Over the years, our customers have come to us with questions about remodeling kitchens and baths and the different materials that are available. In an effort to share our knowledge of the industry, we have written several articles to address some of these items. For additional information on these or any other remodeling related questions, give us a call or visit us at our showroom.
If you donâ€™t know building construction, you need to know your building contractor
By Ed Hantel
In the last few months, several homeowners, desperate to have their homes repaired after the flood in the Nashville area, have contacted me to assist them when their project didnâ€™t go as planned. Many of these homeowners were told by their proposed contractor to obtain their own building permits from their county codes department. This places the homeowner in the role of the contractor and the person he/she hired in the role of the sub-contractor. As a result, when sub-contractors hired to do the work fail to meet expectations, the homeowner bears the full responsibility for the job.
He/she cannot just walk away from the project as so many sub-contractors could. As the contractor, the homeowner is now stuck with shoddy workmanship and an unfinished project. These homeowners were hurt both by the flood and by the poor workmanship. Below are three examples, not related to the flood, that illustrate what happens when a building construction job goes wrong:
Example 1.Â A woman was having a studio built behind her home. She obtained the building permit, purchased all the materials, and hired a local handyman to construct the building. She watched the construction, but having no knowledge of construction procedures, she was unable to identify potential problems in the construction. When the building started to sag, she knew something was not right. Unfortunately, instead of correcting the problem, the handyman merely walked away from the job with his labor money already paid. In the end, the building had to be dismantled and rebuilt from the bottom up.
Example 2.Â Another woman needed her bathroom renovated. She had her bathtub re-glazed and it peeled after a short time. Next she had a local company cover her bathtub with a tub liner, which was satisfactory to her. However, when she wanted new porcelain tiles installed around the bathtub walls and floor, she hired two local handymen to do the job. The handymen removed the old tile from the floor and walls and installed green board drywall around the shower walls over which they installed the porcelain tiles.
Building codes have never approved green board in a wet area as a tile underlayment. These handymen were unaware of the code requirement and proceeded to install the tile incorrectly. After removing the old tile from the wall and installing new drywall, they discovered a one inch gap between the existing bathtub liner and the newly installed drywall. The tub liner was also flexible, which did not allow them to tile to it.These handymen didnâ€™t know how to solve the problem with the significant gap. They planned to use one inch of silicone caulk to keep the water from going between the tub and the walls.
Although this homeowner did not have a lot of construction knowledge, she knew something was not right. She decided to fire the handymen and hire a professional contractor who had to tear out the shower, tub, and floor and rebuild it correctly. The woman remarked that this has been a very expensive lesson to learn.
Example 3.Â A couple purchased an older home that had previously been renovated into several housing units near a local university. They wanted to expand the living space of two units and proceeded by enclosing in two porch areas. They hired what they believed to be a â€œcontractor,â€ but never checked out his credentials. The contractor asked them to obtain the necessary building permit and then proceeded to renovate their home (NOTE: porch requirements have different building load calculations than a closed in living space and the contractor did not take this into consideration). The homeowner was also unaware of these specific building requirements and consequently, the renovation job was poorly constructed. Water penetrated down through the walls and black mold formed in the walls, floors, ceilings, and insulation, as well as the basement. The contractor left the job saying the homeowner should call his insurance company to cover his faulty construction. Since the homeowners obtained the building permit, the contractor believes he is not responsible because he is merely a sub-contractor for the homeowner.
What To Do Before You Start A Building Renovation Project
When considering a home remodel or building construction, consider contacting theÂ Home Builders Association of Middle TennesseeÂ (HBAMT) and/or theÂ National Kitchen and Bath AssociationÂ (NKBA). Request the names of building contractors and remodelers that belong to the association. Ask for recommendations and choose at least three building contractors to interview and obtain a written bid (you may have to pay for these bids as they are quite comprehensive and time consuming). Study the three bids carefully to ensure that everything you want is included, to minimize any change orders once construction begins, as changing the project later may be costly. You can also find out if the contractor has any complaints against his/her company by contacting theBetter Business BureauÂ (BBB).
Require the contractor to provide you with current documentation regarding the following information:
1. Is the contractor licensed as a contractor by the State of Tennessee?Â You can check with the Tennessee Board of Licensing Contractors, 615-741-8307 or emailÂ contractors.home-improvement@TN.govÂ .
2. Is the contractor bonded by a Tennessee State approved insurance company?Â Ask to see proof of the current contractor’s bond.
