Gunning Daily News

10 Hot Trends in Kitchen Countertops

October 25, 2012 6:06 pm

While granite and marble remain the most popular choices for kitchen countertops, young homemakers are opting for a surprising number of chic, new countertop choices.

“These trendy alternatives offer a clean, sleek, sometimes industrial look that suggests heavy duty cooking is going on here,” say designers at architectural firm Freshome.

The hottest countertop materials available today include:

Poured concrete – Stain resistant when sealed, they are relatively inexpensive and can be tinted to any color. Appearance improves with age, but while the concrete is heat-resistant, the sealer is not. It requires trivets under hot pots and cutting boards for chopping.

Butcher block - Elegant yet casual and environmentally friendly, butcher block requires monthly sealing and oiling to prevent drying or cracking. Its soft surfaces require cutting boards, but cleanup demands only mild dish detergent and a light cloth or sponge.

Reclaimed wood – Salvaged from older homes, reclaimed wood is attractive, sturdier than newer wood, and saves trees. It requires the same maintenance as butcher block.

Cork – Dense, sturdy and lightweight, cork is a sustainable option with sound-cutting properties. It is resistant to water and heat and has antibacterial properties.

Stainless steel – Elegant, sleek and classy looking, these counters are water, heat and germ resistant. Susceptible to dings and scratches, they show every fingerprint, but maintenance requires only washing and polishing.

Soapstone - A natural stone quarried like granite, soapstone is a softer surface that is sturdy but not impervious to dents and scratches, which may be sanded or oiled away. The color is naturally gray and darkens with age, offering a smooth, matte feel.

Recycled glass – Like reclaimed wood, this is a ‘greener’ choice, available in many beautiful colors and patterns. With a life expectancy of 50 years, it is easy to clean and care for. This option is a bit cheaper than granite.

Pewter – Offers a less clinical look than stainless steel, but is softer and susceptible to nicks and dents, although a hammered, antique look can mask damage. This muted, dark silvery color looks good in any kitchen.

Slate – A natural, fine-grained rock, slate is softer than granite but harder than marble. Resists bacteria and cleans with soap and water, but is not entirely heat-proof.

Quartz – An extremely scratch-resistant mineral, easy to care for and clean. Needs no sealing and has a long lifetime and more unique look than granite.

On the Road: 5 Family Travel Tips

October 25, 2012 6:06 pm

While most people equate vacation with summer, many families are busy preparing for their winter holidays. Here are a few tips for making things go a little more smoothly.

Plan for down-time. Even though you may want to pack your itinerary to the brim with activities, be sure to allow for down-time daily, to avoid exhausted and cranky gets—and parents!

Be a good guest. Are you staying with friends or family? Then plan some acitvities where just you and your immediate family are together. This gives your hosts a breather, and allows your family more bonding opportunity. Also, consider exchanging some info with your hosts ahead of time, like the rules of their house, and your kids’ sleep habits, to make transitioning easier for everyone.

Include a date night! Quality time with the kids is awesome, but remember to get some one-on-one time with your honey, if you can manage.

Talk before you go. To anticipate future travel bumps, talk with your kids about what they can expect on the trip—good, and bad. Talk about the length of the flight, or lines at the amusement park, table manners at restaurants, etc.

Ease back into it. After you have returned from your trip, your kids are likely to be exhausted. Leave room for at least one of adjustment before sending them back to school to avoid cranky behavior and frustration.

Family trips are the stuff that memories are made of, and this list will help to make sure the memories are great. Bon Voyage!

Source: Swparents

Fire Prevention Focus: Changing Seasons Changing Risks

October 25, 2012 6:06 pm

Every October, Fire Prevention Month, I try to present some practical information to help protect individuals from, and in the event of fire. So in this third of a series of segments in October, we’ll take a look at the change in home fire risks as we move into late fall and winter.

The Professional Insurance Agents of Connecticut Inc. recently issued a Fire Prevention Month release reminding homeowners that in winter, heating overtakes cooking as the main cause of house fires. And primary danger is space heaters, especially electric ones according to PIACT President Timothy G. Russell.


To help prevent fires from supplemental heating devices, the PIACT offers these tips:

Never leave a space heater on when you are not in the room.

Keep fixed and portable space heaters at least three feet from anything that can burn.

Do not go to sleep with it on - use it to warm the bedroom, but shut it off before you climb into bed.

If you do have a fireplace, have the chimney professionally cleaned at least once a year.

Make sure fireplaces are kept clean and covered to keep the sparks from jumping out.

Perhaps the most important Fire Protection Month advice is: make a plan to “get out, and stay out” advises PIACT.

“Practice fire drills at home,” suggests Russell. “The place for a safe family meeting spot to go should be decided on now and practiced so everyone will know what to do in the event of an actual fire in the home.”

These drills involving your own home are necessary in making a lasting impression that make the difference in the event of a real emergency. Fires are frightening and can cause panic.

By rehearsing different scenarios, your family is less likely to waste precious time trying to figure out what to do. Test your plan, and occasionally have a drill in the middle of the night.

Word of the Day

October 25, 2012 6:06 pm

Appraisal. A formal estimate of property value conducted by a professional qualified to make such an opinion.

Q: What Should Elderly Homeowners Consider when Deciding to Remodel?

October 25, 2012 6:06 pm

A: According to the AARP, older homeowners prefer to age in place, meaning they want to live in their homes safely, independently and comfortably, despite age or ability level. To do so, many require a few modifications in the home to enhance maneuverability, including the installation of a private elevator and the addition of a bathroom and bedroom to the main level. A Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist (CAPS) may prove helpful. CAPS professionals are remodelers, general contractors, designers, architects, and health care consultants who are trained in the unique needs of the elderly, Aging-in-place home modifications, common remodeling projects, and solutions to common barriers. The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), together with the NAHB Research Center, NAHB Seniors Housing Council, and AARP, developed the CAPS program to address the growing number of consumers who will soon require modifications to their homes.

Fall Gardening Tips that Pay Off

October 24, 2012 5:26 pm

While green thumbs seem to bloom in the spring, gardeners who tune into fall opportunities can improve summer’s green bounty with relatively little cost or effort, according to Jeff Yeager, author of, “The Cheapskate Next Door.”

“Spring fever is for spendthrifts,” Yeager says. “For cheapskates, fall is the time to garden.”

Yeager suggests four fall gardening tips that will pay off handsomely next summer:

Buy end-of- season nursery stock – Many nurseries dramatically discount their leftover container-grown plants and other nursery stock to make room for Halloween pumpkins and Christmas trees. It's a great time to negotiate the best deal simply by asking for additional reductions – and fall is the best time of year to plant and transplant trees, shrubs and other perennials because the warm soil promotes root growth.

Shop for tools and equipment
– Fall offers the best deals of the year on all kinds of garden tools and outdoor equipment including mowers, weed whackers, and even tractors. In addition to shopping for bargains at garden supply stores, check with local landscape companies that may be selling off used equipment after the summer season.

Give your equipment some TLC – With summer garden chores behind you, take the time to clean and care for the tools you own. Scrub and remove dirt and rust from shovels and such, oil the metal surfaces and bag the business ends of your tools in plastic bags with some leftover charcoal pieces to help prevent rust.

Divide and multiply –
Many perennials, including vegetable plants, are best divided in the fall. Dividing will make them healthier and provide multiple plants out of a single one at only the cost of a little labor. Do a little research to determine which perennials may be divided. Water the plant, and pull it out of the ground with rootball intact. Carefully separate the rootball into two or more parts, replant immediately and water.

Fire Prevention Focus: Cooking Fires Pose Greatest Risk

October 24, 2012 5:26 pm

In the second segment of our “Fire Prevention Month” focus, I turned to the latest date from the National Fire Protection Association. According to the NFPA, cooking remains top cause of home structure fires - an average of 371,700 home structure fires annually between 2006 and 2010.

These fires caused an estimated average of 2,590 civilian deaths and $7.2 billion in direct property damage yearly. And based on research by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), cooking was also the number one cause of home structure fires that went unreported.

The CPSC found that in 2004-2005, for every one household cooking fire reported to the fire department, U.S. households experienced 50 cooking equipment fires that they did not report.

Forty-two percent of reported home fires started in the kitchen or cooking area. These fires were the third leading cause of home fire deaths (15 percent) and leading cause of home fire injuries (37 percent).

