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Lancaster County Home Improvement Guide


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R&A Magazine: Ask the Experts » Kitchen & Bath

[ Click each Question for the Answer ]
What should I consider doing to increase the safety in my bathroom as I age in place?
Answer provided by: Andrew Baker, Design and Project Manager, Brubaker Inc.
Brubaker Inc.Given the high cost of moving into a retirement home, as well as the general desire for many people to stay in their home as long as possible, aging in place is a common phrase when it comes to bathroom remodeling. There are many options to consider that go well beyond the standard answer you're likely to hear which is "add grab bars".

Commode: consider changing to a "comfort height" commode, which is typically somewhere around 18" high off the floor. This height will make sitting down and getting up off the toilet safer and easier.

Grab bars: grab bars are an excellent way of making your bathroom shower or tub surround as well as the commode area safer. Today, you have a myriad of designer grab bar options that can actually enhance the overall look of your bathroom. There are even special anchors available so that you can safely install a grab bar on a fiberglass surround.

Flooring: there is not a specific floor that is best, however you certainly want to avoid anything slippery like a polished porcelain or marble. In an older home, it is common to have floors installed over the years on top of each other, which builds up the height of the threshold. Consider having all of the old floors removed down to the subfloor so that your new floor is the same height as the adjacent flooring. This will make it safer, especially if you need to use a walker or a wheelchair.

Faucets: replace your bathroom faucets with lever handles, both at the sink and in the showering area. Knobs can be difficult to use, especially for anyone suffering from arthritis. Adding a handheld showerhead in the bathing area makes it easier to use a shower seat, as well as making it easier to clean the shower walls.

Tub to shower conversion: more people than ever are taking out their existing bathtubs and replacing them with showers. This even applies to homeowners with only one bathroom. While most people will still tell you that you need 1 bathtub in the house to sell it, people are realizing that a safe bathroom to let you stay in your home is more important than when it eventually comes time to sell the house. Consider a shower with a built in seat if you have the room, or a flip down seat in a smaller shower.

Lighting: a vent fan is often overlooked in a bathroom, yet it plays a very important role. Consider changing your existing vent fan, and while you're at it, install a new one with a night light feature. Also, change out old vanity lighting fixtures with new LED fixtures for better and brighter lighting. You can always install the lights via a dimmer switch if you want complete control over the brightness.

Vanity Area: almost all new vanities installed today tend to be "kitchen counter height". This will help reduce stress on your back as you bend over to use the sink. When changing your cabinetry, also consider having more drawers installed and/or pull out shelves included in your new cabinets. Just like in your kitchen, drawers and pull outs help you access what you need without having to get down and crawl into your cabinet.

If you'd like to learn more about aging in place and how it can help you stay in your home longer, or about our other services such as kitchen and laundry room remodeling, please give us a call at 717-299-5641 or stop in our designcenter.

What is the difference between custom and stock cabinetry?
Answer provided by: Mark Hochman, Sales Designer, Red Rose Cabinetry, Inc.
Red Rose Cabinetry, Inc.The easy answer is attention to detail. But what exactly does that mean? Cabinets tend to be classified into three categories—Custom, Semi–Custom and Stock.

Let's start with Stock cabinets. Just like the manufacturer of automobiles today, stock cabinets are typically made in large factories in an assembly line process. These cabinets are mostly built by robotic machines. Cabinet pieces are machine cut and usually assembled by either machines or humans.

Finishing is also either done by machines or people spraying parts as they go by on an assembly line. Preparation for finishing is minimal. Careful inspection will reveal the lack of finish quality of these cabinets. Stock cabinets come in predetermined sizes that cannot be altered. The purpose behind this type of construction is to keep handwork to a minimum, as the cost of labor is a major factor in the price of the cabinetry.

Next is Semi–Custom. What this generally means is that there is more attention to detail and therefore more human involvement. Some alterations of the basic sizes are available, usually custom depth and sometimes width and height as well. Generally the construction quality tends to be better than traditional stock cabinetry.

That brings us to Custom cabinetry. Here you have total human involvement. Parts are all hand cut and hand assembled. While custom cabinets do use set cabinet sizes, they are not bound by these sizes.

Cabinets can be built to just about any height, width and depth that is required. Cabinet parts are cut and assembled by qualified carpenters. Also more types of overlays are available, such as flush and beaded inset, as well as almost limitless stain and paint options and a much broader choice of door styles. When it comes to custom cabinetry, the sky is the limit.

Finish quality with custom cabinetry presents a major difference as well. All parts are hand sanded. Stain and glaze are applied by hand by experienced finish technicians. And finally, the finish top coat is applied by hand in the precise amount to give a high quality finish that can be seen and also felt. Because custom cabinetry is built specifically for each project it typically requires a longer lead time.

The choice is yours to make—dependent upon your budget and the quality you desire. Stock and semi-custom cabinetry tend to be more budget conscious, but if you can afford custom built cabinetry, like fine furniture, it will last a lifetime. At Red Rose Cabinetry, we offer our own custom cabinetry built to your exact specifications. We also carry several lines of stock and semi–custom cabinetry to meet just about any budget. For your next cabinetry project, please consider Red Rose Cabinetry as your go-to source. Should you have any questions, please don't hesitate to give us a call at (717) 626–4456.

I'm not sure if I can afford a complete bathroom remodel — what are my best options?
Answer provided by: Ray Kauffman, Manager, Groff's Bathroom Makeover Team
Groff's BathroomA professional contractor will know how to work best with any and all budgets. Consider breaking the bathroom remodel into components- -prioritizing them based on your needs as the homeowner. Ask yourself, what are your needs and what are your wants?

Some homeowners with a limited budget may only have cosmetic concerns. Some may have a more urgent concern to get certain parts remodeled or repaired quicker based on their condition—such as the discovery of water leakage, rotting of floor boards, mold, cracked piping, fiberglass, or plumbing lines, etc. One might also consider breaking down the project in phases such as replacing the rotten subfloor from a toilet leak and repairing or replacing the toilet before doing anything else in the bathroom.

Some may have a desire to keep their shower and toilet as is and just replace an unsightly or outdated vanity and replace an old vinyl floor with a newer tile for a better appearance. The contractor will evaluate the project as a whole and could, if needed, divide them into components.

Your first step. First and foremost, have a professional come out and give you an estimate. There are numerous companies to choose from so do your homework. We suggest that you don't commit to the first company you come across. Instead, keep this criteria in mind when choosing your professional: (1) are they licensed?; and (2) do they offer ALL trades required for my project (plumbing, HVAC, electrical, remodel (drywall, painting, etc.)? Generally speaking, overall costs will be significantly lower if you find a company that is locally based and offers all trades (rather than subcontracting certain aspects of the project).

