Sunday, April 27, 2014

Kitchen Safety: What You Need to Know

The benefits of a kitchen remodeling project are numerous and varied. As we've written on this blog before, a new kitchen can inspire happiness and renewal, and increase efficiency. The most important benefit, however, might just be increased safety.

In our over twenty years of experience at Master Kitchen & Bath Design, surveying thousands of home kitchens, we've spotted many potential perils. From perilous trip hazards to faulty trip switches, we've seen it all. Unfortunately, for many homeowners, cooking dinner has become a "highway to the danger zone."

The problem for most home kitchen is simply age. Indeed, the potential for a "danger zone" increases year after year, and many homeowners simply do not realize that working in an old, outdated kitchen can be dangerous.  With small children and pets, the dangers multiply. For example, are your cleaning products appropriately stored—away from the tiny, prying hands of your toddler or your dog's curious snout?

If you want to ensure your family's safety for years to come, you'd do well to consider a kitchen renovation. At MKBD, we take safety serious! Read our simple "danger assessment tips" below. And after reading, if feel the need to speak to a professional, please give us a call: 215-355-4747. And please feel free to take advantage of our ongoing special: we offer FREE in-home safety checks for all potential customers.

Danger Assessment Tip #1: Inspect Your Refrigerator

Do you have an aging refrigerator chugging away in in the corner? Well, that old beast might pose more problems than noise. An aging refrigerator might not sufficiently cool your food--and that's a serious problem.

Food safety is a serious kitchen safety concern. The best way to ensure that your food is 100% safe is to routinely test your food's temperature and your refrigerator's temperature. There are special thermometers for both: a traditional food thermometer and a refrigerator thermometer.

You're probably familiar with a food thermometer, but you might not be familiar with calibration. A properly-calibrated thermometer is key to ensuring food safety.

Now, to ensure the safest food for your family, try to keep all food out of the so-called "temperature danger zone." Bacteria requires time and moisture to grow, but most microorganisms will be safely kept in check when a food is colder than colder than 41°F or hotter than 135°F.  If a food's temperature is between 41°F and 135°F it is in the "time-temperature danger zone." In this zone, bacteria multiplies quickly, leading to potential problems.

We see these problems in homes with aging refrigerators. The appliance simply does not cool leftovers quickly enough. This is why a refrigerator thermometer can be helpful.The ideal refrigerator temperature is 35°F. If your refrigerator is close to 40°F, you might have a problem. Since the temperature within your fridge can vary rather significantly with normal usage, test the temperature in the morning for a few successive mornings. You want to make sure the temperature is cool and consistent.

For some homeowners, a brand new fridge is not only a luxury, but a necessity. In this MKBD kitchen remodeling project, the client's new fridge provides luxury and safety.

Danger Assessment Tip #2: Ground Your Outlets

In an old kitchen, outdated appliances might not function properly. Worse, electrical outlets might not be properly grounded. An improperly grounded electrical outlet might not be readily apparent to most homeowners.

For example, all wall outlets should be equipped with GFCI outlet protection. To ensure safety, you need one GFCI outlet as the first outlet of a branch--the outlet closest to the breaker.

If that last paragraph seemed foreign to you, we suggest speaking to a professional ASAP. And when you do speak to a professional, make sure he or she is well aware of state and local codes, and follows all safety regulations. Of course, we're happy to address any electrical safety concerns at MKBD. Just give us a call: 215-355-4747.

Danger Assessment Tip #3: Check Your Floor

Cracked tiles? Warped floor boards? If your kitchen floor is damaged, the problem is more than simply aesthetic. A damaged kitchen floor can lead to potential slips and falls. Worse, an old or damaged kitchen floor can be hard to clean.

Did you know there's a "National Floor Safety Institute"? The NFSI focuses on the demands restaurant kitchens, but a recent press release from the organization illuminates a problem that might harm home kitchen workers, too:

"Did you know that more than three million food service workers are injured each year due to work-related slip-and-fall accidents?

According to Russell Kendzior, Founder and President of the NSFI, a key reason why this number is so high is polymerization. This refers to the thin coating of grease, soil, and even cleaning chemicals that develops on kitchen floors over time."

The NSFI's advice is to avoid mopping floors. Our advice is to purchase an easy-to-clean floor. If you're interested in the options, right our recent post, "The Right Kitchen Floor For Your Family."

A new floor provides more than beauty: safety's key in this MKBD project from Dresher.

All of these issues can be properly addressed with by a certified kitchen remodeling project. An updated refrigerator can ease food safety concerns. An electrician can update all outlets and connections. A new floor can prevent slips and falls. You want to feel safe—and a kitchen renovation provides an important opportunity to address any potential danger.

