Help me with countertops! (Please?)

Grumpy Nation!  I need your help!

So… we want to have countertops made out of quartz (or granite) that look like marble.

There are… options.

Which one?

Home Depot has two companies that make quartz.  One is Silestone and the other is Viatera.  Here’s the pictures we took at Home Depot and then the one on the right is the two Viatera samples we picked up (they didn’t have any other samples — that third picture shows minuet, a quarter, then rococo, and they’re on top of our current terrible countertop).

The main difference between the different kinds of marble-ish quartz seems to be density and darkness of the grey lines.  Rococo is busier than Minuet.  White Arabesque is busier than Snow Ibiza and so on.

Also there’s two different types of marble that the quartz is trying to imitate.  Calacatta marble is the one with the fat long marbling– it reminds me of bathrooms more than kitchens, and the quartz example counter at Home Depot looked like formica to me (though oddly, there was a great looking formica knockoff– if only you couldn’t see the seams).  I like Carerra style marble instead– that’s the one with the shorter lines.  (I guess there’s also statuary marble, but I haven’t seen any quartz knock-offs for that– probably some of what I think is Calacatta is actually imitating statuary, but without any additional color.)

One problem that I have is that I cannot extrapolate those small samples to an entire counter.  Are the busy ones too busy?  The sparse ones too sparse?

Viatera has a great webpage with lots of pictures of their different options.  When you click on a stone, it shows you a slab and pictures of completed counters.  The Silestone page is a nightmare to navigate.   (I am also really irritated with a half-dressed Cindy Crawford [only wearing a top, for tops on tops, get it?] sitting on a kitchen counter on their first page and if you accidentally click it, you see a guy WEARING SHOES standing on top of another counter.  I MAKE FOOD ON THAT COUNTER.   GET OFF.  Also, WTF, aren’t women making most of these design decisions?  Supermodels are not doing it for me.)

I found a fantastic discussion on a houzz forum with pictures talking about quartz alternatives for marble.

The prices in the first picture are mostly the “non-sale” prices because apparently there’s some kind of sale going on, but it isn’t an easy to explain one, so I don’t actually know how much they cost or even their prices compared to each other.

What should I be thinking about as we decide on a countertop design?  How are we going to decide among all of these different kinds?

How thick?

The internet thinks I should be choosing between 2 cm with 3 cm edging or just straight up 3cm.  But home depot only seems to have 2 cm and 4 cm?  I’m not really sure that’s true though… How should we decide on thickness?

Edging?

Almost all the kitchen countertops we’ve seen online have either sharp rectangular corners or softer “eased” rectangular corners.  But there’s a huge wealth of different edging options. Should we just do what everyone else is doing or are there benefits to other forms of edging?

Other recommendations?

We have no idea what we’re doing.  Any suggestions on counterops would be highly welcome?

Grumpy nation!  Help a grumpeteer out!

p.s.  Several of my colleagues have built their houses from scratch and that sounds like a nightmare.  I get anxious just imagining it!

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DH researches cooktops

Here is his final report:

TL;DR: gas cooktop, Samsung NA30N7755TG @ ~$1400.

Note that reviews do not seem very useful. Professional review websites do not review all the options, e.g., only reviewing 36″ cooktops, not 30″ cooktops, or they tend to parrot back Consumer Reports, or they have a clear bias without seeming to cover all aspects (e.g., everyone should go induction). Reviews on online stores (e.g., AJ Madison, appliancesconnection.com, amazon, and Home Depot) are not in high numbers, tend to be copied from each other, often are acquired through promotions, do not go into great detail, and are either 1-star due to failure or 5-star because there’s no failure. All cooktops seem to have failure issues…sometimes broken out of the box, other times completely failing after months or 1-2 years, but it looks like gas cooktops have fewer quality control complaints than induction cooktops.
I mostly used the above-mentioned four websites to shop around.

I would rather go with my gas cooktop top pick over my induction top pick, but the electrical engineer in me wishes that wasn’t the case. If we decided to re-wire that outlet for a 40 or 50 Amp circuit (it is currently 30Amps), then I would want induction instead.

The deciding reason between my two top picks is that the gas cooktop’s layout is just so much better, with a good burner in the front-right (the big burner is in the very center so I’m not as worried about scorching the wall). In comparison, the induction cooktop’s two front hobs are each only 6″ diameter, and our normal pans are 8″. So with the induction cooktop we would end up cooking on the large back hob 90% of the time. I am pretty sure I will find it very annoying to have to reach back to do stir-frying, flip pancakes, etc. I do wish the gas cooktop was only 4 burners, instead of 5, but I guess if they’re going to put the big burner right in the center then they may as well put burners in each of the corners.

Both of the below cooktops have the power I want. Neither seems to stand-out in terms of quality or brand-name. Both would fit (though we may want an extra half-inch of countertop front-to-back for the gas cooktop). Gas has open flame which I’d really rather avoid, while induction has a fan/noise which I would somewhat like to avoid. I am mostly ignoring the fact that we would need new pans for the induction cooktop, because it would be so much easier to keep clean that I would be happy to get new cookware. An unknown about induction is whether or not we would be ok with the controls (on/off/power setting etc)…I’m guessing we wouldn’t have a problem but some reviews are negative about induction cooktop controls.

Gas:

For gas, there were three main points.
First, I wanted just 4 burners. Second, I wanted a high output on at least one burner, at least 18+k BTU. These two wants are hard to find together. Nice 30″ wide cooktops (i.e., ones with a high output burner) almost invariably have 5 burners, while 4 burner systems are almost invariably low-output. I care more about the high output, so that wins out over the number of burners.

The third main point was that space/installation constraints prevented several models from working…primarily spacing constraints to the back wall, or from the top of the counter to the top of the silverware drawer under the cooktop. The top of our silverware drawer is 5″ below the top of our current counter.

It would also be nice to have dishwasher-safe grates.

My final pick was:
Samsung NA30N7755TG (black stainless steel) or NA30N7755TS (stainless steel) for ~$1400. 5 burners. 22k BTU center burner. Dishwasher-safe grates (according to Home Depot– Samsung says not so much). Explicitly requires less than 4″ from countertop down to the top of under drawer. Comes with griddle and wok grate.
Note that it requires 2&7/8″ from the back of the cutout to the back wall.
It does not state how much countertop is required from the front of the cutout to the front of the countertop…we should be fine with the current countertop size but would probably be better off with another half-inch of countertop.
Consumer Reports gave a 36″ Samsung gas cooktop its top rating…and it looks like this is the newer version of the 30″ model that corresponded to that 36″.

My runner-up was:
Cafe CGP95302MS1 for $1400. 5 burners. 20K BTU center burner. Dishwasher-safe grates. Explicitly requires less than 4″ from countertop down to the top of under drawer. Comes with griddle. This model was roughly the same price as my top pick, the same layout, and the same space constraints, but it has a bit lower output, and it requires a total of ~5.5″ of counter-top behind and in front of the cutout, which means a total countertop depth of 19.5+5.5=25″, while our current countertop is only 24.5″….that’s probably not a big deal since an extra half inch of countertop might be nice anyway.

Induction:

For induction, there are four main concerns.
I want just 4 burners or as close to that as possible.
I want a high output on at least one burner, at least 3500 kW with boost, and I wanted that burner to be 10-11″ diameter.
I want to be able to fit the silverware drawer, which is currently 5″ below the top of the countertop.
I want to keep the current 30 Amp circuit breaker, which eliminated most of the high-end (i.e., high output and large diameter burner) options. If we relax this constraint we get a lot more good cooktops to consider, but random websearching suggests that would add a few hundred dollars to installation.

Spacing from the front of the countertop, and from the countertop to the wall, can also be an issue…but it’s less of an issue than for gas cooktops.

This is a good FAQ: http://theinductionsite.com/selecting-induction.php

This website had a good collection of info
http://theinductionsite.com/buildin-residential-30-inch-induction-units.php

Induction cooktops have built-in fans that automatically turn on to keep the circuitry cool. They can also make noises due to motion and flex in the pans. They also require space for airflow in the cabinets below the cooktop…that shouldn’t be a problem for us because that volume is mostly empty and open.

My final pick was Bosch NIT5068UC for $1500.
https://www.homedepot.com/p/Bosch-500-Series-30-in-Induction-Cooktop-in-Black-with-4-SpeedBoost-Elements-including-Two-3-700-Watt-Elements-NIT5068UC/304812437

Runner-up:
-Bosch NITP068SUC for $2400, which meets all the requirements above, and has a somewhat nicer layout than the NIT8068UC…but $900 is a big price difference.

