Which Durable Countertop is Best for Your Kitchen?

By: Lisa Kaplan Gordon

kitchen countertops

Want a hardworking countertop that fits your budget? We took a look at six of the most-durable countertops based on a recent “Consumer Reports” test.

After a thorough exam, we’re ready to let you in on why you should — or shouldn’t — install them in your kitchen.

  1. Quartz($40 to $100 per square foot)

    The durability winner is quartz, the man-nature combo countertop. Crushed quartz stone is mixed with resin to produce countertops that range from solid colors to the look of real granite, but they’ll beat natural stone in toughness.

    Pros

    Quartz is almost indestructible under normal kitchen prep conditions. It laughs at knife cuts, and, unless you take a sledgehammer to it, it won’t chip or crack. It’s stain- and bacteria-resistant, and it doesn’t require sealing.

    Cons

    You pay a lot for quartz, and it’s not as heat-resistant as less-pricey materials like granite and crushed glass. Seams can be noticeable, especially if you use lighter colors, and it can discolor over time in direct sunlight.

    Also, quartz can look ultra-contemporary and cold, so it may not be the best choice for a traditional-style kitchen.

    2.  Granite ($40 to $100 per square foot)

    Granite is still considered one of the top must-have home features, according to a survey of prospective homebuyers from the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®. Its natural beauty often is eye-popping, and granite easily fits in any style kitchen.

    Pros

    Granite is tough. It resists cracks and chips, and you can place a hot pot on it without catastrophe. If you apply sealer annually, granite stands up to stains.

    Cons

    It’s tough but not indestructible. An accidental clunk with a wine bottle can put a chip in the edge, which you’ll have to polish down. If you don’t seal religiously, oil can seep into the stone and you’ll have to apply a poultice to get it out.

    Design-wise, granite can be unpredictable. Natural variations in stone can result in countertops that don’t look exactly like the sample. Also, it can be hard to hide seams in granite countertops, so be strategic about where you put them.

    3.  Crushed (Recycled) Glass ($60 to $120 per square foot)

    This relative newcomer to the countertop market is as stunning as it is durable. Glass is recycled from beer bottles, traffic lights, and windshields, making it an eco-friendly countertop choice.

    There are two basic styles to choose from: When set in acrylic, the glass looks like it’s floating in a lake; when set in cement, the glass creates a shimmery mosaic.

    Pros

    Crushed glass counters don’t chip, scratch, stain, or burn. They’re nonporous, so they don’t need sealing, like granite. Crushed glass doesn’t fade over time, like quartz.

    Cons

    If you place something heavy on the corner of a crushed glass countertop, it may crack. Acidic foods, like citrus juices, can eat away at the acrylic if you don’t wipe them away quickly.

    Price can be a “con.” Where you can pick up a low-end granite for $40 per square foot, crushed glass starts at $60.

    4.  Laminate ($10 to $40 per square foot)

    Laminates are a paper-plastic product that tops several layers of Kraft paper with a resin impregnated with near infinite colors and patterns.

    Pros

    The price is right for this chameleon-like product that can mimic everything from wood to granite. It doesn’t need any special sealers or cleaners, and it’s stain resistant.

    Cons

    Laminates crack, scratch, and scorch more easily than the countertop materials it resembles. It’s also a bear to repair.

    More important, many buyers avoid laminate in droves. A study from the National Association of Home Builders says that 40% of prospective homebuyers would be unlikely to buy a house with laminate counters.

    5.  Tile ($5 to $30 per square foot)

    Tile countertops can look crafty or contemporary, making them a beautiful and versatile countertop material.

    Pros

    Tile is tough and easy to clean. It resists cuts, stains, and heat. And if a tile cracks, it’s easily replaced.

    Tile also comes in an infinite number of colors and styles. You can mix and match to achieve a unique look that makes your counter one of a kind.

    Cons

    Tile easily cracks if skillets and pots are accidentally dropped on it. It’s an uneven surface that can make glasses, plates, and cutting boards wobbly and unstable.

    Unlike stone surfaces, you can’t roll out dough on a tile countertop. And grout lines are common catchers of dust and grime; if you don’t keep up on annual sealing, they’re a great medium for bacteria growth.

    6.  Solid-Surfacing ($35 to $100 per square foot)

    You probably know it as Corian, but that’s just one manufacturer of this solid-surface countertop that’s made from acrylic, polyester resins, and even marble dust.

    Pros

    Solid-surfacing comes in many patterns and colors. It’s nonporous and doesn’t require special sealers or cleaners. Scratches are easily sanded out. It can be molded to include a seamless backsplash or integrated sink bowl.

    Cons

    It’s pricey, and it doesn’t have the charm of granite or quartz. It scratches and burns easily. Plus, it’s made of non-renewable resources, it’s energy-intensive to manufacture, and it’s difficult to recycle — not a great “green” choice.

Visit HouseLogic.com for more articles like this. Reprinted from HouseLogic.com with permission of the National Association of REALTORS®.  Read more: http://www.houselogic.com/home-advice/kitchens/kitchen-countertops/#ixzz3GPukL9hX

Photo Credit: Jackson Design and Remodeling

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101 Things To Do In Memphis #32: RiverArtsFest

RiverArtsFestRiverArtsFest is a street celebration of the visual, performing and culinary arts with attractions and activities for all ages! Over 190 artists from around the country gather to exhibit and sell their latest works of original fine arts in what’s become the largest outdoor-juried artist market and urban street festival in the Mid-South.

RiverArtsFest 2014 will host a 190+ Juried Artist Market, along with Artist in Motion, Hands on Art and other festival offerings including community art events, great live music and tasty Southern food, Friday-Sunday, October 24*, 25 & 26. A successor to Arts-in-the-Park, RiverArtsFest is in its seventh year located in the heart of the Historic South Main Arts District in Downtown Memphis, TN. This area is an ideal location since it is easily accessible from major streets and expressways and is home to many of the city’s finest galleries and restaurants with lots of free parking to be found.

*Friday evening, October 24th is a FREE special RiverArtsFest preview event that coincides with South Main’s traditional Trolley Night. A ticketed RAF Fundraiser Preview Party is also held that evening.

The festival has successfully presented rich cultural artistic diversity and talent from the Mid-South and over 40 states, in what’s become the longest running fine arts festival in this region. The Juried Artist Market attracted more than 85,000 patrons last year with comments of “excellent examples of artistic creativity” and “great diversity in a high caliber of artists.”

River Arts Fest 2014 will Feature:

  • A Juried Artist Market featuring 190+ gallery quality artists in an open-air setting.
  • An Invitational Show held off-site in a centrally located gallery space.
  • Live Musical Entertainment featuring 50 acts across three stages!
  • Culinary Delights from all around the globe in three food courts throughout the festival.
  • Live street performances daily throughout the festival grounds
  • Entertainment and Attractions for all ages. Child and family friendly entertainment.
  • Artists at Work demonstrating new and innovative artistic techniques while interacting with the public!
  • Hands On Art is a hands-on attraction for kids of all ages which encourages the young at heart to explore their creative energies at interactive art stations.

Admission and Hours of Operation:
FREE Friday evening only, 6p to 9p (South Main Trolley Tour Night)
$5 Saturday, 10a to 6p
$5 Sunday, 10a to 5p

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5 Reasons to Sell Before Winter Hits

http://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-images-snow-road-winter-road-transient-image23308219People across the country are beginning to think about what their life will look like next year. It happens every fall. We ponder whether we should relocate to a different part of the country to find better year round weather or perhaps move across the state for better job opportunities. Homeowners in this situation must consider whether they should sell their house now or wait. If you are one of these potential sellers, here are five important reasons to do it now versus the dead of winter.

  1. Demand is Strong

Foot traffic refers to the number of people out actually physically looking at home right now. The latest foot traffic numbers show that there are more prospective purchasers currently looking at homes than at any other time in the last twelve months, which includes the latest spring buyers’ market. These buyers are ready, willing and able to buy…and are in the market right now!

As we get later into the year, many people have other things (weather, holidays, etc.) that distract them from searching for a home. Take advantage of the buyer activity currently in the market.

  1. There Is Less Competition Now

Housing supply is still under the historical number of 6 months’ supply. This means that, in many markets, there are not enough homes for sale to satisfy the number of buyers in that market. This is good news for home prices. However, additional inventory is about to come to market.

There is a pent-up desire for many homeowners to move, as they were unable to sell over the last few years because of a negative equity situation. Homeowners are now seeing a return to positive equity as real estate values have increased over the last two years. Many of these homes will be coming to the market in the near future.

Also, new construction of single-family homes is again beginning to increase. A recent study by Harris Poll revealed that 41% of buyers would prefer to buy a new home while only 21% prefer an existing home (38% had no preference).

The choices buyers have will continue to increase over the next few months. Don’t wait until all this other inventory of homes comes to market before you sell.

  1. The Process Will Be Quicker

One of the biggest challenges of the 2014 housing market has been the length of time it takes from contract to closing. Banks are requiring more and more paperwork before approving a mortgage. Any delay in the process is always prolonged during the winter holiday season. Getting your house sold and closed before those delays begin will lend itself to a smoother transaction.

  1. There Will Never Be a Better Time to Move-Up

If you are moving up to a larger, more expensive home, consider doing it now. Prices are projected to appreciate by over 19% from now to 2018. If you are moving to a higher priced home, it will wind-up costing you more in raw dollars (both in down payment and mortgage payment) if you wait. You can also lock-in your 30 year housing expense with an interest rate in the low 4’s right now. Rates are projected to be over 5% by this time next year.

  1. It’s Time to Move On with Your Life

Look at the reason you decided to sell in the first place and determine whether it is worth waiting. Is money more important than being with family? Is money more important than your health? Is money more important than having the freedom to go on with your life the way you think you should?

Only you know the answers to the questions above. You have the power to take back control of the situation by putting your home on the market. Perhaps, the time has come for you and your family to move on and start living the life you desire.

That is what is truly important.

Photo credit: © Editor77 | Dreamstime.comHeavy Snow On The Road Photo

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101 Things To Do in Memphis #31: Pink Palace Crafts Fair

pink palace crafts fairThe 42nd Annual Pink Palace Crafts Fair is almost here! The shopping event of the year with three days of fun, shopping, food, music, and more shopping! This is a one-of-a-kind event where you’ll find unique handcrafted art, pottery, jewelry, clothes, furniture, gifts and more! For every room in your house and every friend and family member!

The Pink Palace Crafts Fair also has a kid’s area, craft demonstrations, beer tent, tasty treats, and a petting zoo. It runs Oct 10th – 12th at Audubon Park. The Pink Palace Crafts Fair is open 10 am – 6 pm on Friday and Saturday and 10 am – 5 pm on Sunday. Ticket prices are $9 for adults, $6 for seniors, $3 for children under 12. A 2-day pass is $15. There is paid parking off Perkins or free parking off Cherry Road.

Learn more here: Pink Palace Crafts Fair

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Stop Giving Away All Your Secrets!

http://www.dreamstime.com/stock-photography-top-secret-report-notebook-illustration-image-over-white-background-png-available-image43594502Given the rise in the use of social media by almost everyone, a new issue has risen in real estate.  Buyers and sellers inadvertently giving away their negotiating power through innocent comments on Facebook, Twitter, etc.

You don’t even have to be regularly active on social media to give your secrets away.  Tech savvy agents, buyers, and sellers are easily gaining information on the the people on the other side of the transaction like never before thanks to Google.  It’s then easy to use what you find to strengthen your negotiating power.  So whether you are buying or selling a home, here are some things you need to consider before you post.

Price

As a seller, do not brag about the how you got “more for your house than you ever thought you would” until AFTER closing.  If the buyer or their agent should run across that information, they’ll know you have extra room in your budget and nail you for everything that comes up on the inspection report. It doesn’t mean that you’ll have to fix everything, but they might be extra stubborn.

As a buyer, if you tell the entire world about “dream home” that you are absolutely in love with and will pay anything for, that might just come back to bite you in the butt.  If the seller or their agent run across that information while you are negotiating on the house, you can be assured that they will be much more stingy with you.

Problems with the property

As a buyer, if you are willing to overlook a defect of the house but still want to see if the seller will possibly repair it – keep that to yourself!  You will immediately kill any chance of the seller even considering it if you make that information public.

Concerns about the transaction

“The buyers just keep nickle and diming me.  I’m not doing anything else for them.”

“These are the worst sellers ever.  They won’t even consider reasonable repairs and I know they are making a lot of money…”

“My agent is the worst”

No matter how legitimate your questions or concerns may be, please remember that the internet is small world.  You never know which of your friends is also friends with the buyer, the seller, or any of the agents involved.  You could very easily give away your negotiating power without even realizing it.  I’m not saying to keep the fact that you are buying or selling a secret.  Just be smart with what you post and don’t say anything that you wouldn’t want the other side to know.

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101 Things To Do in Memphis #30: The Mid-South Maze

midsouth-mazeMost of the modern world is mapped—GPS devices capably guide people through entire road trips and atlases describe more terrain than most people could cover in an entire lifetime. While it’s difficult to reawaken humanity’s sense of surprise and discovery, The Mid-South Maze is up for the challenge. Every year, the maze’s manufacturers spend months carving up their cornfield into clever patterns that, when viewed from the sky, might appear as a famed sports logo or the face of a long-departed pharaoh. On the ground, however, that pattern vanishes, leaving wanderers to use their wits to navigate the arching corn passageways.

The Mid-South Maze entertains with more than just its winding labyrinth. On Friday and Saturday nights in October, actors clad as ghostly apparitions haunt the herbaceous hallways of a spooky tractor ride. A giant jumping pillow launches kids skyward and gently cushions their falls, and a corn cannon fires ears of corn at targets up to 100 yards away. Anyone who hits a target wins a prize from one of the maze’s sponsors and the right to eat nothing but popcorn balls until Thanksgiving.

Located at Agricentral International, The Mid-South Maze is now open through November 1, 2014. Hours of operation are Wednesday – Friday from 4-10 pm, Saturday from noon – 10 pm, and Sunday from noon – 8 pm. Admission to the corn maze is $7 for adults (13 & up), $5 for children (6-12) and free for children under 5 with the purchase of an adult ticket. The Haunted Corn Maze is $10/person with no discounts or coupons allowed. The 2014 maze design is an alien invasion with crop circles. Learn more on their website: http://www.midsouthmaze.com/

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How To Make Sure Your Fireplace Is Safe

By: Douglas Trattner

FireplaceWith chilly fall nights and winter just around the corner, how do you keep your fireplace and your family safe? The best tools you have are your eyes.

With regular visual inspections both inside your home and out, you’ll make sure your fireplace is in good shape for the burning season.

Checking From the Outside

Examine the chimney to make sure a chimney cap is present and in good repair. The metal cap keeps animals, rain, and snow out of the chimney, while acting as a spark arrester that prevents hot embers from landing on your roofing.

If you have a multi-story home or a steep roof, play it safe and use a pair of binoculars to check the chimney cap from the ground.

While you’re at it, make sure:

  • There’s no bird nest or debris buildup on the cap.
  • There are no tree limbs above or near the chimney.
  • The mortar and bricks on the chimney aren’t crumbling or missing.
  • The chimney rises at least 2 feet above where it exits the roof.
  • The chimney crown — the sloping cement shoulders at the top of the chimney — is beveled, which helps air flow.
  • The flue liner is visible above the chimney crown.
  • The chimney is plumb and not leaning to one side or the other.
  • The roof flashing is tight against the chimney.

