Category Archives: The Kitchen and Bath Insider

paul bookbinder

Column: Streamlining your stuff

BOOKBINDERAs the years go by, we tend to accumulate as much stuff as we possibly can, fitting it into every nook and cranny our home has to offer. Just take a look in your attic, your garage and especially your kitchen to see what I’m referring to.

When is the last time you needed that big pot your sister left at your house 10 years ago? Or what about the 50 packets of duck sauce you’ve saved, just in case they forget to include it with your next order of spare ribs.

I’m not judging anyone for this behavior because I’m just as guilty, if not more so, as the next person.

Given the premise that this is an inescapable situation, there are remedies of dealing with the clutter, especially in the kitchen. Whether you’re planning a new renovation or reorganizing your existing kitchen, many storage products are available to ease the over-stressed, over-flowing-with-stuff lives of everyday people like ourselves.

Roll-out trays are one of the best solutions to increase the efficiency of base and pantry cabinets, and by making things easier to reach, it’s easier to organize them.

If your base cabinet already has a drawer at the top, you can usually fit two roll-outs in the lower section. Pantry cabinets can generally fit four or five roll-outs. This is one of my favorite upgrades because, as time passes, I find bending over less and less rewarding.

Retrofit roll-outs can be custom made to any size in wood or come in stock sizes in plastic. Some companies, like Rev-A-Shelf and Knape & Vogt, manufacture specialized wire drawers, which attach inside a base cabinet below the existing drawer. They can be ordered with a variety of inserts, providing an extra silverware or multi-purpose drawer without having to replace or rebuild the cabinet.

Wall cabinets are usually only 12 inches deep, half the depth of base cabinets, so roll-outs don’t offer much help up there. Besides, you’d have to stand on your toes to see into them. Instead, try adding an additional shelf in these cabinets. This can increase storage space by up to 20 percent and, at the same time, make things easier to organize.

If you do find yourself standing on your toes to reach into the wall cabinets, Rev-A-Shelf has come up with an ingenious solution. They have developed an innovative, pull-down, wire shelf unit. The whole unit pulls outward and downward bringing the shelves about one foot lower for easier access.

There are also many accessories that can be attached to the inside of the doors. A simple spice rack with adjustable shelves can clear up the clutter on the counter by the stove. It may be necessary to trim the depth of the shelves a little to ensure the door will close.

Adjustable can bins can also be attached to the door and function similarly to a spice rack. These are available in plastic or wood.

Many older kitchens have blind corner cabinets—cabinets you have to reach all the way into the back to get anything. If you have one, you know exactly what I mean. If the width of the door opening is greater than 13 9/16 inches, you may be able to fit revolving, half-moon shelves in the base cabinets. Although you lose some space because of the half-moon shape, it’s more than made up by the convenience of having everything swing outwards toward you.

Luckily, American industry recognizes that we’re not going to get rid of our stuff, so they keep developing new organizers to manage all that we now have and what we’ll accumulate tomorrow.

Paul Bookbinder, m.i.d., c.r., is president of DreamWork Kitchens, Inc. located in Mamaroneck.
He can be reached for questions at 914-777-0437 or www.dreamworkkitchens.com.

paul bookbinder

Column: Holiday kitchen dreams

BOOKBINDERMost of us spend more time in the kitchen than any other room in our house and this is especially true throughout the holiday season when the kitchen becomes the focal point of your home. During this time of year, kitchens are not only filled with the immediate family, they’re also cluttered with welcome, and unwelcome, guests helping, visiting, kibitzing, snooping, etc.

With all the time spent in the kitchen, and all the people milling around, folks have a tendency to notice what doesn’t work well in terms of design and function, so it’s no wonder that more people start to think about remodeling during the holidays than any other time of the year.

Unless you’re very fortunate, no one is going to buy you a new kitchen for Christmas, Chanukah or Festivus. It’s just not considered a romantic, holiday type gift, but it should be. Nothing says “I love you, dear” more than a gorgeous new room to prepare meals for the family. Okay, maybe the preparing meals part takes some of the romance out of it, but work with me on this.

Wouldn’t it be great to have enough room to prepare next year’s holiday delicacies without bumping into everyone else and enough storage space for all your spices as well as places to put away all the dishes, glasses and silverware after the shiny, new dishwasher has made them spotless?

If a new kitchen is on your holiday gift list, or you wish it was, you can get the process started by making a wish list that includes everything that you would like in your new dream kitchen. Then make another list of what you really must have in case you need to trim things that budget or space don’t allow from the first list.

