Heated Countertops

You have most likely heard of heating your floors, perhaps in a bathroom or other tiled area. But now you can heat your solid-surface countertops as well.

Why Heated Countertops?

Go From Feels Cold to Feels Warm

Although stone countertops are beautiful and luxurious, they have one common problem:  They can feel cold or cool to the touch.  The surface of the stone is indeed room Curved Countertop with heating zone graphic Draft 3temperature, but compared to wood and other non-stone items, the stone feels cold.

FeelsWarm heated countertops raise the temperature of the stone 20 to 25 degrees – just enough to take that initial shock away when leaning on the counter with your arms or touching the surface in the morning.

  • When seated at a countertop using laptops or doing paperwork
  • Ideal for installations in basements and cooler areas
  • For businesses looking to present themselves with a high touch of class
  • Impress others when socializing
  • Extended exposure
  • Improve the feel for sensitive individuals such as the elderly

How it Works

Ultra Thin Heating Element with Uniform Pattern

FeelsWarm heated countertops are fitted with an ultra thin (under .015″ thick) heating element that is custom-engineered for each stone including shape, wattage, and electrical input location.  The FeelsWarm element pattern is precisely designed and installed to overcome the poor thermal characteristics of stone so that an even heated surface is created and that the front edge is the same temperature as the center of the heated zone.

  • Utilizes low voltage (12 Volts) for complete safety
  • Enables custom heated areas within a countertop design
  • May heat only where you commonly touch/rest armsGrey countertop with heating zone graphic Draft 4
  • Control scheme permits temperature adjustment
  • Programmer provides pre-set on-off schedule if desired

Cost of Operating

Heated countertops equipped with FeelsWarm Heating Technology are extremely affordable to operate.  For an average sized island countertop, the power consumption is less than having a 60 Watt light bulb turned on.  Leaving the heater on continuously for 24 hours costs less than 20 cents per day depending upon local electricity rates.

When coupled with the programmer, which enables the heater to be pre-timed to turn off automatically at night, the cost can be cut by 50%. In general, however, this low cost of operation drives customers to leave the heater on continuously.

Good Luck


J Carsten Remodeling


What is Soapstone?

Soapstone (staetite) is a naturally occuring metamorphic rock made up of mineral deposits created by nature and quarried from the earth.  The main mineral components in soapstone include talc, chlorite, dolomite and magnesite, giving a warm, soft feeling to the touch.  When cut, it oxidizes from light grey to dark charcoal in color. A light coat of mineral oil or soapstone wax makes its color and subtle flowing veins even more dramatic.


Practically indestructible, soapstone is an excellent alternative natural stone to use in place of granite or marble. Soapstone is naturally antibacterial, will not burn or stain and requires very little maintenance. Acids and alkalis will not etch soapstone as they will other stones. Soapstone has been a part of American homes since the early 1800’s; many homes today still contain working soapstone sinks and wood stoves built over 100 years ago!

Soapstone is a perfect choice for countertops, backsplashes and islands.
Its durable and dense surface possesses all the beauty of granite or marble with none of
the drawbacks. Acidic food and wine won’t etch soapstone as they will other stone surfaces. Hot pots can be placed directly on the surface, and soapstone is non-porous making it naturally antibacterial.

Customers choosing soapstone should be aware that while soapstone is very dense and non porous it is still likely that it will scratch.  Soapstone is best used in a setting where the distressed look is desirable.   The good news is that if you don’t like the scratches, they can be buffed out with fine grit sandpaper.  It is stongly recommended to mineral oil or wax after the scratches are buffed.  After the mineral oil or wax application the area should be much less conspicuous or completely gone.  Often what appears to be a scratch is actually the mineral oil or wax being removed from the surface.  Usually the “scratch” can be removed just by applying mineral oil to the area.  Many of our customers like the patina that develops over time with their soapstone countertops.  The mineral oil and wax will not rub off on your clothes or other material if wiped clean.

Care and Maintenance
There is actually no special maintenance required for soapstone.  Most of our customers choose to apply mineral oil or soapstone wax to the surface of their soapstone countertops, but it is not necessary.  These products are applied to the surface only to darken the stone and enhance its natural beauty.  Soapstone appears naturally as a light grey, chalky looking surface (see photo to right).  When mineral oil or wax is applied to the soapstone, the surface will darken to dark charcoals and black, and the veining in the soapstone will really come to life.  Neither the mineral oil nor wax are sealing the soapstone or protecting the soapstone, but merely darkening it.

We recommend applying a light coat of mineral oil or soapstone wax to all sinks and countertops upon installation. These products can both enhance the inherent natural veining characteristics and crystallization detail of the stone.  Mineral oil can be found in any drug store and the soapstone wax can be purchased through Stone Countertop Outlet. 

