Kitchen - Bob Vila

Category: Kitchen


How To: Seal a Granite Countertop

Protect your pricey kitchen investment with the right sealant and these techniques.

How to Seal a Granite Countertop

Photo: istockphoto.com

If you’ve got a gorgeous granite countertop and want to keep it in “show home” shape, you may need to seal it. Some countertops come pre-sealed, but if yours did not (or you’re not sure) don’t delay giving it the shield it needs. Improper cleaning, neglected spills, and other issues of everyday use could easily mar the surface otherwise. The proper penetrating (or impregnating) sealer will soak into the granite, filling the porous gaps, to keep damage at bay. True, a sealant only buys you time—unattended spills will seep into sealed granite eventually—but the right one and the following steps for how to seal a granite countertop will certainly help protect your investment.

Water-based sealants are environmentally friendly, while solvent-based sealants may go deeper into the stone—though this is arguably only important on polished granite. Check water- or solvent-based sealant labels for the active ingredient “fluorocarbon aliphatic resin.” Though the product will be pricier than those containing such agents as siloxane and silicon, fluorocarbon aliphatic resin will provide five to 10 years of protection, versus six months to three years with other sealants. What’s more, fluorocarbon aliphatic resins repel oil as well as water, so your granite won’t be ruined by a salad dressing mishap. A quart of fluorocarbon aliphatic resin sealant costs about $35 and offers between 150 to 250 square feet of coverage, depending on brand. A 24-oz spray bottle of lesser solvent runs around $15 but might require reapplying every six months or so.

Ahead, you’ll find general guidance for how to seal a granite countertop with either variety, but specific directions vary according to brand and active ingredients. It’s crucial to follow label instructions on the sealant you buy in addition to these handy guidelines for the best results.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS
– Microfiber cloths
– Spray bottle
– Liquid dishwashing detergent
– Isopropyl or rubbing alcohol
– Granite sealer
– Rubber gloves
– Soft rags

STEP 1
Determine if the countertop requires sealing. Somewhere inconspicuous, like in a corner of the counter, put a few drops of water on top, and a few inches away, put a few drops of oil. After 15 minutes, check to see if the water or oil has seeped in and darkened the granite. If so, proceed with these instructions for how to seal a granite countertop. If not, then the countertop is already sealed, and doing so again will not offer extra protection but only leave an unattractive hazy film.

STEP 2
Clean the countertop 24 hours before sealing, making sure to avoid potentially damaging vinegar, lemon juice, baking soda, bleach, or harsh commercial cleansers. First, take everything off the counter and wipe it down well with a clean, dry microfiber cloth to remove all surface dust. Then, mix one teaspoon of dishwashing detergent and two tablespoons of isopropyl alcohol in a pint spray bottle and fill with cool water. Generously spray the countertop and wipe clean while polishing in a circular motion, using a microfiber cloth. Wait 24 hours before proceeding: The space occupied by the cleaning agent is the same space that the sealant will penetrate, so you must ensure that the cleaning liquid has fully evaporated.

How to Seal a Granite Countertop

Photo: istockphoto.com

STEP 3
Read the sealant’s label thoroughly to understand the application method. Should our instructions vary from the label, defer to the manufacturer. Open nearby windows and doors for ventilation. If it’s raining, do not open windows that could allow rain to hit the countertop; instead, open windows in other areas of the room or in adjacent rooms.

STEP 4
Put on rubber gloves and grab the rags. In an area usually covered by a small appliance, test the sealant to ensure it won’t affect the finish. Apply a small amount per manufacturer’s directions, by spraying or pouring onto a cloth and then rubbing it evenly over the test area.

STEP 5
Wait the recommended time for the sealant to absorb into the granite, usually 15 to 20 minutes, but sometimes much longer. Don’t let it sit longer than recommended, because that could discolor the stone.

STEP 6
If the sealant test area looks great, proceed to Step 7. If it has discolored, wipe up any remaining sealant with a clean rag. Then snap a few photos of the area and show them to an associate at your local home center for advice on a more appropriate product. Once you’ve acquired a new sealant, clean the counter and test the new sealant.

STEP 7
If the test was successful, apply the sealant over the entire counter, beginning at one end and working your way to the other. Apply in sections, using a circular motion, of an arm’s length in diameter, to ensure equal coverage throughout. Wait the manufacturer’s recommended time for the product to absorb into the countertop.

STEP 8
After the absorption period has passed, wipe any extra sealant off with a clean, soft, dry rag, rubbing in a circular motion. Some products require a second coat, so follow instructions to do so. If the product you use requires one coat, allow it cure, which can take between two and 48 hours. Nonetheless, granite experts recommend waiting a full 48 hours before wiping a newly sealed granite countertop with anything wet. Also, avoid returning any kitchenware to the counter until after the curing period.

STEP 9
Once the countertop has fully cured, put your kitchen back in order. Keep the spray bottle of cleaner you created around for periodic use every month or two. For daily cleaning, a dab of dish detergent and a wet rag will get the job done beautifully. Strive to wipe up spills immediately and then dry the countertop to keep your granite looking great.

 

How to Seal a Granite Countertop

Photo: istockphoto.com


Bob Vila Radio: Cutting the Crud on Your Kitchen Cabinets

Exposed to everything from cooking grease to children's sticky fingers, kitchen cabinetry slowly but surely builds up stubborn accumulations of dirt and grime. Fortunately, with a simple, effective mixture of common, non-toxic ingredients, you can restore the look of your cabinets, quickly and with relative ease.

In any home, no matter its age or design, the kitchen always seem to serve as the hub of daily activity—a gathering spot not only for household occupants, but also for the spills and stains that collect on floors, counters, and even cabinets.