Other notable findings from the report include:

  • Almost two-thirds of home fire deaths resulted from fires in properties without working smoke alarms.
  • Smoking materials are the leading cause of home fire deaths followed by heating equipment and then cooking equipment.
  • One-quarter (25 percent) of all home fire deaths were caused by fires that started in the bedroom; another quarter (24 percent) resulted from fires originating in the living room, family room, or den.
  • Half of all home fire deaths result from incidents reported overnight between 11 pm and 7 am.
  • Home fires accounted for three-quarters (73 percent) of all reported structure fires between 2006 and 2010.
  • Between 2006 and 2010, on average one of every 310 households per year had a reported home fire.
  • Home structure fires peaked around the dinner hours between 5 and 8 pm.

Armed with these eye-opening stats, we’ll come back in our next segment with some targeted prevention practices to help ensure your home does not become part of next year’s NFPA statistics.

Boomers: Shifting Household Needs Create Innovative Home Designs

October 24, 2012 5:26 pm

(BPT) - Boomers expect to stay in their homes and live independently into their later years, but in the midst of change that is occurring in their households, it's easy for them to lose focus on planning for their own future housing needs.

New research by The Hartford shows that 40 percent of boomers have experienced or anticipate experiencing family member changes in and out of the home, mostly related to their children. However, 70 percent of boomers have not made design changes to their living space, perhaps due to the fact that they don't know if their children will move back home, notes Jodi Olshevski, gerontologist at The Hartford. Changes that increase your home's livability allow you to stay in your home longer and make living easy for people of all ages, sizes and abilities.

“Most of us want to stay in our homes as we age, which often requires making the design choices to help us do that,” says Olshevski. Moving, remodeling or simply redecorating, all present opportunities to incorporate design factors that make your home comfortable and safe for everyone you care about, from small children to older individuals. While a life transition might cause you to halt your plans for improvements, Olshevski recommends taking the opposite approach and using it as an opportunity to incorporate more accessible design into the home.

By following the principles of universal design - what's good for people of all ages, sizes and abilities - you can make sure your home is more livable across your lifetime, and can stand up to any life changes that come your way.

Olshevski recommends concentrating on three design elements in order to accommodate changing needs over a lifetime:

Adaptability. Is your home flexible and functional for family and friends now and in the future? For example, if you're installing a new bathroom sink, you might consider storage space in the cabinet underneath. You may also want to make sure the cabinet opening is at least 36 inches wide, which allows a wheel chair to slide in between the doors when open and makes the sink accessible to all. Or, if you're installing new kitchen countertops, think about choosing a design with multiple heights to increase flexibility and comfort for things such as standing for food preparation or sitting to check for recipes on the computer.

Ease. Any components you add to your home should be easy to use. For example, improvements like pull-out drawers for easy access in kitchens and bathrooms can help make reaching for items easier. If you're replacing door handles or faucets, opt for lever style handles that are easier to turn.

Openness. Open floor plans are becoming more the trend, but it's not just for style reasons. More open space means additional room to maneuver, eliminating obstacles for those who have mobility challenges. Improvements like rounding edges on countertops can also help eliminate sharp objects that could cause injury.

Recognizing both that people are living longer and wish to remain in their homes, and seeing the types of transitions that families have gone through over the past few years, The Hartford has dedicated a section of its website to helping people make their homes more livable across a lifetime, meeting the needs of every age and everyone. More resources for getting your home ready for the rest of your life can be found at www.thehartford.com/lifetime.

Word of the Day

October 24, 2012 5:26 pm

Amortize. Pay a debt in monthly or other periodic installments until the total amount, along with the interest, if any, is paid.

Q: What Is Universal Design and How Does It Relate to Remodeling?

October 24, 2012 5:26 pm

A: Universal design is an approach to design that focuses on making all products and environments as usable as possible by as many people as possible regardless of age, physical ability, or situation. In recent years, the housing industry has recognized the importance of a "universal" approach to residential design that modifies standard building elements to improve a home's accessibility and usability.

This allows for more equitable, flexible and simple use. Many books exist on the subject, including Residential Remodeling and Universal Design: Making Homes More Comfortable and Accessible, a resource guide offered by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). HUD’s guide provides technical guidance on selecting and installing universal features during home remodeling or renovation. The modifications can range from expanding doorway dimensions to replacing kitchen appliances. The guide emphasizes eliminating unintentional barriers and using designs and features that could benefit people with a broad range of needs.