Ask the Editor: Choosing Granite
Designed by Northbay Kitchen & Bath, Petaluma, Calif.
Get the Right Granite Color
Question: "I love one of the photographs on your website and I would really like to know what the countertop is. I have had this photo (see above) pasted as my desktop for months now; I like it that much. We are finally at the point where we are ready to replace our countertop, and this is the countertop I want." —Sandi U.
Answer: I can tell you for sure that this is a polished granite countertop with a bullnose edge. What I don't know is the color; but even if I did know that, it wouldn't necessarily be useful information
For one, granite colors don't have consistent names. Countries of origin, importers, fabricators, installers and retailers each have their own naming conventions for granite. It's sort of like finding the right paint color; my bedroom is painted "Under the Big Top," which is code for sky blue.
Secondly, photos — whether on the Internet or in a magazine — have their limitations. What looks great in a 4-inch x 5-inch photo of someone else's kitchen might not measure up in person or in your home. For that reason, you should always pick out colors — whether of paint, countertops, flooring, tiles or cabinets — where you can see the actual product for yourself.
Most importantly, every slab of granite is unique and contains variations in color, veining and particle size. This is true even if you are looking at two slabs of Absolute Black from the same quarry. That's why you can't just choose a color of granite-you have to go to the granite yards (typically a retailer/installer) and pick out a specific slab for your countertop.
Some relatively common granite colors include:
Peacock Green (or Verde Peacock)
New Venetian Gold
Black Impala (or Impala Black)
Ubatuba (or Uba Tuba; it is a dark green)
Knowing your colors in other languages can help in the search, as many granites come from Italy, Spain, India, China, Brazil and other foreign countries.
Here are a few pointers:
Finally, a few thoughts on cost: granites are typically divided into anywhere from three to six pricing tiers, depending on the seller. The most exotic, rare or difficult to obtain stones cost can cost more than twice as much as the options in the lowest tier.
Other options that affect price include the thickness of the slab, the elaborateness of the edge treatment and the type of finish.
Ask the Editor: Wolf vs. Viking
What's the Difference Between Wolf and Viking?
Question: '"Is there somewhere other than Consumer Reports that gives pros and cons about different brand-name appliances? I'm trying to get solid info on Wolf versus Viking."
Answer: To make a very long story short: Wolf offers a stainless steel finish and heavier components; a wider range of Btus for cooking at extreme temperatures; and a two-year full warranty. Viking offers a stainless steel finish plus 23 other colors, a wider range of appliance types, and a three-year full warranty on the Professional Series products or a one-year full warranty on the Designer Series products.
"The number one difference is the build quality," says Chris Athanas, sales manager in the custom kitchen department of Abt Electronics in Glenview, Ill. The dealership carries both Wolf and Viking appliances. "What Wolf does differently than any other company is they use a cast-iron frame. Everyone else uses stamped steel."
The cast iron makes for a durable product that withstands the rigors of shipping and moving and can last 20 to 25 years, says Athanas.
Kirby Holekamp, sales manager for Modern Kitchens in Syracuse, N.Y., agrees, but adds that Wolf appliances, which his company represents, tend to be heavier as a result. If you have an older home, check with your salesperson, designer or installer to be sure the floor joists can support the weight.
He points to the Btu output of the burners as another Wolf advantage. On gas ranges, Wolf's burners provide 500 to 16,000 Btus while Viking's burners provide 1,000 to 15,000 Btus. Athanas doesn't consider it much of a difference, but Holekamp says that cooks who work at extreme temperatures appreciate the extra control.
Viking offers more design possibilities than Wolf, thanks to finishes such as mint julep and cobalt blue, and a 24-inch wide model that makes it possible to have a professional-style range in a small kitchen.
Another neat option from Viking that Wolf doesn't offer: a self-cleaning gas range. This is for chefs who prefer cooking with gas to electric or dual-fuel (gas cooktop, electric oven) but want the self-cleaning feature.
Viking also offers refrigerators, dishwashers, compactors, disposers and countertop appliances. Wolf's sister company, Sub-Zero, however, makes refrigeration appliances.
Prices vary by region and retailer, but comparable Wolf and Viking appliances usually cost within a few hundred dollars of each other, according to Athanas and Holekamp.
One thing your money can't get with Viking: Wolf's trademark red knobs, considered a status symbol in some circles.
Comparing Wolf and Viking
Wolf Appliance Co./
Sub-Zero Freezer Co.
Viking Range Corp.
Major Appliances Offered
Cooktops: electric, gas, induction; modular steamer, fryer and grill
Cooktops: electric, gas, induction
Microwaves: convection, drawer and standard
Microwaves: convection, drawer, standard and microhoods
Outdoor grills: built-in and cart
Outdoor grills: built-in and cart
Ranges: dual-fuel and gas
Ranges: dual-fuel, gas, electric and induction
Ventilation: downdraft, wall and island hoods; liners
Ventilation: downdraft, wall and island hoods;, liners, microhoods and recirculating conversion kits
Wall ovens: electric, steam
Wall ovens: electric, gas
Outdoor rangetops, hoods, ovens, cookers, warming drawers, refrigerator, refrigerator drawers, ice machines, cabinetry
Refrigerators: bottom-mount, side-by-side, freezers, wine cellars, beverage centers, ice makers, refrigerator drawers, freezer drawers, combination drawers
Refrigerators: bottom-mount, side-by-side, French door, freezers, wine cellars, beverage centers, ice machines, refrigerator drawers
Compactors, Dishwashers, Disposers
Stainless steel, black, white, biscuit, stone gray, graphite gray, burgundy, lemonade, Viking blue, cobalt blue, metallic silver, taupe, cotton white, oyster gray, golden mist, sage, mint julep, sea glass, iridescent blue, pumpkin, racing red, apple red, plum and chocolate. Brass trim option.
30", 36", 48", 60' widths
Commercial depth (27") models:
- 36", 48" and 60' widths
- open stainless steel 15,000 Btu burners
All models 28 3/8" deep
Standard depth (24") models:
Dual-stacked, 500 to 16,000 Btu
open stainless steel or sealed brass burners
convection or self-cleaning convection oven
30", self-cleaning convection oven, 800- to 2,500-watt heating elements
30", 36", 48", 60' widths
30", 36", 48", 60' widths
Dual-stacked, sealed surface,
One dual-stacked, sealed surface, 9,200 Btu aluminum burner with melt feature
Open or sealed 15,000 Btu surface burners
Self-cleaning convection oven(s)
Self-cleaning convection oven(s)
10 cooking modes: bake, roast, broil, convection bake, convection roast, convection broil, convection, proof, bake stone and dehydration
Seven cooking modes: Bake, broil, convection bake, convection cook, convection broil, convection dehydrate, and convection defrost
48" model with 18" oven: proofing mode
2-year full, 5-year limited
1-year full on Designer Series; 3-year full on Professional Series
Ask the Editor: Small Appliances
Courtesy of Bosch
The Bosch Evolution 500 series dishwasher is just 22 7/16 inches deep and 23 9/16 inches wide, making it a good choice for a tight space or small kitchen.
New Appliances for Old Homes
Question: "We have an older home with counters/cabinets that are only 23 inches deep. Are there any built-in dishwashers out there that will fit such a space?"
Answer: Yes, there are. Although the standard built-in dishwasher size is 24 inches wide and 24 inches deep, European dishwashers often tend to be a little narrower and shallower than U.S. models. Bosch, Thermador, Miele and Asko all offer models about 22.5 inches deep. (FYI: These will all cost at least $500.) If your countertops are stone or another hard surface, you'll need a model that can mount on the side instead of to the top.We can't emphasize enough the importance of consulting with an experienced, knowledgeable professional at a good appliance store or retailer. Such a person will be familiar with the local housing stock and its typical challenges, as well as the products most likely to work in a challenging situation. Bring along exact measurements for potential dishwasher locations; not just the depth of the counter but also the height from the floor to the bottom of the countertop.
You don't mention the width of your base cabinets. Standard built-in dishwashers are about 24 inches wide, give or take half an inch. Built-in dishwashers also come in compact 18-inch models, which may be a better option for your cabinetry. Try to select a location near your sink that won't interfere with your ability to open and close cabinet and refrigerator doors.
By the way, installing any dishwasher in a kitchen that has never had one is a challenge, so we strongly recommend hiring a professional. Not only will you need to cut out a section of your base cabinets to create space for the dishwasher, you will have to run dedicated water and power lines to the dishwasher. This electrical and plumbing work will require opening up the wall, which has the potential to uncover rot, code violations and other not-so-fun stuff.
Ask the Editor: Test-Drive Appliances
Courtesy of Sub-Zero/Wolf
How Can I Decide on a Commercial-Style Range?
Question: "My husband and I have been saving for our kitchen remodel for a long time. We both love to cook and we want to buy a commercial-style range, but we can't decide on which one. We've never had anything more than a regular gas stove. We know we want a dual-fuel so we can get a convection oven and gas burners, but otherwise we're not sure how all the brands are different. Can you help us?"
Answer: If at all possible, try before you buy. You can test drive a new car-why not a new appliance, especially if it's going to cost as much? Many local showrooms give consumers the opportunity to see and touch cabinets and counters, but functional kitchens that are fully plumbed, fueled and available for cooking dinner are harder to find.
A number of appliance manufacturers have interactive showrooms around the country. They offer live demonstrations, fully functional vignettes and culinary classes. They're a great place to try a range, cooktop or oven you've been eyeing; have your questions answered by professional chefs, designers and installers; and learn firsthand what features are must-haves and which you can live without.
Dacor Showroom & Culinary Centers ( www.dacor.com; Atlanta, Ga., Chicago, Los Angeles and San Francisco)
Offerings vary by location but include product demonstrations, use and care workshops and cooking classes. Call ahead to make an appointment.
KitchenAid Experience Store ( www.kitchenaid.com, Greenville, Ohio)
Test major appliances and countertop appliances, see product demonstrations or attend a cooking class.
Sub-Zero/Wolf Living Kitchen Showrooms (www.wolfappliance.com; more than 30 locations, including Scottsdale, Ariz.; Denver, Colo.; South Norwalk, Conn.; Fla., (Orlando, Hollywood); Duluth, Ga.; Honolulu; Boise, Idaho; Glendale Heights, Ill.; Lenexa, Kan.; Milford, Mass.; Columbia, Md.; Auburn Hills, Mich.; Minnetonka, Mont.; St. Louis, Mo.; Charlotte, N.C.; Pine Brook, N.J.; N.Y. (Manhattan, Roslyn Heights, Syracuse, Latham, Cheektowaga); Ohio (Mason, Parma); Tigard, Ore.; Pa. (Philadelphia, Bridgeville); Carrollton, Texas; Salt Lake City, Utah; Richmond, Va.; and Seattle, Wa.)
The heart of each Living Kitchen is a demonstration studio where you can learn how to use and care for the company's appliances or watch skilled chefs in action. Each showroom sets its own schedule of events, most of which require reservations.
Viking Cooking Schools ( www.vikingcookingschool.com; Anchorage, Ala.; Kenai, Ark.; Atlanta, Ga.; Cleveland, Ohio; Glenview, Ill.; Fairfield, N.J.; Greenwood, Miss.; St. Louis, Mo.; Bridgehampton, New York, N.Y.; Philadelphia, Pa.; Memphis, Nashville, Tenn.; Dallas, Texas; Walnut Creek, Calif.)
The Viking Cooking Schools offer hands-on cooking classes and culinary demonstrations. Viking Test Drives and Outdoor Kitchen Test Drives (not available in all locations) demonstrate range and cooktop features as well as cookware and cutlery lines.
Ask the Editor: Colorful Cabinets
Courtesy of xulinablu
Break up red cabinets with cabinetry in a complementary neutral shade.
How to Make Red Cabinets Work
Question: "I am presently designing a kitchen for my new home. I am tired of the "wood" look and that of white/ivory. I was thinking of doing something different and having RED cabinets built. My floor is dark hardwood.
The question I have is about color. What could work for a granite top and a backsplash? Also, would tile be the best choice for the backsplash (as opposed to glass/stainless steel)?" —Donna from Canada
Answer: Sometimes we all just want something different. You can definitely put red cabinets in the kitchen-just know that if you're going to sell sooner rather than later, red might not be to everyone's taste. In fact, you might tire of the look after a few years. Consider breaking up the red cabinets with cabinetry in a complementary neutral shade. For example, the culinablu kitchen shown here features red laminate wall cabinets and light gray island cabinetry.
You could also use the red cabinets to make the island a focal point, like the green island in this castled-themed kitchen. Another alternative would be to use red cabinets to make the cooktop or range a focal point, as with the green cabinets in this country kitchen.
Your material and color choices for the countertop and backsplash will depend partly on your design style. However, I recommend choosing lighter colors to balance out the dark shades of the cabinets and floors.
For a cozy country or Old World feel, go with warm red cabinets and gold-toned granite, possibly Kashmir Gold or one of the Juperanas. A cool red would look good with a light gray or white granite. Similar colors in quartz or solid surfacing would also work well.
In a contemporary kitchen, try a honed finish instead of a glossy finish on your granite, or choose a stainless steel or laminate countertop.
As for the backsplash, your options are limitless. You can continue your countertop material up the walls to your cabinet. A stainless steel backsplash behind the range can work in a traditional or a contemporary kitchen. For an Old World look, go with brick or stone
Glass, ceramic and stone tile backsplashes can work in nearly any style of kitchen. Tumbled marble or other stone tiles, often with metallic accents, are popular right now. So are hand-painted ceramic tiles or glass mosaic tiles, both of which are great ways either to add color or to pull together different colors used throughout the kitchen.
Ask the Editor: Sealing Granite
How Do You Maintain Stone Countertops?
Question: "We just got new granite and marble countertops and were told that they have been factory sealed. Should we use an additional sealant? How often do they need to be resealed?"
Answer: First, find out what kind of sealant the factory used on each stone. Your installer and/or fabricator can give you this information. Some sealants need to be reapplied every six months to a year; others can last for several years. The porosity of the stone as well as its usage (counter, floor or wall; kitchen, bathroom or other room; amount of traffic or food preparation) also will affect the length of time between treatments.
You can do the sealing yourself or hire a professional-if the stone has become stained or needs to be refinished or rebuffed, the latter might be the wiser choice.
Sealing Granite Counters in the Kitchen
All natural stone is porous, which means water, spaghetti sauce, cooking oil and other liquids could seep into and stain it. In addition, acids-whether found in citrus fruits or household cleaners-have a corrosive effect on stone. That's why when it comes to natural stone kitchen counters, most pros recommend using a non-toxic, food-safe penetrating sealer or impregnator.
Although granite is a hard substance that resists most chipping, heat, stains and scratches, it can still be damaged. Kelly DaSilva, president of La Pietra Custom Marble and Granite in Connecticut, takes a strong preventative approach to stone care by using two coats of sealer and a resin treatment. It makes the price of the stone higher for customers more, but reduces maintenance labor and costs in the long run.
DaSilva recommends StoneTech Professional BulletProof sealer, which the manufacturer says lasts three to five years for interior surfaces. With two coats, DaSilva says homeowners only need to reseal every six years. The factory-applied resin treatment helps to strengthen the granite and enhance its beauty."Resin treatment adds 35 percent extra to the cost, but it covers all the natural pits and fissures," says DaSilva. "That's why you don't want to use abrasive cleansers. They eat the seal and treatment, and damage the finish."For daily cleaning, she recommends using Rock Doctor or a similar product designed specifically for stone care.
Avoid Marble in High-Use Areas
Marble is much softer and less durable than granite, susceptible to chips, scratches, stains and burns. In fact, DaSilva, like many stone experts, prefers to avoid installing marble in kitchens.
"You have to be more careful with the marble," explains DaSilva. "Make sure you don't get acids on it, they will burn into it. It's easily scratchable. I never recommend marble for kitchen countertops-keep those fine surfaces for bathroom surrounds and other areas."
Still, many homeowners can't resist marble's beauty, and it's a great surface for working with dough. If you're going to put marble in the kitchen, DaSilva says you should be especially careful to keep vinegar, citric acids, household cleaners and knives well away from it. Marble requires more frequent sealing than granite.
Regular Cleaning and Spills
The Marble Institute of America recommends the following regular care for granite and marble counters:
Clean surfaces with mild, non-oil-based detergent or stone soap
Thoroughly rinse and dry the surface after washing
After food preparation, clean up with a sponge or cloth and warm water
Do not let spilled ingredients sit overnight
Blot all liquid spills immediately
Don't wipe; it will spread the spill
For wine, blot with a paper towel and then flush the area with warm water and a non-petroleum-based soap; rinse several times, then dry with a soft cloth
- Protect counters with coasters, trivets or placemats; this is especially true for calcareous stones such as marble, limestone or travertine-alcohol, citric juices and other common foods can easily etch or dull these surfaces, while hot cookware, ceramic dishes and silverware will burn or scratch them
The institute also says homeowners should avoid cleaning with any of the following:
Vinegar, lemon juice or other naturally acidic substances
- Cleaners that contain acid, such as bathroom cleaners, grout cleaners or tub & tile cleaners
Abrasive cleaners such as dry or soft cleansers, scouring powders or creams; they can scratch the stone
- Using a mix of bleach and ammonia, which creates a toxic and lethal gas; you can use a solution of ½ cup ammonia to 1 gallon of water to remove soap scum, but be aware that frequent use of ammonia eventually dulls the stone
Ask the Editor: Convection Ovens
Courtesy of Viking
The Difference Between Convection Cook and Bake
Question: "What is the difference between 'convection cook' and 'convection bake'? I have both options on my Viking stove and I don't know when to use which option."
Answer: Understanding a little bit about how convection heat differs from conventional heat will help you make the right call on which mode to use.
Convection ovens, unlike conventional ovens, use a fan to circulate heated air throughout the oven cavity. By distributing the heat, the oven cooks food more evenly and quickly. Both gas and electric ovens can use convection heat.
"True convection" or "European convection" ovens are electric ovens that have an extra heating element located in the back near the fan. This third element is in addition to the normal top and bottom heating elements, and it allows the fan to blow heated air into the oven.
Sue Bailey, Viking's manager of product development for major appliances, has the following recommendations for you: "The convection cook or TruConvec setting on a Viking oven is for foods that require gentle cooking, such as pastries, soufflés, yeast breads, quick breads and cakes. Because the rear element only is operating on this setting, there is no direct heat from the bottom or top elements.
"Breads, cookies and other baked goods come out evenly textured with golden crusts. This is a very versatile function and can be used for single-rack baking, multiple-rack baking, roasting and for preparation of complete meals. This setting is also recommended when baking large quantities of baked goods at one time, as all six rack positions can be utilized at one time.
"The convection bake setting on a Viking oven is for food that is dense, such as casseroles or meats. The even circulation of air equalizes the temperature throughout the oven cavity and eliminates the hot and cold spots found in conventional ovens. When roasting, cool air is quickly replaced, searing meats on the outside and retaining more juices on the inside with less shrinkage. The hot air system is especially economical when cooking frozen foods."
Sue's willingness to help out brings me to another point: Many manufacturers of pro-style appliances offer significant learning resources to prospective and current owners of their products. Some have video demonstrations on their websites; others provide hands-on classes at special showrooms. Some appliance dealers offer their own product education courses, too. When you've made or are planning to make a major investment in your appliances, these courses are time well spent.
Ask the Editor: Range Hood Power
A glass canopy hood by Zephyr.
How Powerful Should a Range Hood Be?
Question: "I am putting in a Dacor Epicure cooktop with approximately 85,000 Btus. I want to use a Zephyr Milano glass canopy island hood with a capacity of 715 CFM (cubic feet per minute). Do you think this will be a problem?"
Answer: More than likely, a cooktop with 85,000 Btus will need a ventilation hood with greater power than 715 CFM. Here's why: Dacor's Epicure line of cooktops has gas burners. And when dealing with gas burners, there is a simple ratio to consider when buying a range hood for your kitchen.
"A rule of thumb is 100 (Btus) to 1 (CFM), so a cooktop with 85,000 Btus would require a ventilation hood with 850 CFM or more," says Bob Lewis, Dacor's assistant vice president of product development.
One other thing to consider is that island hoods typically need extra ventilation power compared to range hoods that are situated against a wall. "Island installations have more cross drafts to contend with," said Lewis. "Wall mounts are relatively protected which allows the motor to establish a consistent airflow pattern." So for island hoods, there's a chance that it will need more power than 1 CFM for every 100 Btus.
You might be able to get away with a range hood that doesn't quite match your cooktop's full heat potential if you never use all the burners at once or you usually use low heat when you cook. But if you're constantly cranking up the Btus, you'll want to follow the 100:1 ratio. (Although if you're purchasing a cooktop with 85,000 Btus, your cooking style probably is more professional and takes advantage of all the heat your appliance can generate.
When it comes to finding range hoods for electric and induction cooktops, there isn't a handy rule of thumb to guide you. The 100:1 ratio won't work because electric and induction cooktops measure energy in kilowatts instead of Btus. Even if you converted the units (1 kilowatt equals roughly 3,400 Btus), you would still need to account for the fact that electric and induction cooktops distribute heat more efficiently than gas cooktops. Since less heat is escaping into your kitchen with electric and induction cooktops, they require less ventilation than gas cooktops do.
How much less should be determined on a case-by-case basis, since heat distribution efficiency can vary by manufacturer. So it is best to consult with the manufacturer of your electric or induction cooktop as to what type of ventilation unit you'll need.
Ask the Editor: Dual-Fuel Ranges
Courtesy of GE Profile
Installing a Dual-Fuel Range
Question: "I am looking at purchasing a GE Profile 30-inch, dual-fuel, freestanding range (model P2B912SEMSS) that uses a 120-volt hookup for the oven. I know that most ovens and ranges need a 240V hookup, so I am curious as to how this works, and is it as efficient as a 240V? It would be great to not have to add a 240V outlet, as I am a contractor and know it will take some work to get a 240 line to the existing range area." —Kainoa D., Hawaii
Answer: The vast majority of dual-fuel and electric ranges, as well as electric wall ovens and cooktops, require a 240-volt outlet. If the home previously had a gas range, the only nearby outlets are likely to be 120 volts, so switching to a dual-fuel range (in which the oven runs on electricity but the cooktop runs on gas) typically requires a new electric line.
This particular dual-fuel range works with the existing 120V outlet. GE's standard line offers a dual-fuel range fueled the same way
GE representative Allison Eckelkamp explains how it works: "While the oven is electric [as are all ovens in dual-fuel ranges], it actually uses gas to help with the pre-heat so that the higher voltage is not needed. Once warmed, the electric takes over so that people get that nice even baking they expect from an electric oven.
One potential drawback: this dual-fuel range does not offer convection cooking, which could be a deal breaker for some homeowners.
Ask the Editor: Cabinet Trends
Combining Painted and Stained Cabinetry
Question: "I am flipping a 1920 bungalow-style home and noticing a combination of painted and stained cabinets in the same kitchen. Is that the trend? I am thinking of off-white painted Shaker-style cabinets and a contrasting stained island. Thoughts? (I am also using a farm sink and stainless steel appliances)." —David B., N.C.
Answer: Yes, combining painted and stained cabinets in the kitchen continues to be a strong trend. Using a different color for the island makes it look more like a furniture piece, which is how older kitchens looked.
A white kitchen is like a black tuxedo; it's a classic look that's hard to get wrong. You're smart to go with an off-white paint (ivory, cream and glazes are also popular) rather than a stark white, which is more contemporary.
You could do the white either on the wall cabinets or on the island; the first option would help to brighten and enlarge the kitchen's overall appearance, while the second would help make the island a focal point.
Shaker-style doors with wide rails and stiles are a great choice for a bungalow home. You may want to add some glass inserts in the upper cabinets for variety, authenticity and additional light.
For more ideas, I suggest picking up one of these two books: Bungalow Kitchens, by Jane Powell and Linda Svendsen, or The New Bungalow Kitchen, by Peter Labau.