Show Notes: Countertops, Earthquakes and more – On the House

Show Notes: Countertops, Earthquakes and more

By on March 5, 2016

If your kitchen countertop has seen better days and you are heading out the door to shop for a new countertop, hold on! Before you go, our Countertop Buying 101 guide is a must read.


Heat-Sensitive Furniture

Turns Butt Prints Into Art 

Designer Jay Watson has created this line of furniture that briefly incorporates whoever uses it into its design, by capturing their presence via a thermochromic finish. In layman’s terms, the furniture is covered with heat-sensitive stuff that temporarily becomes invisible when you touch it, revealing the wood underneath. As far furniture that features very pronounced butt prints goes, it looks great.


Kitchen Countertop Shopping?

There are some new names in countertop materials you should know. Which material is right for you? 


Also known as engineered stone, quartz is a blend of stone chips, resins, and pigments and is ideal for areas that get plenty of use and abuse. It comes in an array of vibrant colors and styles that mimic stone.


Quartz survived a gauntlet of spills, hot pots, knives, and more with top scores, and it doesn’t have to be sealed for stain protection. It’s waterproof so it can be paired with an undermounted sink.


Some patterns can appear unnaturally uniform, although manufacturers are trying for a more random look closer to natural stone. Edges and corners can chip and only a pro can repair them–rounded edges help.


This is a new countertop category. Dekton is a combination of quartz, porcelain, and glass, according to the manufacturer.


Dekton resisted damage from heat, stains, chopping and cutting and was very good at resisting abrasion.


In our impact tests pieces of the edges chipped off and Dekton cracked into two pieces on samples that were 2 centimeters thick, the manufacturer-recommended thickness. These tests simulate what could happen if a heavy pot fell from a shelf or pot rack up to 2 feet above the counter. See this blog for details and the manufacturer’s response.

Solid surfacing

Made of polyester or acrylic resins combined with mineral fillers, this material imitates concrete, marble, and other types of stone, as well as quartz (an imitation of an imitation). Solid surfacing can be used for counters, sink, and backsplash, creating a seamless look since the joints are almost invisible.


Resistance to heat and impact are pluses, and scratches and small nicks can be buffed out and repaired. The material is waterproof, so it’s a good choice for an undermounted sink.


Solid surfacing scratches and cuts easily.


Each slab of this natural material is unique. It remains popular and is a good choice for heavily-used areas and can be used with an under-mounted sink.


Like quartz, granite survived our spills, hot pots, knives, and more with top scores.


Edges and corners can chip and you’ll need a pro to repair them, and granite needs periodic sealing for stain protection.

Recycled glass

Take shards of recycled glass, turn them into a countertop and the result is an infusion of color and style.


Best for a contemporary look when it’s made with large shards, or it can resemble solid surfacing when the glass is finely ground. Resistant to heat, cuts, and scratches.


But chips and stains can be a problem. Unlike other recycled glass counters we tested, Cosentino’s Eco line developed a thin crack during our heat tests.


Laminate generally consists of layers of paper or fabric impregnated with resin over composition wood, and is much better looking than it used to be thanks to new printing technology and decorative edges. Laminate is available in hundreds of cool patterns and interesting colors, and is inexpensive and relatively easy to install. Use in areas of heavy use but minimal abuse. Laminates typically show seams on the front edge and between the backsplash and counter, but Formica and Wilsonart offer decorative edges that replace the dark line along the edge of the counter. Another option is post-forming, a process that uses heat to form and bend laminate sheets, making them look continuous and without seams.


Laminates excelled at resisting stains, impact, and heat; they also withstood our abrasive pads nicely. They’re easy to clean, relatively easy to install, and are great for a tight budget.


Most versions have a colored top layer over a dark core, which shows at the edges. Water can seep through seams or between the countertop and backsplash, weakening the material beneath or causing lifting. Laminate is easily scratched and nicked and can’t be repaired–so use a cutting board. Textured finishes are better than flat finishes at hiding imperfections.


Ceramic tile comes in a wide selection of colors and patterns. It mixes nicely with other materials and works well on a backsplash or island top.