3. Does the contractor have sufficient liability insurance?Â Request to see proof of current liability insurance.
4. Does the contractor have workmenâ€™s compensation insurance on all his workers and subcontractors?Â Make sure everyone on your worksite is insured.
Please Note:Â If your contractor does not have all of these basic credentials, you, the homeowner, could be liable for everything that is done or happens on your property. When you, the homeowner, obtain your own building permit, you are also required to have sufficient liability and workerâ€™s compensation insurance on all the people that work on your project.Â The value of your home may be placed in jeopardy to cover the risk of Worker’s Compensation Insurance and/or builder’s risk liability. As many homeowners do not own their home outright, your lending institution may also require you to take out builders risk insurance. They could foreclose on the property if you refuse. In addition, if you, the homeowner, do not obtain a building permit and proceed with an unlicensed contractor or remodeler, you are fully responsible and liable for everything that happens on your property.
It is best to make all your design and material decisions before you sign a contract. This way you can compare the contracts for their comprehensiveness and types of materials that will be used. Be careful when proceeding with a contractor that bids a job with allowances for materials but does not identify them specifically. Some contractors â€œlow bidâ€ the contracts so you will have to upgrade everything on the materials list in order to get what you really want. This leaves you vulnerable to costly change orders. In order for your project to be successful, you have to evaluate theÂ total project cost,Â quality of the materials and workmanship,Â dependability of the contractor, and hisÂ ability to complete your job in a timely manner, andÂ mutual trust and respect that you have with the bidding construction companies.
Good luck in hiring a respected, honest contractor. They are out there and are looking for your business.
Remodeling Project Responsibility, Risk & Payment
Many times clients have come to our showroom to talk about their remodeling project and asked to do some part of the project themselves or buy the materials and have them on the job site for us to install. At this point, we are trying to understand what role exactly of the following three methods the client is asking us to perform.
- Formal Proposal Method â€“ (Fixed Bid) Contractor takes total responsibility for job and all risk factors.The remodeling proposals are based on the costs of labor and materials, company overhead and profit, as well as the amount of risk involved in each remodeling project. All these business costs are included in each formal written proposal. Baring any additional work or unexpected conditions, e.g. compromised sub-floor and floor joist, the total charge for the project is stated in the formal written proposal.
- Cost Plus Method – Contractor takes total responsibility for the job, however, client takes total responsibility for the bottom line cost. (Could be above or below the estimated cost)The contractor provides the client with a best estimate for the total project cost, actual labor and material costs are recorded and based upon these total project figures, a 25 to 30% (Industry norm for remodeling projects) for overhead and profit is then added to the final job cost. The client accepts the risks and the final job cost could be more or less than the â€œFormal Proposal Methodâ€ listed above. From the contractorâ€™s point of view, this method is best used when the variables are not all apparent.
- Client as Contractor Method – Client acts as their own general contractor and assumes full responsibility and risk.Client purchases all materials and contracts with subcontractors to complete every aspect of the entire job. The client has the responsibility to contract directly with all the tradesmen, e.g. plumbers, electricians, tile setters, drywall finishers, painters and finished carpenters to complete the entire remodel project. The client accepts both the responsibility of the project outcome and the risk of the final job costs that could be more or less than the â€œFormal Proposal Methodâ€ or â€œCost Plus Methodâ€ listed above. However, with this method the client will saves the 25 â€“ 30 % overhead and profit that he would pay in the two methods listed above.
Choosing Your Contractor
Getting Names. The first place to start your search for a reputable contractor can be to ask friends and family members whom they have used for similar projects. If they had a good experience, most people would be happy to refer their remodeling contractor. Professional organizations are also a good source for finding quality contractors. One such organization is the Homebuilders Association of Middle Tennessee, which is a sub-chapter of the National Home Builder Association. You can phone them at (615) 366-7185 and request a list of contractors that belong to the Remodelersâ€™ Council.
Another excellent organization to contact is the National Kitchen and Bath Association (NKBA) at 1-800-843-6522 and request a list of members in the middle Tennessee region. These organizations as well as the local Better Business Bureau should be helpful to begin the search process for the right remodeling contractor. Getting Credentials Verify that the contractor is registered by asking for their state contractorâ€™s license. You can reach the State of Tennessee Contractors License Bureau at 1-800-544-7693 or online at state.tn.us. In addition to their license, you should also get copies of their insurance policies including liability, workers compensation, and property coverage. If your contractor is not licensed or properly insured, you are putting yourself at risk.
