The Touchless Toilet

Kohler San Souci Touchless Demo


In an age when viruses spread faster than ever and dangerous germs lurk on every surface, the introduction of the touchless toilet couldn’t come at a better time. Designed with cleanliness in mind, Kohler’s touchless toilet is a smart solution for homeowners looking to improve the hygiene of their home.




Not exactly a new idea, incorporated in the touchless toilet are the commercial flush features we’ve all seen at airports, schools, and shopping centers. These toilets use beam-based sensors, which activate the flush when the beam of light is broken. There are a few problems with these types of toilets, however. The beam of light can be inaccurate and inefficient, resulting in phantom flushes. There are also the bulky sensor-activated flushometers attached to the outside of the tank that wouldn’t fit into most residential spaces, physically or aesthetically.


Kohler addressed these two problems in their design. First, the sensor moved to the inside of the toilet tank. This allows homeowners to design their bathrooms the way they want and eliminate worrying over how to hide the sensor through decoration. Because there is no longer a need to touch to flush, the toilets are manufactured without the external lever.


With the sensor moved inside, the traditional activation method had to be modified as well. No longer triggered by a beam of light, the sensor uses new technology that projects an electromagnetic field. This technology is much more accurate and senses the user within a field before triggering the flush.[i]


Though homeowners have only three options for their touchless toilets, the possibilities for customization are endless.


Cimarron Touchless



Kohler’s most popular toilet, the Cimarron is a classic look with timeless design. With the touchless feature, its look becomes even cleaner.


Kohler Touchless Toilet San Souci



This toilet is for the more contemporary homeowner. It has a shorter tank and cleaner, sleeker lines.


Touchless flush kit



Homeowners can choose between two great toilets or they can upgrade and existing single-flush toilet with Kohler’s Touchless Flush Kit. A more affordable option, the module attaches to the toilet tank with a bracket. Kohler tells us, “The chain from the toilet’s flush system attaches to a rotating arm on the touchless module, which then acts as the flush actuator, replacing the traditional lever handle of the toilet.” Homeowners can keep the lever on the tank or remove it, replacing the hole with a color-matched cover.







Gas Grills

Gas Grills and Grilling


Wolf Gas Grill with Food - June 2014


According to the Hearth, Patio, and Barbecue Association, 80% of households have a grill, outdoor BBQ, or smoker, and 97% of grill owners use their grill at least once a year. This means most Americans love grilling—and for good reason! Grilling adds a flavor to vegetables and meats that is impossible to replicate with other appliances.


So what type of grill is best? The answer is up for debate. Sixty-one percent of grill owners prefer gas grills, while charcoal and electric follow. With the majority of household grill masters leaning toward gas, we’d like to let you know about the anatomy, features, and benefits of a gas grill.




Gas burns cleaner than charcoal does, and it is generally less expensive per use. Unlike charcoal, gas ignites quickly, usually with a push-button or an on/off switch. You can begin cooking within ten minutes of preheating—much quicker than with a charcoal grill.




There are three types of gas grills.


1)     Drop-in

These are designed for built-in installations (think complete outdoor kitchens) or can combine with a cart to create a slide-in or freestanding model. The main body of the grill is usually made from cast aluminum, sheet metal, cast iron, or stainless steel.


Wolf Built-in Grill - June 2014


2)    Slide-in

A slide-in grill combines a drop-in grill with a specially designed cart for installation in between masonry walls in an outdoor kitchen. It is used where a built-in look is wanted, but without actually being built in. This means you can take it to a new home, should you move.


Viking Slide-in Grill - June 2014


3)    Freestanding

A freestanding grill is the most popular type of grill and probably what most people think of when they imagine a gas grill. It is placed onto a mobile cart and can be moved around.


Wolf Freestanding Grill - June 2014




The basics of a gas grill are simple:

  • The burners are located on the bottom and create heat
  • Above the burners are the radiants, which disperse heat from the burners
  • The cooking grates lie above the radiants




The grid/grate is probably the most recognizable piece of a grill. It’s the cooking surface and the part that leaves those tell-tale grill marks on your food.


Looks delicious!

Looks delicious!


The cooking grids/grates are typically made from chrome-plated steel, chrome-plated aluminum, chrome rod, porcelain-coated steel, cast iron, porcelain-coated cast iron, or stainless steel.


  • Chrome or Plated Steel

Harder to clean than a porcelain coated grill and tends to rust fairly easily.


  • Chrome Rod

Will not tarnish in air, but burns when heated, forming a characteristic green chromic oxide. It will burn through in about 1 to 2 years.


  • Porcelain Coated Steel

Resists rusting and is easy to clean. However, it tends to chip which allows the exposed metal to rust.

  • Stamped sheet metal

Hard to clean and will burn through in a relatively short period of time.

In addition, stamped metal grates are a poor cooking surface since they do not properly concentrate the heat, and they cool off too quickly. Porcelainized stamped metal grids tend to chip.


  • Cast Iron

Holds the heat extremely well and heat very evenly, but must be kept seasoned with cooking oil to avoid rusting.

