Flooring, Cabinetry and Countertop Selections
While the walls and stairs are being built inside your home, it is time to start thinking about the finishing touches. The more custom your builder is, the more options you will have available to you.
The three areas we will focus on are:
Solid hardwood flooring is typically three quarters of an inch thick and is nailed to the sub floor. The thickness and the installation allows for future sanding and refinishing. If the option of sanding and refinishing your floors in the future is appealing to you, solid hardwood flooring is the best option.
Solid hardwood flooring should only be installed above grade overtop of plywood, wood or OSB subfloors. You cannot install solid hardwoods overtop of cement subfloors which are often found below grade.
You will likely notices gaps between the wood planks in the winter months. The solid wood will contract in cooler air and expand in the warmer months.
Solid hardwood flooring will also be the most expensive hardwood option. If expanding and contracting boards is a concern, you are trying to keep costs down, or you are installing in a basement over cement there are other options that will give the same look and feel as solid hardwood.
Engineered hardwood flooring has become increasingly popular in the past few years. Hardwood flooring throughout the main level of a home has become the norm and engineered hardwoods offer a cost effective way of accomplishing that without too much compromise.
The look and feel of engineered hardwood is identical to solid hardwood (maybe an expert could tell the difference, but most can’t). This is accomplished by using a veneer hardwood overtop of a plywood backing. The flooring that you can see and touch is wood. However, it is only a thin strip of wood that is compressed on top of a less expensive plywood which keeps the prices lower than a solid hardwood.
An engineered hardwood cannot be sanded and refinished. Some of the higher quality engineered hardwoods claim you can sand and re-stain once.
In addition to being cost effective, engineered hardwood is appealing because it is not as affected by humidity and temperature as solid hardwood. There is less expanding and contracting with engineered hardwood.
Laminate flooring is a fraction of the price of both solid and engineered hardwood. This type of flooring is made to look like hardwood, but is not made of wood. It is created by a photographic layer made to mimic the hardwood of choice. This photographic layer sits on top of a High Density Fiber.
Laminate flooring tends to be thinner than solid or engineered hardwood and measures three eighths of an inch thick. These floors are installed without nailing the product to the subfloor and is often referred to as a “floating floor”. The tongue and groove system locks the flooring into place.
This cost effective option can work well if you desire a hardwood look on a cement subfloor. It is also easy to install for any DIY-er.
There are many door designs offered in cabinetry from a very simple shaker style to an ornate cabinet with many grooves and inset trims. Whatever your style, there are typically several wood options. Popular wood which is a soft wood, but has very few knots so it is ideal for painted cabinets. Maple wood has some wood grain and knots, but is a popular choice for those looking for a bit more durability with either a painted or stained cabinet. Cherry cabinet have the reputation for being the most durable and beautiful and are often stained rather than painted to show off the wood.
Regardless of the type of wood chosen, I encourage you to ask what parts of the cabinets are solid hardwood. Some cabinets have plywood boxes and door insets leaving just the trim around the door solid hardwood. If you knock on the cabinet door inset and boxes you can hear the difference.
Making selections can be very overwhelming and I personally find the countertops to be the most difficult item to select. You will likely find yourself wondering endless aisles of granite slabs trying to visualize what that slab will look like when it is cut down to size and placed horizontal overtop your cabinets. And its not just granite anymore, quartz, marble and quartzite are featured on design blogs everywhere.
Granite has been the desired countertop material for the past decade or more. It is known as a high end product and homeowners have been programmed to value granite as an upgrade that everyone wants in their kitchens. However, the trend is moving away from granite. If you like to be ahead of the curve with design and want to install granite, I would steer away from the speckled busier granites and chose a granite that has more “motion” with long veining.
As the trend moved away from granite, photographs of immaculate white kitchen popped up in magazines and design blogs. Huge kitchen islands gleaming with white Carrera marble. It is definitely a look worth photographing. However, is it practical? Marble is an extremely porous stone so stains are possible even with the best sealant. Red wine or tomato sauce could be a potential disaster on a marble surface. But it is so pretty! It didn’t take long for quartz to become popular to give the look of marble without the worry of stains.
The varieties of Quartz is endless. There is every color you could ever imagine. This is possible because Quartz is a man made product. And like most man made products, they took something from nature and made it better for our use. Just like hardiplank looks like real wood siding without the maintenance or issues, some variations of Quartz has been made to look like Carerra Marble.
But Quartz is not a less expensive option to natural countertop material. It is typically more expensive than granite. However, unlike granite it requires no maintenance. So for those who dread sealing granite every six months, you may enjoy the ease of Quartz.
Not to be confused with Quartz, Quartzite is a natural stone similar to granite. It is often referred to as an “exoctic” granite which translates to “more expensive” and “hard to find”. There are many styles of Quartzite but the patterns within the natural stone fall somewhere in between marble and granite.
Like granite, Quartzite needs to be sealed once every six months. Although not as porous as marble, it is not as stain resistant as granite.