Versatility of finish is one of the great pluses of soapstone. Not everyone chooses to color enhance their soapstone. Some homeowners love the natural, untreated soft-gray look. Others choose to bring out the color with mineral oil or wax.  Some treat it with mineral oil weekly, others monthly and some treat only when company is coming. However, when treating with mineral oil, the more often you treat after installation, the sooner you will not have to do it as often.  Waxing the surface will require less applications than the mineral oil and will need to be reapplied less often to keep the stone dark.

Nothing negative will happen to your soapstone if you choose not to apply mineral oil or wax, or if you forgot to apply either of these products.  Over time the stone will darken naturally on its own.  You will notice the soapstone darkening quicker around the high use areas, such as the sink, stovetop, prep areas, etc.  If initially you leave your countertops in their natural state and months later you want to oil or wax them, that is fine.  You do not have to commit to oiling or waxing soapstone the day it is installed.

Daily Cleaning
We recommend using mild soap and water to clear your soapstone countertops.  Soapstone is dense and non-porous, it is very germ and bacteria resistant.  Soapstone is a naturally clean surface. That being said, you can use any common household cleaners on your soapstone counters.  You do not have to worry about using ammonia based cleaners like you with other natural stones.  Setting hot pots or pans directly on your soapstone countertops will not affect the surface.  In Europe, soapstone is used primarily for the manufacturing of masonry heaters and wood burning stones.  Setting hot objects on your stone will not crack, discolor or harm the stone.

Information provided by Green Mountain Soapstone and Midwest Specialty Products via Stone Countertop Outlets.The slab shown above is Mirasol Spyder Soapstone.

Good Luck

Jason Myrlie

J Carsten Homes & Remodeling

The Houzz- A great resource for design ideas

I was recently introduced to www.Houzz.com. The Houzz is a leading destination site for home design enthusiasts– professionals and homeowners. The Houzz site and mobile apps feature nearly 250,000 high quality interior and exterior photos, thousands of highly-engaging articles written by design experts, product recommendations and social tools to manage the remodeling and decorating process.

On the Houzz platform:

Design professionals showcase their portfolios, sharing their work with a community dedicated to home and landscape design. 25,000+ professionals have uploaded nearly 250,000 inspiring photographs, making Houzz the Internet’s largest database of design and decorating ideas.

Homeowners collect their favorite photos, find design professionals in their areas, upload photos of their homes and gardens, and swap tips and questions with other members. 800,000+ ideabooks have been created by Houzz members, and new ones are added every minute.

Site visitors can browse by 7 different styles and 21 different spaces such as kitchen, bathroom, or wine cellar.

Check it out.

Good Luck

Jason- JCarsten Homes




Induction Cooking

Gas, electric. Yep, heard of those. Induction? Heard of it, but what is it all about?

Induction cooking is faster and more energy efficient than traditional electric cooking. It allows instant control of cooking energy similar to gas burners. The surface of the cook top is only heated from contact with the vessel. There are no flames or red-hot electric heating elements as found in traditional cooking equipment.

How it Works: A coil of copper wire is placed underneath the cooking pot. An alternating electric current flows through the coil, which produces an oscillating magnetic field. This field induces an electric current in the pot. Current flowing in the metal pot produces resistive heating which heats the food. While the current is large, it is produced by a low voltage. So unlike other forms of cooking, heat is generated directly in the pot or pan as opposed to being generated in the stovetop by electrical coils or burning gas.



  • Flame-less cooking– In situations in which a hotplate would typically be dangerous or illegal, an induction plate is ideal, as it creates no heat itself.
  • High Efficiency- an induction element has heating performance comparable to a typical consumer-type gas element, even though the gas burner would have a much higher power input.
  • Easy to Clean- the cooking surface is flat and smooth, even though it may have several heating zones. Since the cooking surface is not directly heated, spilled food does not burn on the surface.
  • Control- Since heat is being generated by an induced electric current, the unit can detect whether cookware is present (or whether its contents have boiled dry) by monitoring how much power is being absorbed. That allows such functions as keeping a pot at minimal boil or automatically turning an element off when cookware is removed from it.




  • Compatible Cookware
    • Glass and ceramics are unusable, as are solid copper or solid aluminum cookware.
    • Cookware must have a flat bottom since the magnetic field drops rapidly with distance from the surface.
    • Generally, if a magnet sticks to the bottom, it will work on an induction cooker

  • Price. Although a Viking induction range can top out at $6,000, some models now cost a little over $1,500. LG recently introduced a cooktop hybrid with two induction and two electric elements for $800.
  • Not everyone is sold. Controlling it and understanding which setting will provide the right amount of heat is difficult. Also, once the pan is removed from the heat, the heat goes away. That makes techniques like stir-frying difficult as well.

Good Luck

Jason, J Carsten Homes

The Benefits of Cambria Countertops

If you’re considering granite or other stone surfaces for your kitchen or bath, take a closer look at the benefits of Cambria.