Because cast iron retains heat extremely well, slow cooked foods should be cooked before searing meats to avoid charring.

With age, and heavy use, cast iron may get brittle and break.


  • Porcelain Coated Cast Iron

Has all the benefits of cast iron, with a rust resistant, easy to clean and maintain surface.

As with all porcelain coated surfaces, it tends to chip.


  • Stainless Steel

Designed for more even heat distribution. It resists rusts, and will not chip or burn through.

Will last a very long time, but it does not hold the heat or sear as well as cast iron.

  • Stainless Steel Rod

Absorbs heat well, but does not retain it for long … making this kind of grid ideal for searing meat on high heat, then reducing the heat and let the meat slow cook until it reaches the desired doneness.

Generally the thicker the rod, the better the quality.

The easiest type of grid to clean. It can be cleaned in the dishwasher, or rubbed with a brass bristle brush while the grid is hot.


Remember, a thicker, heavier gauge cooking grate will last longer and retain heat better. Grates coated with porcelain enamel are a common upgrade feature.





Heat diffusers/radiants should provide even heat distribution across the grill, be self-cleaning and easy to remove, and able to support smoke woods.

The familiar flavor produced by charcoal grilling comes from the juices of food drippings onto the hot charcoal. Gas grills use several materials to produce the same effect.


  • Lava Rock

Lava rockLava rock heats quickly and disperses the heat to the interior of the grill. It is porous and allows grease to accumulate, lessening its efficiency and increasing flare-ups.

Irregularities in the surface of the rock create hot spots and cool spots, leading to irregular cooking and burnt/undercooked food.

Lava rock should be replaced every year, or turned over to expose a fresh surface.


  • Pumice Stone

Pumice stonePumice stone is similar to lava rock in that it heats quickly and disperses the heat to the interior of the grill. However, because of its smoother surface, pumice stone collects less residue and produces fewer flare-ups. Irregularities in the surface of the stone can create hot spots and cool spots, leading to irregular cooking and burnt/undercooked food.


  • Ceramic Briquettes

Ceramic BriquettesUnlike lava rock, ceramic briquettes are non-porous. They will not absorb fat, and their uniform size ensures even heat distribution for better cooking performance.

Ceramic briquettes allow food juices to vaporize while cooking, minimizing food charring flare-ups. They can be cleaned by turning them over to burn off any residue. Ceramic is more expensive than lava rock but generally last 5-7 years.



  • Ceramic Plates

Ceramic plateLike ceramic briquettes, ceramic plates are non-porous, will not absorb fat and their uniform size ensures even heat distribution for better cooking performance. Heat distribution is better than briquettes, since they can be laid edge to edge.

Ceramic briquettes allow food juices to vaporize while cooking, minimizing food charring flare-ups and keep the plates cleaner. They can be cleaned by turning them over to burn off any residue. Ceramic plates do get brittle with age, but generally last 5-7 years.


  • Metal Vaporization Plates/Bars/Radiants

Metal VaporizationDesigned to reduce flare-ups by permitting heat to rise, metal vaporization plates allow dripping juices dissipate when they fall on the hot metal.

Vaporization plates can be made of aluminized steel, stainless steel, porcelain coated steel, or cast iron.

Use caution when selecting metal vaporization plates. Stamped Stainless Steel radiants generally perform well and have a very long life expectancy. Stamped Metal vaporization plates have a poor performance history and are expensive to replace.




Excess cooking juices, drippings, and grease should be properly channeled away from the burners or they could cause a flare-up or even a grease fire. The drip tray is located under the grid and should be easily accessible from the front of the grill. Many drip trays can now be cleaned in the dishwasher—a real time saver for the frequent griller.




Gas Grill Hood


A grill hood can turn a standard grill into a BBQ by covering the cooking surface, trapping the heated air inside, and increasing the temperature inside the grill. The hoods are typically made of the same material as the grill.

  • Stainless Steel Hoods

Intense heat generated by the grill will discolor stainless steel in a relatively short period of time. Stainless steel hoods should have double wall construction to help prevent this discoloration from happening. Double-walled hoods create an insulated air space protecting the outer finish from discoloration. Be sure your hood is double-walled, and if it is not, be sure it has a porcelain-enameled finish.


Double-walled stainless steel grill hood - June 2014




  • Hood-mounted Thermometer


Viking Grill Thermometer - June 2014


An accurate thermometer is needed to ensure food is cook thoroughly. Most gas grill hoods have a temperature gauge mounted on the front side of the hood. On low-end grills, the thermometer may reflect the temperature of the hood, not the temperature of the cooking area. Always know what/where the thermometer is gauging.


  • Multi-Tiered Racks


Lynx Smart Gas Grill - June 2014


Grills with hoods frequently add a second and even a third cooking surface above the main one. These racks are convenient if you’re grilling a large meal or entertaining. But no matter what you’re doing, remember that the temperature drops as the distance between the cooking surface and the fuel source increases. Because of this, the higher racks are typically used for steaming vegetables and keeping cooking meat warm.


