A New Day, a New Year, A New Kitchen

A past customer of J Carsten Remodeling recently wrote a letter involving their kitchen remodel.

“My wife and I had finally saved enough money to remodel our 1950s-era kitchen. We Homerwere anxiously awaiting a New Kitchen. We watched the sales for new cupboards and countertops, and I was convinced that my son and I could install them ourselves. My wife, who has a better handle on carpentry skills than I do, had different ideas. She told me, “You can install the cabinets in our kitchen when I can start sewing the suits that you wear to school!” She had made her point; this was not something I could do myself. Within a week, we had hired a contractor.” Ric

handsThe point of the letter that Ric wrote was to know and understand your limitations. When J Carsten Remodeling starts planning a kitchen remodel, we confirm with our trade partners how much time will be needed to compete the required tasks. We also have a very good idea how long it will take to complete the tasks we do in-house. We could do most electrical, plumbing, drywall, etc for our projects, but we know that the professionals we hire will get the job done quicker, and most likely do a better job. In the end, we want to provide the best product in the most efficient manner possible.

Good Luck

Jason- J Carsten Remodeling

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Top 10 Kitchen Design Tips

 Remodeling and design experts offer advice on designing a kitchen

1. Think ahead.

When redesigning a kitchen, put function first, says interior designer Jacqui Hargrove. “There’s no ideal kitchen shape,” she says. “Whether it’s a galley or U- or L-shaped, plan for the sink, fridge and cooktop to form a triangle, with no more than 6 feet between each for ease of movement.”

2. Make room for storage. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

“The biggest mistake people make at the planning stage is not allowing for enough storage,” Jacqui says. “Use every nook and cranny. Put overhead cabinets right up to the ceiling, rather than leaving a gap on top that collects dust.” Consider deep drawers for easier access to pots and pans, and include enough storage for appliances that otherwise would clutter up countertops.

3. See the light.

Unlike in other rooms of the house, overhead lighting is insufficient in kitchens, says electrician Richard Terode. “In the kitchen, you don’t want the light behind you, casting a shadow on the workspace. You need it positioned to fall in front of you.” He likes under-cabinet lights because they shine directly on countertops.

4. Power play.

Be sure there are appropriate power sources for relocated or new appliances. Many people realize too late that they don’t have the right gas or electric lines, Richard says. Plumber Stuart McGroder also suggests measuring appliances to ensure that they fit comfortably into allocated spaces. “If a dishwasher is crammed in, it could push up against the hose and won’t drain properly,” Stuart says.

5. Space and surface.038-jcarstenhomes2011small

There’s no such thing as too much counter space. Choose a surface that’s easy to work on and care for. But keep in mind that grout between tiles is hard to maintain and that stainless steel will scratch very easily.

6. Start fresh.

Don’t reuse appliances or items from the old kitchen. It may seem as if you’re saving money, but an old appliance will stick out like a sore thumb in a new environment, says Jacqui. Find other ways to economize. “You don’t have to spend $100 on a drawer handle when cheaper ones still look fantastic,” she says. “The same goes for countertops.”

7. Safety first.

Make your kitchen as safe and family-friendly as possible by planning for good visibility to backyard and indoor play areas from the cooking area, suggests Dorothy Bell, a home safety expert. Also consider such safety-conscious elements as rounded countertops, slip-resistant flooring and ovens located at adult height to minimize the chances of accidental burns. (For more tips, visit usa.safekids.org.)

8. Clear the air.

A range hood helps ventilate cooking odors, says appliance consultant James Moore. “Buy one that’s efficient, quiet and vented outside,” he advises.

9. Trash talk.IMG_1146

Don’t forget to plan for garbage and recycling bins. Do you want built-in bins cleverly disguised behind a cabinet door, or a sleek, stainless-steel garbage container that’s positioned out of the way?

10. Look out below

When it comes to flooring, consider slip-resistance, ease of maintenance and porosity, suggests consultant Craig Verdon. Stone floors, which are somewhat porous, for instance, may need periodic resealing. If so, ask how often, and think about whether you want to deal with that process. “Hardwood floors are beautiful, but be aware that they wear out faster by the fridge, stove and sink than other areas,” he notes. “Hard, natural stone works wonderfully, and the earthy look and feel of it is very popular.”

Information taken from Reader Digest. Read more: http://www.rd.com/slideshows/top-10-kitchen-design-tips/#ixzz2Snz8y3yt

Good Luck

Jason- J Carsten Remodeling

Cabinets- A bit more about options

Last time I talked about the different types of cabinets. Now let’s talk about when is the best time to use them and the types of finishing.

Box Cabinets– J Carsten Remodeling will recommend box cabinets in economy situations where the customer is looking for a good quality cabinet on a smaller budget. Box Box cabinetscabinets come pre-finished (finished at the factory) and lead times are typically 4-6 weeks. Planning ahead of time is a must with box cabinets in order to ensure that cabinets are available for installation at just the right time. Typically, we will want the cabinets on the job site or at a minimum, delivered to the lumber company, before we will start demo.

