Hardwood flooring is ‘in’ again: Glossy floors return to former popularity

That’s the story one Kitchener resident tells, as he describes the floors he installed back in the 1950s with his brother. The story is very different today. Installation is much easier and wood floors are being put in many areas of the home. What remains the same is the classic appeal of hardwood floors.

“One of the biggest reasons for choosing hardwood floors today is for allergies. People are thinking more and more about air quality, and the choice of flooring affects that directly,” said Christian Wingelaar, a local builder and owner of Wingelaar Estate Homes. “I’ve been talking with a lot of people lately who just don’t want carpet in their homes.”

Also, as the trend to renovating existing homes continues, more people are choosing hardwood floors as a way to increase the value and enjoyment of their homes.

“The most popular areas for hardwood floors in the home today are the front foyer and the kitchen, said Diana Brenchley, who co-owns Ayr Hardwood Flooring Inc. in Waterloo with her husband. “We’re still doing dining rooms and dens, but there are some distinct advantages to a hardwood floor in the kitchen.”

Those advantages include appearance, comfort and surprisingly, durability.

“Wood floors are more esthetically pleasing,” said Brenchley. “They have warmer look than ceramic, which can appear and feel cold.”

Wood floors are also kinder to your back when you stand for long periods of time. Ceramic and linoleum can be difficult for people who have back problems.

Durability is also an issue to consider when installing a kitchen floor, as well as any floor in the home. Each option has its drawbacks. Linoleum tears and can be difficult to clean thoroughly. Ceramic is cold and can crack. And wood can scratch, dent and wear down. While all of these products also have their advantages, Brenchley says wood, the only natural product, does tend to be more giving.

There are many things to take into account when considering hardwood floors for the kitchen. Ensure that the bevel (groove between planks) is not very deep because it is likely food and dirt will fall on the floor and find the grooves, making cleaning difficult.

Also consider traffic. Some areas, such as around the sink, will sustain more use and show wear. This problem is easily fixed with a decorative rug or mat, but make sure the backing of the rug is suitable for wood floors.

Another option for hardwood floors today is in the basement. Although the higher level of moisture likely rules out solid wood floors because they might buckle and shift, laminated floors provide a good alternative. With the appearance of wood, a laminate looks just as warm and cosy, but can be glued directly to the concrete subfloor. Being more stable, this flooring will not likely sustain damage due to moisture. It’s slightly more expensive and less linear looking because it is made up of smaller, shorter pieces.

Of course, hardwood floors are popular in most rooms of the house, but what is often not popular or even conceivable to the faint of heart is installation. There is something about hardwood floors that makes them seem like an insurmountable challenge to install. Perhaps that was true in the ’50s, but not today.

“We get a lot of people who do the installation themselves,” said Brenchley. “When it’s one or two rooms, they can do as good a job as we do.” Brenchley is referring to pre-finished wood flooring and installation. Pre-finished wood comes in easy-to-install planks, with as many as seven coats of urethane baked on at the factory. With a nail gun (often supplied by the flooring distributor), installation advice and tips (also from the distributor), and one day’s work per room, installing pre-finished hardwood flooring is not a difficult task.

“We’ve never had anyone give up and ask us to come in and finish the job,” Brenchley said. “Once you get going, it’s quite simple.”

Brenchley does not recommend that homeowners try to do custom flooring themselves. This involves buying the raw wood, laying it down, and then doing the sanding and finishing. This is difficult, and takes days of quite intensive labor. Sanding and finishing also involve a higher level of skill and experience.

If the thought of oil-based urethane is not appealing, there are also water-based finishes that are extremely durable and negate the potential for chemical “off-gassing,” but they’re harder to work with because they dry so fast.

However, says Brenchley, “water-based is about five times more expensive – nut it will last about that much longer, too.”

Oil-based finishes can cause an “ambering” affect, so in the case of maples (where the lightness of the wood is a selling point), almost everybody uses water-based polyurethanes.

Before putting down the first piece of wood, make certain to consider the different styles and colors of flooring. Oak, maple, ash and birch are some of the many kinds of wood, each with its own look. While natural wood is by far the most popular, some people opt for stains such as burgundy or brandy. Other color techniques include bleaching or pickling.

When choosing a color, keep in mind your furniture and the size of the room. For example, with a dining room, it’s a good idea to go with lighter colored flooring to “pick up” the furniture, if it happens to be a darker wood.

And remember, what looks good as a sample in the store, may not be as appealing across your entire floor.