  • Rotisserie

Rotisseries are a great way to cook large cuts of meat or several small items, like Cornish hens. The food is slow-roasted with a crispy outside and a juicy, tender inside. A rotisserie slowly spins above the head, using a spit (a long metal rod) and a clamping system to hold the food in place over a fire. This is a great, even cooking method that can be performed on luxury gas grills.

A rotisserie uses either the primary grill burners for cooking or a separate rotisserie back burner. A back burner sits on the back wall of the grill behind the rotisserie. It is usually open flame or infrared, and because it releases heat from the side of the grill, rather than the bottom, flare-ups are virtually eliminated.


  • Side burner


Wolf 13 in side burner module - June 2014


Optional side burners allow you to prepare an accompanying dish without running back and forth to the kitchen. These are often found in outdoor kitchens, and are extremely convenient for the avid griller. They typically come with a cover to protect the burner when it is not in use.

When choosing a side burner, know that, generally, the more BTUs a side burner has the better. They also come in a variety of materials: sheet metal, cast iron, tubular stainless steel, cast stainless steel, and cast brass. Sealed cast stainless or cast brass burners are the best choice, along with a stainless steel drip basin and porcelain clad cast iron grates to ensure an easy-clean cooktop.

  • Grill Covers

A grill cover protects your gas grill from the weather and helps to guard against rust. It should be made of a heavy-duty vinyl or nylon with a scratch resistant lining. Most manufacturers provide with the purchase of a new grill.


  • Trim Kits

Some manufacturers offer stainless steel trim kits that provide a clean stainless steel finish to the outside edge of a built-in grill.




Like cars, gas grills vary in price according to quality, features, and manufacturer. A gas grill can cost anywhere from $150 for a basic, no-frills model, to over $8,000 for a top-of-the-line, state-of-the-art outdoor kitchen grill. Determining your price point is always the best first step to take before looking at outdoor grills.


If you’re interested in purchasing a gas grill, or you have more questions, call one of our appliance associates at 513-361-1600.



What do you think about gas grills? Are you a die-hard charcoal fan? Do you have some information about gas grills that we didn’t cover? Let us know below or give us a shout out on Facebook or Twitter!

Cabinetry 103: Door Styles and Glass

Full Access Kitchen Cabinets with Shaker Doors


It’s time for Cabinetry 103, our final lesson in cabinetry. In Cabinetry 101 we covered the differences between stock, custom, and semi-custom cabinetry. In Cabinetry 102 we discussed framed and full access cabinets, and the door types of each. In this session, we’ll explain the styles of doors you can select as well as decorative inserts.



These doors have the appearance of a solid piece of wood. However, because of the nature of wood, the doors are actually made of several pieces of lumber joined with adhesive and then cut to size. The wood strips used to construct the panel may not all match in grain and color, which adds to the character of the door.

Slab doors are typically used in contemporary and modern kitchen designs, like the one below.


Cabinetry 103 Slab Door Example



This type of cabinet door is almost like a picture frame. Separate pieces of wood, engineered wood, medium density fiberboard (MDF), or solid hardwood surround a panel in the middle. The vertical sections of the frame are called stiles and the horizontal sections are rails. The stiles and rails are joined together using one of three methods:


  • Mitered Joint – Mitered doors and drawers have a frame that is joined by a mitre joint at the corners. A mitre joint is a 45 degree cut on the stile and rail. This joint runs diagonally from the inside corner of the frame to the outside corner.


Miltered Joint Framed Door



  • Mortise & Tenon Joint – A traditional tenon and mortise joint (similar to tongue an groove) is the most common method. Each end of the rail has a tenon (extension) which fits into a pocket (mortise) cut into the side of the stile.


Tenon and Mortise Joint Framed Door



  • Cope & Stick Joint – Cutting tools are used to cut the rails and stiles into mirrored images of the other. A slot is cut into the rail and stile for the center door panel. The shape of the cut allows for a greater glue area and a stronger joint. This type of joint is most often seen on furniture-grade cabinetry.


Cope & Pattern Joint Framed Door



Recessed Flat Panel

These doors start out as a flat piece of wood and then the frame is made to border it. There are several different styles of recessed doors.


Recessed Panel Door Example 1 Contemporary Shaker Recessed Panel Door Example 2 Traditional Frame Recessed Panel Door Example 3 with corner accents Recessed Panel Door Example 4 with Center Stile Recessed Panel Door Example 5 AC


Raised Panel, Solid

Though the panel is called solid, it is not usually made of a single piece of wood. Wood expands and contracts with changes in humidity, and this can cause the door to split and crack. To counteract the problems of natural movement in a solid wood center panel, the panel is usually constructed using several pieces of solid stock lumber glued together. The wood strips used to construct the panel may not all match in graining and color.


The panel is then cut on all four sides, so the center is higher than the edges. The face of the panel is usually flush with the front surface of the stiles and rails, with the edges forming a tongue which fits a corresponding groove cut into the door frame.


The groove is slightly larger than the panel’s edge to allow the panel to float in the frame. This simply means that the panel has room to expand and contract during humidity changes, reducing the risk of the panel cracking or splitting.