DIY Kitchen Cabinet Cleaner

Photo: istockphoto.com

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Listen to BOB VILA ON DIY KITCHEN CABINET CLEANER or read below:

There are plenty of store-bought cleaners capable of removing stubborn, deeply embedded grease and grime from cabinet doors. But you can also DIY your own solution using nothing more than a few pantry staples. You’ll need a bucket, warm water, baking soda or vinegar, and a few microfiber cloths.

To begin, fill the bucket three-quarters full with warm water. Next, mix in a couple cups of baking soda or alternatively, a few splashes of vinegar. Now dip a microfiber cloth into the bucket, twist the material, and squeeze to remove any excess water. You want the cloth to be moist but not dripping wet.

Before proceeding, first test your DIY cabinet cleaner in inconspicuous area in order to be sure that it doesn’t cause any harm to the cabinet finish. Safe to proceed? Wipe down all the cabinets and all their hardware, remoistening the cloth with the cabinet cleaning solution as often as needed.

Once the cabinets look clean, remove cleaning residue by wiping everything down with a fresh cloth moistened in plain tap water. Finally, wipe the cabinets with a fresh, dry cloth so as to leave them moisture-free as well as freshly cleaned.

Bob Vila Radio is a 60-second home improvement radio tip of the day carried on more than 186 stations in 75 markets around the country. Click here to subscribe, so you can automatically receive each new episode as it arrives—absolutely free!


Buyer’s Guide: Mini Fridges

Looking for a mini fridge to keep food and beverages cold? Check out the features you should prioritize in your new appliance—and three budget-friendly options that hit the mark.

Best Mini Fridge

Photo: istockphoto.com

A space-smart decision for dorm rooms and tiny spaces alike, the mini fridge keeps food and beverage close at hand without taking up much real estate. Some homeowners rely on these compact appliances for supplementary storage, whether for their craft beer collection in a finished basement or their large supply of bottled water in the garage. Others buy the appliance as a budget-friendly alternative to a full-sized refrigerator in a single-person household—not only do mini-fridges cost less up front, they also consume less energy and save you money on bills! Depending on the intended use, homeowners have many different factors to weigh during the hunt for the best mini fridge: interior and exterior size, storage capacity, portability, organization, number of doors, energy consumption, and accessories. Read on for how to select a new appliance that meets all of your needs, and you’ll end up with a space-smart solution for keeping food and drinks at the ready!

SIZE AND CAPACITY

Mini fridges come in two basic configurations: cube-shaped and tall.

• As the smaller design option, cube-shaped mini fridges fit well beneath a desk or cabinet. Most units weigh anywhere from 35 to 55 pounds, making portability easy around the house for your immediate needs or when it comes time to change offices. These models top out at 22 to 24 inches in height, and they typically boast about 2 cubic feet of interior space—enough to hold about one case of soda, plus a few snacks or leftovers—all for under $150. Despite how well they fit into tighter spaces, these refrigerators tend to work less efficiently than larger options. Temperature settings can unreliably fluctuate, and freezer burn is common.

Best Mini Fridge

Photo: istockphoto.com

Tall mini fridges are considered a better value—and therefore more popular—thanks to the extra interior space and better shelving options. These appliances have anywhere from 3 cubic feet up to about 6 cubic feet of interior space, and they often come with a separate freezer compartment (although the freezer compartment usually isn’t as reliable as a normal freezer). With an average height between 32 and 36 inches, most tall units won’t fit under a standard desk, but they can hold a couple cases of soda or a few days worth of food. Given their larger size, tall fridges are heavier than cube fridges, weighing an average of 50 to 65 pounds. Prices range from $100 up to $300.

BELLS AND WHISTLES

In general, most mini fridges have a similar design, although cube-shaped appliances have fewer shelves and door bins than tall models. Some models have adjustable or removable shelves and door bins, which come in handy when struggling to fit items in the fridge. A few mini fridge units include door-mounted dispensers that hold a vertical stack of cans, while others can accommodate tall soda bottles or milk containers. In addition, some mini fridges come with locking doors, which might be beneficial in a high-traffic, multi-use environment like an office or dorm room. Keep in mind that most mini fridges don’t include an ice dispenser or crisper drawer for produce.

Just like other appliances, mini fridges are available in a wide variety of colors and finishes, including black, white, stainless steel, wood grain, and novelty looks

ATTACHED FREEZERS

If you’re looking for a fully functional freezer, it’s best to stick with a normal-sized refrigerator or purchase a stand-alone option. One-door mini fridges often have a small freezer box located within the main compartment, but most can’t maintain accurate freezing temperatures (especially when powered by thermoelectric systems). Plus, most freezers in one-door fridges are too small to be of any practical use. Two-door mini fridges, which have a separate freezer, generally keep frozen food colder and, therefore, safer to eat. These two-door models typically have a thermostat mounted in the fridge’s interior, so they maintain better temperature control than single-door models.

ENERGY CONSUMPTION

In general, mini fridges consume less energy than their full-sized cousins. Look for a unit that is Energy Star-certified, which means it consumes the least amount of electricity possible. Most mini fridges run on standard 120-volt A/C electric power. Some are designed for use in cars, vans, or RVs, and these typically come with D/C adapter, allowing the unit to run off of the vehicle’s battery power.

Mini fridges typically rely on two basic cooling systems: compressor-powered or thermoelectric. We recommend fridges with compressor-powered cooling systems (the same system used by regular-sized fridges) since they maintain accurate temperatures better than thermoelectric units.

 

OUR TOP PICKS

Do you want the best mini fridge for your space? Take a look at three of the top-rated and best-selling models on the market today, based on reviews by actual users and ratings by leading consumer testing sites.

