TOPS IN COUNTER TOPS!
Does your counter top have faded stains, small cracks along the edge and scratches on the surface? You probably have grown accustomed to them, but if you are considering selling your home remember your kitchen is one of the major
players that will either help or hinder your home’s value and potential offers from buyers. Replacing your counter tops can
be an affordable alternative to a full kitchen remodel that breathes new life into the space and gives your kitchen a fresh, polished look.
Maybe selling is not in the future for you, but your counter top is looking a little sad and needs to be replaced. With so many possibilities available, it’s hard to know which one you should consider. Think about your budget, your design taste and how your family will use your kitchen before making your decision. There are certainly many options, including: hundreds of colors, patterns and textures, in materials ranging from natural stone and acrylic sheets to quartz composite and reclaimed wood. Let’s break it down.
The most important criteria for evaluating counter top materials are:
- Appearance: What are the aesthetic qualities of the counter top material?
- Value: How does the counter top rank in terms of the cost of material plus installation? What are you getting for the money?
- Stain resistance and clean-up: How well does the material resist food and drink stains?
- Heat resistance: Will pots discolor or burn the counter top surface?
- Resale value: Does the counter top add real estate value to your home in the eyes of buyers?
Let’s start with natural stone. This family of counter top materials includes quarried stones like granite, marble and soapstone.
Granite counters have a deep, rich, complex appearance that cannot be duplicated in any type of
man-made material. Because each granite slab is unique, this means no two counter tops have exactly the same appearance. Granite is a pricey material once found only in expensive homes. It is much more common today and is one of the most popular materials.
Since granite is a porous stone, it does suck up stains, but annual sealing eliminates this problem. The heat resistance of granite is second to none, as it is forged in the heat of the earth and is virtually impossible to burn by normal means. Go ahead and set your pans on it!
Even though the fervor for granite may be slightly past its peak, granite still lends a considerable resale value to a home. Prospective buyers almost always perk up when they see granite counter tops!
Marble is a high-end natural stone that comes in fewer color patterns than granite. It’s a fantastic work surface for baking or making fresh pasta, but may show knife scars and take care with acidic foods like citrus. It is expensive, high maintenance (needs repeated sealing) but it is durable and has beautiful, striking natural patterns.
Soapstone is another natural stone product. Rising in popularity, soapstone is a natural, dark gray or black stone with thin, white streaks running through the material. This natural stone has a soft, velvety feel that is surprisingly quite durable. It is non-porous, resistant to stains, and requires no sealers. Over time it tends to darken in color and is prone to scratches, though the scratches tend to add to the overall character and antique look of the counter tops. However, you can opt to sand out the scratches to return to the original look.
Let’s look at some other options. If you have a stylish, modern house, consider installing a concrete counter top. While these monolithic beauties would look odd in a period house, they fit perfectly into any contemporary kitchen. Yet, concrete can be finicky when used for counter tops. Concrete can be tinted and made into any number of muted, earthen colors, a well as some darker reds, blues and greens. But, the one thing that distinguishes concrete from other counter materials is that you can have a single, unified, seamless counter. Concrete can form “L “shapes, “U” shapes and all sorts of permutations.
Considering the price of cement is inexpensive, homeowners are often surprised to learn how expensive concrete counter tops can be, but the fabrication and installation is labor intensive bringing up the cost. Often cabinets need to be reinforced to handle the sheer weight of the product. This is no time to think about cutting corners. You MUST choose a seasoned professional with skills concentrated just in this area or the results can be disastrous. Do your research when choosing the company. Assuming you have done just that and you LOVE your concrete counter top, how do you maintain it? With an annual sealing you should be good to go. You may need to take extra care with how you put objects on the counter top as they are prone to breaking along
the edges and cracking. Having said all that, in some real estate areas, concrete is considered a “premium” material. Hopefully the entire contemporary style of your home is congruent with concrete counters, and the buyers’ minds are congruent with your house’s contemporary style. If so, there is a possibility they may love the counters, if not, they may hate them! As an aside, they are a bear to remove!
Second only to concrete as the most trendy counter top material, stainless steel’s popularity has waxed and waned over the years. Originally a material found only in commercial kitchens, stainless steel has recently become common in high-end residential kitchens. It is highly attractive, luminous without being glaringly bright and has a lovely patina. Labor drives the price up on these beauties.
Though it is called stainless it can be stained with food materials, although it will not rust. Stains can usually be removed. As a metal, it is impervious to burns and scorch marks.