Raised Panel, Veneer

Veneer is simply a thin slice of wood taken from a log, rather than a heavy board. Instead of solid wood strips, the core (substrate) of the veneered panel is particleboard , or in some cases plywood, which gives the door much more stability than wood. The veneer slices (leaves) are edge-glued into a face. This face is made to fit the size of the panel. The method of matching the veneer edges determines the final appearance of the door panel.


A veneered center panel has a continuous graining, which some people prefer to the variety of the solid wood panel. While the final assembly into the frame is the same as for solid panel doors, veneered panel doors are less expensive than solid wood.


Square Raised Panel Veneer Door 1 Cathedral Raised Panel Veneer Door 1 Cathedral Raised Panel Veneer Door 2 Arched Raised Panel Veneer Door 1 Arched Raised Panel Veneer Door 2

Square Raised Panel Veneer Door 2 Cathedral Raised Panel Veneer Door 3 Cathedral Raised Panel Veneer Door 4 Arched Raised Panel Veneer Door 3 Arched Raised Panel Veneer Door 4

Raised Panel, Laminate

This door is made of a single slab of MDF (medium density fiberboard) that is molded to give the appearance of a center panel and frame. Flexible vinyl is laminated to the substrate using industrial adhesives, heat, and pressure. The stability of MDF makes this door type resistant to cupping and warping.


MDF Raised Panel 1 MDF Raised Panel 2 MDF Raised Panel 3



A mullion is a thin strip of wood that is used to separate the panes of glass in a door or window. Mullion doors have glass inserts in place of the typical solid center panel and look similar to windowpanes.


The glass can be individual pieces sandwiched between two mullions, front and back, or a full sheet of glass mounted behind the mullions. Usually the latter type of installation of the glass allows for it to be removed for easy and complete cleaning – although it increases the risk of breaking the glass.


Since the mullions create a pattern of their own, the glass choices for mullioned doors are usually limited to clear Annealed (not a safety glass), or Tempered, or Laminated glass.


Mullion Door 1 Mullion Door 2 Mullion Door 3 Mullion Door 4



Frames only (doors without panels) are generally available in all styles. Most doors (12″ or wider and up to 42″ high) can be routed out on the back of the frame to hold the glass panel. Generally molding is not furnished for the back of the frame.


Some Glass Options


Annealed Glass
Glass that has been cooled with precise control to relieve stress introduced by the manufacturing process. This annealing process makes the glass workable, i.e. easier to cut, machine, etc. Common household glass is annealed glass. It is NOT a safety glass.


Tempered Glass
Tempering uses either a thermal or chemical process to quickly harden the glass, which compresses its surface. Compressing the surface increases the amount of tensile stress that can be endured before breakage occurs.


It is important to note that the treatment must be applied only after all cutting and processing has been completed, as once ’toughened’, any attempt to cut the glass will cause it to shatter.


The process of making tempered glass increases the surface tension of the glass which can cause it to ’explode’ if broken; this is more a dramatic effect than hazardous. When it does break, tempered glass generally breaks in very small pieces. Fully-tempered glass may show more visual distortion of reflected images, but it is about four times stronger than annealed glass of the same thickness.


Laminated Safety Glass
Laminated safety glass is made by bonding two or more layers of glass with one or more layers of other material (such as resin, or PVB or other suitable materials). The most important characteristic is the ability of the interlayer(s) to support and hold the glass when broken.


Laminated glass is 50 percent to 90 percent as strong as annealed glass of the same thickness depending on exposed temperatures, aspect ratio, plate size, stiffness and load duration. However, the edges of laminated glass are less resistant than annealed glass to handling and installation damage.


When broken, laminated safety glass is held together by the adhesives that are used in the manufacturing process. This generally helps keep large pieces of glass from falling from the opening. Nevertheless, small pieces and or chips may still fall, and the precise size of pieces of glass that will break is difficult to identify and describe.


Laminated glass, however, can be made with both heat-strengthened and fully-tempered glass for additional safety benefits.


Sand Carved Glass
Sand is sprayed at high velocities over the surface of the glass, giving the glass a rough, translucent surface. During sandblasting, only the areas that are to remain transparent are masked for protection. The depth and degree of the translucency of the sand-blasted finishing vary with the force and type of sand used.


Pattern Glass
Patterned glass has a textured surface with a patterns impressed on it. Patterned glass is made with a rolled glass process. The semi-molten glass is squeezed between two metal rollers. The bottom roller is engraved with the negative of the image. The resulting glass usually transmits only slightly less light than clear glass.


This concludes our cabinetry series. If you’d like to continue discussing one of the subjects we’ve covered, or something we haven’t, let us know on Facebook or Twitter!

Cabinetry 102: Framed, Frameless, and Door Types

Full Kitchen Transitional Cabinets


It’s time for Cabinetry 102! Last month we discussed the differences between stock, semi-custom, and custom cabinets. This month we’re getting a little more technical by comparing framed and full access cabinets, as well as the different door styles.