Danby Designer

Photo: amazon.com

Danby Designer DCR044A2 ($136.95)

The Danby Designer DCR044A2 receives consistently high marks for combining a large interior storage area with a compact exterior size. The unit received 4.1 out of 5 stars from Amazon shoppers, who call it a “good deal” and a “great beer fridge.” Standing just under 33 inches tall, the Danby has 4.4 cubic feet of refrigeration capacity and is Energy Star rated for efficiency. Interior features include a convenient beverage dispenser, mechanical thermostat, push-button defrosting system, adjustable shelves, a full-width freezer, and space for tall bottles. The Sweethome, which named the Danby Designer DCR044A2 the “best mini fridge,” raves about the built-in nine-egg tray and slide-out tray. But The Sweethome also warns that the freezer unit fluctuates temperature– a common problem in mini fridges that can result in freezer burn and unsafe temperatures for long-term meat storage. Thanks to the mini fridge’s smooth back, homeowners can position it directly against a wall. Available on Amazon.

 

Best Mini Fridge - Buyer's Guide

Photo: amazon.com

Midea WHS-65LB1 Compact Single Reversible Door Refrigerator and Freezer ($87.69)

For those looking for a small cube-style mini fridge, the Midea WHS-65LB1 fits the bill. At 19 inches tall and 18.5 inches wide, the unit can slide easily underneath a desk, countertop, or cabinet. And, despite its small size, the fridge boasts 1.6 cubic feet of storage—enough to fit more than a case of soda. The unit also comes with a separate chiller compartment, which is half the width of the fridge; even with the temperature fluctuations typical to this style of mini fridge, it’s handy for short-term storage of frozen dinners. Amazon shoppers awarded it a 4.0 out of 5 stars, calling it “perfect,” “lightweight,” and “quiet.” Available on Amazon.

 

Buyer's Guide - Best Mini Fridge

Photo: homedepot.com

Magic Chef HMBR350SE ($169)

The Magic Chef HMBR350SE compact refrigerator features 3.5 cubic feet of interior space, three easy-to-clean glass shelves, and a convenient can dispenser built into its door. The Energy Star–qualified unit receives 4.2 out of 5 stars from Home Depot shoppers, who praise the “easy setup,” “perfect size for limited space,” and “constant temperature.” Measuring 32.5 inches high, the sleek Magic Chef mini fridge has a full-width freezer and a flush-back design. Consumers will enjoy the upfront interior analog controls, which allows easy adjustments to the temperature. The unit comes with a one-year warranty on parts and labor. The Sweethome notes that interior storage falls short when compared to the Danby Designer model, though. Available at Home Depot.


How To: Clean Burnt Pans

Don’t throw out that scorched pot or pan just yet! Get burnt pans spic-and-span again with this fast and fun six-step approach.

How to Clean Burnt Pans

Photo: istockphoto.com

Whether you’re caramelizing onions, simmering a sugary fruit jam, or baking homemade biscuits, your culinary masterpiece can quickly turn into a burnt meal or dessert if the pot or pan is unattended and left to overheat. Worse than chomping down on a charcoaled or extra-crispy entrée is cleaning up the charred mess of stuck-on food left behind in the pot, sauce pan, or baking sheet used to cook it. Although commercial solvents promising to clean burnt pans do exist, some can introduce chemicals into your cooking or even damage the delicate surface of your stainless steel or ceramic cookware. Fortunately, with natural household ingredients and this guide on how to clean burnt pans, you can safely wash up scorched pots and pans, prolong the life of your cookware, and—most importantly—get cooking again!

MATERIALS AND TOOLS
– Wooden spoon
– Measuring cup
– Water
– White vinegar
– Trivet (optional)
– Tablespoon
– Baking soda
– Sponge or non-scratch scouring pad

How to Clean Burnt Pans

Photo: istockphoto.com

STEP 1
Turn off the stove and allow the burnt pans or pots to cool completely before handling them. Then, use a wooden spoon to gently scrape off and discard any large, loose food particles from the cookware into the trash.

STEP 2
With only the burnt residue left in the pans, place the emptied pans on the cool stovetop and fill each with a cup each of water and white vinegar. You want the burnt food debris to be fully submerged under the liquid. For larger pans in which the food stain is still exposed, continue to add water and vinegar in equal parts until the liquid covers the full extent of the stains.

Turn on the stove burners and bring the water-vinegar solution to a rapid boil. Allow the solution to boil for 10 minutes. Then, turn off the stove and transfer the pans to a cool surface. (If your countertop surface is susceptible to heat damage, be sure to place these pans on individual trivets.)

STEP 3
While the water-vinegar solution is still hot, add in two tablespoons of baking soda to each pan to be cleaned. The solution will begin to fizz, signaling that the chemical reaction of the two handy household cleaners is at work dissolving any burnt remains in the pans. But rest assured that even though baking soda is tough on food residue, it is a mild abrasive agent that won’t scratch the bottom of your stainless steel or ceramic cookware.

If your pans bear particularly stubborn stains that the boiling process did not loosen substantially, add up to one more tablespoon of baking soda in each.

Note: While baking soda is safe for use on stainless steel or ceramic cookware, you should never use alkaline-based cleaning agents like baking soda on anodized aluminum cookware, as it can react negatively with the pan coating. If you’re cleaning up aluminum pans, skip this step altogether and proceed to Step 4.

How to Clean Burnt Pans with Baking Soda

Photo: istockphoto.com

STEP 4
Discard the water-vinegar solution from the pans into the sink. Unlike specialized cleaners that contain chemicals, baking soda is natural and safe for consumption, so small traces of excess baking soda can’t hurt you if cooked into your next meal. But you don’t want to leave the water-vinegar solution to dwell too long in a pan because stainless steel pans in particular are prone to develop hard water stains.

