If your grout is grossing you out, this deep-cleaning method will help it look new again!
Photo: American Cabinet & Flooring | Project Manager Randy WilsonTile – whether it’s used as flooring, in the kitchen as a backsplash or for counters, or in the bathroom – has one great downfall: grout. Since grout is porous in nature, unsealed grout absorbs all kinds of stains, from mildew to coffee and everything in between. To say it’s a headache to keep grout clean is an understatement.
NOTE: Be wary of using too much lemon juice with marble, since it can etch or damage the stone if left on too long. Hydrogen peroxide can be a safe alternative.
We inherited marble tile counters when we purchased our home. It’s pretty clear that the grout was never properly sealed, so it soaks up stains like crazy. It makes our kitchen feel gross and grimy, even if it was just cleaned. While I’d love to replace the counters with a solid surface like quartz, it’s just not in out budget – plus, we just can’t justify getting rid of something that’s perfectly fine otherwise.
Luckily, I have a foolproof method that will lift most household stains from that pesky grout.
What you’ll need:
Oxygenated bleach (like OxyClean)
Coarse scrubbing brush (like an old toothbrush)
TIP: Cleaning colored grout should be done with special care. Bleaching agents (like chlorine bleach) can discolor and harm the colored grout. Fortunately, oxygenated bleach does not contain corrosive chemicals and is safe to use on all grout.
1). Clean the surface thoroughly, removing any surface residue or debris. Let the grout dry fully.
2). Dissolve 2 tablespoons of oxygenated bleach in 2 cups of warm water. Wet the brush in the mixture and apply it to the grout. Let is soak in, then scrub the grout in a circular motion, which will loosen the stain more effectively than a front-and-back motion. If needed, dip the wet brush into the oxygenated bleach to make a paste. Wipe clean, then let dry.
TIP: To lift extra dark stains, squeeze lemon juice onto the stain, let it soak in, then scrub, wipe clean and let the grout dry. Use lemon juice sparingly, since it can damage some tile finishes.
3). Spray the tiles and grout with an ecofriendly cleaning spray and wipe them clean. Let the grout dry fully before making a final decision on whether your hard work paid off – damp grout looks darker than dry grout.
4). Apply grout sealer after the grout has fully dried to avoid any future stains. Be sure to reapply it each year.
Still having trouble getting that grout clean? For those impossible-to-remove stains, you might want to consider:
A commerical tile and grout cleaner
A coarser brush (avoid using metal bristles, though, as they can erode the grout)
If after you’ve tried all three, the stain is still hanging strong, you may have to resort to removing the old grout and replacing it with new.
TIP: An electric multitool, like the Dremel Mult-Max, helps to make quick and safe work of removing the old grout.
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.
Consumers play it safe and practical when choosing kitchen countertops
If you had to sum up current kitchen countertop trends in a few phrases, you might use the following: durability, generational preferences, clean and simple and ice cream sundaes. When taken together, they reflect prevailing consumer attitudes about kitchen remodels (and perhaps home improvement projects in general). Sure, they’re renovating for themselves but hey, let’s not get too crazy.
This sentiment may explain why many of the trends may seem familiar and why performance remains a key concern in purchasing decisions, even as aesthetics have assumed more of a leadership role. “The recession had changed people’s attitudes about experimentation,” said Kelly Morisseau, a Walnut Creek, CA-based designer and author of popular industry blog Kitchen Sync. “I see quartz countertops going as strong as ever but less demand for materials like concrete and stainless steel.” In Ambler, PA – David Stimmel – of Stimmel Design Group, still uses concrete countertops in much of his work but agrees engineered stone is king, its popularity no doubt buoyed by its ease of maintenance and durability.