Once you have chosen your professional–– he/she would be able to go over your plan and advise you what will and will not work. Invaluable to the process, an experienced contractor can use their professional eye to picture the final project before it even begins. They will provide you with a copy of the layout as well as samples, color selections, fixture selections, etc.

Why hire a Professional/ Contractor versus a do-ityourself project. There are many benefits to using a professional. Contractors have access to pretty much everything you will need for your home remodel or repair project. They already have long–established relationships and accounts set up with numerous vendors/supply houses and will communicate all of your needs directly. Contractors can have products delivered in a short amount of time with no hassle or headache to the homeowner. Most contractors have a warranty system in place. If you find a part to be faulty, they can quickly process warranty claims and order replacement(s) if and when the time comes.

Most townships/cities require permits and inspections. The contractor will handle all of the processing of permit paperwork and communications directly with the township/ city office and set up appointments for inspections throughout the project and final sign off. The contractor is also going to have a very good understanding with regard to the code requirements and stipulations for your particular municipality.

Generally, when faced with a larger remodeling project unforeseen things tend to come up—such as opening up a wall only to find a corroded pipe, or worse, a leaking one; or you pull a vanity and find a substantial amount of mold. These little surprises can be a huge setback to a homeowner in terms of both time and expense. A qualified contractor, on the other hand, will have the knowledge to handle the setback in a timely and professional manner and get the project back on track.

For more than 25 years, Groff's has been helping families in Lancaster, Chester and York counties. In addition to our bathroom makeover services, we provide heating and cooling, plumbing, and electric services and repairs. Yes, we do it all!

For more information or assistance, call us at 717.464.9446 or visit us online at www.Groffs.com. You can also visit us at the BIA Spring Home Show—we'll be in booths 612-614.

We are designing a new kitchen for our home. What storage features should we be sure to include in our cabinetry?
Answer provided by: Arlin Fox, Sales & Design, Foxcraft Cabinets LLC
I am glad to hear you asking this question while you are still in the design process. Your new kitchen may be large with lots of cabinets, but unless you design your new cabinets for functional storage, your kitchen will be cluttered and you will be disappointed. There are many innovative storage possibilities; I'll try to point out some of the most popular.

Corner Storage. Most kitchens end up having one or more corners in the cabinet layout. Many older kitchens have blind cabinets – cabinets that extend back into the corner with no easy access. These require you to literally crawl into the cabinet in order to reach the items that have gotten pushed back into the corner. The most common improvement has been the lazy susan which allows the user to rotate the shelf in order to access all the items. Now, however, there are new systems that make access even more convenient. These systems allow easier access to the corner space by allowing the shelves to swing, pull, or slide out of the cabinet.

Roll–out Shelves. Nobody likes digging in cabinets! Roll-out shelves allow you to pull out the shelf for easy With a traditional shelf, you always need to have clearance above the front items in order to access the items in the back. But with a roll–out shelf, you will no longer need to have extra clearance since you will be pulling the shelf out into the open, putting everything within reach from the top. To get this extra benefit, be sure that your roll-out shelves feature tool-less adjustability so you can easily maximize your storage potential as your needs change.

Pot/Pan Storage. Your pots and pans are key items that should have proper storage, or they will end up stashed on a heap. A common storage option is large drawers near your cooktop; these can be further organized by using adjustable dividers or peg systems. Remember to make your drawers deep enough to accommodate your large pots. If large drawers are not an option with your design, consider using adjustable roll-out shelves which give you the flexibility to adjust their spacing. Another great option is a hanging organizer on a pull–out slide. Simply slide the pullout from the cabinet and grab the pot that you need.

Tray Storage. Trays are thin and all your trays can easily be stacked on top of each other without using much space. But, you know the frustration of digging for the pan on the bottom! In most kitchens, this becomes the default because there was no planning for trays. Try to include a cabinet in your kitchen design with upright tray dividers, allowing you to easily get the tray that you need. Or better yet, have a pullout drawer with tray dividers.

Charging Station. The kitchen is the heart of your home since everybody's life centers around it. How many counters end up being cluttered with mobile devices and cords? There are some great products that allow you to incorporate outlets and USB ports into your cabinet or drawer. By keeping all the cords in a designated spot, your counters will be clutter–free.

Everyone uses their kitchens in their own unique ways. Partner with a kitchen designer who will be able to understand your needs and make recommendations on storage solutions. By using custom cabinets, your designer will be able to design creative, custom storage solutions specific to your needs. For more information about making your kitchen functional, give me a call at 717.859.3261 or visit www.FoxcraftCabinets.com.

I'm thinking of remodeling my kitchen, but I'm not sure where to start. Can you give me some ideas on how to go about it?
Answer provided by: Karen Benn, Design Technician, Red Rose Cabinetry
Red Rose CabinetryThere are many things to consider when deciding to begin a remodeling project. Do walls need to be moved or removed? Does plumbing and/or electrical work need to be done? Are you replacing flooring? Doing any painting?

If it's a major remodel you may want to consider hiring an experienced General Contractor to oversee your project from beginning to end. Or, depending on the company you choose to purchase your cabinets from and the scope of the work to be done, they can also act as the GC and take care of everything for you – sort of a one–stop shop. If it's just a matter of tearing out the old kitchen and installing a new one, most cabinet suppliers will take care of that for you as well or, if you're handy, you may choose to do the tear–out and install yourself.

To get some ideas on the kitchen design itself and what style of cabinetry might appeal to you, the internet is an invaluable resource. Sites such as Pinterest and Houzz. com are wonderful as they have many different pictures to view and get ideas from. A good kitchen designer is also an excellent resource to help guide you in the design and selection process.

Of course, one of the most important decisions you'll make is where to purchase your cabinetry. There are many venues available from home stores and cabinet distributors that carry stock cabinetry to custom shops that build and finish the cabinets to your exact specifications. Budget comes into play when making this decision but should not be the sole deciding factor. My recommendation would be to go to a shop that specializes in cabinetry rather than a huge home store simply because the shop that specializes in cabinetry only is just that – a specialist. There is no comparison when it comes to expertise and experience. The big home stores may be more convenient but not necessarily less expensive and, most, simply, do not have a sales staff with extensive design experience or background. Choosing a cabinet company such as Red Rose Cabinetry that offers both stock and custom cabinetry, several countertop options to meet most any budget, and a knowledgeable and experienced design staff would be ideal.