STEP 5
Gather a soft sponge or a non-scratch scouring pad and slowly and gently scrub the stained areas. Avoid using steel wool or another metal scouring pad on your pans, as their abrasive texture can scratch or damage your stainless steel or enamel cookware with repeat usage.

With a little elbow grease, the food residue should readily come off pots and pans with the sponge. If any stubborn residue lingers, sprinkle a pinch of baking soda over the offending area and then vigorously scrub it again for up to a minute to lift the residue. The baking soda will both polish and add a soft shine to your cookware.

STEP 6
Rinse the clean pans under cold water to discard the loosened food particles. Then, let them dry completely before storing.

In the future, keep a close eye—and a kitchen timer—on finicky foods to prevent them from burning. If kitchen accidents do happen, you now have a proven technique to clean up after them.

 

Cleaning Tips for a Spotless Home

All of the Essential Cleaning Advice from BobVila.com
There’s no way around it: Keeping the house clean demands your time, your energy, and even some of your money. Fortunately, this arsenal of cleaning tips can help you finish the housekeeping more quickly—and with fewer commercially sold products.


Genius! Put Your Favorite Drinks on Tap at Home

Drinks are always on the house when you serve homemade brews and sodas from this double-tapped drink dispenser with a space-saving storage secret.

SHARES
DIY Drink Dispenser

Photo: reddit.com user averagejones

The lack of storage space in small kitchens constantly forces homeowners to make sacrifices. For Reddit user averagejones, the cooking and entertaining hub couldn’t accommodate her home brewing hobby. Serving fresh pours of her favorite beverages would mean trudging downstairs to get a pint from a single-tap keg stored in her basement fridge. The inconvenient trip to the basement aside, the keg swallowed a good quarter of the space in the fridge. Plus, it could only dispense either beer or soda at any given time, which was not exactly convenient when entertaining a pack of thirsty guests. Ready to re-imagine the traditional keg and reclaim lost fridge space, averagejones devised a DIY home beer tap with two taps that could serve up both beer and soda—right when and where she needed it most.

To make the clever contraption, the ale aficionado enlisted 100 feet of plastic tubing and a couple of tap handles. She ran the tubing through the kitchen floor and into two slim kegs in the basement fridge, one for beer and one for soda. The separate soda and beer lines were a crowd-pleasing improvement to averagejones’ earlier single-tap keg system, since they meant more variety—now multiple users could dispense their choice of what was on tap. Back in the kitchen, averagejones connected the tubing to two cast iron pipes that were secured to the lid of a restored wine barrel and outfitted with tap handles. Thanks to the false back of the half-barrel, this dispenser can hide the plastic tubing behind it from view while offering shelving for glasses and other barware to boot!

This DIY drink dispenser acts as a personal beverage bellhop, conveniently carrying your favorite drinks from the dusty basement to the more comfortable and social location of the kitchen. Whether you’re a self-proclaimed beer connoisseur or you simply like the idea of a personal soda fountain, follow this smart DIYer’s instructions for even easier access to your favorite beverages. You’ll gain much-needed room in the fridge and, given the space-saving silhouette of the half barrel dispenser, you’ll also reserve plenty of floor space in the kitchen for sipping and savoring good times with guests.

FOR MORE: Reddit

 

DIY Projects Anyone Can Do

All of the Best Hands-on Tutorials from BobVila.com
Get the nitty-gritty details you need—and the jaw-dropping inspiration you want—from our collection of the favorite projects ever featured on BobVila.com. Whether your goal is to fix, tinker, build or make something better, your next adventure in DIY starts here.


The Easy and Affordable Way to Upgrade Your Kitchen Cabinets

Tired of your kitchen? Obviously one way of rejuvenating the room would be to take it down to the studs and start over. But introducing a new look and feel doesn't have to mean a comprehensive (read: pricey) overhaul. In fact, with a combination of much more modest measures like hardware replacement and cabinet refacing, it's often possible to achieve similarly dramatic results for a whole lot less.

Replacing Kitchen Cabinet Hardware

Photo: istockphoto.com

Hang on a second: Before you decide to take on the hassle and expense of a full-fledged kitchen renovation, consider that a variety of cheaper, easier alternatives can deliver a similarly dramatic transformation, especially in combination. For instance, homeowners typically treat details like cabinet hardware as trivial—as “an afterthought,” according to Jim Eldredge, a product manager with Sears Home Services. But in the kitchen, he says, seemingly unimportant components “can make a surprisingly big impact on the overall room design.” That said, replacing your cabinet hardware isn’t magic; it can’t make timeworn cabinets look new again. If your kitchen has seen better days, take the time to look closely at the condition of both the cabinet boxes and the cabinet doors. So long as the boxes remain in decent condition, you can actually leave them intact and only reface or replace the cabinet doors. Especially when paired with new hardware, updated cabinet fronts can totally remake the look of your kitchen in short order and typically on a small budget.

Whether you decide to install new cabinet doors or simply refinish the existing ones, Eldredge cautions that when it comes to selecting cabinet hardware, it’s a mistake to “focus on aesthetics alone.” To prove satisfactory over the long term, new hardware must do more than merely look good. There are a key practical considerations to keep in mind. Want to learn more about high-impact, low-budget kitchen upgrades? Keep reading!