Tile is inexpensive and relatively easy to install. It offers excellent heat resistance, so it’s a good choice around stoves. Buying a few extra tiles allows you to repair localized damage easily, one tile at a time.


The grout is likely to stain even when it’s sealed although darker grout can help, and tile edges and corners can chip. 


It’s beautiful and not as common as granite.


Best for adding the beauty of stone to a low-traffic kitchen. It withstands heat very well and small scratches can be repaired. Slabs vary, visit a stone yard and pick the piece you love.


But it’s easily sliced, scratched, and nicked. Stain resistance is so-so and it needs to be periodically rubbed with mineral oil.


Concrete countertops can provide a unique look as this material is typically custom-formed by local fabricators. That said, quality may vary.


Concrete can be tinted and textured and can include stone chips.


It chips and scratches easily and can develop hairline cracks. Topical sealers can protect against stains but not heat; penetrating sealers can handle heat, but not stains.

Stainless steel

It lets you integrate countertops in a kitchen with stainless appliances for a sleek, commercial kitchen look. Stainless can be welded, ground, and buffed to get rid of seams.


Resistance to heat and stains is a plus.


Steel dents and scratches easily and shows fingerprints. Drain cleaners and hard-water deposit removers can discolor steel.

Butcher block

These countertops add warmth to any kitchen. Maple is common, but you’ll also see other woods, including teak.


This material is useful for food preparation such as chopping and slicing. It’s relatively easy to install and repair.


Damage from heat, cuts, scrapes, and impacts make for high maintenance. Butcher block countertops must be treated regularly with mineral oil or beeswax. Varnished butcher block was extremely stain-resistant, but terrible at everything else. Butcher block with an oil finish was better at resisting heat, but stains spread and were impossible to remove. Fluctuations in humidity affect wood, making butcher block a poor choice for over a dishwasher or around a sink. 


Limestone provides a stone look without heavy veining. It’s attractive but impractical, so consider it for low-traffic areas.


Limestone resists heat well.


Scratches and dings from our dropped 5-pound weight marred the surface of this soft, porous stone, and even a high-quality sealer didn’t protect against stains. Eleven of the 20 substances we applied left stains still visible after they were left on the surface for just 24 hours.


Beautiful and classic, marble has been used in European kitchens for ages. To some, marble takes on a patina, but others will see it as marred.


Small nicks and scratches can be polished out.


Marble chips and scratches easily and you’ll need to seal periodically to protect from staining. Most stains that marred unsealed marble wiped away with water on sealed samples, but hard-water deposit removers left a permanent mark, even on sealed stone.


While bamboo may be eco-friendly, it isn’t user-friendly.


Best for show rather than daily use. It’s available in several styles, including a parquet pattern.


But it’s easily stained, scorched, sliced, and nicked. Ask if you can use near a sink because moisture can warp it, and note that bamboo may darken over time.


5 Steps to an Easy Vinyl Floor Repair

If you have a sheet vinyl floor that is damaged in a small but obvious area, we can show you how to repair it quickly and inexpensively.

To get rid of the offending gouge or other blemish, you will need a razor knife, metal straight edge, putty knife or chisel, some adhesive and an adhesive spreading tool. Good eyesight and a steady hand are plusses in this repair.

  • The best patch is a piece of the original flooring material.
  • If such a scrap is not available, and you don’t know the brand or style name, a photograph could help the person at the flooring store determine availability. With or without a photo, if the flooring is several years old finding a match is difficult because styles frequently are updated or discontinued. Even without a scrap of the original flooring, and even if the manufacturer has discontinued your pattern, there is another way to go. The needed material can be taken from beneath a kitchen appliance or from a closet floor. When using this technique it is important that the patch and the area to be repaired are close in color.
  • With older floors, wax tends to yellow in exposed locations, but

           not in hidden areas.