Next step, pick up some kitchen magazines in town or go to www.Houzz.com or www.pinterest.com and look at what other people are doing. When you see something that interests you, tear it out or print it out or save it on your computer so you can show it to your kitchen designer. It’s easier and safer to show someone a specific concept rather than trying to explain it, leaving less chance for misinterpretation of what you had in mind. This will ensure that your dream kitchen ends up looking like your dream kitchen and not your designer’s dream kitchen.

When the magical, holiday season is over, if someone loved you enough to give you a new kitchen, or you decided to give one to yourself, you’re now ready to begin the actual project. Gather up your lists, your pictures, your iPad and find a creative designer who understands you and will be able to combine all your ideas into a stunning, functional and affordable new kitchen just for you.

paul bookbinder

Column: Holiday kitchen dreams

paulMost of us spend more time in the kitchen than any other room in our house and this is especially true throughout the holiday season when the kitchen becomes the focal point of your home. During this time of year, kitchens are not only filled with the immediate family, they’re also cluttered with welcome, and unwelcome, guests helping, visiting, kibitzing, snooping, etc.

With all the time spent in the kitchen, and all the people milling around, folks have a tendency to notice what doesn’t work well in terms of design and function, so it’s no wonder that more people start to think about remodeling during the holidays than any other time of the year.

Unless you’re very fortunate, no one is going to buy you a new kitchen for Christmas, Chanukah or Festivus. It’s just not considered a romantic, holiday type gift, but it should be. Nothing says “I love you, dear” more than a gorgeous new room to prepare meals for the family. Okay, maybe the preparing meals part takes some of the romance out of it, but work with me on this.

Wouldn’t it be great to have enough room to prepare next year’s holiday delicacies without bumping into everyone else and enough storage space for all your spices as well as places to put away all the dishes, glasses and silverware after the shiny, new dishwasher has made them spotless?

If a new kitchen is on your holiday gift list, or you wish it was, you can get the process started by making a wish list that includes everything that you would like in your new dream kitchen. Then make another list of what you really must have in case you need to trim things that budget or space don’t allow from the first list.

Next step, pick up some kitchen magazines in town or go to www.Houzz.com or www.pinterest.com and look at what other people are doing. When you see something that interests you, tear it out or print it out or save it on your computer so you can show it to your kitchen designer. It’s easier and safer to show someone a specific concept rather than trying to explain it, leaving less chance for misinterpretation of what you had in mind. This will ensure that your dream kitchen ends up looking like your dream kitchen and not your designer’s dream kitchen.

When the magical, holiday season is over, if someone loved you enough to give you a new kitchen, or you decided to give one to yourself, you’re now ready to begin the actual project. Gather up your lists, your pictures, your iPad and find a creative designer who understands you and will be able to combine all your ideas into a stunning, functional and affordable new kitchen just for you.

Paul Bookbinder, m.i.d., c.r., is president of DreamWork Kitchens, Inc. located in Mamaroneck, New York. A Master of Design (Pratt Institute), and E.P.A. certified remodeler, he serves on the Advisory Panel of Remodeling Magazine. A member of the National Kitchen & Bath Assoc., he is also a contributor to Do It Yourself magazine. He can be reached for questions at 914-777-0437 or www.dreamworkkitchens.com.

paul bookbinder

Can you afford a new kitchen?

BOOKBINDERWhether you’re walking down the street, passing by a kitchen showroom or in a home center strolling down the isles, it’s hard not to notice the stunning new kitchens on display, and your mind begins to drift.

You work hard. You’re a good person. If anyone deserves a new kitchen, it’s you. But then reality rears its ugly head. The pleasant vision of standing in your new kitchen, effortlessly preparing a gourmet meal, is replaced with a view looking out from the poor house. And so you walk on, abandoning the momentary dream of what you truly deserve.

It doesn’t have to be that way. If you’re inspired by those beautiful displays, there are steps to follow that can lead to a new kitchen without sacrificing everything you hold dear. The most important of these steps is to determine the budget that you are comfortable with, and then sticking to it.

Today, there are kitchen solutions including new cabinets—refacing and restoring—as well as countertops and appliances that will fit into almost any budget. The trick is to figure out what your budget really is, and then finding what options will fit within that figure.

