Sometimes called the “green” marble, serpentine is not a true marble but offers a marble-like look. And because it is magnesium-silicate based, it is not sensitive to citric acid and other kitchen spills. 

Travertine, Limestone, Soapstone, Sandstone, and Slate

Beautiful enhancements for your home, inside and out

Travertine, limestone, soapstone, sandstone, and slate are other examples of natural stone frequently used in residential applications. 

Travertine is a type of limestone and one of the most popular natural stones for interior and exterior wall cladding, interior and exterior paving, statuary, and curbing.

Limestone is widely used as a building stone because it is readily available and easy to handle. Popular applications include countertops, flooring, interior and exterior wall cladding, and exterior paving. 

Soapstone is growing in popularity. Popular uses include kitchen countertops, bathroom vanities, fireplace surrounds, stoves and stair treads. Care and maintenance is easy, but different than other stone types.

Sandstone is frequently used for fireplace facings, chimneys, garden walls, patio benches, and at poolside.

Slate is a popular flooring material and sandstone and slate are often used for exterior paving or pavers. Other slate applications include kitchen countertops, fireplace facings, table tops, and roofing. 


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How to Choose the Right Stone for Your Home

You have many options when it comes to beautiful, long-lasting natural stone for your home’s interior and exterior: Slate, granite, marble, quartz-based stone, soapstone, and limestone, just to name a few. Choosing a natural stone for your home is a very personal decision, much like selecting wallpaper or artwork. While there are scores of natural stones to consider, some are better suited than others to particular uses in and around the home. The team of experienced design specialists at American Cabinet & Flooring can help you explore your options and offer guidance on the right stone for your home project.

Factors to Consider in Selecting a Natural Stone

Color

Natural Stones are available in a beautiful spectrum of colors. Colors in granite and marble, for instance; can range from soft beiges and pinks and classic black-and-whites to rich corals, greens, and multi-colors. Marble traditionally features swirls and “veins” of colors, while granite has a flecked or pebbled appearance. Unlike the repetitive uniformity of materials produced by machine or assembly line, natural stone’s varied appearance has wonderful character and creates a one-of-a-kind effect everywhere it is used.

Finish

Natural stone can be polished, honed, or flamed for a distinctive appearance.

  • A polished finish has a glossy surface that reflects light and emphasizes the color and marking of the stone. This finish is typically used on walls, furniture tops, and floor tiles.

  • A honed finish is a satin-smooth surface with relatively little light reflection. It is generally preferred for floors, stair treads, thresholds, and other areas where heavy traffic will wear off a polished finish.

  • A flamed finish is a rough-textured surface used frequently on granite floor tiles.

Usage

The harder the stone, the more it resists abrasion. One measure of natural stone’s strength is the Measurement of Hardness (MOH) rating –> 1 the softest and 10 the hardest. On the MOH scale, most marbles rate “3” and quartz-based granites rate “7”. Using a softer stone simply requires the homeowner to use gentler cleansers and more frequent dusting to prevent scratching.


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The Benefits of Natural Stone

Classic Beauty

Durability

Easy Maintenance

Superior Quality

Affordability

Increased Home Value

Natural stone has been the premium building material of choice since the beginning of time. Quarried from rock beds formed over millions of years, natural stone used in residential and commercial settings comes from all parts of the world, including Italy, Spain, the U.S., Brazil, Canada, China, France, Israel, Greece, India, Mexico, Germany, Taiwan, and Turkey. 

Marble and granite, two of the most popular stones among homeowners, are quarried in the form of huge blocks; some weighing up to 35 tons. These blocks are cut into slabs generally 3/4″ or 1 1/2″ thick and the faces polished to the specified finish. The slabs are then carefully crated and shipped to fabricators worldwide who process them into the final product. 

Whether you’re building a new home or remodeling; natural stone offers you unparalleled beauty, performance, and uniqueness as well as it adds true value to your home. 

Because stone is a natural, not manufactured, product; no two pieces are exactly alike. This means each finished countertop, wall, floor, mantle, or sill is distinctive and matchless. 

Unlike synthetic imitations natural stone can be three-dimensional and used as columns, statuary, balustrades, doorjambs, and even furniture pieces. When used in exterior applications natural stone has also proven superior to manufactured or engineered stones in withstanding the effects of nature.


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Facts About Natural Stone

  • Granite ranked #1 in clean ability when compared to six other countertop surfaces including stainless steel. (Based on a 1999 study by the Hospitality Institute of Technology and Management.)

  • Natural stone is competitively priced with quartz surface products and often priced lower.

  • Marble and Granite have the same level of clean ability as engineered stone. (Based on a 2006 study by the Hospitality Institute of Technology and Management.)

  • Natural stone is low maintenance often only requiring warm water, mild dish washing liquid and a soft cloth to maintain its beauty.

  • Granite countertops have never been known to emit dangerous levels of radon gas. Environmental Health and Engineering (EHE) recently conducted one of the largest studies of granite countertops, in which no stone was identified as a health risk when used as a countertop surface. EHE also conducted a global review of published studies, and these data show that radon emissions from granite countertops pose no health threat. For more information on these studies, go to www.marble-institute.com for the “Radon Information” article and links to the scientific study data.

  • Many varieties of natural stone do not need to be sealed, although many are for customer peace of mind.

  • Stone is a product of nature and has its own unique qualities that distinguish it from quartz surface materials. The wonderful character that is offered by vein patterns, color variations, and other design characteristics of stone should be taken into consideration when selecting the perfect stone for your project. Discuss these characteristic with your natural stone supplier.


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How to Select a Natural Stone Contractor

  1. Visit www.marble-instutute.com to find a stone professional like American Cabinet & Flooring, Inc.

  2. Ask family, friends, and neighbors for referrals and call local stone/tile suppliers for recommendations.

  3. After you have identified several contractors, schedule appointments for estimates. Most will be free, but confirm in advance.

  4. During your estimate, describe the “look” you’d like to achieve and ask questions.

  5. Evaluate your quotes, request references, and check them. Ask to see examples of other projects recently completed by the contractor.

  6. Request proof of liability and workers’ compensation insurance.

  7. Select a contractor you believe is skilled and trustworthy, and with whom you feel comfortable. Make sure everything you and your contractor agree to is included in your contract. Don’t sign anything until you understand and agree with all the terms.

  8. Plan your project carefully, then keep the lines of communication open with your contractor throughout the project. Keep a job file of all important documentation.

  9. Ask your contractor to estimate a time frame for the job and plan accordingly.

  10. Schedule periodic inspections with your contractor to achieve the end result you desire.


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