Getting References Sometimes, contractors offer to show you kitchens and baths of former clients where they may have used similar materials as is proposed for your project. This job visit is very useful as it allows you to not only to observe and compare materials but also evaluate their workmanship. It also allows you to discuss with the contractorâ€™s former client their remodeling experiences, e.g. contractorâ€™s work record, care of clientâ€™s property, remodeling expectations against the final remodeling results, etc. The personal visit provides you an excellent reference on the contractor. If this is not possible, however, phone calls to several of the contractorâ€™s former clients may suffice. Reputable contractors will be pleased to provide you the information so you can make an informed decision.
Getting Detailed Proposals Generally, most people are not aware of the tasks or material costs involved in remodeling a kitchen or bathroom area. They usually start by calling several contractors, getting at least three ball park estimates and comparing the bottom lines for the remodeling project. Nothing has been selected or written down and each contractor makes certain assumptions about the project and comparing each estimate at this stage, is like comparing apples and oranges. The project has to be defined with a detailed needs assessment, a design and all the materials need to be selected in order to initiate a comprehensive proposal. Only with a written detailed proposal that include the same work tasks and materials can comparisons of proposals be made. Require each contractor to be specific with their written bids, listing all the tasks to be performed as well as the materials with a complete description including color, model numbers, etc. to be used.
Another important factor is the respect factor between you and your contractor. This is not necessarily a personality contest, however, you must feel comfortable and have respect for the contractor as well as he for you. It is a mutual blessing for both of you, he needs the work and you need the work professionally done. Your association must be a win-win for all concerned.
Reasons for Choosing Hantel for Your Remodeling Projects
- Member of Professional Associations – We are members and officers of the Middle & West Tennessee Chapter of the National Kitchen and Bath Association (NKBA) as well as members of the National and Middle Tennessee Home Builders Association, Green Building Council and Remodelers Council.
- Full Construction Company â€“ We are Licensed, bonded and Insured to do major renovations and home additions as well as kitchens and baths.
- Design Services Provided â€“ Our certified kitchen and bath designers will not only plan your space to maximize the function but they will also assist you with all your color and texture selections to enable your finished renovation to be exactly what you wanted.
- One stop shopping for kitchen and bath remodeling project. We provide a turnkey service by working with you from the design stage through the completion of the project. We do it all.
- Trained professional staff members. – Our designers and workmen are trained and certified in the construction industry. We attend courses, seminars, and industry shows to make sure we are always on the cutting edge.
- Family owned and operated since 1979 in Tennessee â€“ Our staff members do the majority of the remodeling tasks in your home. When necessary, qualified licensed subcontractors assist our staff by providing specialized services.
- High level of workmanship – Kitchens and baths become works of art. We strive for perfection.
- Speed of remodeling project completion. Generally small bathrooms are completed in about two to three weeks. Small kitchens are completed in about six to eight weeks (From tear-out to completion of the project).
- Customer oriented. We focus on the customerâ€™s goals in the design and implementation of any remodeling project.
- Respect for the customers property. We make every effort to minimize construction dust and clean up after ourselves each day to make the impact of the remodeling process less stressful for you and your family.
Bathroom Remodeling: How much does it cost today?
In remodeling your bathroom you soon realizes that the bathroom is one of the most expensive rooms in the house to remodel, (per square foot.) Some homeowners merely want a basic functional bathroom space while others want a bathroom that is far beyond just functional. They want their bathroom to provide a place where they can refresh themselves as well as be as space that is as beautiful as the other rooms in their home.
How much does it cost to remodel an average size hall bathroom today?
It really depends on what needs to be changed. If minor changes are made such as wallpaper or painting, toilet, vanity, faucets, etc., the costs are merely the cost of labor and materials. (Labor costs vary depending on the amount of time required to do each task as well as the risk in accomplishing the task, e.g. in replacing the toilet, the toilet could leak and cause water damage.) Individuals sometimes put off remodeling their bathroom until a crisis has occurred or is eminent, e.g. the floor is about to fall into the basement or crawl space. At this stage, the only solution is to remove everything, (tub, toilet, vanity, floor tile, etc.) and rebuild the new bathroom space from the sub-floor up. Generally, the cost of totally rebuilding an average hall bathroom in the middle Tennessee region, using basic materials, is approximately $15,000 to $25,000. This also does not include moving walls or making major plumbing changes. If you change the walls or plumbing or must install new floor joists, etc., the costs could increase significantly, even as much as $10,000. more than the basic cost.
