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Kitchen, Bath Question? Maybe you'll find an answer here.

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Products Q&A

  • Do soft-close drawers last as well as regular ones? ...better?
    Soft Close Drawer Soft-close drawer track is appealing mostly because it is fun to use and watch. It is more expensive because of its more involved mechanism.

    In our experience, soft-close track serves just as well as other track of similar overall quality - although soft-close track is still a relatively recent product on the market. For long-lasting drawer operation, dovetailed drawer boxes, and higher weight-rated track are the keys.
  • How can I get the discoloration off my rubbed bronze faucets?
    The brownish look of an oil rubbed bronze finish is a very popular complement especially to warm-toned design ensembles. It is important, though, to realize that oil-rubbed bronze is a "live" finish -- meaning that its look changes as it interacts with the materials it contacts. Rubbed bronze door and cabinet knobs will show brighter, burnished areas from repeated skin contact. Minerals in water can cause a rainbow of color interactions with oil-rubbed finishes -- and these are not deposits that can simply be cleaned off.

    White lime deposits, of course, are especially visible on darker surfaces, which prompts vigorous cleaning -- often with cleaning agents that will change or destroy the finish rather than restoring it. Careful reading of cleaning instructions for special finish hardware and faucets always specifies use of only non-abrasive cleaning, with only mild dishwashing detergent and clean water. And even the best products rarely warrant specialty finishes against damage.

    So be sure you want what you're buying with special finishes -- especially oil-rubbed finishes, especially where water is present. SITK always recommends chrome or stainless steel as the least reactive, toughest hardware surfaces.

    If you must have special finish looks, consider non-"live" non-reactive ones specifically developed to stay looking the same over time -- or plan to enjoy rather than fight the natural changes that will happen in your "live" finish.
  • How much more should I pay for a lifetime cabinet warranty?
    Test Quick answer... long-lasting happy experience with a product always happens because of its quality, not its warranty.

    It seems reasonable to suppose that the longer the warranty, the better the quality. Sometimes this is true, often it is not. Long-term warranties have proven to be a valuable manufacturer's marketing tool - but caveat emptor, "buyer beware!"

    You must read warranty details carefully. For example, our Dakota line offers a valuable lifetime warranty with coverage limited to problems arising from "normal household use," while a commonly seen national brand offers a lifetime warranty which specifically excludes "normal wear and tear."

    ...Meaning that it basically covers only manufacturing defects - which typically appear very early in a product's service. ...not, as you might mistakenly believe, that your cabinets are guaranteed to last for a lifetime.
  • I need a new shower faucet. What does "pressure-balanced" mean for a shower faucet?
    Test Shower faucets are usually sold as "shower valve sets" (including the valve, the control lever and cover plate, and the shower head). Most plumbing codes now require new installations to be equipped with a pressure-balancing spool.Usually this is part of the valve itself (the part that is built into the wall).

    The pressure-balance function is to maintain relatively even water temperature to the shower head, even when other nearby water demand happens - such as a toilet flush or an appliance start-up. So no more need to jump out of the way of a blast of very hot or very cold water.(Pressure-balanced valves are sometimes called "anti-scald" valves.)
  • I really want painted cabinets, but I'm told that the doors always show cracks. True? ...any way to avoid this?
    Cabinetry paint cracks happen as wood shrinks and swells a bit with changes in temperature and humidity-level. This seaonal movement in wood is natural, and typically does not signal any structural problem with the door or cabinet frame involved. But as joined wood pieces move relative to one another, the finish covering them must shift or crack a bit also.

    This happens on stained-varnished cabinetry parts also, but it's not usually so apparent there --hidden by wood graining, and color variability, and the fact that this sort of finish is not as thick as a paint finish. Paint finishes are also more vulnerable to impact chips, so these finishes are most appropriate for kitchens where everyday rambunctious kids and pets are absent.

    Many homeowners who want the most authentic painted wood look must understand and accept the facts about painted wood cabinetry. Then it can be very pleasing and serve well. Glazing and tinted top-coat techniques can also minimize paint-cracking appearance.