Framed Cabinet Illustration

Framed Cabinet


Framed cabinets are the most common type in the United States. They are called framed cabinets because of the 1-1/2” lip (frame) around the front of the cabinet box. The doors are attached to the frame rather than the box. This type of cabinet works well in traditionally designed spaces, like the one shown below. If you look closely, you can see the frame between the cabinet doors.


Framed Cabinet Example Kitchen


Frameless Cabinet Illustration

Full Access Cabinet


Full access cabinets are popular in Europe. They do not have a face frame. The doors are attached directly to the cabinet box and are flush with the edge of the box.


Frameless does not mean less quality! Frameless only means there is no frame. This allows full access to the cabinetry. Most frameless cabinets have thicker sides than framed cabinetry, and because there is no lip and the drawers/doors are wider, full access cabinets have about 15% more storage space than their traditional counterparts.


This type of cabinet works well in contemporary or traditional spaces, depending on the door style selected.


Frameless Cabinet Example Kitchen




There are four types of cabinet doors/drawers. Framed cabinets can have inset, lipped, and traditional overlay doors. Both full access and framed cabinets can have full overlay doors/drawer.




Inset Cabinet DoorInset Cabinet Door Top View


Inset cabinet doors sit within the face frame and are flush with the front edges of the cabinet frame. The hinges of the door are exposed. This type of door is most often used to achieve a formal look and works well in a colonial style kitchen.




Lipped Cabinet DoorLipped Cabinet Door Top View


Lipped doors have a rabbet/groove cut all the way around the door on the back side. This cut makes the back part of the cabinet door fit tightly into the box, while the front appears like an overlay (shown below.)


Traditional Overlay


Traditional Overlay DoorTraditional Overlay Door Top View


Traditional overlay doors are mounted against the face frame with ½” – 1” of the face frame exposed. The exposed section of frame is called the reveal. This door is the most common type and is best in traditional settings.


Full Overlay


Full Overlay DoorFull Overlay Door Top View


Full overlay doors are mounted to completely cover the face frame. Hinges are concealed and the doors have less than 1/8” between them. This type of door can be used with framed or frameless cabinets. They are steadily becoming the most popular type of door because of their versatility.


Check back next month when we finish our cabinetry series! We’ll discuss door styles and glass inserts.


Have any more cabinetry tips? Let us know in the comments or on our Facebook or Twitter page!

Cabinetry 101: Stock, Semi-custom, and Custom

 Kitchen Cabinets

Cabinets are an important part of home decor. They set the tone for the kitchen, determine the style of the bathroom, and add beauty to utilitarian spaces. With all of the options available today, choosing the right cabinets can be overwhelming for even the most experienced homeowner. There are many factors to consider when selecting your cabinetry and we want to arm you with the knowledge to make the best decision.


There are three major types of cabinetry: stock, semi-custom, and custom.


Contrary to popular belief, the terms stock, semi-custom, and custom are not necessarily indicative of quality. These terms designate the type of production methods used to create the cabinets. Stock cabinets are mass-produced; semi-custom cabinets are produced when ordered and can be altered; and custom cabinets are built to individual specifications. While there are poor and excellent quality cabinets across all types, there are pros and cons associated with each.




Price: $-$$
Quality: Poor-excellent
About: These cabinets are pre-assembled and mass-produced. They wait in a warehouse until ordered. They are available in framed and full access (also known as frameless) construction and in a variety of shapes, sizes, styles, wood species, and finishes. They come in standard widths of 9” to 48” with 3” increments and standard depths of 12” for wall cabinets and 24” for base, oven, and utility cabinets.



  • Most popular type sold
  • Readily available—generally within ten days of being ordered
  • Can be ordered through dealers using the manufacturers catalog


  • What you see is what you get
  • Few options available
  • May not fit the kitchen space exactly. Filler strips are used to close any gaps between a cabinet and an appliance or wall




Price: $$-$$$
Quality: Poor-excellent
About: Semi-custom cabinets are modifiable. Like stock cabinets, semi-custom cabinets are available in framed and full access construction, and come in a variety of shapes, sizes, styles, wood species, and finishes. Basic stock sizes still apply, but certain dimensions can be changed. Widths generally are 9” to 48″ with 1” increments, but this varies by manufacturer. Depths can be reduced or increased within manufacturer guidelines.



  • Second most popular type
  • Greater flexibility in the design process
  • Wider range of styles, sizes, construction, materials, and colors than stock cabinets


  • Construction of semi-custom cabinets doesn’t begin until the order is final, so there may be lengthy wait times
  • Delivery time may take a month or longer
  • Changes to orders can be expensive and may increase delivery time
  • May not fit the space exactly. Filler strips and extended stiles are used to close any gaps between a cabinet and an appliance or wall




Price range: $$$
Quality range: Poor-excellent
About: Custom cabinets are built to individual specifications. There is an unlimited variety of sizes, shapes, styles, wood species, and finishes. You can have the cabinets produced by a carpenter, or have them manufactured. There is also no limit on the width or depths.