If you’re not sure what your budget should be, for an all-new kitchen, depending on who you speak with, you should plan on spending between 5 percent to 15 percent of the current value of your home. If I do the math for you, a home worth $500,000 would deserve a kitchen that costs approximately $25,000 to $75,000. Spending less than this could actually reduce the value of your home and, if you spend more, you most likely won’t recoup what you put in.

Naturally, this is just a rough estimate, but these figures include cabinets, appliances, countertops, flooring, lighting, trim and installation with approximately 40 percent to 50 percent of the cost allocated for the cabinets.

If this figure is out of reach, you can investigate alternatives to a completely new kitchen, such as refacing, or just restore your existing kitchen cabinets. Both of these options will save a lot of money and you still can have a great looking room.

While determining your budget, it’s a good time to do your homework. Make one list of what you absolutely must have in your future kitchen and another wish list of things you’d like, but really could live without, if necessary. Pick up some kitchen magazines in town and look through them. When you see something that interests you, tear it out and put it into a folder so that you can show it to your designer. It’s always easier and safer to show someone a picture rather than trying to explain it, leaving less chance for misinterpretation of what you had in mind.

With budget in hand, it’s time to visit with a kitchen designer who will work with you to create your “Dream Kitchen” at a price you can afford. They will review your ideas and then transform them into a working design. Don’t be afraid to share your budget with your designer. Whether your proposed expenditure is $5,000 or $100,000, if the designer does not know this, chances are their plan will not meet your expectations and you’ll have wasted both your time and theirs.

A creative designer, with whom you’ve shared your “wish list” and other desires, should be able to create an affordable, functional and stunning new kitchen just for you. You may have to compromise here and there, but the end result will be something that you can not only afford, but be proud of as well.

Paul Bookbinder, M.I.D., C.R., is president of DreamW­ork Kitchens, Inc. located
in Mamaroneck, New York. A Master of Design (Pratt Institute), and E.P.A. Certified Remodeler, he serves on the Advisory Panel of Remodeling Magazine. A member of the National Kitchen & Bath Assoc., he is also a contributor to Do It Yourself magazine. He can be reached for questions at 914-777-0437
or dreamworkkitchens.com

paul bookbinder

Column: School schedule or: If you fail to plan…

paulIn another age, when I was a shop teacher in junior high school—now called middle school so as not to affect self-esteem—we were all given a simple class schedule. It indicated where we should be each hour of each day, and life was simpler. In those days, we didn’t have A days and B days; each day was the same. We could count on it. I knew where I should be, the kids knew where they should be, and if we weren’t there, we knew we were in trouble.

But time marches on and schedules became more complex, not only for our kids, but for remodeling as well.

Just as every student needs a schedule to get through his or her school day, every contractor and sub-contractor needs a schedule to get through a given job. Although there are similarities between remodeling jobs, each project is unique and requires its own timetable in order to progress smoothly, depending upon what work is being done.

What follows is a typical example of a schedule for a kitchen remodel, which will include a new floor and a solid surface countertop. Please keep in mind this is a generic illustration. If you ask 10 contractors how they would handle the job, you would probably get 10 different schedules.

The first step is for the plumber and the electrician to disconnect the old pipes and wiring so that the appliances, cabinets and counters can be removed. Once that is completed the demolition of the room begins.

Appliances that are to be kept must be moved to adjacent rooms and those that are to be discarded should be removed from the premises. The old cabinets and counters are then removed and disposed of in an appropriate manner. If necessary, the old floor must be removed and perhaps the sub-floor as well. If the job calls for new sheetrock, the old walls must be removed at this point. When the room has been emptied of all these items, the plumber and electrician can return to do what is called the “rough-in.” This is when old pipes and wiring are replaced with new, and put in the appropriate positions for the new fixtures.

When the rough-in is completed, the sub-floor and new floor can be installed. In some cases, the new floor should be installed at a later date. After the floor is installed, it must then be covered to prevent it from being damaged by the steps that follow.

Now, if the project calls for new sheetrock, it must be taped and skim coated. Then sanded. Then coated. Then sanded again. If the sheetrock is just being patched, now is the time to do that process. All this is in preparation of the cabinets being installed. But not so fast; let’s have the painter prime the walls first. Even though you’ll have cabinets covering the walls, it’s best to have a coat of primer on them for protection against moisture.

After the wall preparation is complete, the cabinets should be installed, and once that is done, it’s time to template for the countertop. But wait, you shouldn’t template without the appliances being in position. So let’s get the appliances delivered and put in place, at least temporarily.