But all is not engineered stone. White marbles, such as Carrara and Calcutta Gold, continue to have their admirers, and thanks to a flood of lower-cost varieties from overseas, granite has not completely gone away, noted Chad Seiders, executive director of Artisan Group. A softer, warmer alternative, solid surfacing has also regained its footing, especially among those with a taste for the sleek, contemporary and even monolithic. “It’s a better-performing material in that you can do more with it,” said Thomas Perich, North American marketing manager for surfaces at DuPont, citing advantages such as a lack of seams and ability to create coved backsplashes, integral sinks and thick edges. “You just have a lot of flexibility.”
Safety in Colors
As to color, the selections are vast and many, yet consumer preferences still tend toward the conservative. “A lot of clients want to go for the bold colors, but in the end, they never really do,” Stimmel said. Most play it safe with earth tones, such as creams and caramels, or what Morisseau calls “ice cream sundae colors.” Summer Kath, senior director of business development and strategic partnership at Cambria USA, also sees interest in grays, browns, black and, of course, white. Not surprisingly, a recent best seller for Cosentino North America, noted Lorenzo Marquez, the company’s VP of marketing, resembles white marble.
In fact, Martinez said, “We’re finding that homeowners and designers are seeking options that offer the aesthetic of, say, a marble or granite,” a trend borne out by the latest quartz offerings from Consentino and Cambria. Nature-inspired, the designs are rich in veining and dramatic in movement – a look favored by the older Boomer set whose kitchens are more traditional, said Morisseau. The younger, contemporary inclined are apt to choose calmer options with smaller particulate or, if they live in cosmopolitan areas, solids, which are emerging in Europe, said Perich.
Mixing and Edging
Where self-expression lets loose is in the mixing of materials and colors – although that, too, can depend on geography – and the varying of countertop thickness, which can range from ½ inch to 1½ inch to 3 inches. Most industry experts agree simple edges and mitered corners are in, but some still field requests for ornate, classic treatments. Also being specified are chiseled edges on engineered and natural stone, as well as wood tops with “a naked or bark edge” that appears as if just sliced from a tree, Stimmel said. Perich has also noticed that in Europe and, to a lesser degree, on these shores, contemporary kitchens are moving toward ultra-thin countertops with virtually no edge.
Developments to watch for? Maybe. Much depends on factors beyond the realm of kitchens and baths – politics, economics, culture – and their impact on consumers’ mood. There will always be curiosity and demand for the next big thing, but if the present is any indication, form and function still go hand in hand.
Photo: American Cabinet & Flooring Designer Ed Sheats
Replacing a kitchen or bathroom countertop can be a relatively inexpensive part of a total remodeling job, costing as little as $550 for 55 square feet (about 18 linear feet) of laminate counter. Then again, you can spend 10 times that on costlier materials. Whichever once you choose, buy enough the first time out. Delivery is expensive, color and veining vary from sample to sample, and materials bought separately may not match.
Traditionally, the more exotic countertop materials have been used in the kitchen. But more and more materials such as concrete, granite, limestone, marble – and yes, even stainless steel – are migrating to the bathroom. Though bathroom counters typically see less wear and tear than kitchen counters, you might want to limit materials that need TLC to powder rooms or lightly used guest bathrooms.
Each material offers distinct advantages and disadvantages. We tested more than a dozen popular types to see how well they resisted stains, heat damage, cuts, abrasion, and impact.
Tiny samples make it hard to visualize how the finished counter will look. Check manufacturers’ websites for brochures or smart phone and iPad apps that can help you match the counter to your cabinets. And look for online guides that let you try various materials and colors in virtual settings. Engineered stone, recycled glass, laminate, and solid surfacing are likely to match the samples you see in the store. If you’re set on stone, however, go to a stone yard. You’ll find significant variations not only from one slab to another, but even within the same slab. When you find a slab you like, put a deposit on it.
Start with the Sink
A waterproof material such as concrete, solid surfacing, stainless steel, stone, or quartz is essential if the sink is under mounted – in other words, if it’s raised into place from below the counter, rather than lowered from above so that its edges overlap the countertop. And keep in mind, each of these materials except quartz and stone can be matched to the sink.
Tricks of the Trade
Besides being on the lookout for sales, you can shave the cost by mixing materials. Complement a large, modestly priced run of laminate on a kitchen island with a small but exquisite piece of stone. Since bathroom counters are typically smaller, cut costs by using less expensive stone or quartz remnants – essentially left over pieces from other jobs.
Let the Fabricator do the Measuring
All measurements and templates should be made by the fabricator or installer including cut-outs for the sink and faucet. Then any errors are the pro’s responsibility, not yours.
Types of Countertops
We found significant strengths and weaknesses among materials, but few differences among brands. Here are the types of countertops to consider.
Photo: American Cabinet & Flooring
Also known as engineered stone, quartz is a blend of stone chips, resins, and pigments. It’s an ideal material for high-traffic applications. It comes in many vibrant colors and styles that mimic granite and marble.
PROS: It survived a gauntlet of spills, hot pots, knives, and more with top scores and it doesn’t have to be sealed for stain protection. Because it’s waterproof, it’s a sound choice to be paired with undermounted sinks.
CONS: Quartz won’t resist impacts as well as granite, and its edges can chip. Some patterns can appear unnaturally uniform, although manufacturers are trying for a more random look closer to natural stone.
Photo: American Cabinet & Flooring
It’s still what you’ll see in magazines and real-estate ads, but fancy faux materials are giving granite serious competition. Granite is a good choice for areas that get a lot of use. It comes in many colors and variations and provides a natural stone look.
PROS: Like quartz, it survived our gauntlet of spills, hot pots, knives, and more with top scores.
CONS: Unlike quartz, it needs periodic sealing for stain protection. Color and grain may differ from store samples.
Ceramic Tile comes in an almost limitless selection of colors and patterns. It mixes nicely with other materials, and it works well on a backsplash or island top.
PROS: Tile is inexpensive and relatively easy to install. It offers good heat resistance, so it’s a good choice around stoves. Buying a few extra tiles will allow you to repair localized damage easily, one tile at at time.
CONS: Poor impact resistance is a sore point. The grout is likely to stain even when it’s sealed. Darker grout can help.
Photo: American Cabinet & Flooring
This material generally consists of layers of paper or fabric impregnated with resin over composition wood. Laminates are inexpensive and relatively easy to install. Use them in areas of heavy use but minimal abuse. This material is available in hundreds of fun patterns (try boomerang), interesting colors (hollyberry, anyone?), and detailed edges. Laminates typically show seams on the front edge and between the backsplash and counter. Post-forming is a process that melds adjoining sections, making them look continuous, but it offers fewer color choices.
PROS: Laminates excelled at resisting stains, impact, and heat; they also withstood our abrasive pads nicely. They’re easy to clean and relatively easy to install. Though laminates are no longer trendy, they still appeal to remodelers on at tight budget.
CONS: Most versions have a colored top layer over a dark core, which shows at the edges. Water can seep through seams or between the countertop and backsplash, weakening the material beneath or causing lifting. Laminate is easily scratched and nicked and can’t be repaired. Textured finishes are better than flat finishes at hiding imperfections.
Photo: American Cabinet & Flooring
Made of polyester or acrylic resins combined with mineral fillers, this material imitates concrete, marble, and other types of stone, as well as quartz (essentially an imitation of an imitation). Solid surfacing comes in various thicknesses and can be joined almost invisibly into one apparently seamless expanse. It can also be sculpted to integrate the sink and backsplash, and routed to accept contrasting inlays.
PROS: Resistance to heat and impact are pluses, and scratches and small nicks can be buffed out and repaired. Because the surfacing is waterproof, it’s a sound choice for an undermounted sink.
CONS: Solid surfacing scratches easily, and prolonged heat can cause discoloration. Cost can rival that of quartz and granite, which are much tougher and more authentic looking.
We tested a version from Richlite, which says that its paper-and-resin countertops are green, in part because the paper comes from renewable resources.
PROS: The product did well at resisting stains and heat.
CONS: It was only fair when it came to cuts and abrasions. What’s more, it doesn’t use recycled paper, and its resin is petroleum-based and non-renewable.
Concrete countertops can provide a unique look. This exclusive material is typically custom-formed by local fabricators, so quality may vary.
PROS: Concrete can be tinted and textured and can include stone chips.
CONS: It chips and scratches easily and can develop hairline cracks. Topical sealers can protect against stains but not heat; penetrating sealers can handle heat, but not stains.
It lets you integrate countertops with stainless appliances for a sleek, professional kitchen look. It can be welded, ground, and buffed away to get rid of seams.
PROS: Resistance to heat and stains is a plus. Because stainless steel is waterproof, it’s a sound choice for an undermounted sink.
CONS: Steel dents and scratches easily and shows fingerprints. (If fingerprints are an issue, consider faux stainless laminate instead.) Drain cleaners and hard-water-deposit removers can discolor steel.
Limestone provides a stone look without heavy veining. It’s attractive but impractical. Use it only in low-traffic areas.
PROS: Limestone resists heat well.
CONS: Scratches and dings from our dropped 5-pound weight marred the surface of this soft, porous stone. And even a high-quality sealer didn’t protect against stains. Twelve of the 19 substrates we applied left permanent marks after they were left on the surface for just 24 hours.
These hardwood countertops provide a country kitchen look. Maple is most common, but you’ll also find red oak and teak.
PROS: This material is useful for food preparation such as chopping and slicing. It’s relatively easy to install and repair.
CONS: Damage from heat, cuts, scrapes, and impacts make for high maintenance. Butcher block countertops must be treated regularly with mineral oil or beeswax. Varnished butcher block was extremely stain-resistant, but terrible at everything else. Butcher block with an oil finish was better at resisting heat, but stains spread and were impossible to remove. Fluctuations in humidity affect wood, making butcher block a poor choice for over a dishwasher or around a sink.
This material provides a traditional look. Consider it for areas with medium traffic.
PROS: Small nicks and scratches can be polished out.
CONS: Marble chips and scratches easily. And you’ll need to seal marble periodically to protect it from staining. Most stains that marred and unsealed marble wiped away with water on sealed samples. But hard-water-deposit removers left a permanent mark, even on sealed stone.
Take shards of recycled glass, turm them into a countertop and the result is an infusion of color and style.
PROS: Best for a contemporary look when it’s made with large shards, or it can resemble solid surfacing when it’s finely ground. Resistant to heat, cuts, and scratches.
CONS: But chips and stains can be a problem. Unlike other recycled-glass counters we tested. Cosentino’s Eco line developed a thin crack during our heat tests.
You’ll have to rub the soapstone with mineral oil to reveal and maintain its beauty.
PROS: Best for adding the beauty of stone to a low-traffic kitchen. It withstands heat very well, and small scratches can be repaired. Slabs vary, so go to a stone yard.
CONS: It’s easily sliced, scratched, and nicked. Stain resistance is so-so, and it needs to be periodically rubbed with mineral oil.
While bamboo may be eco-friendly, it isn’t user-friendly.
PROS: Best for show rather than daily use. It’s available in several styles, including a parquet pattern.
CONS: It’s easily stained, scorched, sliced, and nicked. The maker might warn against using it around a sink, because moisture can warp the material. It may darken over time.
Photo: American Cabinet & Flooring Designer Amber Albrecht
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.
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.
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.
Ask family, friends, and neighbors for referrals and call local stone/tile suppliers for recommendations.
After you have identified several contractors, schedule appointments for estimates. Most will be free, but confirm in advance.
During your estimate, describe the “look” you’d like to achieve and ask questions.
Evaluate your quotes, request references, and check them. Ask to see examples of other projects recently completed by the contractor.
Request proof of liability and workers’ compensation insurance.
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.
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.
Ask your contractor to estimate a time frame for the job and plan accordingly.
Schedule periodic inspections with your contractor to achieve the end result you desire.