  • No limit to design, size, style, materials, colors, finishes, or features
  • Constructed to precise design measurements
  • Great for kitchens with unique layouts or special requirements


  • Generally the most expensive option
  • Delivery time may exceed 12 weeks
  • Wide range of pricing and construction standards


Check back next month for Cabinetry 102. We’ll discuss door types and the difference between framed and full access cabinets.


Have any other tips? Sound off below or let us know on our Facebook and Twitter pages.

Kitchen Task Lighting

Kitchen Task Lighting from Tech Feb 2014


There are three basic types of lighting to incorporate in most rooms:

1)  Ambient lighting

2)  Accent lighting

3)  Task lighting


Ambient lighting is the first layer of lighting. It is the general, overall light in a room. Most often, ambient light comes from a single ceiling-mounted fixture or a few recessed can lights.


Accent lighting is just what it sounds like. It is used to accent or draw attention to a particular object, like a sculpture or painting, or a china display cabinet.


Task lighting is specific lighting in an area of the room where tasks are to be performed. For example, you may keep a lamp beside your reading chair. Task lighting provides better illumination than general lighting.


One of the most important places for task lighting is in the kitchen. Whether you’re chopping vegetables near the sink or stuffing a turkey at the island, proper lighting is essential. Though task lighting seems utilitarian and tedious, it can seamlessly fit into any style and add to the beauty of your kitchen.


Modern Kitchen with Bar


There is plenty of task lighting in this Keidel kitchen. First, the homeowner selected under cabinet lighting to illuminate the countertops. Aside from being aesthetically pleasing, under cabinet lighting is perfect for eliminating dark shadows in food preparation areas. Itquickly and easily brightens countertops and is available in a variety of choices, including fluorescents, low-voltage linear systems, and several types of LED systems.


Two main factors determine good lighting for countertops: the illuminance level and uniformity. For kitchen countertops, the recommended level of illuminance is around 500 lux. Uniformity is just the evenness of the light and is essential to prevent eye strain. When installing under cabinet fixtures, place them at the front of the cabinet and not against the wall. This will distribute the light more evenly.


Pendant Task Lighting Kitchen Feb 2014


The second kind of task lighting in this kitchen is found above the island. Pendants are extremely popular for their versatility and practicality. In this kitchen, the pendants provide task lighting over the sink. They’re also good sources of additional light when eating at the bar.


Installing pendants isn’t complicated for a seasoned electrician. A good rule of thumb is to install one pendant for every two feet of counter space. According to the American Lighting Association, you should “mount each pendant so that the bottom of the shade is approximately 66″ above the floor.” Of course, a lighting designer might recommend something different for your specific space.


Range Hood Halogen Lights Feb 2014


The third area of task lighting is slightly more subtle than the others. It can be found above the cooktop as part of the range hood. Many manufacturers offer hoods with halogen or LED lights to illuminate cooking surfaces.


Tech Track Lighting


Another great kitchen task lighting option is track lighting. As shown in the kitchen above, track lighting is suspended from the ceiling. Individual light heads are fitted onto tracks, allowing adjustable positioning and movement. Track lighting works well in modern kitchens, but can look great in transitional and traditional spaces too. Take a look at some of the great examples on Houzz:



These are our favorite types of task lighting for the kitchen. What are yours? Let us know in the comments section, or tell us on Facebook & Twitter!

How to Thaw Frozen Pipes

Winter-Frozen-Pipes-Pic-Jan-2014-TreeIf you think a pipe has already frozen, do not wait for nature to take its course! Thaw the pipe as soon as possible or call a licensed plumber for help! Water expands when it freezes, and you could be left with a burst pipe and a big mess!




Open all faucets–One or more pipes may not be completely frozen and even a small water flow may thaw the obstruction.


If that fails, use a hair dryer to heat the pipe where you suspect the freeze has occurred. Propane torches are dangerous and can cause fires.  If you don’t have a hair dryer use a heat lamp or electric space heater. Be careful to not overload the circuit, and always make sure the outlet is properly grounded to prevent electrical shock.


If you don’t have a hair dryer, a heat lamp, or an electric space heater, and you only have a propane torch, never use it on pvc pipe because it will melt and burn, and never use it near a gas line, for obvious reasons. Be careful not to let the flame come into contact with any wood or surrounding flammable material. Many fires are caused by accidents, and you won’t have water easily available if a pipe is frozen. Keep a fire extinguisher close, just in case!


Check that the taps are open while the pipes are heated in order to remove all the ice in the system once the main blockage is gone.


If you have a basement, locate the spot where the water pipe enters the home. See if this pipe passes through a non-insulated area and apply heat to any suspect area.


If you have a crawlspace, look for any area where cold air can enter. Apply heat to all sections of pipe located in that area.


When thawing, going slowly is best. Although rare, heating up frozen pipes too quickly may cause the pipe to crack or break.


Once the obstruction is cleared and the water is flowing, turn off all faucets and check for leaks in the area where the obstruction occurred. Any leaks you find should be repaired as soon as possible.