  • Even if this condition exists, a match probably can be achieved. Discolored wax can be lifted with commercial strength wax remover and a floor scrubber. The floor should be cleaned to a uniform color before a repair is made. Janitorial supply companies carry concentrated wax removers that are superior to those found in most grocery stores.
  • Next the flooring that will be used for the patch must be
  • It should be slightly larger than the area to be repaired. In many instances there is a need to match the pattern of the patch and the area to be repaired. If it is necessary to do this, transfer the pattern in the area to be repaired onto tracing paper by burnishing it with a pencil. Then, use the burnished tracing paper to locate a match for the patch. Use a razor knife and a straight edge to cut the vinyl. Then, use a putty knife to help separate the vinyl from the floor. Since the patch material is larger than the area to be repaired, slight damage to the edges will not be a problem. Some of the paper backing must remain on the material being removed, so work slowly and carefully. There will be some variation in the thickness of the patch material. The adhesive used to bond the patch material to the damaged area will help to smooth things out. Nonetheless, it is important to brush away all loose backing.
  • Next, use double-sided tape to hold the patch material in place
  • over the damaged area.
  • And, don’t forget pattern alignment. Once the patch is aligned and in place, use a razor knife to cut through both the patch and the repair area at the same time. This is called double cutting. It is essential that a fresh blade be used for the double cut. Next, set the patch material aside, and be sure that the cuts that were made in the repair area penetrate all the way through the vinyl. Next, two corner-to-corner diagonal cuts need to be made within the repair area to ease removal of the damaged vinyl. This is accomplished by peeling it off its backing from the center outward. Removal in this direction prevents damage to the edge of the freshly cut perimeter. Usually the vinyl and some of the backing will easily peel away from the backing that is glued to the floor. Don’t attempt to remove too much of the paper backing that remains attached to the floor. The depth of the area to be repaired should equal the thickness of the patch as closely as possible.
  • Once the patch is properly fitted for installation, it’s time to
  • apply adhesive.
  •  Regular vinyl adhesive is fine, but even the smallest container can be expensive. We have used tub and tile caulk. It is a nifty adhesive and acts as a filler as well. When placing the patch, use a gentle touch. Once the patch is in position, cover it with a sheet of wax paper and several books. The first book should be larger than the repair area. This will reduce the chance of forcing the patch below the level of the surrounding surface.

Finally, purchase a scrap of flooring and use the same  procedure to repair the area from which the patch was taken.


Earthquake Preparedness For Your Home

Did you know?

Doorways are no stronger than any other part of a structure so don’t rely on them for protection! During an earthquake, get under a sturdy piece of furniture and hold on. It will help shelter you from falling objects that could injure you during an earthquake.

Here are the measures you can take that may save your life and your home:

Make sure your home is securely anchored to its foundation.

Bolt and brace water heaters and gas appliances to wall studs.

Bolt bookcases, china cabinets and other tall furniture to wall studs.

Hang heavy items, such as pictures and mirrors, away from beds, couches and anywhere people sleep or sit.

Brace overhead light fixtures.

Install strong latches or bolts on cabinets. Large or heavy items should be closest to the floor.

Learn how to shut off the gas valves in your home and keep a wrench handy for that purpose.

Learn about your area’s seismic building standards and land use codes before you begin new construction.


New Uses For Old Newspapers

Deodorize musty items

If you’ve ever wandered into an old bookstore (or your grandparent’s closet), you know the musty smell we’re talking about. To get rid of it, grab a newspaper. Crumple up the newspaper and place the papers in the bottom of a paper bag. Then, place the musty-smelling item (book, clothing item, etc.) into the bag. Let it sit for about a week. The newspaper will have absorbed the musty smell.

Wash mirrors and windows

To remove streaks from mirrors and windows, use newspaper instead of cloth to wipe away Windex. Not only will the newspaper remove streaks, it won’t leave any residue behind.

Kill weeds

When weeds take over your yard, kill them quickly with newspaper. Lay several layers of the paper on top of the weeds, and then cover it with mulch to hold it in place. The paper will smother the weeds, and prevent them from getting sunlight and oxygen. Over time, the newspaper will decompose with the mulch and add nutrients to the soil. Note: Don’t try this trick around flowers, because it will smother the flowers, too.

Enhance compost

Worms love newspaper, and worms will add something special to your compost (catch our drift?). To enhance your compost, toss in a few crumpled pieces of newspaper.


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