It can be a great counter top in the right kitchen decor, but may turn off prospective buyers who don’t have a trend-conscious attitude. Non-discerning buyers may look down on this material, mentally subtracting the cost of replacing it, while savvy buyers will value your stainless steel, so your investment will, indeed pay off.
Other less expensive counter top materials include butcher block which is a warm, ideal work surface that is heat resistant with medium maintenance. Nicks and scratches can easily happen, but just as easily sanded out. This product is very wallet friendly and is installed pretty quickly.
Solid surface counter tops are made from synthetic acrylic, epoxy and polyester materials bonded together to mimic the look of natural stone.They can be fabricated to be entirely seamless and can even incorporate seamless sink basins within the counter top. Although they do stain, it is possible to have the stains removed. Solid surface counter tops, (Corian, for example) offer a unique blend of performance, appearance and economy.
Another consideration for your counter top is laminate. Believe me, this product has jumped leaps and bounds from its 1960″s ubiquitous “Formica” ancestors. It is very affordable and if budget is an issue, don’t rule this guy out! The options are limitless by way of color and style. It is no longer regarded as the poor cousin among counter top materials. They are pleasantly easy to clean with the swipe of a cloth. Although heat resistant, very hot pans are a no-no. As with most counter tops, use a cutting board, to protect the surface. This counter top is a real stunner in a mid-century modern home.
Ceramic and stone tiles round out the list of economical choices for counter tops. You get almost limitless color and style choice. Make sure to select only tiles rated for floors and counters, as wall tiles are too thin and will easily crack. Tile is tough and easy to clean. It resists cuts, stains and heat. If a tile cracks, it is not too difficult to replace. Tiles easily crack if something is accidentally dropped on them and the grout lines, if not properly maintained are grime catchers.
Finally, the material ranked the highest is QUARTZ! Quartz counter tops (a form of engineered stone) may well be the best of all counter top materials when all factors are considered.
While quartz is created in a factory and not mined from the earth, such as natural stone, this actually plays to the materials advantage in terms of durability. Quartz is almost indestructible under normal kitchen prep conditions and unless you take a sledgehammer to it, it won’t chip or crack. It is stain and bacteria resistant and does not require sealing. Take caution with extremely caustic substances such as lye that may damage your quartz. Quartz counter tops look fantastic having unparalleled depth and richness. Unlike granite and other natural stone, quartz never has flaws or cracks. Home buyers place a high premium on quartz counter tops these days. It is voted higher than granite in desirability. Although expensive, quartz is a product that will offer a higher return on your investment when it comes time to sell.
The bottom line: the best counter top for your project should compliment the overall style of your home, offer durability and respect the limit of your budget to optimize resale value. Basically, it is as simple as that!
LET’S EAT OUT!
Since Valentine’s Day is fast approaching, let’s talk about my favorite places on Oahu to get chocolate. If you have PX privileges, you can purchase the most delicious Madre chocolate bars at the Navy Exchange at Pearl Harbor. They offer the best prices. The bars
are also carried at Foodland, Whole Foods and many other sites in Hawaii, the mainland U.S. as well Europe and Japan. Their island sourced chocolate bars have won multiple awards. I particularly enjoy the Criollo limited edition Fine Mynah and Kona bars, all containing 70% cocoa. Bean-to-bar is their thing and they offer farm tours. The next tour is Sunday, March 22nd at Nine Fine Mynahs Farm in Waialua. They also have a whiskey and chocolate pairing
experience. The next one is scheduled for March 14th at Box Jelly, 307 Kamani St. Honolulu.
If truffles are more to your liking, go to the Diamond Head Chocolate Company at Ward Center. (Yes, it is still open!) Their selection is varied, containing truffles, chocolate strawberries, chocolate covered oreos, macadamia nut clusters and chocolate dipped dried fruits.
Last, but certainly not least, is the hidden gem, Padovani’s Chocolates. Phillippe Padovani is a French chef and chocolatier par excellence. On the second floor of Dole Cannery (735 Iwilei Road in Honolulu) you will find his shop, specializing in hand-made truffles in a myriad of flavors from macadamia nut, sake, green tea, Pirie mango, Manoa honey to rare Japanese whiskies. He does
it all, from filling the molds, making the ganache to the finishing touches. He does not use Hawaiian chocolate, however, but prefers Valrhona chocolate, which he considers to be the world’s best. If you visit, (and I hope you do!) ask him about his fantastic hot chocolate. During breaks at medical meetings at the Dole Cannery, I go to his store for a fix! The chocolate is rich, decadent, thick and the best I have ever tasted.
Have a Happy Valentines Day!