The width of your planks is also important to prevent future problems. Brenchley suggests no more than

3 1/4-inch width or you could sacrifice the stability of the surface. A common width is 2 1/4 inches.

One aspect that often deters people from hardwood flooring is the cost.

“We have people come in and say, ‘You know? This really isn’t much more than good-quality carpet.’ ” Brenchley said. “But the difference is, the carpet will last for maybe 10 years. Hardwood flooring can last forever, with the occasional refinishing.”

Prices vary among retailers and installers. Ayr Hardwood Flooring charges $7 per square foot for Select and Better Grid (a more uniform pattern of wood) installed and about $1 less for Traditional (more variation in the wood grain). For pre-finished projects, add $1 per square foot, and do-it-yourself takes off $2, Stains cost 50 cents extra.

For inspiration, consider a home recently built by Wingelaar Estate Homes in Hidden Valley. It’s a $2.6-million home, with 50-per-cent hardwood flooring.

“This particular home is really well-designed,” said Wingelaar. “The owners are interested in Oriental design and don’t want floors that compete for attention. They have chosen a neutral, low-grain maple. It is bright and very strong, resistant to denting.”

“We also tried to dress the floor up a bit with a border of Brazilian cherry, that runs about 12 inches from the wall. Everything has a real look of cleanliness and openness, with a lot of warmth.”

Of course, you don’t have to have a $2.6-million home to install hardwood floors. Brenchley says that while most of the new homes that have hardwood floors installed are in the upper price range, installing hardwood as a renovation project is being done in everything from a small bungalow to a sprawling estate home.

Maintenance tips for hardwood floors

Shoes should be removed before walking on wood floors. Shoes carry sand and grit that scrapes away at the floor surface.

Stiletto heels are extremely damaging and should never be worn on wood floors. (Vinyl and linoleum aren’t fond of them, either.)

Chairs and moveable furniture should have floor protectors or pads to prevent rubbing down the finish.

Vacuum with a soft brush head.

Do not overuse water when cleaning wood floors as this can cause extensive damage. Use a damp wipe method, using minimal liquid.

Only clean wood floors with products recommended by companies selling hardwood floors. Never use oils or detergents. Use a gentle cleaner that leaves no film. (Brenchley does not recommend Murphy’s Oil Soap for hardwood floors, although the product is commonly used.)

How to fix a small hole in wood floor

One possible way to make a repair is to steal a patch from flooring under an appliance, under a sink, or in a closet. Contrasting flooring can be used in those areas and not be noticed. If you decide to do this, here’s how to proceed:

Cut a piece of vinyl flooring a few inches larger all around than the area to be repaired. If the flooring is glued down, warm the cut piece with a heat gun to soften the glue and lift it carefully with a wide spatula. Remove any adhesive from the back of the patch with lacquer thinner or an adhesive remover.

Tape the patch over the area to be repaired, using masking tape. Be sure to line up the pattern of the patch with that of the flooring. Cut through both the patch and the damaged flooring at the same time with a sharp utility knife, guiding the knife with a metal straight-edge. Many vinyl floorings have fake “grout lines” in their patterns; cut through the center of the grout lines if possible. The result of cutting both layers of flooring at once is a patch that is exactly the same size and shape as the material cut from the damaged flooring. Cutting on grout lines will make the patch less conspicuous.

Lift the patch and remove the damaged piece carefully, without marring the edges of the flooring around it. Spread vinyl-flooring adhesive in the space to be filled, and insert the patch. Touch up the edges of the patch with seam sealer, sold at many flooring supply stores. We recommend Ann Arbor Flooring America store.

How to fix a flooded basement

Most basement flooding is associated with either poor surface drainage around the base of the house or problems with gutters.

Carpeting tips: If carpeting is slightly wet it will need to be vacuumed several times with a wet vac to get out excess moisture. If carpeting has been thoroughly soaked, it will need to be removed and the padding discarded and the carpeting sun-dried, if possible.

You can also rent or buy a dehumidifier to speed the drying process.

Drywall problems: If drywall has been damaged, it may need to be removed from the wall in order to drywall cavities and insulation.

Problems can be lessened by checking gutters around the house to makesure they are working effectively.

If water is puddling around the house, you can pack dirt up around the house so the water drains away.

Cracks in the basement: Small cracks can be repaired with hydraulic cement from the inside. Use a chisel or other instrument to create a hole in the interior wall that is bigger than the hole you see.