 

AESTHETICS

Replacing Kitchen Cabinet Hardware - Aesthetic Considerations

Photo: istockphoto.com

If you decide to install new hardware as part of your cabinet upgrade project, it won’t take you long to realize that, as Eldredge puts it, “Homeowners are spoiled for choice.” With so many compelling hardware options, many find it a challenge to choose from all the available styles and finishes. To make the selection process more manageable, Eldredge recommends narrowing the field incrementally, one phase at a time. First, he says, “decide which type of hardware to install.” There are certainly exceptions, but conventional wisdom holds that for ease of use, knobs pair best with doors and pulls pair best with drawers. Once you have settled the question of which type or types of hardware you prefer, you can move on to picking a style. To do so, Eldredge recommends taking cues from your cabinets. In a sleek, modern kitchen with crisp, clean lines, “people tend to go with more streamlined, angular hardware,” he says. In traditional kitchens, meanwhile, “You’re more likely to see hardware with finer details and curves.” When you’re updating both the cabinet and their hardware, however, you’re free to consider a virtually infinite number of exciting design combinations. Nothing’s off the table.

A similar approach can help you choose not only a hardware style, but a hardware finish as well. For instance, many experts recommend matching the new cabinet hardware finish to the finish of the existing kitchen lighting and plumbing fixtures. Others argue it’s best for the hardware to match the appliances. Still others maintain that, above all, the hardware must complement the color of the paint or stain on the cabinetry. For light-colored or white-painted cabinetry, Eldredge says, “black and stainless steel are among the most popular.” For darker cabinets, on the other hand, it’s wise to “think about oil-rubbed bronze or brushed nickel,” he says. Ultimately, though, when you’re updating cabinetry, Eldredge admits, “guidelines are only guidelines; they can get you only so far.” Given the sheer number of variables at play, the advice and guidance of experienced professionals can be immensely valuable. One advantage of working with a nationwide household name like Sears Home Services is that project coordinators explain all the options for making the most of your remodeling dollar. Want to discuss your kitchen with a qualified expert? Click to schedule a free in-home consultation today!

 

PRACTICALITIES

Replacing Kitchen Cabinet Hardware - Practical Concerns

Photo: istockphoto.com

“How the hardware looks—that’s only half the equation,” Eldredge explains. After all, even if you’re not a home chef, “chances are good that you interact with your cabinet hardware morning and night,” Eldredge says. Under the circumstances, it’s only prudent to make sure you like the way a knob or pull feels in your hand as much as you like the way it looks to your eye. To that end, Eldredge says, “I always tell people to test hardware before installing it.” If the hardware pinches your fingers, or if its sharp edges seem likely to cause discomfort down the line, keep looking. You’re not going to be pleased with your choice if you can’t handle the hardware naturally, without a second thought. By the same token, take time to ensure that the size and shape of your chosen hardware suits the heft of your cabinetry. Whereas standard-size knobs usually suffice for doors of average dimensions, more substantial doors and most drawers open more easily with hardware large enough to accommodate several fingers. When you’re updating both cabinet doors and cabinet hardware, therefore, it’s often wise for your decisions about the former to determine or at least inform where you land on questions involving the latter.

Finally, recognize the larger context for a cabinet hardware upgrade. Kitchens are heavily trafficked and subject to frequent, hard use, so they inevitably collect grease, grit, and grime. Complicating matters further is that, while it’s easy to spot crumbs and spills on, say, countertops, it’s often not quite so easy when it comes to cabinet hardware. So do yourself a favor and as Eldredge advises, “Factor everyday care into your decision-making.” As much as you may love the look of certain elaborate, intricate hardware designs, it’s worth asking if those special details are worth the extra effort that’d be required to keep them clean. At the same time, being that cooking grease and dirty fingerprints accumulate not only on hardware, but also on the surrounding cabinetry, many homeowners also choose to replace or reface their cabinet doors with a low-maintenance material or finish. After all, you can’t have a kitchen that’s easy to care for if you don’t have easy-care components installed in the parts of the room most likely to experience wear and tear over time.

 

Different homeowners weigh different considerations when planning a budget kitchen upgrade. But no matter the project scope, any given remodel always ends the same way—putting your plans into action. Of course, if you’re only planning to put in hardware of the same type and size as your existing knobs and pulls, then it’s an easy swap that you can probably handle on your own, without a contractor. However, if you want to go a step further, updating not only your hardware but your cabinetry as well, then more often than not, taking the next step means hiring capable pros. Sears Home Services sets itself apart from local contractors in many ways, but not least is that when you work with Sears, whether straightforward or complex, coordinators guide you each step of the way through the remodeling process, from the earliest planning stages all the way through to the completed installation. Normally, when you’re working with a contractor, you have the right to expect the job to get done on time and on budget. But with Sears Home Services, you can expect all that and more—namely, a Satisfaction Guarantee demonstrating a commitment to the lasting success of your project.

Photo: istockphoto.com

This article has been brought to you by Sears Home Services. Its facts and opinions are those of BobVila.com.


Solved! What to Do When Your Garbage Disposal Stops Working

Sometimes a faulty garbage disposal only needs a nudge to get back up and running. Before you call in the pros, try these five troubleshooting tips.

Garbage Disposal Not Working

Photo: istockphoto.com

Q. After dinner, I rinsed off the dishes in the sink like I always do, and then I flipped on the garbage disposal switch to grind the food scraps. Nothing happened. Should I start shopping for a new disposal? Or, is there a way to fix the one?

A. Garbage disposal not working? Well, while there’s a slim chance that you might have to replace your disposal, it’s unlikely. Odds are that the problem is something you can fix, often in just a few minutes. Proceed with the following DIY troubleshooting tips to get your garbage disposal back up and running.

Garbage Disposal Not Working - Beware What You Run Through It

Photo: istockphoto.com

Start with a power check. Whenever an appliance like a garbage disposal is not working, the first thing to do is to check is whether it’s still plugged in. While this step might sound overly simplistic, think about the under-sink area in your home: If you store cleaners or a wastebasket under your sink, the garbage disposal plug can easily get knocked loose or pushed out of the outlet. Plug it in, and you’re back in business!