Many people underestimate the cost of remodeling a small bathroom. There are just as many tasks to be completed in the remodeling of a small bathroom area as there are in the remodeling of a larger bathroom area. Regardless of the size of the bathroom, the following tasks are required for a full bathroom remodel; the demolition and disposal of materials, reconstruction of the sub-floor and overpayment, adjustment of the plumbing and electrical to code requirements, installation of shower or bathtub, installation of tile backer board, tiling and grouting of the walls and floor, installation and finishing of drywall, painting of the walls, ceiling, doors, windows and all moldings as well as the re-installation of the toilet, vanity, mirror, lights, tissue and towel holders. In addition, as a result of the smaller space in some bathroom areas, only one person can work in the bathroom at a time while a helper waits to assist when called upon. It really takes more time to complete the tasks and subsequently the cost, per square foot, increases.
In summary, there are many decisions to be made in remodeling your bathroom, e.g. deciding on a budget that is realistic for your homeâ€™s value, choosing the right materials that will be used in the remodeling process and choosing the right contractor that will make your dream bathroom become a reality. Regardless of the size of the bathroom remodel, the process begins with the bathroom design and the services of a person who knows the market place, can advise you throughout the material selection process, assist you with the colors and textures so that you achieve your bathroom vision. Bathroom that are works of art donâ€™t just happen, they have to be designed and built to the specifications of the design.
So, you need a new shower in your bathroom?
When a person calls or comes to our showroom with the need of a new shower, there are many questions that come to mind in order to do a proper needs assessment. Is the current shower space adequate or does the current shower footprint need to be changed? Is the shower area going to be combined with a bathtub area as well? What is wrong with the current shower situation? Has the current shower area leaked and affected the home in any way? What are the shower features, materials and budget for the new shower? All these questions and more need to be considered in the initial consultation.
The shower features, size and materials contribute to the final cost of the shower.
Showers today can be merely utilitarian in nature or they can be much more with such features as dry and steam heat, body jets, large rain shower heads, dry or mist heated air filtered system or aromatherapy with the essence of oils. The shower unit material options may be constructed of fiberglass, acrylic, cultured marble, solid surface materials such as Corian, ceramic tiles, manufactured quartz/stone tiles such as Silestone or Cambria, natural stone tiles as well as full slabs of manufactured quartz/stone or natural granite and marble. Another cost factor is the size, design and shape of the shower. Usually the smaller the shower area, the higher will be the square foot labor cost, (cutting and fitting around the floor, wall and ceiling edges) where as the larger showers may utilize more materials, although the labor cost may not be significantly changed. Therefore, all the variables in the decision making of the shower e.g. size, design, shower features and the types of materials will contribute to the bottom line cost of the shower.
Showerheads with multiple settings that offer a variety of sprays have been around for several years. However, with the popularity of shower diverters, body jets, multiple showerheads will enable the bather to have their showering experience their way. Steam or dry heat permit the bather to sweat the toxins out of their body as well aromatherapy uses the essence of oils for a therapeutic refreshing experience. (Some individuals claim health benefits.) Therapeutic colored lights and surround sound are also amenities that are very important for some individuals. A seat in the shower becomes essential in order to relax and enjoys many of these amenities. As you can imagine, as one adds features to the shower area, this also adds to the total bottom line of the shower cost.
The original architect of the house generally determines the size of most bathroom shower areas. Changes to the original footprint must be thought through very carefully. The desire for the change must be balanced with the overall implications and cost of the changes. (Generally any type of remodeling can be done, e.g. as removal of walls, plumbing, HVAC, etc., but is it worth the expense?) The standard shower sizes are based on the size of the standard shower pans that are sized in width of 32â€, 36â€, 42â€, 48â€ and 60â€. The standard shower pan sizes in depth are 32â€, 36â€, 42â€, 48â€ and 60â€. Generally, any combination of the width and depth are considered standard sizes. Custom shower are any sizes other than the standard sizes, e.g. 54â€ x 36â€. The first number (54â€) describes the width of the shower pan and the second number (36â€) describes the depth of the shower pan. The size of the shower is usually dependent on the size of the individuals that may utilize the shower as well as the necessity for the shower features, e.g. body sprays, etc. If the shower area is too small, width or length, the shower area will prohibit a person from having the necessary room for using the shower with comfort. If on the other hand, the shower is too large an area, the heat from the shower water will escape through the open top of the shower subjecting the bather to cold drafts on their legs. (Large shower areas without a shower top will have the â€œchimney effectâ€ allowing all the heat to escape. In warmer climates e.g. Florida and California, the chimney effect is not applicable as the variance in temperature in the shower and surrounding area is usually closer together.) Shower areas that have an enclosed top prevent the heat from escaping during the bathing process. However, with enclosed top showers, the heat and moisture is also retained long after bathing and thereby encourage mold and mildew to grow. The solution is to provide adequate exhaust vitalization that will draw the heat and moisture to the outside of the house.