There are so many factors that come into play when remodeling your kitchen that it may seem a bit daunting at first. But choosing a company that offers quality materials as well as an experienced design staff will make your project much easier. And when your new kitchen has become a reality, you will feel a genuine sense of accomplishment, along with having a beautiful addition to your home that you and your family will enjoy for many years to come. For more information, please don't hesitate to give us a call. Better yet, stop in and visit our showroom and speak to one of our experienced designers. We can design the perfect cabinet and countertop configuration to maximize available space and make using your kitchen the joy it should be. Ask us about corner shelving, Lazy Susans, creative lighting options and so much more!

Keep in mind that we are not limited to just kitchens. We design cabinetry for other spaces such as bathrooms, home offices, entertainment centers, hobby rooms, etc.

Installation services are available for just the cabinetry and countertops, or we can act as your General Contractor and handle all aspects of your remodel project from start to finish. Just let us know how we can help.

I'm looking to fully remodel my bathroom and kitchen. Is it possible to accommodate my day to day needs for organization, storage and usability with practical and reasonable solutions that are also attractive?
Answer provided by:Nicole R. Martin, Remodeling Project Specialist, Brubaker Inc.
Brubaker Inc.Homes are meant to be lived in and enjoyed. They should be a comfortable refuge from the stresses of life. While rooms must always be beautiful to look at, design needs to make sense, work in the real world and make the resident family's lives easier.

Magazines and design shows are great for inspiration but often offer impractical and user UN-friendly solutions. It may be something as simple as the placement of a tub faucet or shower shelf to something as fundamental as the location of appliances, but each detail of a kitchen, bathroom or laundry room remodel needs to be considered to not only maximize the benefit of the remodel but also to avoid mistakes that make the features inconvenient to use. A dedicated remodeling project specialist will be able to lead you in finding solutions to meet your needs and that fit in your budget while being aesthetically pleasing to not only you but your guests.

For example, there are many inexpensive, unique ways to add storage and usability to a room without creating the appearance of a locker room or office. Clearing the clutter in a kitchen can be as simple as adding a message center. This feature can be built into the interior of a cabinet to hold keys, mail, a corkboard and even USB and phone chargers. Recessed shelves in bathrooms and kitchens are a great way to add storage without intruding visually, or spatially, on what may be a tight area. These space–savers can be installed in showers, backsplashes and walls to add instant storage without depleting floor space.

Touch–free faucets are a great, low–cost addition to kitchens where messy hands are an issue or to bathrooms used by guests or children. No more worrying about whether the faucet is turned off!

Myriads of cabinet inserts make it easy to custom–design organization to meet your lifestyle and needs. Units can store and organize pots and pans, dishes, glassware, spices and small appliances. Accommodations can even be made for pet supplies and food dishes! These inserts are very cost effective compared to custom cabinets that were necessary in the past to receive such convenience.

Even the materials, from counters to tiles to cabinets to sinks, are much easier to care for and require very little maintenance. Dazzling materials including natural stones, ceramics, glasses, metals and woods are available in a wide spectrum of colors, finishes and designs to fit in any budget.

Most importantly, an experienced remodeling project specialist will help you to select the materials you love that fit within your budget and work with your lifestyle while thinking through each aspect of the design such as: What height is best for my vanity? Will a single – or multi–level island work best for my family? Considering the way I use my kitchen, what appliance placement makes the most sense for me?

Planning for such usability (and then making the details beautiful!) will turn your kitchen or bathroom into the organized, functional, magnificent room you always wanted!

The Remodeling Project Specialists at Brubaker Inc. are excited to hear from you. Please contact us at 717-299-5641 to explore your unique remodeling desires and objectives.

I want to update my kitchen, but my cabinets are in good shape. What can I do to bring my kitchen up-to-date while keeping my existing cabinets?
Answer provided by: Design Center Sales Staff, Bomberger's Store Inc.
Bomberger's Store Inc.There are many different options available to update a kitchen without replacing the cabinets. Start by looking at the cabinets themselves. If they are in good shape, painting your cabinets is an inexpensive update that a novice DIY-er can tackle. Sandpaper, primer, paintbrushes or rollers, and some gallons of your favorite color will give your kitchen a fresh, new look. The paint options out on the market today for cabinetry finishing are stronger and more durable to withstand daily use.

Another update that can make a big difference would be to change out your cabinet hardware. New hardware can be a very quick and easy change to make your kitchen look like new. Browse some of today's popular finishes available—such as satin nickel, chrome, pewter, and oil rubbed bronze. Think of your hardware as the jewelry to your cabinetry, and accessorize!

If painting the cabinets is not something you choose to do, you could look at changing out the countertops. With many possibilities out there for updating your countertops, there are options available to fit any budget. Laminate countertops are a great way to get a modernized look on a tighter budget. From stone and granite looks, to metal, fabric and wood-look patterns, you're sure to find a style that fits your taste. Granite is an option that is available in simple to exotic patterns, and is definitely the way to go to make your kitchen one-of-a-kind. Due to granite being a natural stone, it gives a truly unique appearance to any kitchen. Quartz follows in the footsteps of granite, both in appearance and quality. One benefit of quartz is that it has a more uniform—and therefore more consistent—pattern from one slab to another. With virtually no maintenance, quartz would be a great option for the family on the go.

Adding a tile backsplash is another great example of a quick kitchen upgrade. Usually done as a two-day project, you can easily add trendy glass, metal, or stone to your backsplash to give it a more up-to-date look. Tie in fixture colors, paint colors, accent pieces and more to give your design a more cohesive, personalized look.

Replacing the flooring in your kitchen can dramatically change the look and feel of the space. Adding hardwood or wood-look floors to the room will make the room feel warmer and richer. There are many different wood options on the market. From traditional hardwoods to natural corks, laminates, vinyl planks, or tiles that mimic wood patterns, you're sure to find the product that best meets your needs and enhances your space. Other durable options for kitchen flooring include tile, natural stone, vinyl and luxury vinyl tiles. Adding tile or stone looks can make the room feel sleek and modern, add a rustic flair, or create a timeless classic look.

Last but not least, a fresh coat of paint on the walls can be a quick update. Go bold with a bright color, or keep it calm and subdued with a muted color palette. You can pull colors from the countertop, flooring, tile, or accent pieces. It's amazing what a new coat of paint can do to make the entire room feel bright, fresh, and clean. If you're unsure what color would look best in your space, most paint collections offer a sample size that you can take home and try out first.

Whether you choose one update or multiple updates, be sure to stop by and talk to our design center experts. They have the knowledge and expertise to guide you to the products that not only fit your budget and your lifestyle but will make your kitchen look great for years to come.

I will soon be doing a kitchen renovation and I'm very interested in using granite for my countertops. To be honest, I don't know much about granite other than I really like the look. What can you tell me?
Answer provided by: Sharon Sweigart, Outside Sales, Natural Stoneworks
LanChester Grill & HearthYou are not alone in your preference for granite...in fact, granite has become today's countertop of choice for architects, cabinetmakers, kitchen designers and contractors. Properly sealed granite is virtually impervious to abrasions, stains and extreme heat. Granite is extremely durable. It is one of the hardest materials known to man and is only slightly softer than diamonds.