    As "white cabinet" alternatives, SITK also offers painted MDF and thermoform products on European (frameless, full-access) cabinetry.

    Since European-style cabinetry construction has neither cabinet frame joints, nor side-to-frame joints -- these cabinetry-box paint crack sites are non existent.

    Each MDF cabinetry door or drawer is made from a single piece of fiber board -- a great substrate for machined-in style detail, and a perfect base for beautiful painted finishes. ...and since there are no various wood pieces present, there is no variable movement -- and so no movement cracks at all. Impact chipping vulnerability is still present.

    Good quality thermoform doors and drawers are also shaped from MDF material -- and then covered with heavy vinyl sheeting, shaped and bonded to the MDF substrate. No paint is involved -- so no paint cracking and no impact chipping vulnerability. (Thermoform doors and drawer fronts must be kept away from high heat -- self-clean oven cycles can damage them, so open doors and drawers away from the oven when in this cycle.)

    Style detailing is most fully articulated on painted wood cabinets -- less so on MDF products, least so on thermoform. So more simply shaped styles are good choices with MDF or thermoform.
  • I'm in love with the "craftsman" style, and I see the wood in many of these kitchens labeled as "quarter-sawn" oak. What does this mean? Why does this oak cost more than regular oak?
    Quarter Sawn Oak Cabinets Craftsman styling, especially in architecture and interiors, is often associated with the Frank Lloyd Wright school of design. It celebrates simple lines, and brings interest with rather spare geometric detail.

    Early cabinet makers learned that lumber with prominent rays running outward from the log's center (the most well-known being oak) could be sawn in various ways to create different-looking finished wood results.

    We are all familiar with the prominent, vigorous grain pattern typical of oak. This is what most oak boards look like when a log is simply sliced-up in the typical fashion. A board sliced right through the center of an oak log, though, shows a very different straight-lined grain pattern and features "ray slubs" which give a subtle "antique" look.

    Logs are cut into length-wise quarter sections, and carefully cut to produce this through-the-middle grain pattern. It takes more time and effort to saw out such boards, and the log produces less high-quality lumber when sawn in this way - so more cost.
  • I've heard that there is now laminate available that is like granite. What exactly is this?
    As granite countertops have surged in popularity in recent years, the various laminate manufacturers have responded with materials that mimic the granite look.

    The generic "formica" that we've known for many, many years is still essentially the same product -- a photograph-like graphic design embedded in a thin acrylic resin surface, bonded to a thin compressed resin/paper backer.

    Creators of granite-look laminate have used various of these techniques -- offer laminates that "picture" granite looks, add embossed stone-imitating textures, introduce tiny reflective surface components to imitate the reflective mica chips, etc. commonly seen in granite.

    SITK uses a lot of the Wilsonart HD series granite-look laminate. And we are impressed with the latest formica offering, the FX 180 series, which uses very large images (seven-foot pattern repeat) to re-create the scale of "movement"-type granites. To get the true sense of these looks, it's important to view quite large samples, which we have, of course, in our SITK design showroom.
  • I've read that granite needs to be sealed every month to avoid staining. Is this true?
    Test There are several things we understand to be true about sealing granite... Since granite is a naturally porous material, it does need to be sealed to prevent fluids from penetrating into the material. Quality and effectiveness of sealants vary greatly -- less effective sealants need to be applied more frequently.

    All SITK granite is treated with 10-year commercial-grade sealant, so our countertop customers do not need to be concerned about frequent re-sealing. We recommend occasional use of a cleaner-polisher available at our store -- but this is not a re-sealer.

    Manufacturers of quartz and acrylic-polyester countertops often seem to encourage concern among "granite-shoppers" about troublesome granite-maintenance chores. While SITK sees various product benefits and limits for each type of countertop material, we do not see granite-sealing issues as important in our customers' material selection process.