Comments, Grumpy Nation?

Time to think about the kitchen remodel again

We took out the broken trees and put in new trees, so it’s time to think about remodeling the kitchen again.

house 049

The gingham wallpaper is long gone. I swear!

Here’s our master plan:

1.  Keep the flooring and floorplan as before.

We decided that it isn’t worth the additional expense to do something that might make things worse.  If we had a contractor/architect we trusted we’d be more likely to be willing to mess with this, but we don’t, so we’re going to satisfice on this dimension.

2.  Replace the countertops.

I want quartz countertops that look like marble to replace the cheap white laminate or whatever it is that turns yellow if you bleach it.  Quartz and Granite have a lot of properties that I like– easy to clean, tough to crack, great for pastry (currently we do all our pastry stuff on a granite-top bureau in the dining room).  DH also looked into “dekton” which is “in” but it doesn’t look any better than quartz and has a tendency to chip/crack according to consumer reports.  I want quartz instead of granite because it is easier to get quartz that looks like marble!  (I’m leaning into being forced to have a white kitchen.)

3.  Get a new sink that is under the countertops (instead of having a lip) and doesn’t get that irritating water puddle.

I’m thinking stainless steel, keeping a double sink.  I like double sinks.

4.  Remove the ancient ice-maker (near the sink) and replace it with a cabinet.

We’re not sure that home depot is going to be able to handle making a custom cabinet, but our previous house-painter had someone good that he uses (who replaced a bunch of kitten destroyed cabinetry in our bathroom) so we might be able to get that figured out separately.  Absent that I guess we could put in a wine fridge or something in that empty spot, but that would only be for increasing the value of the house, not something we would actually use.  (We already have one of those hidden garbage drawers that we never use next to the sink.)

5.  Replace the 30 inch electric stovetop.

This is our current sticking point.  I feel weird replacing it given that it you know, still works.  But DH doesn’t like electric (electric is slow to heat and cool… you get used to it, but it is easier cooking with gas) and says it’s rusting, which I guess it sort of is, but only around the burners not actually on top of them.  If we were better about cleaning you’d never know.  And it’ll be easier to replace it when we’re getting new countertop anyway.  DH thought about expanding it, but then we might have to cut into our cabinets which we don’t want to do.  Besides, we never use all four burners at the same time anyway.

We thought we were going to just get gas.  We have a gas hookup under the range that has never been used, but in theory could be easy to get in working order.  At least, it’s more likely than if there wasn’t a gas hookup there.

But then DH started looking into induction stovetops.  I was initially hesitant as I thought you had to buy special cookware.  Turns out you just need to have *nice* cookware with magnetic bottoms, which our le crueset and caphalon stuff already have [UPDATE:  our caphalon stuff is at most marginally magnetic on the bottom… if we went with this option we might have to get a new “induction ready” set, or we’d just be down to two le crueset and the cast iron skillet].  Induction stovetops are also safer– no open flames, no carbon monoxide, etc.  And they’re way faster than electric at heating things up.  But they might hum, which would be annoying.

DH is thoroughly investigating each of these options and has been instructed to come up with a top choice from gas and a top choice from induction.  This will probably take considerable time, knowing DH.  Right now he’s annoyed by how everything he’s been looking at seems to have a combination of 5 and 1 stars (and nothing in between)… quality control is not a priority for companies.

And that’s it.  We already replaced the fluorescent lighting and we already have fancy under lighting.  The cabinets already have all sorts of fancy drawer choices.  The pantry is still amazing and will not be touched.  We might replace the refrigerator, but that’s something that can be done separately given there’s already a big space for a fridge.  We decided not to do the ovens because I like having a double oven and even though the top oven is a really bad height for me, it’s a great height for DH.  So I can just keep using the bottom one.

Once DH has finished his researching, we plan to make an appointment at home depot and get them to hire contractors from the nearest city to take care of everything.  That worked well with our bathroom flooring.  We’re not going with a local contractor because all the ones with webpages have horrific looking “after” photos.  I mean, I get that some people have really bad taste, but that’s not something you want to advertise on your website!

Tell me about your stovetop.  Or any kitchen renovation thoughts.