Customizable Box/ Manufactured Custom Cabinets– We seldom use customizable box cabinets or manufactured custom cabinets. The main reason is the cost of these cabinets is comparable to local custom cabinets even when the cost of finishing is included.

Local Custom Cabinets- This is, by far, the cabinet type we install most often. J Carsten Remodeling has a relationship with a local custom cabinet shop where lead times are typically two weeks. In addition to shorter lead times, if errors or defects are found, we can usually get the problem resolved in 24-48 hours. That would not be possible with any type of manufactured cabinet.

Finishing on Custom Cabinets– For most installations, the local custom cabinets we install site finished cabinetwill be unfinished and then finished on site. This is preferred for two main reasons:

  1. Any handling or installation damage/ scratches can be fixed prior to finishing
  2. Nail holes in moldings (crown molding, etc) can be filled and make the nail hole virtually disappear. This is especially important with enameled cabinets.

There are occasions, though, where pre-finishing the cabinets is done.

  1. In a condominium situation where the association by-laws state that no cabinet finishing can be done on site. Then, we do not have a choice.pre-finished cabinet
  2. In a cabinet & countertop replacement only. In order to minimize the kitchen down time, the cabinets will be installed pre-finished. The kitchen is usable right after installation (waiting for countertops of course)

Good Luck

Jason- J Carsten Remodeling

What’s in the kitchen- Cedar Plank Salmon

This is a favorite of our family and friends. It’s really easy to do and it tastes fantastic for all ages.

The recipe actually starts in the shop, well at least for me. As the title reveals, we are going to need cedar planks. Byerly’s sells 4 medium sized planks for about $16. And if you don’t have the resources, buying the cedar planks is your best option. But I’ve got a few resources at my disposal, so I make my own.

Cedar Planks

Since I’ve done my share of decks, I always have left over cedar in the shop. I keep the bigger scraps to use in my fire pit and for occasions just like this. I use a cedar 6×6 and my table saw. I set the width at around 3/8” and take 2 passes to cut all the way through. (Note: a band saw would be much easier to use if you have one. Also, take care not to overheat your table saw. This type of cutting puts a lot of strain on even the best table saw.) After ripping to width, I trim the planks to fit the fish and to fit my grill. Once the planks are ready, soak the planks in water for at least an hour prior to use, the longer the better.

The Sauce

The sauce recipe is courtesy Guy Fieri & Food Network with a couple of modifications:

  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 2 jalapenos, cut into rings
  • 1 tablespoon garlic, minced
  • ½ cup white wine
  • 3 tablespoons whole-grain mustard
  • 1 cup apricot preserves
  • (4) 6-ounce salmon fillets
  • Salt & pepper to taste

I have made this recipe at least five times and have used varying preserves/ jams: Orange marmalade, raspberry, blackberry, jalapeno marmalade, apricot. To be honest, there is not a discernible difference in the finished product, so use what ever you have in your pantry. I also use jarred jalapenos because I like more of a heat kick to my sauce.

In a small pan over medium heat, heat the oil. When hot, add jalapenos and saute until caramelized. Add garlic and before it begins to brown, deglaze pan with white wine. Next, add mustard and preserves and bring to a simmer. Simmer on low heat for 20 minutes and let completely cool before using.

Grilling

Prep your grill of choice to hot. I use charcoal, but this will work on a gas grill nicely as well.  Remove the planks from soaking in water. The Food Network recipe calls for skinned salmon fillets. I prefer to use skin on fillets for two reasons: 1) The skin adds a layer of flavor; 2) the skin acts as a buffer to the cedar plank. The skin will stick to the plank making it really easy to serve the fish skin free. Salt & pepper the salmon to taste.

Place the fish on the planks, trimming off any salmon that will be hanging over the edge. (I use the trimmings on another plank and serve as a little appetizer.) Liberally apply the cooled sauce to the fish. Any extra sauce can be used as additional sauce during cooking or at table. Just be sure not to cross-contaminate the raw fish into the cooled sauce.

Place the planks on the grill grate, directly over hot coals. The first couple minutes of cooking will be fairly smoky as you are burning wet wood. The planks themselves will be very scorched on the bottom and on the top edges up to the fish. Cooking time will depend on the grill temperature, thickness of the fillet, and desired doneness. Typically, I cook mine for 20-25 minutes. I find that it would take a lot to over cook the fish using this method. The moisture in the cedar plank, in a addition to the skin keep the fish moist.

Presentation

I leave the fish on the burnt plank and put that directly on the table. It’s quite a nice presentation just like that. I use a spatula to skim just above the skin and cleanly pull off the fillet, leaving the skin stuck to the plank. Serve with a side of lemon wedges.

Enjoy.

Good Luck.

Jason Myrlie- J Carsten Homes & Remodeling

Ten Tips for Remodeling your Kitchen

Here are ten tips for remodeling your kitchen, whether you are doing it yourself or hiring a professional (like ME!).