Or, the fix could be as simple as pressing the reset button. If the disposal cord is securely plugged in, try the reset button next. You can typically find it on the side or the bottom of the under-sink part of the garbage disposal, depending on the model. You may even have to feel around the back of the unit to locate it. When you find it, press it once—firmly—and release. Overloading the garbage disposal with food scraps can cause it to overheat and trip the reset button.

If you hear a hum coming from the disposal, something could be jamming the grinding plates. Make sure the switch is off and unplug the garbage disposal from the outlet before you attempt to remove the jam. After you’re sure there is zero power to the unit, reach into the garbage disposal and feel around for a small object that could be jamming the plates—forks, spoons, rings, and other small non-food items are common culprits. Most blockages can be removed by hand, but all is not lost if you can’t wiggle it free on your first try. On the bottom of the garbage disposal, in the very center, is a small depression that receives a ¼-inch hex-head wrench or a ¼-inch hex-head key. Fit the key or wrench in the depression and twist it back and forth firmly to rotate the grinding plates and free the stuck item.

Too many appliances might be drawing power from the electrical circuit. In newer homes, local building codes typically require the electrician to run a single circuit for the garbage disposal and the dishwasher to share. In homes where additional outlets are on the same circuit, however, running the garbage disposal while something else is operating—such as a toaster or countertop griddle—could cause the breaker to trip. Before you locate the tripped breaker in your home’s main electrical panel to flip it back on, test how many other outlets in the kitchen still have power. Plug something small, like a desk lamp, into any other outlets available in the kitchen; if additional outlets have no power, it’s likely that too many outlets are on the same circuit. A simple workaround is to run the disposal only when no other appliance is going, but a more permanent fix would require an electrician to run one or more additional circuits in order to prevent overloading the one that powers the garbage disposal.

If the garbage disposal still won’t work after exhausting all your options, it might be time to consider a replacement. While the above steps will fix most garbage disposals, they won’t fix blown motors or factory defects. Contact the manufacturer if the disposal is relatively new to find out if a replacement could be covered by warranty.

Treat your garbage disposal with care to ensure a long useful life. So that you don’t run into a garbage disposal malfunction in the future, remember this: It works wonders grinding up soft bits of food that remain in the sink after meal preparation, but it’s not designed to chew through chunks of fibrous food scraps, like raw celery, carrots, or cabbage. Put the bulk of your food scraps in the trashcan, or better yet—if they’re non-meat scraps—the compost pile. Always run the garbage disposal with plenty of cold water and allow the unit to run a few seconds after the food grinding is complete to clear away residual bits of food that can cause odors.

 

Garbage Disposal Not Working - How to Know When It's Time to Replace

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3 Things to Know Before You Invest in Granite Counters

Durable and beautiful, granite countertops bring a touch of elegance to a hardworking kitchen. Learn more about this luxurious material and whether it's the right choice for your kitchen.

Granite Countertops Installation

Photo: istockphoto.com

As the primary work surface in a room that drives the daily operation of the modern household, kitchen countertops play host to any number of different activities—everything from meal preparation and casual dining to bill-paying and homework help. Still, for as much use and abuse as countertops undergo, homeowners demand that they not only resist wear and tear, but also define the overall look and feel of the kitchen. In other words, a successful kitchen countertop must boast beauty as well as brawn. That’s precisely why, according to Jim Eldredge, a product manager with Sears Home Services, granite continues to reign as “king of countertops,” even after so many years of popularity. No other material strikes such an effective compromise between attention-grabbing aesthetics and no-nonsense practicality. Perhaps best of all, though granite connotes the height of luxury, prices have stabilized in recent years, and the market now offers a range of accessible price points. Read on to learn more about making granite countertops part of your next home improvement project.

 

1. DURABILITY

Granite Countertops Installation - Stone Durability

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Granite shines in terms of durability—a boon in busy kitchens—thanks in large part to the material’s pedigree. Formed by immensely powerful geological forces over millions of years, granite isn’t just figuratively “hard as a rock”—it’s literally so. The benefit? You can expect granite countertops to last as long as your house, even as you enjoy the near-term conveniences of such a durable kitchen surface. For instance, since granite naturally resists heat, “you can place a steaming-hot pan directly on top of it” without scorching the stone, Eldredge says. Plus, if you drop something heavy on a granite surface, there’s no need to fear that the impact will do any damage. If granite has any weakness, it’s that the porous material allows oils and acids to seep in and leave stains. That’s why, if your granite slab doesn’t come pretreated with a sealer, it’s crucial to apply one as necessary, typically once a year. Otherwise, apart from routine care that includes regular wipe downs with a moist sponge, “granite takes care of itself,” Eldredge concludes.

 

2. LOTS OF LOOKS

Granite Countertops Installation - Colors and Patterns

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Considering granite’s longevity, Eldredge advises homeowners not to rush into purchasing granite countertops. “You may like a certain look today,” he says, “but you have to think about whether you’re still going to like it not months, but decades down the line.” Fortunately, in part because every quarried stone has its own unique mineral makeup, granite counters come in a nearly infinite variety of colors and patterns. Indeed, whether jet black, marbled blue, or speckled brown, no two slabs are exactly alike. For that reason, Eldredge advises, “granite isn’t necessarily the right choice for every kitchen.” For instance, in a modern setting, homeowners sometimes favor solid colors or uniform patterns. Other homeowners, however, find that the rich variability of the stone means that no matter what colors or textures are present elsewhere in the kitchen, there’s a granite counter to match or serve as a visual complement. Further, while most people picture granite as polished and glossy, Eldredge notes that it’s also often available in a low-glare, matte finish. As Eldredge puts it, “The possibilities for granite are truly endless.”