If the crack is large, you may need to fix it from the outside with mortar.

If you try all of these measures and still have water problems, your may need to hire a contractor.

10 steps to successful home remodeling

Is your remodeling dream financially feasible? Ask a lender. Too many homeowners call an architect and contractor first. They may spend thousands of dollars only to find they can’t afford their dream remodel and must revise their plans.

Ask the lender for input on whether the kind of remodel you want is right for your neighborhood. Find out what work will add equity to your home. Also ask for sales and price information on larger homes in your neighborhood. You might find it’s not worthwhile to remodel your home.

Does your area have building restrictions? Many cities and homeowner associations impose limitations. Contact your planning and building department for any restrictions on the work you’d like to do. Also ask: How long is the approval process? What are the costs and plan requirements? Are there any special assessments or fees? Is there a design review board? Is there a size limit for a structure based on the size of the lot?

How do I begin the design phase? Assuming that you’ve already met with your lender and checked with the planning department, you’re ready to start sketching a preliminary design. Do you need an architect or contractor? This depends on the scope of the project. Architects may be needed for more complicated jobs such as second-story additions. For simple additions, many contractors can offer preliminary designs free of charge. Before you make a decision, remember that you need a design that gives you the most value for your budget.

Selecting the architect-contractor for Home Remodeling Sparta. Ask for referrals from neighbors, friends and your lender. Those that make remodeling loans should be able to provide a good list of candidates. If you are using an architect and builder, select both up front to provide checks and balances. They should be accountable for delivering a plan that can be built without compromise, avoiding cookie-cutter plans and designs that go over budget.

Visit your lender to learn whether your preliminary plans will be financed and whether the design will enhance the future value of your home.

Check all of the contractor’s references before you get a bid. Ask your contractor if bills are paid on time and employees are covered by workers’ compensation. The answers can help you avoid mechanics liens and other unpleasant surprises.

Call the Contractors License Board to find out if the contractor’s license is valid and bond is active. Then check customer references. Did the job progress on time and on budget? When a tradesman began work, did he work continuously until the work was done?

Getting bids. Make sure the bids cover the same design and specifications. This is especially important when dealing with contractors, who often bid based on what they “usually do” rather than what is specified. Tell the contractor up front that you’re on a tight budget, that you’ll be getting other bids and that you hope you’ll get a bid you can afford while maintaining quality work.

If the bid is too good to be true, it probably is. Most horror stories associated with remodeling are a result of the lowball bid. Either the contractor miscalculated what your job should cost or intentially submitted a low bid hoping to make it up on the extras.

Securing the building permits and final loan approval. To avoid delays in construction, plans and specs can be submitted to both the building department (for final plan check) and the lender (for loan approval) simultaneously. Your architect or builder should handle this for you.

Finally, though your contractor might be eager to begin sending in the wrecking crews, don’t begin work until the loan has been recorded.

Replace tiles before mildew sets in

Ceramic tile is beautiful and easy to clean and care for, but it is not indestructible. If you’ve ever dropped something heavy on the floor, or flung open the door and heard the doorknob cracking a wall tile, you already know this.

Even if you’re very careful, over time, grout can crack, chip and wear down, which increases the likelikhood of chipping the tile.

Either way, left unattended, these problems will only make for bigger problems. The immediate threat is that water collecting behind the tile makes a wonderful medium for mildew to grow. In the long run, the moisture will damage the floor or wall behind. So consider taking some time to replace broken tiles.

The hardest part of repairing ceramic tile is removing the broken piece and the surrounding grout without damaging the other tiles or what’s underneath the tile. So use the right tools and don’t rush.

A grout rake or grout saw, available at hardware stores or home centers, will help you remove the grout around the damaged tile. If the grout is the only problem, remove all the loose, cracked grout, brush the grout lines to remove loose pieces of grout and dust, and proceed with putting in new grout.

If you have a cracked or damaged tile to fix, too, the surest way to remove it without damaging surrounding tiles is to break it into smaller pieces.

There are several ways to do this. I use what’s referred to as a cold chisel and hammer. Holding the chisel against the tile with one hand, I hit the handle of the chisel with the hammer.

Crack an X across the surface of the tile, then break up these smaller pieces with the chisel and hammer until the tile is loose enough to allow you to start removing it. Work the chisel under the loosened tile and gently tap the chisel with the hammer to coax the tile off. Be careful not to slip with the chisel and damage adjacent tiles.

