Top tips for selecting the right materials for your kitchen

by Ofentse Sefolo
Top tips for selecting the right materials for your kitchen

Deciding on finishes is one of the most challenging parts of a remodel, particularly a kitchen remodel. While choosing materials for the kitchen can be challenging, take it step by step.

The countertop and cabinet finish are a good place to start. Once you have those chosen, select a flooring material. Then choose your backsplash and paint colours. This process will help get everything chosen faster, so that the construction can happen a little sooner and on to enjoying your new kitchen.

1. Showrooms can be daunting. An architect or interior designer will usually be able to help you get to the right solution much quicker than you would on your own.

2. Get samples of all the materials you want to use. Have a cabinet door ordered or fabricated in the finish you want, so that you can take it to other showrooms to choose the other materials like flooring and tiles.

3. If you are using tiles, do not choose cheap tiles unless you really like it. Tiles are difficult to replace, so choose a long-lasting quality tile. If the budget is an issue, choose a less expensive field tile and dress it up with a more expensive decorative accent tile.

4. Test the durability of materials on your samples. Try to stain the countertops. See how easy paint will chip off a finish.

5. Most wood gets darker with age and exposure to light. Think about this when choosing materials, to be sure it is a look you like over the long haul.

Tips for choosing countertops
There are so many countertop materials to choose from, many people simply just do not know where to start. There can also be large price variation, even within a material type (such as natural stone).

For middle-of-the-road budgets, investigate solid surface materials such as Corian. These materials have evolved well beyond the basic white and are now available in patterns that look more like stone and other materials. A big benefit of solid surface countertops is the ability to have a seamless integrated sink fabricated into the countertop, so wiping water into the sink and cleaning up is easier.

Another solid surface countertop option is quartz. Quartz countertops turn a natural material into slabs that appear stone-like. One of the many benefits of these countertops is that they do not absorb liquids. Many natural stones will absorb liquids and can stain very easily, even when sealed.

Natural stone is another very popular material, and a visit to your local stone yard will overwhelm you with literally hundreds of choices. To help you find a suitable stone more quickly, ask for help looking for stone only within a certain price or colour range. When you find a stone you like, consider taking a sample home to see how it holds up to spilled wine, ketchup, mustard and oils. Beware of stones with a lot of fillers- these are a sign of lower quality stone and can get damaged more easily, or even fall out.

Other new choices are countertops made with paper, glass and concrete. Many of these are fine for kitchen use, but some may not hold up well over time. If you are using a material that is not “tried and true”, try to inspect an installation that has been in use for several years. You may like the appearance when new, but if it looks old and damaged in a few years, you may not be so happy.

Tips for choosing cabinets
Your overall lifestyle, family’s needs and home’s design all play a role in choosing the ideal kitchen cabinets. If you have kids and pets, consider a stained wood cabinet rather than a painted cabinet. Generally, they will end up looking better for longer, and they are easier to touch up when they get nicked.

If you are considering a faux or decorative finish, keep in mind that you should err on the side of the finish looking less distressed than you think it should, especially if you are looking at a sample painted on just one door. It’s easy to be too heavy-handed with faux or decorative finishes, and only realise it when you see it installed on all the kitchen cabinets.

Tips for choosing a backsplash
It seems like choosing the backsplash material is often the hardest choice for people to make. It’s usually the last material to be chosen since countertops, floors, cabinets and appliances usually offer fewer options to choose from and have more stringent functional requirements. However, the backsplash can have a huge visual impact and help tie other materials together.

In a more modern kitchen, choosing a stainless-steel backsplash that matches your stainless-steel appliances can be a good choice. Another alternative would be to use stainless-steel tiles, which are now available in many shapes and sizes (and even some that stick on and don’t require grout).

Glass tiles can be another good choice to tie together different colour materials. There are so many different glass tiles available today that it can be challenging to pick one, but a safe place to start is by choosing a glass tile that pulls colours from your countertop and cabinets.

Other materials you may consider are sheets of glass, plastic laminates, stone tiles, ceramic tiles or even wood (painted or sealed, or course). Bead board can be an inexpensive choice for a traditional kitchen, but be sure to seal the gap between the countertop and the wood with a good sealant so that water doesn’t wick under the wood and start to rot it.

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