As for its appeal, because of its unique natural beauty, granite has been used in architecture throughout the ages. The intrinsic beauty of this natural stone is its uniqueness. In choosing your granite, be sure to hand select your slabs as no two slabs will be identical. These slight irregularities are what will make your project unique and different from any other. Other than its popular appeal and natural beauty, there are a number of practical reasons why granite would be a great choice...here are a few to consider.

Are granite countertop tops expensive? Improved stone–working technology has made granite countertops very affordable compared with man-made solid surface materials. Depending on the stone selected, granite is often less expensive than quartz. Granite is about the same price as Corian. Granite countertops will increase the resale value of your property; they are an investment.

ls it easy to maintain and seal granite? Granite is ranked #1 in clean ability. Granite can be cleaned with mild, antibacterial liquid dish soap and water. Your countertops should be sealed when they are installed. Annual resealing is recommended. If sealing is a concern, ask your fabricator if they offer a 15 year guaranteed sealer. Does granite harbor bacteria? Granite is used and approved in food and medical applications. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention has no records of granite harboring bacteria and no reports of people becoming ill from bacteria in granite. With regular cleaning, granite is far less likely to support bacteria than butcher block or laminate materials.

How easily can granite countertops be damaged? Like any solid surface, high impact blows could cause harm to your granite counters. Because of its crystalline structure, it can chip if subjected to sharp hard objects. These chips can be repaired by an experienced professional. Under normal circumstances, heat from your pots and pans or burning liquids will not affect granite.

Can I cut on my granite countertop? Yes, however, granite surfaces are harder than your knife blades and will dull them very quickly. If you have expensive knives, you should cut and chop on a wooden or plastic cutting board placed on top of your granite surface.

Will my granite countertop have tiny pits on the surface? Granite, which is crystalline in structure, has pits, which are tiny spaces between the mineral crystals. You do not see them on a larger piece because the surface is polished to a mirror–like finish. Granite has natural fissures as well, which may have the appearance of cracks, but are not defects. These fissures are naturally occurring and the result of the immense heat and pressure under which the granite was formed over millions of years. These characteristics are part of the stone's natural beauty and will not impair the function or durability of the granite.

Hopefully, this information will prove helpful in your upcoming decision making. For more information, please give us a call or, better yet, stop in and see us. We have a huge display of slabs from which to choose, a well-appointed showroom to help with your other project selections, and a very creative and experienced design team to assist you. Come see us today!

What things should I consider when setting a budget for my bathroom or kitchen remodel?
Answer provided by: Nicole R. Martin, Remodeling Project Specialist, Brubaker Inc.
Nicole MartinThe prospect of designing your perfect bathroom or kitchen and selecting the beautiful fixtures you will enjoy for many years is an exciting adventure. The first step in that process, however, should be setting a budget for your project. Many aspects of the renovation will greatly affect the price. Having a realistic expectation of what can be done within your budget will eliminate frustration and disappointment at the outset of your project. It's important to ask yourself some preliminary questions: what type of cabinets do I want? Which countertop material best suits my lifestyle? What floor covering is attractive to me?

The most cost effective design option for your kitchen or bathroom is to keep existing mechanicals such as plumbing, gas and electric lines in the same location, as well as retain the existing placement of bathroom fixtures. Remodeling projects are often predicated by a need for better room flow or more floor space. Relocating tubs, toilets and appliances can often make your room more functional. Often walls can be removed or cut down to open up a room or annex adjoining space. Such changes are worth the additional cost incurred but this construction work needs to be considered when setting your budget.

Perhaps the biggest effect on price is the style of fixtures and materials you select. Cabinets generally incorporate the majority of material costs in a kitchen and are available in several constructions. Custom cabinets have the highest price tag but also give you the greatest flexibility in style, finish and size. Semi-custom cabinets are a popular option that allow for the quality of custom cabinets but with a price closer to stock cabinets. If standard cabinet sizes work with your floor plan, stock cabinets will help save money while offering attractive options in finish and style.

Countertops, both in a kitchen and bathroom, greatly affect the price of your project. Counters can double or triple in cost from one material to another. Vinyl, tile, laminate and luxury tile are popular choices for floors. These selections, including the necessary installation costs, will affect your overall price. Labor costs within a remodeling project are usually as high, or higher, than the cost of the materials. The necessary labor hours to do a project can vary even within the same type of project when done in two different houses. Circumstances that significantly affect the number of labor hours, and thus the overall job cost, include but are not limited to the age of the house, the type and construction of existing fixtures to be removed, the intricacy of new tile or moulding work to be performed and the type of new fixtures to be installed.

Setting a budget at the beginning of your project and sharing that amount with your remodeling project specialist will help him or her to point you towards attractive, quality products that will meet your needs and your budget. Should the preliminary design and material ideas you collect and present to him or her not fit within your budget, an experienced remodeling project specialist will be able to make suggestions and offer excellent alternatives to be certain you achieve the room of which you truly dream...at any price.

If you have any questions or would like to explore some ideas, the Remodeling Project Specialists at Brubaker Inc. would be happy to hear from you. Please feel free to contact us at 717.299.5643.

We will be re–doing our kitchen this summer and I just love the look of granite countertops. My husband is the cautious type and is concerned about staining and burning (we're not all that careful with our cooking). Is my heart going to be broken or is my husband's concern unwarranted?
Answer provided by: Anastasia Kolawa, Sales Manager, Classic Granite
Being cautious with your home improvement selections is a good thing. It's wise to do your homework and find out in advance the pros and cons of various product options. In this case, I think you'll be pleased with my answer.

Regarding burning, granite is formed by extreme heat and pressure combined underneath the earth's surface, so no, it cannot burn with ordinary use.

As for staining, as a natural stone, granite itself is 95–98% stain resistant. There are a few colors, however, that may absorb moisture with prolonged contact easier than others, and a problem may arise with darker pigmented liquids. To reduce this risk and for added protection, however, our company re-seals the countertops after fabrication with a specially formulated stone sealer which impregnates the granite. We also recommend a product called Dupont Revitalizer, for daily use as a cleaner formulated with a sealer that actually seals your granite every time you clean it.

Because of its natural beauty, durability and ease of maintenance, granite continues to be a very popular choice for kitchen countertops as well as various applications in the bath.