Again, give us a call: 215-355-4747. Take advantage of our ongoing special: we offer FREE in-home safety checks for all potential customers.

FREE In-Home Remodeling Estimate!

If you have any questions about your next kitchen remodeling project, please feel free to call MKBD for an individualized consultation. Let's talk budget and more! Call now! 215-355-4747. Better yet, check out our Free In-Home Remodeling Estimate on this blog!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

The Right Kitchen Floor For Your Family

Many families today treat the kitchen as the "living room," a space to cook and eat--and commune. Unfortunately, the increased foot traffic, not to mention the spaghetti sauce splatters, can wreak havoc on your old kitchen floor.

With the possible exception of your bathroom floor, no floor in your house is exposed to more traffic, moisture, and spills than your kitchen floor. Indeed, the kitchen floor is a glutton for punishment. If your kitchen has an old floor with cracked tiles or warped floorboards, you'd do well to invest in a new floor.

Most kitchen remodeling projects include a new floor--installed after the cabinets and counters to preserve the floor from wear and tear. However, more and more budget-minded homeowners are choosing for a "floor-only" kitchen renovation.

In both cases, a new floor can certainly revivify an old, stodgy kitchen.

Before you begin planning for a new kitchen floor, though, you should know: not all flooring materials are created equal, and not all families have similar flooring needs.

So before you begin your next kitchen remodeling project, make sure you invest in the right floor material for your family.

In this, MKBD project in Dresher, PA, wood floors match the maple suede cabinets

Choosing the Right Kitchen Floor Material

Of course, different families have different preferences, but your choice of kitchen floor materials should be guided, first, by your needs.

As noted above, the kitchen is the new "living room," the new center of activity. So durable flooring is a must for most families, especially if you have kids or pets. The best kitchen flooring material for a family with children and pets should be easy-to-clean, water and stain-resistant, and slip-free, and the most popular kitchen floor material, laminate, just happens to offer all three.  

Laminate is water and stain-resistant and impervious to dents and scratches. And although laminate itself is quite slippery, the market abounds with non-slip laminate solutions. Laminate is the most practical kitchen floor choice.

But what if practicality is not your primary concern? If your first preference is beauty, your best option might be tile or hardwood.

Tile floors offer the most variety in color, texture, and design. Some kitchen renovations even include multiple tiles blended to create a seamless and attractive floor. Just know: tiles offer the most stylish presentation, but they might not be the most comfortable choice for serious cooks and/or children.

In this MKBD project in Holland PA, porcelain tiles create a striking ambience

Depending on the look of your cabinets, your new kitchen floors might blend with your existing colors and textures, or provide a bold counterpoint, as seen in the project above. Hardwood, on the other hand, often blends seamlessly with cabinets, creating an atmosphere of rustic elegance.

Hardwood is undoubtedly beautiful, and with proper care, it can offer the perfect blend of functionality, comfort, and style. However, since wood can warp from water damage, homeowners with children or pets need to be diligent in wiping up spills.

Budget-Minded Options

If the cost of a new floor, well, floors you, then you might consider engineered wood or vinyl.

Engineered wood is a budget-minded alternative to solid hardwood, which can be quite pricey. Engineered wood is often impervious to scratches and stains, but it might scratch easily. 

Vinyl is the most inexpensive kitchen flooring option, and can easily be installed in one weekend by a kitchen remodeling company. Vinyl is also the go-to choice for many D.I.Y projects.

If you're considering a D.I.Y. project, you'll certainly need to prepare for a little sweat equity. Before you begin, though, just make sure you know the basics. Did you know, for example, that your old kitchen floor can be covered by as many as three layers of new flooring? Don't go ripping out those old floors if you don't have to!

FREE In-Home Remodeling Estimate!

If you have any questions about your next kitchen remodeling project, please feel free to call MKBD for an individualized consultation. Let's talk budget and more! Call now! 215-355-4747.

Better yet, check out our Free In-Home Remodeling Estimate on this very blog!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

The Kitchen Island: Mise en Place & More!

If you're a serious home cook, you probably have a healthy respect for mise en place, a French term that means "to put in place." The term is used in culinary schools and professional kitchens to illustrate an essential cooking practice: the organization of ingredients and utensils that a cook requires for each given meal.

If you've ever watched a cooking show, you've undoubtedly seen mise en place in action. Just think of Emeril's little dishes of pre-chopped herbs or precisely measured spices. Performing all of this work in advance eases the cooking experience, and minimizes mistakes.

