Author Archives: Erich Leatham

kitchen quartz countertops

Your Kitchen Countertops: Quartz vs. Granite

For many years, granite has been the rage in kitchen countertops, but lately, we’re finding that many homeowners are choosing quartz over granite. Granite is a 100 percent natural hard stone mined from quarries, then cut down and polished. Quartz is comprised of about 95 percent natural quartz that is ground up and then mixed with a small percentage of polymer resins to hold it together.

Quartz offers a wide variety of design options, is easy to clean, and resists germs. It’s also environmentally friendly and almost impossible to damage. While granite is certainly still a great choice for kitchen countertops, there are some important factors to consider when deciding between granite and quartz:

Appearance. Because granite is a natural stone, no two slabs will be the same. Many people love its natural look, but you won’t always be able to find a specific color or pattern to match your kitchen. If you decide later to add more countertops or if one of your granite slabs breaks, you might not be able to find a slab that matches what you have. Quartz has the advantage of having the look of natural stone while giving you many colors and patterns to choose from; if you ever need to add or replace your countertops, you can easily match what you have.

Cleaning and Upkeep. Granite needs to be cleaned daily, and certain oils and acids can stain it. You’ll need to reseal granite countertops about once a year to protect its naturally porous surface from heat and stains. Quartz only needs to be cleaned with soap and water daily, and that’s it! Its nonporous surface naturally resists bacteria, and many quartz manufacturers add an antibacterial coating that provides even more protection against germs. (For helpful tips on keeping your countertops clean, click here for granite and here for quartz.)

Heat. Granite is highly heat resistant as long as it’s sealed properly. Quartz can handle up to 150 degrees of heat, but the resin can become discolored when exposed to heat for a period of time, so you’ll want to be sure to use trivets or hot pads when placing any hot items on its surface. The resin in quartz can also become discolored when exposed for long periods of time to direct sunlight.

Durability. Quartz is more durable. It’s harder than granite and almost indestructible. Granite can be damaged with high impact blows, such as dropping a heavy frying pan on it. Small chips in both quartz and granite can be repaired using an epoxy kit that you can purchase at a home improvement store.

Cost and installation. Quartz tends to cost a bit more per square foot than granite, but the price of either will depend on the type, size, and quality that you buy. Buying larger granite slabs can increase the cost per square foot; any specialized edges will increase the cost of quartz. You’ll want a professional to install either type of countertop; not only are both materials very heavy and will need to be handled with care, but a pro can cut the seams in a way to make them less noticeable and ensure that they fit well around your cabinetry and sink.

Environmental Friendliness. Quartz wins the prize for being more environmentally friendly than granite. Granite is quarried, which uses a great deal of energy to cut and transport it. Quartz is engineered; if you use local manufacturers, it cuts down on energy and transportation of the materials.

Mountain West Construction uses Cambria countertops, which is the only American-made, family-owned producer of natural quartz in the US. You can check out all their options for styles and colors at their website. Then give us a call at 828-697-8894 to discuss how we can help you choose the best countertops for your kitchen upgrade!

remodeled kitchen

7 Signs of a Professional Remodeling Contractor

Remodeling your home is an exciting process. There are colors and materials to choose, updated designs to consider, and the knowledge that when the job is done, you’ll have made an investment in your home that you and your family will enjoy and that will add to its value. But choosing the right remodeler for the job can be a daunting process — since not many of us have remodeled a home before, it can be difficult to know what to look for and what you should expect when looking for a contractor. Fortunately, there are ways to tell that you’re hiring a professional who will get the job done right. Read on for seven signs of a reliable remodeling contractor:

  1. Your contractor should meet with you on site and ask thoughtful questions. A professional renovator will take a thorough look at the space you want to remodel and inspect walls, plumbing, wiring, and other components as closely as possible. He should ask questions to get a good understanding of what you want done in the space and what your budget is. A qualified contractor will let you know up front of any concerns he has and may also be able to suggest improvements that you hadn’t yet considered.
  2. A good contractor will provide you with a quote in writing. This quote should include the general timeline of the project, the materials and supplies required, and an estimated cost for the entire job. Read the contract carefully, ask as many questions as you need to, then make sure both you and the contractor have signed it and that he’s provided you with a copy.
  3. Along with his estimate, a reliable contractor will clearly communicate each phase of the process, so you’ll have an understanding of each step at the outset of the project.
  4. A professional contractor will be happy to provide you with references. These references should include names and contact information, as well as a portfolio of work. Be sure to ask his references if all communication was clear (including communication about any necessary changes to the project), how he addressed any challenges or issues that came up as the project progressed, if he showed up when he said he would and was on time, if the project stayed on schedule, and if the job site was kept neat and clean. Finally, ask if the work performed has stood the test of time, and if they’d hire the contractor again for other jobs.
  5. A qualified contractor will show you his contractor’s license and certificate of insurance. Most contractors are also members of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and NAHB Remodelers. These documents and memberships will ensure that you’re dealing with a professional who is protecting both you and himself financially and legally.
  6. A good contractor will make sure that any necessary permitting is taken care of and that work is performed to code. Even though your contractor will take care of satisfying all government rules and regulations, it’s not a bad idea to familiarize yourself with what’s required for your renovation so you can be sure everything is in compliance.
  7. A trustworthy contractor will communicate immediately and clearly if anything isn’t going as planned. Remember, almost no remodeling project will go exactly according to strategy. Once your contractor begins opening up walls and ceilings, he may discover that the interior conditions of your home require more work or modifications. Weather can also affect work on your home. But no matter what challenges arise, your contractor should talk with you about these issues and provide, in writing, any changes in the scope of the project, including additional work, costs, and time that will be required. (You should also have limits on how flexible you are; if your contractor keeps “finding” things wrong and unreasonably adding to the scope of the project, you may want to get a second opinion before moving forward.)

Once you’ve found a contractor you can trust, you’re ready to begin! Keep in mind that remodeling will be a bit disruptive to your life; while a good contractor will keep the space as neat and tidy as possible, understand that you’re going to get a little more dust and dirt around your house, and that your normal routine will be disturbed. Just keep your eyes on the prize — by hiring a professional, you’ll save yourself added time, money, and headaches, and when the project is complete, you’ll be able to enjoy your beautiful new space for years to come!

Starting a home remodel can be a daunting task. You can help lessen the overwhelming feelings by planning ahead and doing your homework. Proper planning and research on the front end is the best blueprint for a successful home remodeling project.

So how do you get started?

Start with a plan. What do you want to accomplish? How much do you want to spend?  Gather ideas from magazines and sites like Pinterest and Houzz.  List your must-have features and what type of functionality you want the space to have.  Once you have your plan you can reach out to a contractor to start finalizing ideas.

What’s your budget?  How much are you comfortable spending on your renovation? Do you have the cash on hand or are you going to finance your renovation? Setting a clear budget can help keep your contractors accountable and it goes a long way toward ensuring you can enjoy your finished project without regret or having to make sacrifices down the line.

Involve a professional   Unless you are already a contractor, you’ll want to make sure you hire a licensed and insured professional.  Start by soliciting multiple bids to find someone who will give you the best value and be most in line with the needs of your renovation.

Get ready   Start by moving valuables and furniture out of the area to be renovated.  Create a clear path for contractors to move about in the project space.  Be prepared to function without the space for the duration of the renovation, possibly making alternative arrangements if the project involves a kitchen or bath.

If you’re thinking of renovating or already have a plan in hand, Mountain West Construction can bring your ideas to life. Give us a call to discuss your needs!