The Right Materials for Your Bathroom and Kitchen Remodel

Here are the pros and cons of various possibilities.



Kitchen by Wendy Strauss of Strauss House Designs

Photo by Laure Dunn


BACKSPLASH MATERIALS

Expert: Lisa CalesShowroom Manager
Walker Zanger, Port Chester


Ceramic or Porcelain Tile

Pros: Versatile, easy to clean and maintain, and can mimic other materials, such as wood or natural stone. “You can achieve the design aesthetic but with added longevity and durability,” says Cales.

Cons: Grout joints require regular cleaning and can disrupt continuous design.
 

Metal

Pros: The ability to create a specific design look.

Cons: The possibility of oxidization depending on sealer used.
 

Glass

Pros: Easy to clean and maintain and can highlight the beauty of shimmering colors.

Cons: Grout joints require regular cleaning and can disrupt continuous design.
 

Travertine Tile 

Pros: The natural stone offers various design styles. “Although travertine has been used in buildings since ancient times, today it is highly sought-after for more modern design statements.”

Cons: Must be sealed occasionally.
 


CABINET MATERIALS

Expert: Andrew Uschtig 
K&B Creations in Mamaroneck 


Photo by Tim Lenz

Kitchen by Wendy Strauss of Strauss House Designs


SOLID WOOD

Pros: Very sturdy and available in many types such as cherry, maple, and oak.

Cons: Can be affected by extreme temperatures. Often expensive, “which is why many times you will see plywood interiors combined with all-wood face frames or doors.” 
 

WOOD VENEER

Pros: Made from peeling strips of wood off a tree, it’s usually applied to plywood or a substrate base material to make it stronger. Often used for interiors and side panels because it is less costly than solid wood. Offers a more consistent graining pattern and is affected less by humidity and temperature than solid wood.

Cons: Thinner and less sturdy.
 

MELAMINE

Pros: This low-pressure laminate is durable and less costly than other options.

Cons: More susceptible to chipping and damage.
 

PLASTIC LAMINATE

Pros: Inexpensive, sturdy, easy to clean, and available in many colors and patterns. “Typically made of three layers: a base layer of paper or plastic, a printed and colored layer that may look like wood, and a transparent protective layer. Heat and pressure are used to bond it to a substrate, like particleboard, medium-density fiberboard, or plywood.”

Cons: May warp.
 

THERMOFOIL

Pros: A vinyl film that is applied to a substrate with heat and pressure, it typically more closely resembles wood than laminates, is easy to care for, and less likely to chip than painted cabinets.

Cons: Not heat-resistant and colors may change over time.
 


FLOORING MATERIALS

Expert: Donna KanterOwner
Kanter’s Carpet & Design Service, White Plains 


BAMBOO

Pros: Environmentally friendly and slightly more resistant to warping, stains, and damage than hardwood. “Strand-woven bamboo is even harder than red oak,” Kanter says.

Cons: Manufacturing of bamboo can cause slight off-gassing from adhesive that hold strands together. High-heel and claw marks from pets may show.
 

LINOLEUM OR SHEET VINYL

Pros: Can mimic look of wood, ceramic, and slate. Fairly cost effective and softer underfoot for those who suffer from back and leg problems.

Cons: Can cut easily and is not as popular as it once was.
 

HARDWOOD

Pros: Durability, beauty, and ease of maintenance.

Cons: High cost and a possibility of scratches showing.
 

LAMINATE

Pros: Looks like wood but is less expensive and easier to maintain.

Cons: It can’t tolerate a lot of water sitting on it. “Excess water can result in peaking of your laminate floor,” says Kanter.
 

LVT OR LUXURY VINYL TILES

Pros: Very popular now, as it comes in many different looks, imitating wood, slate, terrazzo, ceramic, and marble. Water-resistant, easy to maintain, and does not show pet claw marks.

Cons: As with regular laminate, it can’t tolerate a lot of water sitting on it.
 

CERAMIC TILE

Pros: Many designs to choose from; maintains its beauty throughout its lifetime; waterproof.

Cons: Hard underfoot, grout maintenance is difficult, and can chip if a heavy pot falls on it.
 


PAINT/STAIN FINISHES

Expert: Andrew Uschtig 
K&B Creations, Mamaroneck


Kitchen by Randy O’Kane, CKD, Bilotta Kitchens


Hi-GLOSS

Pros: Very durable and easy to clean. Offers a very contemporary look; its reflective qualities can make a room feel bigger.  

Cons: Shows every imperfection, and because it has to be applied with a sprayer in a time-consuming process, is usually more costly.
 

SEMI-GLOSS  

Pros:  Has a more uniform look, is resistant to scrubbing, tends to hold less moisture — a plus for kitchen locations — and is less expensive than hi-gloss. “Semi-gloss is the most popular choice to paint cabinets, as it combines aesthetics and function,” Uschtig says.

Cons: None
 

OPAQUE

Pros: Hides imperfections better than semi-gloss because it absorbs light as opposed to reflecting it.  

Cons: Natural wood grain can become obscured.
 