The cost of the material installation (labor and materials), the ease of maintenance and the aesthetics of the finished product usually contribute to the decision making process for the shower materials. Prefab fiberglass or acrylic shower units generally are the least expensive materials for a shower area. These units are generally mounted directly to the studded wall and need no cement backer board for installation. Usually one-piece shower units are appropriate only for new building construction, as the units have to be installed prior to the erection of the walls. There are several manufactures that have developed two, three or four section units that snap together for the remodeling installation. These units are usually seamless or are engineered that the seams required no caulk. These units are easily cleaned with non-abrasive cleaners. Cultured Marble shower units are constructed of a man made shower material that simulates natural stone products and is the next most economical shower material. However, with cultured marble, these shower areas require the installation of a shower pan and cement backer boards to glue the cultured marble slabs to the wall.
There is a wide selection of colors and styles to choose from in the manufacturing of shower pans and shower wall slabs. When designed and properly installed, cultured marble materials provide excellent results for many years of worry free showering. The large panels are usually one piece, seamed in the corners with an expandable caulk that will not mildew or leak and can be cleaned easily with non-abrasive cleaners. Ceramic, porcelain, quartz or natural stone tiles are the next group of shower materials. The cost of the various tile materials, shower size, complexity of the design and labor time dictates the cost of the shower area. Again as with cultured marble showers, the tile shower areas require the installation of a shower pan as well as the installation of cement backer boards on the walls prior to installation of the tiles. The various tile colors, textures, sizes and shapes enable the shower designer to create exactly what the customer wants, simple or decorative, modern or with an artistic rendering though the medium of tile. With ceramic, porcelain, quartz and natural stone tiles there are more grout lines, which may require more maintenance than the two previous shower material groups. Recently, grout manufactures have engineered grout with enzymes that inhabit the growth of mold and mildew. This has revolutionized the industry where by ceramic, porcelain, quartz and natural stone tiles can be used without the high degree of maintenance. (There are some shower cleaners that cannot be used with some grouts, tiles or natural stone products in that they deteriorate the materials. Check with the manufacturer of the cleaning product.)
Most of the natural stone products must be sealed once or twice a year, as they are porous stones by nature. Solid Surface, quartz and natural stone slab are the last group of shower materials and generally are the most expensive. This type of shower material as stated above require the installation of a shower pan and cement backer boards for the slabs to be glues to the walls. The advantage of slab materials is the same as with cultured marble in that the large panels are generally one-piece construction, seamed in the corners with an expandable caulk that will not mildew or leak. With solid surface and the quartz materials, these products can be cleaned easily with non-abrasive cleaners. Natural stone slabs have the same characteristics as the stone tiles in that they are porous materials and there are certain shower cleaners that cannot be used. Natural stone products should be sealed once or twice a year with specific stone sealers. There is a wide selection of colors, styles to choose from in the manufactured products, e.g. solid surface and quartz slabs where as natural stone is chosen for its unique veining and beauty.
What gives value, beauty and ease of maintenance are in the mind of each person when remodeling a bathroom or shower area? In the selection of the shower materials, features and shower design all may be perceived quite differently from one person to another. What is expensive, beautiful and easily maintained may have different meaning for each person. However, there are certain overall guidelines to consider when remodeling your home, e.g. the cost of the home and the neighborhoods home prices. Certain home prices dictate the quality of materials that would be appropriate. The homeowner does not want to cheapen the homeâ€™s value or conversely overspend for the neighborhood. However, if the client intends to live in the home indefinitely, they may spend beyond the homes value, because resale is not a consideration.
Considering a walk-in bathtub?