1. Assess the situation ahead of time and get a lot of opinions.
Let professionals come over and give their opinions. Also, talk with friends who have done remodeling in the past. They will let you know what they would change and their likes/ dislikes. Eventually you’ll start to get a feel for what is necessary, what you could do without and who you want to work with.

2. Find a creative Remodeler.
While the estimate was important in your decision, finding someone who has creative solutions is an important thing in the long run. A good remodeler will suggest things that make your kitchen look more custom and high end but won’t cost an arm and a leg. Most homeowners don’t always know what can be done, so having a professional opinion is invaluable.

3. Take your time in the planning stage.
You may be super anxious to get going, but spend time looking at magazine photos for inspiration, thinking creatively and drawing up sketches to show your remodeler. You may find solutions to what could have been very expensive fixes simply by taking the time to solve them creatively.

4. Do at least some of the prep work yourselves.
A lot of homeowners aren’t particularly handy with tools or building things. But, simple things can be done by homeowners to say some costs like removing the cabinets and flooring yourself, or doing the prep work on an old cabinet or millwork that will be refinished.

5. Details, details, details.
The key to a custom looking kitchen is in the details. That doesn’t mean fancy pants hand carved marble corbels either. You can choose things that look unique and special, or you can chose something that is plain and non-descript. It is the little details that will give your room the “ooh and ahh” factor so be unique and add some special features.

6. Don’t be afraid to speak up.
It may drive your remodeler crazy sometimes (not me though) because you want everything to be just right. But if something doesn’t look right or if you are second guessing your selection, speak up. And the sooner the better. It will cost less to fix it now than it will after everything is done.

7. Mix things up.
Don’t be boring when you can be special! Mix things up! Yes, you can use more than one style of hardware and more than one cabinet finish. We have done several kitchens where the island is finished with a different color or countertop choice. Adding glass to cabinet doors is an easy addition that adds some wow to the kitchen.

8. Drawers are better than doors.
Genereally speaking of course (you won’t be putting drawers in the upper cabinets). Save a step and use a drawer versus having cabinet doors to open and then the pullout. I like to pull out a drawer and see what is in it right away. No standing on my head to see in a deep dark cupboard and no fancy maneuvers to pull out a drawer within a cabinet.

9. Creative concealment.
Don’t spend big money to rip things out if you don’t have to. Have an ugly window? The cost to replace that with beauty? It could be $20,000 because it would involve remodeling the whole corner of your house.  Instead, a good coat of primer and paint and a little trim work can disguise what used to be ugly.

10. Work with what you have.
Keep the basic footprint of our kitchen intact. You will be able to keep plumbing and electrical costs to a minimum, as well as avoid replacing flooring by simply leaving your floorplan the same.

This list adapted from: http://www.divinecaroline.com/33666/79747-top-ten-kitchen-remodeling-tips

Good Luck

Jason Myrlie- J Carsten Homes & Remodeling

 

What’s in the kitchen? Pear & Fennel Salad

I figured that since I like to cook and that I remodel kitchens quite frequently, I should share some of the recipes I find enjoyable. So that’s what I’m doing. The recipes will not be exclusively mine, but rather my version of someone elses creativity. So here we go….stay tuned for more….( to steal a line from a Food Network Star)…good eats.

Pear & Fennel Salad: Recipe courtesy Food Network Magazine

This is a recipe I’ve made twice now, I have to admit that I wasn’t sure how it would taste based on the ingredients. Initially, I had no idea what a fennel was. Wikipedia says fennel is:

“Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) is a plant species in the genus Foeniculum (treated as the sole species in the genus by most botanists). It is a member of the family Apiaceae (formerly the Umbelliferae). It is a hardy, perennial, umbelliferous herb, with yellow flowers and feathery leaves. It is indigenous to the shores of the Mediterranean, but has become widely naturalized in many parts of the world, especially on dry soils near the sea-coast and on riverbanks.

It is a highly aromatic and flavorful herb with culinary and medicinal uses, and, along with the similar-tasting anise, is one of the primary ingredients of absinthe. Florence fennel or finocchio is a selection with a swollen, bulb-like stem base that is used as a vegetable.”

And it looks like this:

The recipe goes as follows: Whisk 3 tablespoons white wine vinegar with ½ teaspoon anise seed, salt, and pepper in a serving bowl, then whisk slowly in 1/3 cup olive oil. Add one thinly sliced fennel bulb, two thinly sliced pears, and some parsley. Season with salt and pepper and toss. Top with shaved pecorino.

This is a great summer recipe and goes well with other citrus-themed meals (i.e. fish). I use extra virgin olive oil instead of regular olive oil. I also found that using pears that are on the green side is actually better. (I found that out by accident- there were no ripe pears available when I made this the first time.) The firmness of the pears adds crispness and the pears hold up better for tossing and eating. I let the salad rest at room temperature for 10 minutes before serving. Do not let the salad rest too long though or the fennel will start to wilt.

Enjoy

Good Luck

Jason Myrlie- J Carsten Homes & 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.


Durability

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