 

3. COST

Granite Countertops Installation - Affordability

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Accounting for 10 or 15 percent of the budget for the typical kitchen remodel, countertops don’t come cheap. According to Eldredge, however, “It’s a popular misconception that granite costs more than anything else.” Certainly, compared with a countertop made in a factory, you can expect to pay a premium for quarried, shipped, and fabricated natural stone. But over the years, prices have come down enough to make granite all but ubiquitous in kitchens around the country. Neither uniformly expensive nor cheap, granite “really runs the gamut [in price],” Eldredge says. “You can easily spend a small fortune” on an extra-thick slab of a rare variety, but granites that are in greater supply compete in cost—or come in cheaper than—many other popular options. Renovating on a shoestring? Eldredge points out that many homeowners keep a lid on the budget by specifying granite for select application in “hardworking, high-profile areas,” such as the kitchen island, rather than throughout the entire room. In the end, although granite countertops may be a luxury, many homeowners find them to be an affordable one.

 

Of course, at the end of the day, the total project cost depends not only on the granite itself, but also on the installation fees. If you’re a budget-conscious do-it-yourselfer, the idea of handling the installation on your own may be tempting, but experts advise against it. For one thing, granite counters weigh about 18 pounds per square foot, so merely moving a slab often requires the combined strength of a small crew. For another, cutting and fitting granite countertops requires specialized skills and tools that the average homeowner handyman simply doesn’t possess. Finally, there’s the fact that many homeowners view a kitchen upgrade as an overwhelming prospect. The valuable experience and perspective that the best pros bring to this complex enterprise often equals or surpasses the value of their labor. Sears Home Services knows this perhaps better than anyone. That’s why Sears project coordinators work with you from selecting a granite slab all the way to seeing it secured into place. Ready to get started? Schedule a free in-home consultation with Sears Home Services today!

Photo: istockphoto.com

This article has been brought to you by Sears Home Services. Its facts and opinions are those of BobVila.com.


Bob Vila Radio: Selecting the Right Stove for Your Home

There's no right or wrong when it comes to choosing a kitchen stove, but before you go out and make any purchases, be sure to understand the pros and cons of the two most popular types on the market.

No kitchen stove is perfect. Both gas and electric models offer advantages and disadvantages. Here are a few considerations to bear in mind, if you’re thinking about making a switch.

Gas Vs. Electric Stoves

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Listen to BOB VILA ON CHOOSING A STOVE or read below:

Serious chefs often prefer gas stoves, as the intensity of their stove-top flames can be subtly tweaked. Meantime, those with small children may prefer electric stoves, which many parents prefer to open-flame cooking.

Cost is, of course, a major consideration—not just initial cost, but also long-term operating cost. Electric stoves tend to carry a bit of a higher price tag than gas models, but gas stoves are often a little less expensive to operate.

Even though gas stoves can be powered on propane, butane, or even liquefied petroleum gas, most run on natural gas, which requires a gas line being routed into your home. If you live in the suburbs that’s usually no big deal. In rural areas, though, tapping into a gas line may not be possible, and the cost of other fuel alternatives may be prohibitive. You’ll certainly want to check that out before you buy.

Bob Vila Radio is a 60-second home improvement radio tip of the day carried on more than 186 stations in 75 markets around the country. Click here to subscribe, so you can automatically receive each new episode as it arrives—absolutely free!


How To: Build a Kitchen Island

Maximize any kitchen space—cramped or capacious—by building a custom kitchen island to fit all of your needs.

How to Build a Kitchen Island

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Sometimes, the kitchen is too small to prep a multi-course meal for friends or family. If only you had 12 square inches more counter space to chop vegetables, or an extra shelf to move the unused toaster out of the way… Sound familiar? Then this tutorial is for you! Without breaking your budget, you can create a kitchen island that goes above and beyond your wildest culinary workspace and storage dreams. Just follow these plans for how to build a kitchen island with room to do it all—chop, mix, shelve, store, and more. Ours measures 57 inches long, 21 inches deep, and a standard 35-½ inches high, but, of course, you can alter these dimensions as you see fit to better address your kitchen’s needs.

 

How to Build a Kitchen Island - Supplies

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MATERIALS AND TOOLS
– 10-foot-long 2×2 lumber (5)
– Ruler
– Hand saw
– Palm sander
– Sandpaper (80- and 120-grit)
– Wood glue
– Drill
– 3-inch screws (4+80)
– 2-inch metal corner brace (20)
– 6mm plywood (2 4-by-8-foot sheets)
– Wood clamps
– 8-foot-long 1×2 lumber (5)
– Acrylic paint
– Brush
– 10-foot-long 2×8 lumber (2)
– 4-inch mending plates (9)
– 1-inch screws (36)
– Varnish or mineral oil
– ½-inch nails (18)
– Hammer
– Scrap wood
– Metal drawer pulls (4)

 

How to Build a Kitchen Island - Step 1

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

STEP 1
Cut your 2×2 lumber into the following lengths to make up the structure of the DIY kitchen island:

• Four 33-inch pieces for the legs
• Two 57-inch pieces for the countertop support
• Four 54-inch pieces for framework for the top and bottom shelf
• Six 18-inch pieces for shelf and countertop support

Sand all edges of your cuts, and assemble one side of the kitchen island by arranging a 57-inch 2×2 with two 33-inch legs to make a U-shape as pictured. Glue the two legs to the bottom of what will be the countertop support, then pre-drill holes for and fasten with two screws through the top at each end.

 

How to Build a Kitchen Island - Step 2

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

STEP 2
Place two 54-inch shelf supports between the island’s legs (the first 12 inches from the bottom of the island’s top, and the second 10 inches beneath that). Affix with a dab of wood glue on both ends of the 54-inch shelf supports, and reinforce with a 2-inch metal corner brace beneath each end.