Should you have any questions regarding its maintenance or repair, or if you would like to discuss possible applications within your home, I invite you to call me at 717.333.2133, email me at gomarble@gmail.com, or better yet, visit me at our Lititz showroom and design center at 569 Furnace Hills Pike. Our showroom hours are Monday thru Friday 9–5:30, and Saturday 10–3.

My bathroom is on the second floor of my home and it takes forever to get hot water to the faucets not to mention the waste of water going down the drain. Is there anything made to help with this?
Answer provided by: John Leibley, President, Leibley Plumbing, Inc.
Leibley Plumbing, Inc.Yes there is! The GRUNDFOS hot water circulation system is a great solution for this problem and it's available for both new construction as well as existing homes like yours.

You are right...why wait for hot water? Not only is it an inconvenience, it wastes time and money not to mention a lot of water! Hot water recirculation, on the other hand, means a continuous flow of hot water in the hot water supply line of your home––without a separate recirculation line. Without this system hot water in the line cools and must be evacuated before hot water can reach the faucets. This system uses the cold water supply line as the return line to the water heater and a circulator pump is installed on the hot water supply line of the water heater — a patented thermostatically controlled valve (comfort valve) is then mounted under the sink furthest from the water heater. The circulator pump is also equipped with a timer so that you can set it to run when you desire. This system not only adds value to your home, but delivers comfort and convenience of instant hot water when you expect it.

Think of it this way...what happens to the two to three gallons of water that goes down the drain during the wait? Those gallons are wasted and in an average household that can add up to thousands of gallons a year. GRUNDFOS has developed this system specifically for the existing home market and it is very energy efficient––using less energy than a twenty–five watt light bulb and can save up to sixteen thousand gallons of water a year per household! Hot water recirculation is a cost-effective method that can help the community and the environment by controlling additional waste of water.

For more information, give me a call at 665.5555

We are remodeling our kitchen. Our real estate agent told us that granite will add the most value to our home. After researching all of my countertop options, I can’t wait to get my new granite tops. But now what? How do I "shop" for granite countertops?
Answer provided by: Ken Morris, Operations Manager, Natural Stoneworks
Natural StoneworksFirst of all, you are making a great choice in using granite. I've been in the granite countertop business for over twenty years, and it is such a pleasure to see how this countertop surface has evolved. Back in the day, we used marble. Then along came granite, a much more durable stone that is highly heat, scratch, and stain resistant. Just like any new product, though, it has taken years of educating the consumer for granite to rightfully be recognized as the best investment in countertops. To me, granite goes way beyond the value; it is a piece of art created by nature. You as the homeowner have the opportunity to show your style and personality through your unique stone.

Getting Started There are several ways to buy your granite countertops. Your best path to new granite tops depends on several factors: the scope of your project, your time, and your desire for professional design coordination throughout your home.

If you are simply :popping off the old tops," and replacing them with granite, you may wish to go directly through a granite fabricator. Some granite fabricators, like Natural Stoneworks, offer free design services to coordinate countertops, backsplashes, and flooring. On the other hand, a personal interior designer would help you to pull together other design elements throughout your home. Your designer would utilize the fabricator's stone yard and showroom. Well-appointed showrooms display stone and ceramic tiles to allow design of floors and backsplashes with slabs. Most likely, your designer will take you along to approve selections.

If you are replacing cabinetry or doing other renovations, you will probably employ a quality cabinet maker or general contractor. They will coordinate the installation of your tops with the fabricator. However, even in these instances, you should have the right to select your fabricator, visit the fabricator's facilities, and look at your granite slab in person.

Comparison Shopping
The best answer I have for this one is: Reputation, Reputation, Reputation. You are probably accustomed to researching a product; making a choice on make, model, and color; and then looking for the lowest price on the internet or store-to-store. Because granite is a product of nature, comparison shopping for what may appear to be the same color and edge treatment is a mistake. It will not be an "apples for apples" comparison and you may end up with a bad investment. As with any business, there are ways to cut corners and use inferior materials in order to give a low ball price to an unknowing customer.

The intrinsic beauty of granite is its uniqueness. No stone is alike and may go by various names. So the best way to make the right choice is to use a fabricator with many actual granite slabs on display. A good fabricator will also offer that you may visit his importers to hand-select your stone if you wish. If a fabricator will not let you see your individual granite that is a red flag.

Most importantly, granite countertops are not created in a factory sense. They require the expertise of craftsmen who use the proper cutting machinery and tools, who know how to lay out your tops in the most attractive manner, who can make needed seams go almost unnoticed, and who take pride in their work.
All projects, no matter how much you think will be simple and straight forward, have issues and nuances. You will want to be sure that your granite fabricator is prepared and willing to deal with whatever challenges arise. If your cabinetry isn't quite level or if your existing backsplash is a smidgen too high above the countertop, you want your installers to know how to make adjustments.

Enjoy Your New Granite
I hope that I have given you some direction to get you started and to make you feel confident and excited about getting your new granite countertops! As I said, you will be pleased with this rugged yet beautiful surface. Just remember that no matter what path you take, whether it is on your own, with an interior designer, or through a cabinet maker or contractor, you should ultimately be able to rely on your quality fabricator. He will provide the showroom, slabs, and expertise to help in your selections. Then he will coordinate with you or your designer/contractor to install your countertop (along with the tile backsplash and floor if included). From your first showroom visit to actual installation, the granite countertop portion of your kitchen remodel will be a fascinating and pleasant journey. Enjoy!

After having our counter-tops installed, friends have asked if granite can stain or burn? Our countertops look beautiful and have had no problems, but is this something I will need to watch out for?
Answer provided by: Anastasia Kolawa, Sales Manager, Classic Granite
Regarding burning, granite is formed by extreme heat and pressure combined underneath the earth's surface, so no, it cannot burn with ordinary use.

As for staining, as a natural stone, granite itself is 95-98% stain resistant. There are a few colors, however, that may absorb moisture with prolonged contact easier than others, and a problem may arise with darker pigmented liquids. To reduce this risk and for added protection, however, our company re-seals the countertops after fabrication with a specially formulated stone sealer which impregnates the granite. We also recommend a product called Dupont Revitalizer, for daily use as a cleaner formulated with a sealer that actually seals your granite every time you clean it.

Because of its natural beauty, durability and ease of maintenance, granite continues to be a very popular choice for kitchen countertops as well as various applications in the bath. Should you have any questions regarding its maintenance or repair, or if you would like to discuss possible applications within your home, I invite you to call me at 717.333.2133, email me at gomarble@gmail.com, or better yet, visit me at our Lititz showroom and design center at 569 Furnace Hills Pike. Our showroom hours are Monday thru Friday 10-6, and Saturday 9:3-3.