There are more and more newspaper, magazine and TV advertisements for the walk-in bathtubs. As the baby boomer population is aging, the need for a safe way to bathe seems to be increasing. The following article will raise some of issues you should be thinking about in purchasing a walk-in bathtub.
There are some individuals who like to sit and soak in the bathtub for health reasons, therapy or preference. With a regular bathtub, when you are finished bathing, you merely get up, get out and get on with your day. However, with the walk-in bathtub, when you are finished bathing, you have to wait for the water to drain completely before you can open the door and walk out of the bathtub. (Sometimes the walk-in tub has a drain pump to assist or speed up the discharge of the dirty bath water.) After the water is fully drained, you have to rewash your body or shower off as the dirty water may have left a residue over your body.
In addition, the cost of the walk-in bathtubs may be significantly more expensive than the regular bathtub. The cost of the unit installed could be as high as $8,000 to $12,000 with such options as air/water whirlpool, hand held shower wand, body jets, water heating unit and super-fast drain pump.
The walk-in bathtub unit has to be professionally installed and integrated into your bathroom area. Since most of these units are at least 29â€™ wide, your bathroom door must to be at least 30â€ wide to get the unit through the bathroom door. Also, considering the future resale of your home, many homebuyers may perceive these units only for the handicapped. This could be a negative element in the resale of your home.
Finally, there are several major American manufactures that produce walk-in tubs as well as many international companies. Our company leans toward the American manufacturers, e.g. Kohler, American Standard, Jacuzzi, Aqua spa, Norcom of TN, etc.. Your walk-in tub unit may need parts and servicing in the future and the hopefully the American manufactures will be around to stock the parts and offer service whereas the international vendor may be hard to find.
The real question is whether the walk-in bathtub is the best solution for your bathing situation. If soaking in a bathtub and safety are your concerns, the walk-in bathtub is your solution. However, if hygiene and bathing are your concern, a seated shower may be just as effective and cost significantly less. Whatever solves the problem of hygiene and preference is the best solution for you. Good luck and have a safe bathing experience.
In making all the selections for your new kitchen, one of the last decisions is to select the kitchen sink. Choosing a kitchen sink should not be complicated, should it? Letâ€™s consider some of the variables in choosing a new kitchen sink e.g. sink configuration, types of sinks and the sink materials.
You want your kitchen sink to look beautiful, be functional with low maintenance and be made of durable and high quality materials. These characteristics can be found in many types and brand names of sinks. Sink Configuration: You want the size, shape and depth of the sink bowls to be adequate for your kitchen clean up purposes. Types of sinks: Sinks are manufactured for various installation applications; top mount, under-mount, self-rimmed or integrated in the countertops e.g. solid surface sinks. Sink materials: You will also want to consider the various types of sink materials that are available; Natural Stone, Quartz or Granite Composite, Solid Surface, Plastic, Stainless Steel and Cast Iron or Steel covered with baked porcelain. All these decisions have cost implications.
There are advantages and disadvantages for each decision. Letâ€™s examine each of the variables separately in order to make your the decision for your purposes.
Generally, kitchen sinks are one, two or three bowls. Some double sinks have the large bowl on the right while other sink manufactures have the large bowl is on the left. The size and depth of the sink bowls vary greatly as well as some sink drains are installed in the back of the bowl while others are more centrally located. Usually, in a three-bowl sink, the third bowl is usually allocated to the garbage disposal exclusively.
Types of sinks:
Top mounted, under-mounted, self-rimmed or integrated sinks are used throughout the kitchen and bath industry. The type of sink is generally manufactured for the various countertop materials. Top mounted and self-rimed sinks are primarily used with laminate countertops. Top mount is the least desirable type of sink as the lip around the top edge of the sink protrudes above the countertop material, requires constant caulking and cleaning, and the lip inhibits the water on the countertop from easily being pushed back into the sink bowl. Solid surface sink are usually integrated in the solid surface countertop materials. There are no seams for bacteria and germs to grow and if the sink bowls or countertop materials are ever damaged, a trained service technician can repair the problem easily. Under-mount sinks are generally made of the following materials; stainless steel, natural stone and quartz composite. The inside edge of the countertops around the sinks is polished and the sink is mounted under the countertop with glue, bolts or sometimes both. Sometimes the sink is much too heavy to be hung and a substantial frame has to be constructed to hold the sink in place.