 

How to Build a Kitchen Island - Step 3

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

STEP 3
Repeat Steps 1 and 2 to make a second identical structure.

 

How to Build a Kitchen Island - Step 4

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

STEP 4
Join the two identical halves using the six 18-inch pieces. To accomplish this, place half of the frame on the floor and affix three 18-inch lengths to each leg using wood glue. Note: Each 18-inch 2×2 should align with the horizontal 2×2s already connected (the shelf and countertop supports). Screw corner braces beneath each connection for extra support.

 

How to Build a Kitchen Island - Step 5

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

STEP 5
Lay the second half of the DIY kitchen island’s frame (without the attached 18-inch cuts) flat on the floor. To prepare to connect both halves, you’ll want to screw three metal corner braces to each leg, one at each level. Scoot each corner brace to the edge of the leg so that it’s perpendicular but perfectly aligned with the corner brace already in place supporting either a shelf or countertop, then screw each into the wood.

 

How to Build a Kitchen Island - Step 6

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

STEP 6
Lay the two halves in front of each other, corner braces and 18-inch supports facing in and feet facing up. Apply wood glue to the exposed ends of the 18-inch supports, press them to the opposing kitchen island legs, and screw the second half of each corner brace into the wood supports. Stand your DIY kitchen island upright.

 

How to Build a Kitchen Island - Step 7

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

STEP 7
Cut a rectangle of 57 inches by 21 inches from the 6mm plywood sheet in order to make the lowest shelf. At each corner, cut out a small notch the same dimensions as the legs (1-½ inch square). Sand the plywood, especially the cut edges.

 

How to Build a Kitchen Island - Step 8

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

STEP 8
Apply wood glue to the tops of the lowest level of 2×2s and fit the plywood piece through the open top of your DIY kitchen island into place onto the adhesive. Press the wood pieces together with clamps until the glue dries.

 

How to Build a Kitchen Island - Step 9

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

STEP 9
Make the second shelf using 1×2 lumber cut into 22 21-inch lengths. Lay them out over the structure’s middle-tier supports, leaving a ¾-inch gap between each, and glue down the 1×2s at each end.

 

How to Build a Kitchen Island - Step 10

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

STEP 10
Sand all parts of the kitchen island, first using 80-grit sandpaper on a palm sander, then again with 120-grit for a smooth finish.

 

How to Build a Kitchen Island - Step 11

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

STEP 11
Wipe down all the dust with a clean rag before you move on to apply two coats of acrylic paint. We chose a charcoal color, but you could stain and varnish it instead, if you prefer.

 

How to Build a Kitchen Island - Step 12

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

STEP 12
While the paint (or stain) dries, you can build the countertop using the 2×8 lumber. Cut the 10-foot planks into three 5-foot-long pieces to make a countertop that is a little longer and wider than the base of your DIY kitchen island. Carefully align the pieces side by side so that no one extends past the others, then apply wood glue along the 1-½-inch side of each where they meet. As the glue dries, screw three 4-inch mending plates along each seam on the back.

Sand the completed countertop down, and protect it with a coat of varnish or mineral oil. Once the varnish is dry, lay the countertop on your kitchen island; it should hang ¾ of an inch off the front and back and 1-½ inches off the left and right sides. Center it as best you can, then glue and clamp the countertop onto the structure while the adhesive dries.

 

How to Build a Kitchen Island - Step 13

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STEP 13 (optional)
Sure, you can purchase storage boxes or crates from your nearest home goods store or craft center—or you can build a set to perfectly fit the allotted space on the lower shelf for less money than you’d spend otherwise. We made four boxes of 13 inches wide, 8-½ inches tall, and 18 inches deep with a quarter-sheet of plywood.

For each box, you’ll need to cut five rectangles in the plywood sheet:
• One 12-½ inches by 18 inches for the box bottom
• Two 8-½ inches by 13 inches for the box front and back
• Two 8-½ inches by 17-½ inches for the box sides

To assemble the box, apply wood glue along the edges of the box bottom (the 12-½-by-18-inch rectangle). Lay it flat and on the ground and press the front and back panels (the 8-½-by-13-inch rectangles) in place, then apply glue to the exposed edges of the front and back panels—except for the tops!—and slide the sides (the remaining 8-½-by-17-½-inch rectangles) into place. Essentially, all sides should wrap the bottom of the box, and the front and back should cover the edges of the sides. Reinforce the construction with ½-inch nails; hammer three along each side of the front and back.

Repeat to make four boxes total.

 

How to Build a Kitchen Island - Step 14

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

STEP 14 (optional)
Once the wood glue has dried, add a metal drawer pull for easy opening and closing of each new “drawer” on your DIY kitchen island. As we used only 6mm plywood to build these, you may have to glue an extra piece of scrap wood on the inside directly behind where you want to add the pull so that there’s enough thickness to drill screws into for the drawer pull. Measure to find the center near the top of the box’s front, place your drawer pull 2 or 3 inches from the top; when happy with the position, mark and drill holes. Screw this drawer pull into place, and repeat on the remaining three boxes.

Once you’ve shelved these boxes to the lower shelf as drawers, and ready to enjoy your new DIY kitchen island.

 

How to Build a Kitchen Island with Storage

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

How to Build a Kitchen Island - Completed Project

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

How to Build a Kitchen Island

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Ama is a DIY addict and the creative mind behind Ohoh Blog. She likes home decor, lighting, and furniture projects that may involve painting, sewing, drilling…no matter the technique! Whatever she has on hand is inspiration to create, and fodder for her serious addiction to upcycling.