We are thinking of remodeling our kitchen and bathroom, but we are a bit apprehensive about finding a quality construction company. How do we go about finding a reputable construction firm and what kind of questions should we ask?
Answer provided by: J.D. Burkholder, President, Affordable Bathrooms and Kitchens
J.D. BurkholderMany people are inspired to start new projects with the new year. If you are looking to start a remodeling project, there are definite things to consider as you put your dream into a concrete plan. First, make a list of your expectations/desires and then be willing to do some legwork and actually interview construction firms to see if they can match your expectations. Main expectations that need to be discussed are quality, contracts/payments, and communication/scheduling.

More important than any of these concerns, however, is that you feel comfortable with — and not intimidated by — the company you choose for your construction project. Trusting your contractor is critical. You can build that trust with open and honest communication through every step of the process. You want to be sure that your contractor is a trusted advisor, not a salesman.

Quality: No one intends to hire a less-than-qualified contractor, but how do you identify one who will be able to provide the level of quality you desire? The best referral comes from a satisfied customer — so asking friends and family is definitely a good option. Granted, what your friend may consider quality or exceptional service may not match your standards. If you find a contractor that you feel might work, you should ask to see a complete list of his clients to broaden the scope of your sampling. A quality company should have available a list of clients who are willing to invite you into their home to view the craftsmanship or at least be willing to discuss their experience by phone.

In 2008, the Pennsylvania Legislature passed the Home Improvement Consumer Protection Act. The law requires that all contractors who perform at least $5,000 worth of home improvements per year register with the Attorney General's Office. You can check to see if a contractor is registered by calling the toll-free hotline, 1-888-520-6680.

Contracts and Payment: Once you have established that the quality of craftsmanship meets your expectations, you should discuss contractual agreements and payment guidelines. Nothing will sour your dream remodel as fast as finding out deep into the project that it's costing you more than you can afford! At the onset, ask whether your contracts are guaranteed. Guaranteed contracts mean that the construction firm has taken the proper precautions when bidding the job to assure that the labor time included in the contract is sufficient for the job to be completed within the contract price. Make sure to make allowances for special materials like cabinetry, custom windows, plumbing fixtures, electrical fixtures and items that may need to be special ordered. This allows you, the homeowner, to have the freedom to spend or save as much as you would like while selecting the products you want. Items such as lumber, drywall, paint, insulation and other construction materials that don't have as much of an aesthetic appeal are usually automatically included in the contract price. If the cost of these items or the labor to install them exceeds what is estimated by the contractor, the construction company eats the cost, not you. In the event that you want to change the floor plan or select a different item than was originally selected, the contractor should have a system in place to inform you of any extra costs that might be associated with the changed order. These steps will allow you to stay informed as money is spent to ensure you don't exceed your budget.

Communication and Scheduling: Communication and schedule expectations are key to any relationship with a contractor. Find out if the contractor guarantees his schedule. This guarantee should include a detailed, written schedule that spells out what will take place each day. The power of preparation and having a written plan is essential for a remodeling project to be completed effectively and efficiently. In addition, a detailed job schedule will ensure the proper products will be ordered and the right construction applications will be completed.

If you have any questions or concerns about your remodeling project, contact one of the experts at AB&K — Affordable Bathrooms and Kitchens at 717-715-9488.

My husband and I are planning to remodel our bathroom this fall. We've selected a remodeler, but otherwise, we don't even know where to start. Do you have any advice?
Answer provided by: Dee McCarty, Lead Designer, YC Design Center, Lancaster
Dee McCartyYou aren't alone. Many homeowners realize that their bathroom isn't functional but don't know where to begin when trying to make it better.

Your remodeler will tell you this, too, but the first thing you should do with any remodeling project (not just your bathroom) is to take an inventory of what you'd like to change about the room. Think about the times of day when you use your bathroom (how many people are trying to get ready in the morning and at what times) and what changes can be made to make it functional for you. This process will also help you solidify what you are truly looking for from your bathroom remodel.

Once you've made an inventory of changes, my next suggestion is to research what products are on the market. There are literally hundreds of vessels, tubs, showers, and faucets to choose from, so your best bet is to visit a showroom.

Showrooms are also an excellent resource for learning about the new products. When consumers visit our showroom, there are two design specialists on hand to help them through the often overwhelming process of picking out the components of their new bathroom.

Let's say you know you want a soaking tub, but there are dozens of soaking tubs on the market from which to choose. By visiting a showroom and speaking to a design specialist, you can find out the differences between each manufacturer and discover what amenities are available.

For example, one tub on the market is the new Release Bathtub Series by Pearl. The Release tubs are ergonomically shaped to offer you two comfortable sitting positions—designed for relaxing at one end and reading at the other. This series also offers a wide array of therapies including hydrotherapy with True Whirlpool®, air therapy with Aerofeel®, thermotherapy with ThermaZone ™, Chromatherapy (colored lights) and the new aromatherapy with AromaScents™ to lavish you with total relaxation. A skilled design specialist can walk you through this selection process to ensure you pick the tub that's right for you.

Or perhaps you want to remodel your bathroom to accommodate your parent's needs when they come to town for a visit. Handicapped accessibility is more than grab-bars, although those are certainly important. But did you ever consider replacing your current shower unit with one that doesn't have a lip to step over? There are several great showers on the market today that will match the existing floor height of your bathroom. Furthermore, today's ADA bathrooms do not have to feel sterile like a hospital. There are plenty of choices to make your bathroom attractive, yet still ADA accessible. Again, a skilled design specialist can help you through these choices.

Perhaps the biggest benefit to visiting a showroom is this: Many showrooms are laid out into vignettes, and these "mini-rooms" help you visualize what the bathroom will look like when completed. The vignettes allow you to see and touch all of the components that go into making your bathroom complete.

Making your selections from a catalogue is okay, but when you visit a showroom (rather than making your selections online), you can actually see and touch the various finishes first hand. This is an important step in selecting the right colors, textures and styles for you, and ultimately you will create a bathroom that you'll be happy with for years and years.

YC Design Center is a division of YC Company. The YC Design Center in Lancaster offers a full array of bath and kitchen products and presents contractors and homeowners the opportunity to consult design specialists in developing the baths and kitchens of their dreams. Creating your dream bath is a collaborative effort between you and your designer. Visit or contact us at (717) 569-8616 and together, we can begin your innovative and unique process.

We’ve decided to remodel our kitchen and our master bath, but with so many options available, we’re not exactly sure how to begin. What can we do to assure a high-quality, yet affordable, outcome to our project?
Answer provided by: Bill MDevitt, Branch Manager, HAJOCA Corporation
Bill McDevittThis is one of the age-old questions when it comes to any kind of home renovations. And with a kitchen or bath remodel, the answer is perhaps even more important, because these are two areas of your home that provide the greatest return on your investment.