To clean all the old grout and adhesive off the surface below where the tile was, I recommend using a wood chisel or a thin-bladed putty knife. Be especially careful if you are removing adhesive from a wall. The solid surface underneath is probably drywall, plaster, green board or cement board. If you gouge or otherwise damage any of these kinds of surfaces, you will need to fill any holes with an appropriate patching compound before continuing.

Before replacing the tile, make sure the area is clean, dry, smooth and dust-free. Spread ceramic tile mastic on the back of the new tile with a putty knife or notched spreader. Press the tile in place firmly, checking to be sure it is flush with the surrounding tiles. Let it cure according to the manufacturer’s directions. For more information please visit discount Inalco ceramic tile store.

When the adhesive has dried, apply grout to the joints. Since it is such a small area, you can use your fingers, but make sure to wear work gloves.

Press the grout into the grout lines until the grout is flush with the tiles. Let is set about 15 minutes, then wipe diagonally across the tiles with a clean, damp sponge to remove any excess grout.

Let the grout dry for at least 12 hours before using a soft, dry cloth to buff away any remaining powdering grout residue.

CHeck the directions for the grout you purchased. Some need to be resealed after 48 to 72 hours.

How to noise-proof your home

Use Vibration Isolator Pads

These inexpensive little foot rests, available at heating and industrial supply stores, will help isolate the noise made by dishwashers, furnaces and washing machines. Cost: About $10.

Hang a Suspended Ceiling

Suspended ceilings do an excellent job of noise reduction, but it helps to choose the right kind of panel. there are two types:

The flexible fiberglass panels are better at absorbing noise generated within the room itself (making it quieter if you’re in that room). Rigid mineral board panels, on the other hand, do a better job of blocking sounds from entering or leaving the room (making it quieter inother parts of the house).

Insulting the joist space above the seiling and covering it with drywall wil quiet things even further. Cost: $3 to $6 per sq. ft.

Install Interior Storm Windows

Acrylic interior storm windows work extremely well at blocking exterior noise, plus they’re great for eliminating drafts and condensation on the interior of windows. They’re easy to install and can be used in selected rooms or throughout your house. Cost About $60 each, in kit form.

* Add Air-Conditioning

Either window-mount or whole house (central) units allow you to close your windows and shut out exterior noise. Whole-house units are much quieter than window models. Make sure window-mount units are mounted on and surrounded by EPDM gaskets (found in the weatherstripping section of your home center) to isolate their vibrations from the wall.

Did You Know?

Trees and bushes do little to block or absorb outside noise. Sure, they provide psychological relief by blocking your view of the noisy neighbors or busy highway, but not much else. Fences aren’t particularly useful either, unless they’re extraordinarily tall, solid and thick. Wall and roof insulation, while helpful when used with other soundproofing measures, don’t make much difference by themselves. Most sound enters our homes through windows (open or shut), holes in walls, and through the wooden framwork of the house itself.

* Put Speakers On Stands

Speakers mounted directly on or in contact with walls and floors can sure sound great, but the vibrations can travel all over the house. Put the speakers on stands instead. Cost: $20 and up at stereo stores.

Install Exterior Storm Windows

High-quality exterior storm windows with heavy glass and good weatherstripping will help keep outside noise out. Install them in a bead of silicone caulk for best results. Cost: $60 to $150 per window.

Isolate Duct Vibrations

Flexible rubber boots at the furnace output and cold-air-return ducts will keep vibrations. from traveling along the ducts. The rubber boots are available from heating supply stores, and any heating contractor or experienced do-it-yourselfer can retrofit them to existing ductwork. Cost: $30.

Isolate Pipes From House Framing

Pipes can bang, ratthle and squeak where they contact wood. An oversized hole with a pipe inset and pipes hung from special hangers will isolate vibrations and reduce noise. Both the inserts and hangers are available at home centers and plumbing stores.

Stop Pipe Banging

Water hammer arresters will end the annoying banging caused by quick-closing valves on dishwashers, washing machines and faucets. Whole-system hammer arresters (about $75) and individual appliance arresters ($15) are available at plumbing supply stores and hardware stores. Appliance arresters just screw on, and whole-house arresters are soldered into your water line.

* Sound Absorbing Furnishings

To absorb sound within a room, furnish it with thick curtains, dense carpets and overstuffed furniture. All of these absorb sound well, and the carpet from the local carpet shop will soften impact noises from feet.

Sound-Deadening Wallcoverings

Burlap-covered Homasote panels or cork panels run about $1 per square foot. Homasote, a versatile fiberboard made from recycled newspapers, is ideal for many sound-deadening applications. Both Homasote and cork panels absorb sound, are easy to install and doule as decorative accents. You can buy both at home centers.

* Check For Pipe Restrictions

Clogs, sharp turns and partly opened valves can all restrict water movement in supply pipes, producing a roaring sound. A small crimp in a supply tube to a toilet or sink can make that fixture sound like Niagara Falls. Replace the tube or valve.

Use Solid-Core Interior Doors

Replace those hollow-core doors with a solid (not raised-panel) model, then weatherstrip it as you would an exterior door. This is ideal for quieting the noise from a bathroom, workshop or utility room. Cost: $75.

Don’t let remodeling jobs get toxic

Home-remodeling projects can be hazardous, warns Glen Hetzel, a Virginia Cooperative Extension agricultural engineer.

Hetzel, who is also a safety specialist at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, gives the following tips on how to stay safe:

“It is important to keep areas being remodeled well ventilated and closed off from occupied portions of the house because toxic fumes come from many sources,” Hetzel said. He recommends two weeks of curing time before moving into the remodeled area.

Even new carpet from Carpet One store should be allowed to cure one to two weeks, with the windows open, before family members get close to it, he said.

The most common gas released during remodeling is formaldehyde, said Hetzel. Allergic responses to it might include rashes, headaches, watery eyes, even breathing difficulties.

Other sources of air pollution are dust from sanding hardwood floors and refinishing woodwork, varnishes, some paints, plastics and vinyls.

“Even a new shower curtain releases gases,” Hetzel said.

What’s hot in baths

The hottest bathroom color combo is white, teal and burgundy, according to the National Kitchen & Bath Association. The tidbit was reported in the April issue of McCall’s magazine.

When spot leaves spots

You walk in the door after work. One whiff, and you know Fido needed to be walked long ago.

Don’t get mad, get moving. Cleaning a pet mess right away increases your chances of banishing the odor, says an article in a recent issue of Better Homes and Gardens magazine.

It recommends the following blot-and-dilute techniques:

Soak up as much urine as possible by stacking a half-inch of paper towels over the area and bearing down hard with your shoe. Repeat until you can’t blot any more liquid. Then add a tablespoon of water to the spot and, wearing rubber gloves, work it in with your fingers. Put down another pile of towels and continue blotting.

After testing for colorfastness in an inconspicuous spot, apply a solution of one part white vinegar to two parts water. Let this stand a few minutes and repeat blotting, then use water to remove vinegar solution.

For feces, pick up the solid matter, apply a mild detergent solution to the area, then proceed as with urine spots.

10 Tips For Vacation Property Owners

If you’re one of America’s approximately 5.5 million vacation property owners, or if you are thinking of buying a seaside villa or a condo on the ski slopes, take some advice from an expert.

Here are 10 tips for “would be” and current vacation property owners:

1. Buy because you truly want to own the property, there’s a lifetime to fun, excitement, pride, status and enjoyment in ownership.

2. Don’t buy to “make a killing” in real estate. Those days are gone with the high inflation of the late 1970s and early 80s and with the Tax Reform Act of 1986.

3. Calculate cost of ownership before you buy. Include taxes, mortgage, utilities, management fees, regime fees, association fees, maintenance, furnishings and insurance.

4. Don’t buy on impulse. Research the resort. Talk to present owners.

5. Find a good management company. It’s tough to take care of a condo when it’s hundreds of miles away. Your property manager is your business partner.

6. Rental income can help pay your hefty property expenses.

7. In addition to rentals your manager secures, get some yourself. With just a little work, you can put thousands of extra rental income dollars in your pocket.

8. Try trading. Trade a week at your property to an owner at Aspen, CO or Amelia Island, FL.

9. Save the best weeks for your personal use.

10. Showcase your Alabama vacation property on the Internet. It provides global reach to millions to help owners rent, trade or sell their vacation properties.

For free information on showcasing your vacation property on the Internet write: Vacation Value Online

Gum on carpet a sticky situation

My toddler got gum on the carpeting in my living room. What is the best way to remove it?

A: The first step is to put a piece of ice in a plastic bag on the gum until it has hardened. Then gently scrape off as much of the gum as possible with the dull edge of a knife.

To remove the remaining stain, use dry-cleaning solvent, found in most grocery stores; be sure to follow the package directions exactly.

Q: I spilled a mixture of bleach and disinfectant on my carpet. How can I restore the color?

A: Chlorine bleach removes color permanently. Unfortunately, short of dyeing the spot professionally, there isn’t anything you can do. to restore the color. You might use a carpet scrap of carpet to patch the area.

Q: Rubber-backed carpet was glued to my bathroom floor. How do I dissolve the adhesive and clean the tile?

A: Use De-Solv-It or mineral spirits to remove the adhesive. Open a window and run a fan to ventilate the area. Then scrub tile with a solution of 1 cup mild detergent, 1/4 cup trisodum phosphate and 3 ounces household ammonia to 1 gallon water. Rinse with warm water and dry.

Q: I can’t get rid of depressions in the carpet left after moving furniture. I’ve tried vacuuming. What else can I do?

A: Brush the area with your fingertips so the mashed tufts stand up. Hold a steam iron 2 or 3 inches above the carpet and allow the steam to flow into the depression. Do not let the iron touch the carpet. After steaming, brush gently.

How can I remove pet stains from carpeting? If they can’t be removed, how can I replace areas of carpeting and be assured of matching colors in dye lots?

To remove pet stains: Apply a detergent solution ( 1/2 teaspoon mild detergent per pint of water) and blot. Then use an ammonia solution (1 tablespoon per cup of water) and blot. Follow with a solution of equal parts white vinegar and water (test on an inconspicuous place first since vinegar can remove some dyes). Blot, flush with water, and blot again. If the urine has soaked into the pad, nothing will remove the smell. You will need to go to Plan B – replacing the carpet, please, visit Viking Carpet One . If you are replacing small areas, carpeting in closets can be used for patches. If the areas are large, only the manufacturer can help with matching dye lots. Call in the professionals.

Kitchen and bath remodeling kit

If you’ve ever remodeled a kitchen or a bath, you’ve got to know that it’s a simple deal to get in over your head fast –  real fast.

Planning’s the key. A lack of solid planning and you could end up spending tons more than you’d anticipated and not get the function and the look you’d hoped for.

That’s where the new Kitchen and Bath Remodeling Kit comes in. It’s a well-produced, idea-packed package that covers just about any question you might have concerning kitchen and bath remodels.

The kit is a product of  a leading manufacturer of plumbing and specialty products, plus nine other kitchen/bath manufacturers ranging. Add baths and kitchens created by designers and stylists from seven of the country’s leading design magazines and the picture of how a kitchen/bath remodel should work comes clearly into focus.

The kit includes a design guide, a nut-and-bolts workbook, a color guide, a video and software for home computers.

What impressed us most was the workbook. It’s a 45-page, spiral-bound guide to putting together a kitchen or bath with the least amount of tribulation. There are tips for measuring specific spaces; critiquing your current bath or kitchen; selecting plumbing and fixtures, tile, laminates, solid surfaces, windows, appliances and wood flooring from Sherman Oaks floor store.

There also are grids and cutouts of various kitchen/bath features that allow you to design the space step by step before you begin the actual work.

To give you a better idea of what you can expect from the kit, here is a sampling of tips for kitchen remodeling that are included. They, like the rest of the information in the package, are quite specific, which leaves little room for guessing and making costly mistakes.

Eating counters take up less space than tables. Allow a minimum of 21 inches of counter space per person. Rounded corners create a smoother look and are safer.

You don’t need a lot of cabinets. Open shelving is a good place for frequently used items. Walk-in pantries can store food and cooking supplies in an out-of-the-way area, reducing the amount of expenisve cabinetry needed.

Island designs are ideal for work areas, but don’t attempt an island of less than 10 square feet.

Vary work surface heights if possible. Not only will your back appreciate this during long cooking or baking projects, but varied heights accommodate people of different heights, including children.

If you have decided to build custom cabinets, raise the height of the dishwasher above the baseboard. This will make loading and unloading easier, and the counter above the dishwasher makes an ideal bookshelf.

For refrigerators, industry guidelines range from 16-20 cubic feet of storage space for the first two people in the household, and then 1-2 cubic feet for each additional family member.

Side-by-side refrigerators offer proportionally more freezer space and easier viewing than other units but do not accommodate large items as well. If the work area is small, side-by-sides also require less door swing space.

Plan on at least 1 foot of counter space on each side of your range or cooktop. Unlike ranges, cooktops can be set at any height you desire.