Some cooks might dispute the value of mise en place, but no serious cook disputes the value of organization. And to be organized, a cook needs space!

Unfortunately, if you're like most home cooks you wage a never-ending war for kitchen counter space. Too often, children and spouses fill the kitchen with bags and purses and basketballs--items that have nothing to do with your cooking aspirations.

So what to do?

At Master Kitchen & Bath Design, we've helped many homeowners solve the space dilemma with simple changes to the kitchen layout. Check out "Kitchen Remodeling Costs: Four Key Questions" for a brief view of common kitchen layouts.

Believe it or not, many home kitchens are poorly-designed, and certainly not at all optimized for maximum efficiency.

By maximizing efficiency you necessarily maximize available space--although you still might have to fight that war for space! Now, of course, a home cook will probably always fight for all available space, but a kitchen renovation can also offer a painless solution: more space!

Need More Prep Space? How About a Kitchen Island?

If you have sufficient floor space, a kitchen island just might be the easiest solution to the space dilemma. A kitchen island provides an abundance of prep space with enough left over to store the occasional bag or two--not that you'd allow that!

Better yet, a kitchen island divides the kitchen in two, creating a space away from the action for family and friends to relax while the home cook works without interference.

In this simple kitchen renovation, MKBD built a kitchen island with a range to accommodate the needs of a family who share cooking duties and do not need a perfect work triangle (see below).

The Kitchen Island and the Work Triangle

A kitchen island works best with the U-shaped or L-shaped designs or the open-floor plan. Each plan can easily provide the space for a kitchen island, and each is amenable to accommodating or changing the traditional notion of the work triangle.

The work triangle is defined as a three-point work station, from the sink, to range, to refrigerator and back to the sink. You might've heard that the work triangle is an essential feature of most kitchen remodeling projects, but more and more kitchen designs are challenging the doctrine of the triangle for a more expansive view of work space. As writes:

"The work triangle isn't without its flaws though...It assumes that a kitchen will only have three major work stations and one person cooking. As kitchens grow in size, and feature more than three workspaces, the regular work triangle isn't always practical. And in many households today, two or more people share cooking duties. Because of these issues, designers do not always play by the triangle's rules when it comes to drafting kitchen plans."

So a kitchen island might help to create a perfect kitchen triangle:

Image courtesy of

But a kitchen island might otherwise actually disrupt the equanimity of a perfect work triangle--as in the MKBD photo above. In the above MKBD project, you might notice that the refrigerator is not seen in the photo, but the island nevertheless creates a triangle with the sink and adjacent countertop.

In reality, in this case, the island creates multiple work stations with multiple traffic patterns--like a mini professional kitchen. And this could be a good thing if you share cooking duties with other family members.

So when considering how a kitchen island for your space, ask yourself: Do I cook alone or with other family members? If you cook alone, try to ensure that the island maintains the integrity of the work triangle. If you cook with others, forget the triangle!

 Additional Benefits of the Kitchen Island

A kitchen island can offer much more than additional work space. Just look at the range in the MKBD project above. Beyond a space for a cooking range (or dishwasher or wine fridge), an island can also provide extra storage space.

In this MKBD project, we built an island with a wine fridge and multiple drawers for storage!

Kitchen islands also offer the ability to increase electrical outlets. According to the electrical code, for example, all countertops must include two or more outlets. And with more outlets comes more appliances. Pay heed appliance junkies!

Finally, the choice to add additions like an oven range or sink is dependent on the cook's needs. Many cooks relish the opportunity to use a new countertop exclusively for prep space. Imagine the mise en place possibilities!

FREE In-Home Remodeling Estimate!

If you have any questions about your next kitchen remodeling project, please feel free to call MKBD for an individualized consultation. Let's talk budget and more! Call now! 215-355-4747.

Better yet, check out our Free In-Home Remodeling Estimate on this very blog!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

The Top Three Lifestyle Benefits of a Kitchen Remodeling Project

Increased home value is often cited by media reports, and homeowners, as the top benefit of a kitchen remodeling project. In reality, a kitchen remodeling project might not increase your home's value--at least not appreciably or immediately. The numbers tell a different story.

According to the nationally respected site, Remodeling, the most recent "Cost vs. Value" report for nationwide home improvements shows a 74.2% cost recoup for "major" kitchen remodeling projects ($54,909), and an 82.7% cost recoup for "minor" kitchen remodeling projects ($18,856).
What do these numbers mean?

Put simply, depending on the size and value of your home, you might pay 10-25% of your home’s value for a high-quality kitchen remodeling project, and in today’s housing market, you can expect to yield a return on investment of 74%--83%.

So a kitchen remodeling project will not necessarily increase home value. But these numbers can be seen as financially beneficial, especially if you plan to enjoy the benefits of your new kitchen before you sell your home.

One way to view the financial benefit of a kitchen remodeling project is to consider the cost of the project minus the value recouped: this is your real cost.

For major kitchen remodeling projects, then, the average cost of $54,909 would translate to a real cost of $14,167. ($54,909 - 74.2% = $14,167).

For minor kitchen remodeling projects, the average cost of $18,856 would translate to a real cost of $3,263 ($18,856 - 82.7% = $3262).

Viewing your kitchen remodeling project this way, you see the long-term benefits of making a change. And "change" is certainly the operative word here. Beyond "value," in our experience at MKBD, many homeowners cite "lifestyle change" as the top motivation for a kitchen remodeling project.

No doubt, a a new kitchen remodeling project can be a life-changing event. A quality project can transform the look and feel of your home. A new kitchen can make life easier, relieving stress, and increasing happiness. By making your life easier, a new kitchen can even help you stay healthier: with a new kitchen you will be inspired to cook more, and home cooking is the healthiest option.

So why are you reading this post?

Are you thinking about a kitchen remodeling project?

Here's our suggestion: Instead of fixating on home value, focus on the tangible lifestyle benefits. If you're thinking about making a change, consider how these benefits might apply to your unique situation.

The Top Three Lifestyle Benefits of a Kitchen Remodeling Project

1. Happiness

There's a reason that Pharrell William's recent hit, "Happy" is so popular. After several years of dour economic numbers and sorrowful worldwide news, many people just want to be happy.

And yes, at MKBD we've seen this benefit with nearly every kitchen remodeling project: project after project, our homeowners continue to report increased happiness.

So when planning the logistics of your project, try not to forget this crucial benefit: happiness. Before you even begin planning your project, try to imagine how your kitchen remodeling project might ease stress, inspire family communion, and change the mood of your entire home. By doing so, you might just conjure a tangible template for your kitchen style.

2. Renewal

Too many homeowners waste their hard-earned free time cooking and cleaning in cramped kitchens with antiquated fixtures and dysfunctional appliances. An old, stodgy kitchen can transform even the most resourceful cook into a take-out addict.

If you love cooking, but you've somehow lost your love for the fine art, don't blame yourself! The problem just might be your stuffy kitchen.

A major kitchen renovation is the essence of renewal.

For this "major" kitchen renovation in Fort Washington, PA, we gutted the entire room and replaced everything. Our expert team of installers removed everything down to the studs, and then installed a new radiant heat floor system in conjunction with new porcelain tile. New maple cabinetry created an upscale finish.

The above photo is a dramatic presentation of renewal. But you don't necessarily need to gut your kitchen A change can be achieved quite easily, certainly within the limits of the "minor" kitchen remodeling project noted above.

Simply updating old appliances can inspire a welcome return to the life of the kitchen. A new range, for example, can reignite your love for cooking. A new dishwasher or sink might even reveal a Joy of Dishwashing.

But a kitchen renewal need not be all about appliances. Without changing the essential layout of your kitchen, you can install new cabinets. A a new paint job can work wonders for the look and feel of your space. And a kitchen island can provide much needed prep space as well as a sitting area for your guests.

In this MKBD project, a new kitchen island anchored a harmonious renewal.


If you're like most home cooks, you constantly battle for kitchen space. Inevitably, most older kitchen become crowded with the home's junk. A new kitchen layout is the best way to optimize your available prep and storage space.

New cabinets can provide appreciably more space to store your appliances and pots and pans. As noted above, a kitchen island can provide much-needed prep space.

Remember, a beautiful kitchen is a clutter-free kitchen:

Over years of home ownership, most kitchens tend to accumulate more and more stuff. Of course, more stuff means less space, and the problem is magnified by a poorly-designed kitchen. Believe it or not, a great deal of today's kitchens were not designed to accommodate the appliances and fixtures so elemental to modern life. This is why we call a kitchen outdated: it no longer suits the lives of people living now. The problem, quite simply, is clutter.

To de-clutter your kitchen, focus on the necessities. Include only what you need in your kitchen layout. As we say at MKBD, less is often more!

FREE In-Home Remodeling Estimate!

If you have any questions about your next kitchen remodeling project, please feel free to call MKBD for an individualized consultation. Let's talk budget and more! Call now! 215-355-4747.

Better yet, check out our Free In-Home Remodeling Estimate on this very blog!