  • Why do cabinets costs vary so much for a set that fills the same space?
    Test Some cabinetry cost differences arise from obvious differences -- specialty finishes, interior features, wood specie, door style, etc. So using higher-quality cabinets with simpler styling and limited special features can cost the same as using a less-well-made cabinet that is "dressed-up" and "loaded-up."

    Production time and materials cost money. So as you select your cabinetry, work to learn how time and materials are used differently to produce different results. The more information and understanding you collect, the better you can select a product with benefits that are actually important to you, and buy just the quality and features that you truly want to pay for.

    Is it important to you that your cabinets are extra strong? ...or more important that they have a certain look?

    Does it matter to you that a skilled artisan has spent hours sanding and finishing your cabinetry? ...or will a machine-production result suit you just fine?

    Will you really use all those spinners and slide-outs?

    Your SITK designer will happily help you see and sort among the various quality/cost alternatives displayed in our design showroom.
  • Why do some hard maple cabinets have a blotchy look, while other maple cabinets seem very smoothly colored?
    Test Staining and finishing techniques vary greatly. Some processes are simply more carefully and artfully done, with more time-consuming hand work. These hand-rubbed penetrating stains, and hand-rubbed finish coats are more expensive to produce than quickly sprayed-on color, but usually produce more appealing results.

    Also, the different wood species respond in their own unique ways to sanding and staining processes. And people's preferences vary as to what "looks good" in finished wood.

    The hard maple you ask about, for example, is well known for accepting stain irregularly -- especially in darker colors. This produces the blotchiness you've seen. Some folks enjoy seeing this "character of the wood." Others choose different wood species that tend to stain more evenly for these deeper colors.

    And some manufacturers include color solids in their stains and finishes -- called toners. These toners deposit color on top of the wood, blending and hiding somewhat the natural color variations of the wood in order to create a more uniform overall color appearance.

    Toned finishes can be just as artfully and beautifully done as the best penetrating stain finishes. Customer choice enters in here. Do you value more the full presence of the wood's natural appearance, or is color continuity more important to you?

    At our SITK design showroom, we'll be happy to help you see and consider these wood specie and finish choices carefully.

Design Q&A

  • How can I make best use of a small kitchen space?
    The biggest mistake small-space planners make is to try to "squeeze it all in," instead of finding a strong, pleasing design that actually works well in the available space, while choosing to leave out some wish-list item(s).

    Consider whether wall and/or floor space can be increased by elimination of a door or window. Smaller or multi-function appliances and frameless, "European-structure" cabinetry can help. And careful use-pattern planning is particularly important when space is limited.
  • How do you install in-floor heat in a bathroom?
    Residential in-floor heat is usually either a hot water circulating system for large areas, or an electric resistance-wire system for small areas, such as your bathroom.

    Electric single-room systems should be designed and purchased for your specific space. The system will include a continuous wire system -- usually pre-spaced on a mesh backer -- and a sensor and a thermostatic control. Since this resistance wire is engineered specifically for your application, it must not be cut or shortened.

    Ideally, a cement board substrate is installed first. Then the spaced wire system is fastened to the cement board and a coat of thinset is applied to create a new surface flush with the top of the wire elements. When this has set up, stone or ceramic/porcelain tile is installed with thinset in the usual manner. Be sure to check system continuity before enclosing it in the floor.

    Line-voltage power is generally needed at the thermostat. From the thermostat, a supply line runs into the floor system, and a line runs from an in-floor sensor to the thermostat.

    Electric in-floor heat systems are available also for under wood and carpet, etc. But the most efficient, effective in-floor heat installations sandwich the heating element between cement board and tile -- both heat conductors -- creating a heat sink of the entire mass. Wood, carpet, etc. are heat insulators, so systems below these can still work, but must overcome this insulating layer.

    SITK designs and sells Warmly Yours in-floor electric heat systems.
  • I see some cool kitchens labeled as "transitional" style. What is this?
    Not contemporary, not traditional - in between. Most commonly seen with flat-panel cabinet doors - often with wider-than-average door-frame dimensions. Deeper stain colors on closed-grain woods (alder, cherry, birch, maple). Brighter-than traditional color palettes for counters, back-splash treatment, paint.