Natural Stone Sinks are rocks made of granite, marble, limestone, soapstone, etc. that are cut out from the earth, polished and can truly be works of art. Natural stone sinks have been used since ancient times and remain the material of choice for many cultures. There are various qualities of stone products in the market place today. It is wise to have an expert assist you with your stone sink selection, as there are some stone formations that are better suited for sinks than others. Advantage: Material is beautiful and also very durable, if it is maintained. Disadvantage: can be expensive, heavy, easily broken in shipping and installation and may stain more easily because of the fissures and pores in the rock. Natural stone usually needs a moderate amount of maintenance and could break if exposed to extreme temperature changes, e.g. pouring boiling water in the sink. It is also an extremely hard material that could break glasses and dishes more easily then other types of sink materials.
Granite & Quartz Composite Sinks are manufactured with 93% natural stone that is ground up and mixed with 7% acrylic compound. It is then poured into sink molds for a variety of sink applications. This is the newest type of sink material that was first introduced at the 2003 National Kitchen and Bath Show (NKBA).
Advantages: Moderately priced, warranted for ten years, functional, easy to maintain as it has no fissures or pores for bacteria, germs or stains to develop, will last forever and remain beautiful, durable as it is basically a stone material that can take temperatures up to 400 degrees without any problems. Each sink model can be installed as a top mount or under-mount installation. The quartz sinks come in three colors for decorating purpose. Disadvantages: Hard stone material that may require more care in washing glasses and dishes.
Solid Surface Composite Sinks are manufactured materials that are made from either acrylic or polyester compounds. These sinks are manufactured under such names as Dupont Corian, Hi Macs, Avonite, Surell, Fountainhead, Gibraltar, etc. and can be integrated or fused into the counter tops of the same material without seams between the sink and the counter material. Some solid surface manufactures produce top mount, under-mount and integrated sinks in several colors that match or contrast the counter tops. Advantages: Solid Surface Composite sinks are moderately in cost, more functional with a softer material than the stone products mentioned above, easier to maintain as the material has no fissures or pores for bacteria, germs to grow and if stains develop, they can be easily removed with a Scotch bright pad. Most manufactures warrant their materials for ten-years; however, the sinks will never wear out and always remain beautiful as the day it was installed. Disadvantages: Can be harmed if exposed to hot temperatures, e.g. hot grease or extremely hot pots and pans may burn the surface however it can be repaired on site with professional assistance at a moderate cost.
Stainless Steel Sinks are manufactured by several U.S. plumbing manufactures as well as many are imported into the US market place. The thicker gauge sink materials (usually at least 18 gauge), the polish of the stainless steel, the depth of the sink bowls usually influence the price. Many manufactures coat the bottom of the sink bowls to deaden the sound for a better sound presentation. Advantages: Stainless steel sinks can be priced as low, moderated or high and is generally dependant on the thickness of the material. It can be cleaned more easily than other types of sink materials depending on the quality of the stainless steel. It is made of a lighter weight for ease of installation as well as attractive in that it can match other stainless steel appliances and is also not affected by hot liquids, objects or hot grease. Disadvantages: Stainless steel sink material can be dented or scratched, requires constant cleaning as water spots show up unless cleaned and polished, and the scratches create fissures and pores that can hold bacteria and germs. Some stainless sinks are manufactured so thin that is difficult to attach a garbage disposal or install the sink baskets.
Cast Iron Sinks have been manufactured here in the U.S for the past 150 years and have served us well. They are molded out of cast iron and covered with a baked on porcelain material. These sinks are made for top mount, self-rimmed and under-mount installation.
Advantages: Moderate cost, attractive when newly installed, great longevity if maintained, holds the heat when washing dishes and not affected by hot objects or grease. Disadvantages: Heavy to install, porcelain can be chipped if hit with a hard object as well as the porcelain surface may wares away over time, stain, may requires constant maintenance and the scratches may hold bacteria and germs.
Steel Sinks are generally considered one of the least expensive sink products and have been with us for the past seventy-five years. They are pressed out of steel and coated with a baked on porcelain material. They are usually top mounted or self-rimmed installed. Advantages: Low in cost, light in weight, relatively easy to install and not affected by hot objects or grease. Disadvantages: porcelain can be easily chipped if hit with a hard object or porcelain surface may wares away over time causing it to rust, stains easily, looses heat of the water when washing dishes and scratches may hold bacteria and germs.
Now that you know the advantages and disadvantages of the sink configuration, types of sinks and the sink materials that are in the market place, it should be easier for you to make a good and educated decision.