  • Strength & Durability– Cambria Natural Quartz Surfaces™ are stronger than granite. Cambria is a surface that is truly everlasting.
  • Maintenance Free – No sealing, polishing or reconditioning is needed. Simply wash with warm water. It’s that simple. Plus, unlike granite, Cambria will resist stains from common food items such as wine, coffee and tea.
  • Food Safe – Unlike granite, Cambria has been certified by NSF International as safe for use as a food preparation surface. Cambria is nonporous; therefore, food and moisture cannot penetrate the surface — the main source of growth for harmful bacteria.
  • All Natural – Cambria is created from pure natural quartz, an extremely hard stone. In fact, quartz is the hardest non-precious stone that can be found in the earth’s surface.
  • Everlasting Value – With its beauty and performance advantages over granite, a Cambria kitchen countertop or bathroom vanity will add value to your home.
  • Guaranteed – As the only producer of quartz surfaces in the United States, Cambria is covered by a Lifetime Limited Warranty.

Safety and Performance

Today’s busy families demand products that stand up to rigorous use. With Cambria, you can be assured of a product that is not only beautiful and elegant, but also strong, durable and safe for food preparation.

Cambria’s nonporous surface:

  • Is certified by NSF International for both Splash Zone and Food Zone
  • Is nonporous, reducing the potential for bacterial growth
  • Is as food-safe as a stainless steel countertop
  • Resists stains caused by common food items such as coffee, tea and wine
  • Is stronger than granite
  • NEVER needs sealing or refinishing to keep its natural luster
  • Is maintenance free – simply wash with warm water
  • Comes with a limited lifetime warranty

Green Story:

Quartz is a mined product. It is mined through a pipe, one vein at a time and then is back-filled to preserve the integrity of the environment. Seventy percent of the material that is taken out of that vein is used in the finished product.

Granite is also a mined product. It is mined by destroying an entire area of a mountain, rain forest, etc. Approximately only 35% of the initial material becomes the finished product.


Same price for any of the 96 colors. Same price for any of 9 edge profiles.

Good Luck.


Best time to finish your basement

Starting to get cool. Leaves are falling. Family vacations are done. The kids are back in school. And you are just starting to get settled in on your routine for the school year. It’s the best time of the year to finish your basement.

I often get asked when is the best time to… Here are some common home projects and the common times to get the work done:

Spring/ Summer– get it done in order to use it during the summer

  • Decks
  • Landscaping
  • Exterior Work


  • Additions- get the footings in before the frost and the addition weatherized (don’t have to pay for heat) before it gets too cold.
  • Basement Finish


  • Bathroom remodel
  • Kitchen remodel

Of course, all types of remodeling can be done year round. (Yes we can put an addition on in the dead of winter!!)

But now is the best time of year to finish your basement. Here are a few ideas for what can be done:

  • Create a second master bedroom suite for guests complete with spa-quality bathroom
  • Design a game room for ping pong, pool, or even arcade games
  • Install a eye-popping home theater
  • Put in a Bar with a brass rail, glass shelves, beer tappers, and flat-panel TV
  • Stone a fireplace surround and make an entertainment center for playing Xbox or Nintendo Wii

The possibilities are endless. Make a decision to finish that basement today!

Good Luck


The Benefit of Helical Pier foundations

After living in their house for over 10 years, Kathy & Scott had their deck and 4-season porch footings heave. The locks on their double hung windows popped off and shot across the room when the heaving forced the windows up at an angle.

Why did this happen? Most likely do to a really rough (and wet with snow) winter that forced the frost down deeper than it ever had before. Compile that with heavy clay soil and you get a recipe for disaster. After reviewing the original building plan, the original concrete footings appeared (on paper) to be installed correctly and up to today’s building code requirements.

The solution J Carsten Homes presented the homeowners was fairly simple- remove the concrete footings and install Helical Piers for the new foundation. A helical pier is essentially a screw that is advanced into the ground until the proper torque is met (based on a PSI reading). The depth of the helical pier will vary based on the soil conditions. For this job, the average depth was 12 feet. After the pier is installed, a 12 inch square metal plate is welded  to the top of the pier. The new post for the 4-season porch and the deck sits on top of the metal plate with Simpson-type post anchor. The installation contractor then tack welds the Simpson-type post anchor to the metal plate and cuts off the excess metal around the post. That’s it. Ready to go the same day.

The benefits of the Helical Pier foundations are great:

1) Ready to be used immediately- no waiting for concrete to dry and no backfilling is needed

2) Less damage to yards and landscaping. The installation machinery is a mini-excavator with tracks. One trip in. One trip out. With concrete, the concrete truck will either need to back up to the location of the footings, which will leave some deep tire tracks in the lawn, or the concrete will be hauled to the footings with numerous trips over the lawn.

3) Helical footings are virtually guaranteed never to move. Even concrete installed properly and according to building codes can still move.

The only draw back from the helical piers is the cost. They cost about 4 times as much as a concrete footing. But you can make the choice. If your installation involves difficult soil conditions, the extra money may be worth the peace of mind.

Check out the installation of the Heilcal Piers for this project: