How to Choose Kitchen Flooring

How to Choose Kitchen Flooring

You scoot chairs across them. Kids play on them. Family pets sprawl out on them. No doubt about it, kitchen floors take a beating. That’s why it’s so important to do your research before selecting a new floor for this all-important room. All kitchen floors should be durable and easy to clean, but some households are tougher on their floors on a more frequent basis. A family with a 5-pound shih tzu dog, for instance, won’t be as hard on a floor as one with a 150-pound bullmastiff. Similarly, the floors in a household with many active children will likely take more of a beating than those in a kitchen belonging to a single senior.

As you begin your floor covering research, here is some info to consider when it comes to some of the most popular products.

  • Ceramic tile is a safe bet for nearly any style and budget. Options for color, size, shape and pattern are nearly limitless, so you can create the look that suits your tastes, whether you prefer country or contemporary.
  • Wood flooring has made a major comeback in both new and remodeled homes. From Petrie’s perspective, wood’s popularity has always been strong — especially oak, maple, cherry and mahogany.
  • Laminate flooring comes in a variety of styles imitating natural dark wood, light wood, bamboo or stone. Its affordability makes it attractive to many homeowners.
  • Vinyl flooring comes in either tiles or sheets. Available in a wide range of colors, designs and styles, vinyl is easy to cut. Vinyl sheets often require professional installation, but the tiles are a fairly easy do-it-yourself project.
  • Concrete can be a beautiful, low-maintenance and sustainable option for residential kitchens.

Whatever type of floor you choose make sure that it is installed by a trained and experienced professional.

Do You Need a General Contractor?

Do You Need a General Contractor?

Typically, if your job requires more than three subcontractors, a general contractor may be a good idea. A general contractor can free you from such burdens as maintaining a work schedule, obtaining necessary permits, and resolving disputes with suppliers. He or she will have more leverage than you do with subcontractors, since you’re only a one-time job. In a tight labor market, that could be important. A general contractor may get discounts at lumberyards and supply houses. Whether or not these savings are passed on to you or retained as part of the contractor’s fee is something that should be covered in the contract.

Don’t count on newspaper advertisements or the phone book. The best contractors don’t have to advertise. They get work through satisfied customers’ referrals. Consult friends and neighbors who have had work done. Call the Better Business Bureau or a local consumer-affairs agency for complaint histories of the contractors you’re considering. You’ll also want to check with the appropriate agency to see if the contractor is properly licensed and insured.  As a rule, licensing entails passing a test to measure competency, while registering involves only payment of a fee. When checking references, ask whether the contractor is insured and, if applicable, licensed to do the work. If, for example, someone gets hurt or your neighbor’s property is damaged by an unlicensed or uninsured contractor, you could wind up paying. It’s wise to know what your homeowners’ insurance covers before work starts.

How to Choose Gutters

How to Choose Gutters

Gutters aren’t glamorous. But unless there are long overhangs on your roof and your property is steeply graded, they’re essential for routing roof runoff away from your home. Installed properly, gutters keep basements and crawl spaces dry, preserve topsoil, protect siding from backsplash stain and rot and shield windows and doors from water infiltration and damage.

Which Material?

Gutters and downspouts – the vertical sections that send runoff down to the ground – are made out of aluminum, vinyl, galvanized steel, stainless steel and copper. Wood is also an option, but wood gutters are rare, except for restoration work. They’re also expensive, starting at about $12 per linear foot installed and, depending on the wood species, running as high as $20 per linear foot. Copper is another material usually reserved for classic restorations. It’s handsome, never rusts and never needs painting. But at about $15 per linear foot, it’s also expensive. Stainless-steel gutters are strong and rust-free, and maintain their high sheen for years. But as with other high-end custom materials, the drawback is cost: about $20 per linear foot. For this reason, galvanized-steel, aluminum or vinyl gutters are the predominant varieties. Steel and aluminum gutters are the types most homeowners choose. With prices ranging from about $10 to $15 per linear foot installed, galvanized-steel gutters are the most economical. Steel gutters can stand up to ladders and fallen branches better than aluminum. But even thick galvanized steel eventually rusts through. Aluminum gutters, however, never rust. And at $5 to $9 per linear foot installed, they’re still relatively inexpensive – two reasons why aluminum has the edge in popularity, Mike H. says “Ninety percent of what we install is aluminum,” Mike says. “If downspouts get plugged and water collects, you don’t have to worry about rust, as you do with steel.” When buying any metal gutters, choose the thickest you can afford – optimally .032 in. Though .027-, .025- and .019-in.-thick gutters are available, they won’t hold up as well. When buying aluminum gutters, insist on primary aluminum, which is the thickest and most consistent kind. Avoid secondary aluminum, a recycled product that’s often plagued by inconsistent thickness. Vinyl gutters, besides being impervious to rust and rot, are easiest to cut to size; you can install them yourself in a weekend or less. But vinyl can get brittle with age or in extreme cold. And while gutter sections cost just $3 to $5 per 10-ft. length, they still wind up at about $3 and $5 per linear foot installed when you factor in the cost of couplings, hangers and downspouts.

Sizing Up Your Options

Choosing new gutters also brings several other decisions that involve balancing convenience, esthetics and long life. Sectional versus seamless. All gutters are either sectional or seamless (or continuous). Sectional gutters are sold in pieces and installed as component systems. All do-it-yourself gutter systems are sectional, though pros install these, too. The sections themselves can be over 20 ft. long each or cut to any size with a hacksaw. Snap-in-place connectors join gutter sections to each other and to downspouts. All sectional systems have end caps, corner pieces and drop outlets for connecting to downspouts. The drawback to sectional systems is that all those seams can eventually invite leaks. Seamless gutters won’t leak at seams because there are none; sections join only at inside and outside corners and at downspout outlets. That’s why they’re the most popular configuration. Seamless gutters, made of aluminum, galvanized steel or copper, are extruded to custom lengths on site using a portable machine. But, as you might have guessed, seamless gutters must be installed by a contractor. Sizes and shapes. Most gutters come in several sizes and shapes called profiles. These include U shapes as well K configurations, in which the ogee-shaped front looks like the letter K.

Why You Need to Vent the Attic

Why You Need to Vent the Attic

A key benefit of venting the attic is that the approach is the same regardless of how creative your architect got with the roof. Because the roof isn’t in play here, it doesn’t matter how many hips, valleys, dormers, or gables there are. It’s also easier and often less expensive to pile on fiberglass or cellulose insulation at the attic floor to hit target R-values than it is to achieve a comparable R-value in the roof plane. The success of this approach hinges on the ceiling of the top level of the house being absolutely airtight before any insulation is installed. It’s also important to ensure that there isn’t anything in the attic except lots of insulation and air—not the Christmas decorations, not the tuxedo you wore on your wedding day, nothing. Attic space can be used for storage, but only if you build an elevated platform above the insulation. Otherwise, the insulation gets compressed or kicked around, which diminishes its R value. Also, attic-access hatches are notoriously leaky. You can build an airtight entry to the attic, but you should know that the more it is used, the leakier it gets. How do people get this simple approach wrong? They don’t follow the rules. They punch a bunch of holes in the ceiling, they fill the holes with recessed lights that leak air, and they stuff mechanical systems with air handlers and a serpentine array of ductwork in the attic. The air leakage from these holes and systems is a major cause of ice dams in cold climates and a major cause of humidity problems in hot climates. It’s also an unbelievable energy waste no matter where you live. Don’t think you can get away with putting ductwork in an unconditioned attic just because you sealed and insulated it. Duct sealing is faith-based work. You can only hope you’re doing a good-enough job. Even when you’re really diligent about air sealing, you can take a system with 20% leakage and bring it down to maybe 5% leakage, and that’s still not good enough. With regard to recessed lights and other ceiling penetrations, it would be great if we could rely on the builder to air-seal all these areas. Unfortunately, we can’t be sure the builder will air-seal well or even air-seal at all. So we have to take some of the responsibility out of the builder’s hands and think of other options. In a situation where mechanical systems or ductwork has to be in the attic space or when there are lots of penetrations in the ceiling below the attic, it’s best to bring the entire attic area inside the thermal envelope. This way, it’s not as big a deal if the ceiling leaks air or if the ducts are leaky.