WHAT HAPPENING THIS MONTH ON OAHU? OUTDOOR ACTIVITIES:
February 7th and 8th … The Punahou Carnival will be in full swing. The theme this year is Music Through the Ages. Of course there will be fresh malasadas, plenty of games, rides and fun for the entire family. If you are searching for fine art, there will also be an extensive gallery featuring the work of Hawaii’s most talented artists. All proceeds from this event support the financial aid program for students. Plan ahead, this is an extremely popular event, parking might be a challenge.
February 9th… Just in time for Valentine’s Day, the Aloha Home Market, on Uluniu Street in
Kailua, will be open from 9 AM-2PM. Local artists will offer crafts and gifts for sale.
Do you enjoy or play ukulele? If so, the annual ukulele picnic will be held at the Kaka’ako Waterfront Park on the 16th of February. There will be thousands of ukulele lovers. Hawaiian and Japanese musicians will perform on stage from 9AM until 6 PM.
On February 17th the Great Aloha Fun Run will begin at the Aloha Tower and finish at the Aloha Stadium. There will be well over 20,000 participants from seasoned runners to wheelchair enthusiasts and folks who would rather walk the 5K course. Everyone is welcome for this exciting event. But there is more: on the 15th and 16th, there will be a sports, health and fitness expo at the Blaisdell Exhibition Hall, where you pick up your race packets and socialize with other
participants. It’s not too late to register. Check out their website: https://www.greataloharun.com.
New to the this newsletter is the inclusion of upcoming events at Blue Note Hawaii. This comfortable dining and entertainment venue is located in the Outrigger Waikiki Beach Resort and
opened in 2016. They have consistently featured performances from local musicians and well- known artists on tour, some will be mentioned below. For more information about Blue Note and the calendar of all performances, go to https://www.bluenotehawaii.com.
February 1st….The Hawaii Symphony Orchestra presents Star Wars: A New Hope at the Blaisdell Concert Hall. Watching Star Wars on the big screen with the Honolulu Symphony performing the score is a match made in heaven. Purchase your tickets at the box office or at Ticketmaster.
February 1st-16th … It is not too late to enjoy Agatha Christie’s Murder On The Orient Express at the Diamond Head Theatre. For more information and to purchase tickets go to: https://www.diamondheadtheatre.com.
February 5th through the 7th….Sergio Mendes, the renown Brazilian artist, will bring his thrilling rhythms and jazz to Blue Note Hawaii. Don’t miss it
February 8th …Andrew Schulz a stand-up comedian from New York will bring some laughs while you dine at the Blue Note Hawaii.
February 9th … Willy Falk, a performer from many Broadway shows, will be on stage for two shows the Blue Note Hawaii singing popular romantic ballads.
February 14th, 16th and 18th … The Hawaii Opera Theatre will perform The Marriage of Figuro, one of Mozart’s most beloved operas.
February 14th … 98 Degrees, with special guest Josh Tatofi, will be in concert at Blaisdell Arena from 8-10 PM.
February 15th … TLC, who sold over 65 million records world wide, will be performing at the
Blasidell Arena. Their special guest will be Eli-Mac.
February 16th … Blue Note will add a little soulful music for your Valentine’s Day weekend celebration with Top Shelf Classics. They will sing hits from the Temptations, Smokey Robinson and other memorable hits.
February 21st to the 23rd …. Annual Hawaii Collector’s Expo will be held at the Blaisdell Exhibition Hall. There you can purchase art, anime, jewelry, vintage furnishings, comics, sports cards and much more.
February 22nd and 23rd … HAPA will be on stage at Blue Note to perform their award-winning
February 28th …. Michael Cavanaugh and the Honolulu Symphony Orchestra will perform favorite Billy Joel hits at the Blaisdell concert hall. The show begins at 7:30 PM. For tickets, go to Ticketmaster or the Blaisdell box office.
February 28th and 29th … Judy Collins, who worked with Woody Gutherie, Pete Seeger and many other folk and pop icons, will be on stage at Blue Note Hawaii.
February 29th and March 1st … Conductor JoAnn Falletta returns to the Blaisdell Concert Hall with violinist Bella Hristova to perform Enescu’s Romanian Rhapsody No. 1, D. Ludwig’s Violin concerto and Dvorak’s Symphony No. 8.
Next month, March 6th and 7th, Carol Burnett will be at the Blaisdell. Tickets are on sale now at box office and through Ticketmaster online.
Mariah Carey will also be headed to Hawaii next month for a show at the Blaisdell Arena. Get your tickets early…..
Cathy, Mary and Jeff
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