MATTE

Pros: Hides imperfections better than semi-gloss because it absorbs light as opposed to reflecting it.  

Cons: Does not hold up to wear and tear of gloss finishes and not as easy to clean as it is not as smooth. Color may seem dull compared with the same hue in a gloss finish.
 

GLAZE

Pros: This semi-transparent wash of color applied over a paint or stain adds more dimension and detail and accentuates graining.

Cons: Glazes are not meant to have a 100 percent uniform appearance and may appear darker in cabinet crevices.
 

STAIN

Pros: Adds color to wood without compromising graining and patterns. Comes in dozens of colors and can be mixed to achieve a custom color.
Cons: Shows nearly all imperfections of the wood.
 


SUBSTRATES

Expert: Andrew Uschtig 
K&B Creations, Mamaroneck


PARTICLEBOARD

Pros: Frequently used with laminate or vinyl finishes and made from wood particles that are mixed together with resin and bonded by pressure; particleboard made with new technology and resins are very reliable. 

Cons: Poorer grades tend to warp easily and do not accept fasteners well.
 

MEDIUM-DENSITY FIBERBOARD (MDF)

Pros: Similar to particleboard but made of smaller fibers, it offers superior screw holding, clean edges, and an extremely smooth surface; edges are paintable, unlike plywood. “Because it accepts paint very well and is not affected the same way wood is by moisture and temperature, over time you will see less cracking and pulling away from the frame of the door,” Uschtig says.

Cons: Can’t be stained.
 

PLYWOOD

Pros: Made by laminating thin layers of wood together at right angles, is very sturdy and the most commonly used material in cabinetry building. 

Cons: Edges do not accept paint or stain and need to be banded if exposed.
 


COUNTERTOP MATERIALS

Experts: Jared BeckerVice President of Design and MarketingJeff LupicaDirector of Slab Sales
Walker Zanger, Port Chester


QUARTZ

Pros: Nonporous; stain-resistant and acid-resistant; available in contemporary and monolithic colors, including white and gray. Can replicate look of marble and limestone.

Cons: With 5 to 10 percent resin content, this man-made material is not always heat-resistant and may crack under direct, high heat. “If you are looking to use natural stone for a countertop, this is not it,” says Lupica.
 

LIMESTONE

Pros: It’s soft and has a honed look and feel.

Cons: May stain if not properly sealed; may scratch, as it is softer than granite.
 

SOAPSTONE

Pros: A natural stone, it is soft to the touch and heat-resistant. “It is perfect if you are seeking the ‘country home’ look and feel,” says Lupica.

Cons: Some colors can look dated.
 

PORCELAIN SLABS

Pros: Using technology to replicate authentic marble veining, porcelain mimics the look and feel of marble but offers greater strength, durability, and versatility. You can cut foods and place hot cookware directly on it. “Porcelain is nonporous and stain-proof, making it impervious to red wine, lemon juice, and other acids that are common culprits of staining natural stone,” says Becker.

Cons: Grout joints need to be cleaned and can interrupt continuous design.
 

GRANITE

Pros: Resistant to heat, acid, and stains — though it should still be sealed.

Cons: Some colors can look dated.
 

PORCELAIN, CERAMIC, AND GLASS TILE

Pros: None

Cons: Not recommend for kitchen countertops because of the large amounts of grout joints and “dated” look.
 

MARBLE

Pros: Easy to clean and maintain and can highlight the beauty of shimmering colors.

Cons: Can be scratched with sharp objects and needs to be sealed regularly. “The surface will etch when exposed to acid, so it is recommended that it is installed in a honed   finish,” says Lupica.
 


Stock or Custom?

Before you choose your cabinetry, you must decide whether to go stock or custom.

Expert: Andrew UschtigOwner
K&B Creations, Mamaroneck

STOCK

Pros: Most inexpensive of all cabinetry, usually imported prefinished in standard sizes.

Cons: Little to no variation in sizes, requires use of fillers. Very limited selection of styles and finishes that usually can’t be combined. 
 

QUARTER-CUSTOM

Pros: This relatively new concept combines some aspects of stock and some of semi-custom, keeping costs down. Can mix and match door styles and finishes, offers some variations, and allows some customizing.

Cons: Door style, finishes, sizes, and accessories more limited than semi-custom.
 

SEMI-CUSTOM

Pros: Slowly becoming the most popular choice as mass production of parts, doors, and finishes controls pricing. “Most have partnered with a paint company, like Sherwin Williams or Benjamin Moore, to offer just about any color,” says Uschtig. Unique wood products available and will allow almost any variation or change to a cabinet dimension.  

Cons: Door style, finishes, sizes, and accessories more limited than custom.
 

CUSTOM

Pros: Typically built on-site and completely custom to homeowner’s specifications. “Instead of picking drawings out of a catalog for a door style, you can draw what the door should look like and it will be built to those specs.”  Virtually unlimited choice of styles, wood, and finish. 

Cons: Heftiest price tag, as it is most labor-intensive choice.

 

 

 

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