When the weather improves, check unused portions of your water system for damage and leaks to avoid possible flooding from undetected cracked or broken pipes.


Have any other helpful tips? Let us know below!

Troubleshoot Your Water Heater

Rheem-Marathon-Electric-Water-Heater-Jan 2014

Winter is here and if your water heater is acting up, you’re in for a miserable season. The good news is that many water heater problems have simple solutions. Find your water heater issue below and we’ll give you an easy answer.




There can be several reasons your water heater isn’t producing enough hot water. It may be undersized for your needs. Learn how to size three types of water heaters from


If your water heater has been working fine but suddenly stops producing enough hot water (and your usage pattern has not changed) there may be another problem. Check for a broken dip tube, a defective thermostat, burned out heating elements (if your water heater is electric,) or a heavy buildup of sediment.




As water heaters age, calcium carbonate can precipitate out and settle to the bottom of the heater, forming sediment. This is especially common in areas where hard water exists. As the burners heat the bottom of the tank, steam bubbles form under the sediment. The steam bubbles escaping from underneath the sediment can create a thumping and popping noise.


This buildup of sediment can reduce the efficiency of your water heater, lower its holding capacity, and clog pumps and valves elsewhere in your plumbing system. You can help prevent sediment buildup by regularly flushing the water heater.




The sudden closing of a valve causes a shock wave in the system, resulting in a hammering sound in the pipes. This is not just an annoying noise–it can be potentially damaging!


Luckily, water hammer arrestors can combat this problem. Installed near the heater, the air bladder cushions the force of the flow of the water, softening the impact.




Get ready, things are about to get a little scientific!


Water contains oxygen and other gases. The capacity of water to hold gas is determined by atmospheric pressure. At normal atmospheric pressure, when water is heated, it releases some of the gas. In a water heater, the same principle applies but in a closed environment. The water heater holds gases in their dissolved state. When water is drawn from a faucet and released from the tank, the pressure is lowered, causing the gas to vaporize and form tiny bubbles int he water, giving it a milky appearance.


These bubbles are harmless. If you let the water stand for a few minutes the bubbles will rise from the liquid and the water will become clear.



Do you have any other easy fixes for common water heater problems? Sound off on our Facebook page, or comment below!

Planning the Perfect Powder Room

Unlike other rooms of the home, the powder room can break every rule of conventional design and still look great. Compared to the kitchen or master bath, it’s inexpensive to redo and fun to experiment with, making it an ideal statement room. Below are some ideas and tips to help you plan your perfect powder room.




Usually tucked under a stairwell or hidden in a hallway, the powder room is generally a small space. Its size doesn’t leave room for layout creativity—or much of anything else—so you have to be very meticulous in your planning.


All bathrooms require piping in the floors and walls. Changing the layout if you have an existing powder room can be costly. If you’re planning a new powder room, think about how to make the space as functional as possible. If staying within budget is your first priority, reduce plumbing costs by placing plumbing fixtures along a single wall. This allows fixtures to share the same line.


Here are some examples of a typical powder room layout:


Powder Room Layout Example


Consider adding a small closet to your layout. If you have the space, a closet can be a great place to store extra towels and guest toiletries. It will also allow you to be more flexible with your sink choice, because you won’t have to worry about choosing a vanity over a pedestal just because of storage.


Here are some examples of a powder room layout with a closet:


Powder Room with Closet Layout Example




Though you probably won’t need as much storage space as you would with a master or full bath, it is still an important aspect of powder room planning. Console tables, bath furniture, shelves, and custom vanity cabinets are all great storage spaces if you are unable to add a narrow closet to your floor plan.


Remember, the powder room is considered formal therefore toothbrushes, hair dryers, and other family items shouldn’t be stored here. Keep toilet paper, extra towels, and plenty of soap stored in your powder room for guests.




Though moisture and condensation are generally not a concern in the powder room, adequate ventilation is always important. Because sounds seem louder in a small room, choose an exhaust fan with a low sone rating.




Flooring in Showroom Kallista AreaAs a rule, light colors make a room feel larger. However, in the powder room, wall color and design come down to personal preference. Dark colors can work well in a powder room, as can bold patterns. You may want to consult an interior designer or decorator if you’re unsure what will look best.


Floors, on the other hand, can be tricky. In magazines and online inspiration boards there are often hardwood floors photographed in powder rooms. We advise against using hardwood floors in areas with water. Installing wood floors in a bathroom may void the flooring’s warranty.


Ceramic and marble tile are beautiful alternatives to hardwood. However, if you’re set on the idea of wood, you may want to consider flooring that only appears like wood. We have some installed in our showroom:














Now our favorite part—fixture selection!