Home is… your castle, your sanctuary, your shelter from the storm. In addition,
your home is most likely the largest single investment you’ll make in your lifetime, so when making a change or addition, you want to be sure it's done right!

You can get the most out of your time and money by hiring a reputable contractor and having them supply all the materials for the job. I remember an adage that I heard many years ago, which still rings true today: “The bitterness of poor quality will remain long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten.” There's a certain comfort and satisfaction that comes from knowing your renovation has been done professionally and with the highest quality products available.

The best recommendation we can offer is that you start with a professional plumbing contractor. They can help with layout and design, while providing safe, practical and legal applications of the plumbing system. You can rest assured that a professional plumber will use the most dependable products available, because they warrant what they install. They do it right the first time and contrary to some advertising, it's more than a one-day, bandaid job. Good things take time!

Kitchens and bathrooms should fit your lifestyle. A visit to a local showroom, such as HAJOCA, will be time well-spent, as you will get the benefit of dealing with knowledgeable, highly-skilled consultants who are offering the best, state-of-the-art products available in today's industry, personally tailored to suit your needs or desires. And that is worth making note of, because in a world where consumers are lured into buying goods sight-unseen over the Internet, or at a “You-get-what-you-pay-for” big-box retailer, the old-fashioned, hands-on assistance of a qualified sales person provides the comfort of helping you know what it is you’re buying. And there is definitely a difference in the quality you buy through the experts!

This is a very simple, yet tried-and-true process for Kitchen and Bath remodeling. By visiting our showroom and then hiring a professional contractor to handle your project, start to finish, you will absolutely save yourself time, money, and even aggravation in the long run! The oldest rule of buying will always apply- You Get What You Pay For! Make your remodeling investment a sound one! To find out more, contact us at 717-299-3611

We are remodeling our kitchen and adding an outdoor living space. We are considering granite countertops in both areas. What do we need to know to make a wise purchase?
Answer provided by: Ken Morris, President, Banta Tile & Marble
Banta Tile & MarbleGranite's timeless beauty, lasting durability and ease of maintenance make it the perfect choice for indoor or outdoor applications. Adding granite countertops to your kitchen and outdoor living space will enhance the appearance of your home and improve its value. That being said, it makes sense to do some research and planning up front. Time spent now can ensure your ultimate satisfaction—both with the process and the final result.

A word about granite: Granite comes in an array of colors and styles, varying in appearance from granites with small crystal patterns that tend to be more uniform to granites with more “movement” or veining. Surfaces or finishes also vary. Traditionally granite was only available as a shiny, highly polished surface. It is now available in a number of beautiful alternate finishes such as: honed (a smooth, matte finish) and brushed or antiqued (a matte finish with texture). Choose an experienced granite fabricator displaying a large selection of granites, a knowledgeable sales staff, and an in-house design consultant who can guide you as to the best stone for your application and lifestyle.

Granite quality also varies. Make sure your fabricator offers only the finest quality granite. Look carefully at the slab you are considering. If you can see light swirl scratches remaining from the polishing process, it is of inferior quality. Also, the granite should have depth and richness of color. If it looks dull and flat, it is not a good quality slab.

Other things to consider before you move forward: Make sure that you will be able to view the actual slab used on your job. This is critical, especially if you’ve made your granite selection based on a small sample and have never seen a whole slab of your chosen material. Granite colors, shading, veining and crystallization vary from lot to lot and in some cases even from one slab to the next within the same lot. A reputable fabricator will not only encourage you to see and approve the slab(s) that will be used on your job, but they will also welcome your participation as they determine how your templates will lay out on the slab. They will also discuss in advance where seams will be placed. If the fabricator tells you there will be seams every few feet, he is using remnants rather than full slabs. Make sure you see previous work that the fabricator has done. Seams should be tight and veining should match up. If the fabricator is good, seam visibility should be minimal.

Granite countertops are an investment that will last a lifetime. You should be comfortable and confident throughout the whole project and proud of the end result. If you are considering updating your countertops, whether inside or outside, we invite you to call or visit our well-appointed showroom. See our web site at www.bantatile.com for more information, hours and directions.

I want to replace my bathtub with a shower. What is involved and what are my options?
Answer provided by: Michael L. Martin, Sales & Design, Brubaker Inc.
Michael L. Martin, Sales & Design, Brubaker Inc., LancasterReplacing your existing bathtub with a shower is becoming increasingly popular for its convenience and style options. Depending on the age of the house, different sizes and materials are used for the new shower but generally a shower can be installed right into the existing tub space with very minimal disruption to the rest of the bathroom, even the existing flooring. Usually only a small amount of drywall patching is necessary around the new unit.

Options for the shower range from fiber-glass units to solid surface surrounds to ceramic tile. Most showers are done in tile because it offers the most design flexibility, best compliments the style of the house and offers lifetime durability. Trends in tile lean towards 6”x6” to 12”x12” sized tile installed to the ceiling to hinder mildew above the shower. FireplacesColor and style are brought in with decorative tiles in many shapes and materials including metal and glass accents.

Available add-ons to the shower are plentiful. Many people find recessed lighting above useful. Corner or recessed shelves can be installed for shampoo and soap. Corner or bench seats can be added and tiled in to match the surround. While a standard shower head is always available, many clients choose to use their new shower as a true spa experience by adding handheld showers, rain heads and body sprays. Grab bars in complimentary finishes can also be added for the safety conscious. Shower doors vary from pivot to sliding by-pass doors with multiple finishes to match the faucets and a myriad of glass options. Doors are also now available with minimal framing for a cleaner, simpler look.

The average cost of a tub to shower replacement is $3,000-$5,000 depending on size and the materials chosen. The project generally lasts about 3 days from start to finish and your shower will be unusable during this time.

A new shower can be an excellent investment in the convenience and beauty of your bathroom. Brubaker Inc. will custom design your shower to meet your desires. Call us today to schedule an appointment for this exciting renovation. Brubaker Inc. 717-299-5643 or email us at remodel@brubakerinc.com and ask for Nicole or Mike.

I recently started remodeling my master bath and I would love to have a whirlpool tub. I’ve heard a lot of buzz about air jet tubs as an alternative to the traditional whirlpools. Which tub will we be most happy with?
Answer provided by: Megan Grier & Ron Brand, Sales Consultant, Thos. Somerville, Co.
Megan Grier & Ron BrandOver the past few years there has been a large growing demand for an alternative to the traditional whirlpool. Years ago the whirlpool industry flourished as homeowners wanted a spa like master bath suite with a private luxury bathing area, as well as wanting to add value to their home. The whirlpool was the way to achieve that goal. Through time the homeowner was not using the whirlpool as much as they had anticipated for a few main reasons; large jets that only hit the bather at specific points, the inability to use essential oils, bubble bath, and other bathing products in the bath because of the risk of harming the jets, the maintenance required to keep bacteria from growing in the piping, and the worry about children's safety while bathing because of the strong suction and a higher minimum water level requirements.