    Usually stainless steel appliances - clean-line-styled. Often chimney-style stainless ventilation hood. Smooth, prominent door-drawer hardware. Crisp lighting. Mild, not active textures/patterns - open wall and cabinet spaces.
  • Is it OK to design my refrigerator right next to my oven cabinet? and cold together?
    Yes. It is OK. These two tall, massive elements are often well-placed together, to leave remaining space most usable and open-feeling. Actually, Both your refrigerator and your oven create and dispel heat. (Today's typical refrigerators vent heat out the front. Older models produced heat at the back, which was more difficult to disperse.)

    Be sure to arrange for some countertop space nearby for both oven and refrigerator in-and-out activity.
  • Is tiling a kitchen backsplash a good do-it-yourself project?
    For an inexperienced tiler, a kitchen backsplash project is a much better place to start than, say, a shower -- which needs to be waterproof. Consider these things --

    Most splashes cover relatively little area (smaller, manageable project), but have a lot of edges and often incorporate decorative patterns (more cutting). Almost any kind of tile can be used (fun to design a creative look), but various types of tile can require special types of adhesive, sealant, or grout; and some tiles are more vulnerable to scratching, etc. Some decorative tile will be of different thickness than its neighboring field tile (complicates installation).

    Backsplash tile work usually does not need special sub-strate preparation. Most stable surfaces that are clean, dry, and relatively smooth will work. (...much less rigorous substrate requirements than wet-wall or floor tiling.)

    Don't forget that you will need to cut/fit tile around outlets and switches. Remember these also when planning your tile lay-out.

    SITK staff can be helpful as you select tile and think-through installation rerquirements. Our annual odds & ends sale each fall is a good place to pick up smaller quantities of cool tile types, colors, materials. ...and we now and then offer do-it-yourself how-to seminars on various kitchen-bath topics, including tile work. Check our "events" page.
  • Walk-in showers... What are the benefits and down-sides?
    Walk-in showers - with no door - are on the popularity hot-list, for sure! Up-side: very easy to get in and out; adds spa-like open-air feel to room; can be quite large; can be done with no glass to keep clean. Down-side: takes more space - will not fit in smaller rooms; can be uncomfortably cold and drafty; no-glass versions can feel too enclosed, cave-like.

    The best walk-ins are large enough to be comfortable without glass walls, are placed in larger bathrooms with well-managed heat and air-flow, and use dropped floor-joist sub-structure to eliminate curb.

    Walls and shower heads must be placed to contain water spray. Be sure to run large enough water supply lines to serve multiple or over-sized sprays/water jets.

SITK Business Q&A

  • I like what I see and know of your work, but I'm not sure if I can afford Someone's in the Kitchen. And I don't want to waste my/your time...
    We don't want to waste your/our time, either. If you are looking to do your project using the most economical one-third or so of a typical home center's product offerings, then we probably will not be able to meet your needs.

    We are, though, very competitive on projects using home-center mid-grade quality and up. We do many moderate-cost projects - in fact, about half of our kitchens include a cabinet-countertop set costing $10,000 or less.

    We also feature, of course, many higher-cost premium-quality product offerings - often blending these into moderate-cost projects for special effect.
  • I want to replace my laminate countertops with granite. Another store gave me a per-square-foot price over the phone, but your designer would not. Why not?
    We want to give price information that is as accurate as it can be. So we do not price projects until we understand enough important information about your proposed project, and until you have reviewed pertinent product and design choices with us in our showroom.
  • My uncle tells me to check out your place before I re-do my kitchen, but I'm about 70 miles from Princeton. Do you even work with customers this far away?
    Most of our new-home customers are within about 80 miles of our Princeton, Illinois location. Most remodeling project customers are within about 60 miles. And most remodeling customers who hire us to do primary labor and installation are within about 40 miles.

    When you think it is worth the time and travel to explore working with us on a project, we usually think so, too. When distance is an issue, we'll talk early and openly about the realities and trade-offs involved.

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