Kohler Santa Rosa ToiletChoosing a toilet can seem easy at first. A toilet is a toilet, right? WRONG. There are several things to consider when purchasing a commode:


  1. Height—Toilets vary in height from 10” to 18”. A standard toilet is 14 ½” to 16” high without the seat. A comfort height toilet, many of which are ADA compliant, is 17” to 19” from the floor to the top of the seat.
  2. Shape—Though you can choose some square models, most toilet bowls are round or oval (elongated). While the extra space of an elongated toilet can make it easier to use, this toilet shape can be too big for smaller spaces. It’s important to have accurate measurements of the locations before making your purchase.
  3. Mount—If your style is more contemporary, you may want to consider a wall mount toilet. They can be set at almost any height, and usually have the tank hidden behind the wall. This creates a clean, minimalistic space. A floor mount is the most common type in the US. Floor mounted toilets are set on the ground and have a short pedestal base below the bowl. This kind of toilet can fit in with any design scheme.
  4. Color—Most people choose white toilets because they’re easier to decorate around, and less likely to go out of style. However, if you’re planning to stay in your home for several years, you might choose something more colorful. Toilets come in all colors, depending on the model and manufacturer, and some distributors even offer painted toilets.


We like the Kohler Santa Rosa pictured left. It’s a compact, elongated, one-piece toilet. It is small enough for almost any powder room, yet it maintains the powerful, high-capacity performance you would expect from Kohler.




When selecting a sink for your powder room, remember that this room is intended for use by a single person—no need for double bowls or trough-style sinks here! It is also a formal designed space so appearance matters!

The best options for your powder room are pedestals, vessel bowls, console tables, and furniture vanities.

Console tables and pedestals leave more open space, which can make a small room appear larger. However, storage is limited with these options. You’ll have to install a shelf or small closet to store toilet paper, towels, cups, etc.


Furniture-style pieces and vessel bowls make great statements. These two options are definitely trending. The best part is that they have many design applications. You can find contemporary furniture pieces and Victorian vessels and everything in between.




There are infinite options when it comes to bathroom faucets. Start with the style you like (contemporary, traditional, transitional, etc. and then select the finish. This will narrow down your options—though only slightly!

If you’re replacing an old fixture, be sure you know whether the faucet is a four inch or eight inch spread. If you’re upgrading, consider installing an eight inch spread faucet to allow for easier cleaning.


Delta Victorian Single Handle Centerset Faucet    Delta Vero Two Handle Widespread Faucet


If you have selected a vessel sink, you’ll probably want to have a wall-mounted faucet. Most bathroom faucets aren’t tall enough to accommodate the height of a vessel bowl.




Powder Room Mirror KeidelNow 2009When decorating a powder room, it’s important to keep things simple. The powder room is small, and overwhelming it with décor can make it feel tight or cramped. Clear countertops of clutter and decorations so guests may use the space to set down handbags, keys, etc.


Adding a mirror is a great way to make the room appear larger. Because this is an informal space, the mirror does not have to have a cabinet attached to it for storage. Mirrors can also convey a particular style. Click here to view our selection of mirrors.




Like clothing, powder rooms look better when properly accessorized. Select soap dishes/dispensers, towel bars, and robe/coat hooks that match the finish of your faucet. This makes the room appear cohesive.




Ideally, there should be at least 10% natural light in any bathroom. However, this isn’t always possible. If you cannot add natural light to your space, make sure to add plenty of artificial light. It’s always better to over-light an area than under-light it. If necessary, add a dimmer to control the lighting.


Avoid placing a single light fixture in the middle of the room as this can create shadows. Instead, consider installing recessed spot lighting for your powder room’s ambient lighting. Recessed lights are both visually appealing and have a low profile that works well in the smaller space. Adding wall sconces on either side of the mirror will help eliminate harsh shadows, and undercabinet lighting can be used as a nightlight or as general mood lighting when entertaining.



The powder room may be one of the smallest rooms in a house, but if designed properly, it can make the biggest statement.



Speed Ovens

With Thanksgiving just around the corner, many homeowners are making the usual holiday preparations—deep cleaning the kitchen, dragging up extra seating from the basement, and assigning dishes to relatives. If you’re stuck cooking the turkey this year it might be a good time to consider a speed oven. A speed oven can cook a 12lb turkey 83% faster than a conventional oven. And that’s not all it can do…




Combining the technology of a microwave with the quality of a high-end convection oven, speed ovens work by recirculating heated air and using pinpointed microwaves. These joint cooking aspects allow food to heat quickly and evenly, without losing the flavor and texture as you would with just a microwave.




If cooking a whole turkey in 42 minutes isn’t good enough to convince you, there are several other features that might. Here are the features of our two favorite speed ovens:


Miele Speed Oven_1113


Miele MasterChef H 4084 BM

  • 15 operating modes
  • Dual timers
  • Delay start function
  • Infrared broiling
  • Favorites storage
  • Innovative stainless steel finish that resists fingerprints and scratches










Turbochef 30” Single Wall Speed Cook Oven

  • 7 color options to match almost any color scheme
  • On-demand help
  • Self-cleaning
  • Large capacity (can hold a 26lb turkey!)
  • 7 speedcook modes
  • Patented Airspeed technology









Speed ovens are great not only for the holidays, but for the working parent. After 8-10 hours at the office, making a nutritious meal for your family can seem impossible. Speed ovens are fast, efficient, and helpful—a dream come true for many working moms.




Cook times for popular items.