First, we need to point out the differences between the standard whirlpool and an air jetted tub. Standard whirlpools use water with 4 to 12 jets for the massage and air tubs use air with 30 to 70 jets. This sounds simple enough, but a big difference is that with air tubs there are no external pipes to hold water from the previous bather or to develop future leaks. For further indulgence you can use your favorite bath oils, bubble bath and aroma therapy but with standard whirlpools the pumps could be damaged with these products. Many air tubs also offer an automatic drying cycle after each use to prevent bacteria and mold growth anywhere in the unit.

Bain Ultra air tubs featured on HGTV in October's “Save My Bath” and “Medieval Bathroom Gets a Makeover” is the founder of the Air Jetted tub system. Bain Ultra offers many standard features not available on other units. They start with an easy to use control that allows the user to adjust the massage from soft champagne like bubbles to an invigorating massage. A heated backrest to sooth back and neck muscles and help maintain water temperature up to 30 minutes is standard on all models. Many units offer an inverted V backrest for additional comfort and an elevated seat area which allows massaging action even on the bottoms of your legs.

The Thermo Masseur is a great option for bathers who enjoy the use of aroma therapy and chemotherapy. Aroma therapy provides therapy through nasal and skin absorption while the bather is immured in their bath. The use of aroma therapy products is completely safe for your air jet system. Chemotherapy. is the use of the energy embodied in specific colors to balance your metabolism and emotions. Most light systems are made up of 6 different colored lights, each of which promotes a different stimulating or calming experience for the bather. The use of a hydro-thermo massage along with aroma therapy and chemotherapy. is a great way to create a complete therapeutic bathing experience.

Other areas of concern which the air jet system has eliminated are hygiene and safety concerns. The Thermo Masseur air injection system ensures full drainage of the tubs air channels by sending a powerful 90 second drying cycle though the channel, which activates automatically 10 minutes after you end your session. This drying cycle creates perfect hygiene by not leaving any water behind in your tub to create mold or bacteria between baths. Since hydro-thermo massage systems are able to run without water there is no minimum water level required, and with no suction or large, higher placed jets this makes the Thermo Masseur completely safe for the entire family to enjoy!

When choosing the perfect tub for you, don't forget to consider the ease of installation of your product. We have received many positive comments on the simplicity and ease of installation of the Thermo Masseur. With the ability to install the turbine in a remote location, up to 15’ away, the bather can enjoy their spa experience quietly, with the water action being the only sound. Also, have a comforting knowledge that the remote pump installation will never develop leaks since only air moves through the pipes. For your added convenience, the easy to use standard control on most units allows you to adjust the turbulence and the temperature on the heated backrest. It can be mounted on the deck or any wall, or for further indulgence you can use the optional remote control.

Since Bain Ultra so highly regards total body and mind relaxation, it is no surprise that they use only top quality materials like an acrylic shell instead of fiberglass. Acrylic is stronger than fiberglass and the color is through the entire material, unlike fiberglass which has only a thin color top coat. To ensure your long term satisfaction, an industry leading 20-year warranty on the acrylic and turbine comes with each unit.

After learning about the features and benefits of an air jet system we hope you will better be able to decide which systems you personally will be the most happy with. If you would like more information on Bain Ultra's Thermo Masseur or any other air jet and whirlpool systems please visit us at The Thos. Somerville Showroom, or on the web at www.tsomerville.com.

We are considering an addition that would also include a complete renovation of both our kitchen and downstairs bath. What are the advantages of hiring a builder to serve as the general contractor versus me coordinating all the subcontractor work, i.e. plumbing, electrical, appliances, windows, cabinet, flooring, deck, landscaping, etc.?
Answer provided by: Rick Martin, President, Wheatland Custom Homes
Rick MartinThere are many considerations and steps involved in taking on a project of this magnitude. The advantages of hiring a contractor are varied and often not so obvious. Though the job seems simple as you are only pulling out old cabinetry, flooring, plumbing fixtures and appliances, there are multiple steps and trade partners involved in the process. Initially acquiring the necessary permits from the municipality is at the top of the list, and can be fairly simple, or as complicated and painful as a root canal. Nevertheless, there will be plumbing and electrical work involved that require the municipality's blessing, and require plans and specifications, which are not always easy for the layman/homeowner to obtain.

A kitchen renovation will start with a kitchen design plan that can either be accomplished by an independent fee paid kitchen designer or by the cabinetry supplier who will include the costs of the plan as part of their kitchen package. The kitchen designer will work with you to get exactly the layout you want, but space requirements for appliances, sink, and faucet requirements and electrical specifications are not addressed by the kitchen designer, but must be addressed before products are ordered. A bath renovation will include much less cabinetry, but will require a plan showing the amount of space allotted to each of the fixtures, plumbing accesses, and electrical requirements. Plumbing showrooms showcase their products, but do not provide any type of working plans.

The most time-consuming and arduous task in the process is the one of coordination and scheduling. A typical homeowner isn't skilled in knowing how long it will take to rip out the old floors, cabinetry, fixtures, etc. and as things are put back together, what order they go in. Would you know that if you don't put the finished flooring under the cabinetry, when you are ready to install the dishwasher, will you have the necessary height requirement to accommodate it? Are you planning for solid surface or granite countertops? Will you know to allow at least two weeks lead time to schedule for them to “template” the top, and then will you realize the countertops will take another 2-3 weeks to be made, delivered and installed on the job? Will you know what size trash container to order and from whom? Will you remember to tell the electrician that you’re getting a gas cook top and an electric wall oven and one is 110 volts and the other is 220?

The advantage that you gain from having an experienced contractor handle your job is that you get the most complete and satisfactory job with the least amount of stress. The contractor's experience will give thought to all the things that go into making your newly renovated kitchen or master bath the one that you’ve been dreaming of for years. Contractors deal with every day issues that make the job challenging, and that experience provides them with the scheduling knowledge to accommodate backorders and delays.

There's also the cost factor—yes, you’re paying them to supervise and coordinate, but the pricing structures that exist with other trade partners is not easily duplicated, and long-standing relationships provide the opportunity for cooperation if something goes awry. (If budget is a concern, some contractors may allow you to provide some DIY (do-it-yourself) labor, i.e. painting, with the understanding that this may impact the scheduling). These trade partners have also been selected with regard to the quality of work and the value they bring to the table. If there's a problem down the line, they’re going to be there for the contractor and for you—the satisfied customer.