The big day arrives when the counter is ready to be installed. Once in place, the backsplash, whether tile or stone, can be installed. Then the plumber and electrician can return to connect the fixtures and appliances. And finally, the painter can complete his work and your project is complete.

Nothing to it, not when you have a schedule. Your schedule, or plan, is paramount to the success of your project. Remember, if you fail to plan, you plan to fail. And while you’re planning, leave a little leeway for the inevitable; when one part of the job takes longer than expected or a contractor gets stuck with an emergency at another job site.

Oh, if I was only still in junior high school, cheerfully going from one class to another. This time, I swear, I’d work harder, and maybe not end up a contractor, planning schedules.

Paul Bookbinder, m.i.d., c.r., is president of DreamWork Kitchens, Inc. located in Mamaroneck, New York. A Master of Design from the Pratt Institute, and E.P.A. Certified Remodeler, he serves on the Advisory Panel of Remodeling Magazine. A member of the National Kitchen & Bath Assoc., he is also a contributor to Do It Yourself magazine. He can be reached for questions at 914-777-0437 or www.dreamworkkitchens.com

paul bookbinder

Column: They’re killing us slowly

BOOKBINDERCOLUMNThe most difficult part of writing these articles myself, instead of hiring a professional, is that, as the deadline approaches, the pressure mounts and it gets more and more difficult to come up with a new topic that you might find interesting or amusing. After all, what could possibly be new after writing 154 Kitchen and Bath Insiders?

I thought of tackling the topic of “standing your ground” in the remodeling process, but Liz felt the topic was too close, and too soon, to current events.

I came up with “whistle blowing in the cabinet industry” but realized I don’t have a whistle.

So, stumped, I’m taking the easy way out and falling back on one of my favorite topics, the dreaded imports that are slowly killing us just as sure as a direct attack on our homeland.

They put arsenic in our orange juice and lead in our kid’s toys, and there’s even sulfur in our sheetrock. God only knows what’s in the cabinets. And yet, we keep importing products and produce from that big country in the east. So really, what’s the big deal? Where’s the harm in a little arsenic, or lead, or hydrogen sulfide gas, when you can save a couple of bucks? Haven’t you heard? We’re still in a recession. Health is a small price to pay when you’re talking about saving money.

But. if you are concerned about avoiding the perils of hazardous material exposure when eating, buying toys, homes or remodeling, you must use your common sense. The best way to begin is by reading labels, assuming you still can read after exposure to all those noxious fumes. If not, have your BFF read the label for you. If the product does not have a label, ask the proprietor for a Material Data Safety Sheet, which lists the properties, both harmful and inert, of the product.

In the remodeling industry, most cabinet and countertop manufacturers have been making a concerted effort to clean up their act. Now you can purchase American-made cabinets that have little or no harmful ingredients, such as volatile organic compounds, at very competitive prices, although they will never be as inexpensive as cabinets made in countries where the average hourly wage is less than a U.S. dollar.

Some of these same countries sell granite counters with high levels of radon, a cancer-causing radioactive gas. Just shut off the lights and see them glow. But hey, they’re cheap. Consider instead quartz composite countertops, which are certified by various environmental organizations as to their lack of harmful emissions, or buy granite that has acceptable radon emissions.

Now, I’m not saying that everything made in America is great, in fact some of our stuff could stand a little room for improvement, but at least there are some government standards to adhere to. And I’m not saying that exposure to some chemicals is all that bad. When I was an Industrial Arts teacher, for many years I taught both woodworking and printing. In print shop, we handled type that was made primarily of lead and washed our hands with kerosene. Having dinner with a friend, a product liability attorney, the other day, I mentioned this and said it didn’t seem to adversely affect me. Her reply was, “think of what you could have been.”

So sit back, take a deep, formaldehyde-filled breath, and watch the kids sip arsenic-laced apple juice while putting their lead-painted toys in their mouths. It really doesn’t matter much because the hydrogen sulfide gas coming from the sheet rock will eventually kill you anyway. Unless, of course, you decide to spend a couple of extra bucks and buy safe products from a country you can trust.

Paul Bookbinder, M.I.D., C.R., is president of DreamWork Kitchens, Inc. located in Mamaroneck, New York. A Master of Design (Pratt Institute), and E.P.A. Certified Remodeler, he serves on the Advisory Panel of Remodeling Magazine. A member of the National Kitchen & Bath Assoc., he is also a contributor to Do It Yourself magazine. He can be reached for questions at 914-777-0437 or www.dreamworkkitchens.com. Continue reading