If you spot anything amiss, call a licensed chimney professional or mason to remedy the problem. For pricey jobs, make sure to get a second estimate.

Looking Inside Your Home

With a flashlight, inspect the flue damper to make sure it opens, closes, and seals properly.

“If the damper doesn’t seal well, you’ll lose a tremendous amount of heat from the home when the fireplace isn’t in use,” explains Gary Spolar, a licensed sweep and owner of Century Chimney in northeast Ohio.

With the damper open, check the flue for combustible material such as animal nests or other foreign objects. You should be able to see daylight at the top.

Inspect the fireplace surround, hearth, and firebox to make sure there are no cracked bricks or missing mortar. Damage inside the firebox is serious — have a professional fireplace and chimney inspection. An inspection costs $79-$500.

Also, check for obvious signs of moisture inside the firebox, which could mean a faulty cap.

Inspecting a Gas-Burning Fireplace

We enjoy gas fireplaces because they’re low-maintenance — but that doesn’t mean they’re no-maintenance. You should:

  • Inspect the glass doors for cracks or latch issues.
  • Check that gas logs are in the proper position.
  • Turn gas off at the shut-off valve and test the igniter.
  • Ignite the fire and look for clogged burner holes. If present, turn off gas and clear obstructions with a pin or needle.

Visit HouseLogic.com for more articles like this. Reprinted from HouseLogic.com with permission of the National Association of REALTORS®. Read more: http://www.houselogic.com/home-advice/fireplaces-chimneys/how-make-sure-your-fireplace-safe/#ixzz3ECB4ga2h

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101 Things To Do in Memphis #29: Battlefront Laser Tag and Paintball

Battlefront LasertagSituated in a private 20-acre forest at Shelby Farms Park, Battlefront Laser Tag & Paintball is the newest option for outdoor fun. They offer outdoor laser tag and paintball games like you have never seen or played before!

Whether you’re planning a small family outing or a large group game, they have space and equipment for you! The wooded playing fields are loaded with obstacles and bunkers to hind behind. Playing at Battlefront is an experience that you will never forget. They use top-of-the-line equipment to create top-of-the-line fun for players of all ages and skill level, so there are a variety of ways to play.

LASER TAG PRICES

Package 1 | lighter weight equipment; better suited for younger players

  • 1/2 Hour: $9.99 per rental
  • 1 Hour:  $14.99 per rental
  • 2 Hours: $19.99 per rental

Package 2 | more equipment options; longer range; better suited for ages 10+

  •  1/2 Hour: $14.99 per rental
  • 1 Hour:  $24.99 per rental
  • 2 Hours: $29.99 per rental

Note: You can have up to 40 players on the field at any time. Additional players can be rotated into games. The price of your game depends on the number of pieces of equipment rented, not the number of players. Players will rotate in and out after each game or set of three games. Please book group sessions in advance.

PAINTBALL PRICES*

  • Admission:  $4.99 (does not include paintballs)
  • Rental Paintball Gun and Face Mask: $9.99
  • Paintballs:: $4.99 and up

Packages include a protective face mask, paintball marker, a compressed air tank with unlimited air fills and an optional hip pack for extra paintballs.

For more information, check out their website. http://battlefrontmemphis.com/

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Memphis Real Estate Market Report – September 2014

This month in August, sales were down 28% compared to last year at the same time. This means we really need to be aggressive on how we “look.” I have a great staging list I would be glad to email you for free – just call or email me! Back to the numbers average sales prices were up 12% compared to last August. Year-to-date home sales in Shelby County were down 7% from this period last year, but again sales prices are up 7%. Only 3 zip codes in the county had an increase in overall sales activity for the month – 38016, 28028, 38133. But, 15 zip codes had increases in average sales prices. Collierville, 38017 had the most home sales for the month with 101 recorded, but that is still down 5% from last August. Home sales under $100k were down 39% from last year. Home sales over $300k were down 19% from last August. Also, if you are interested in selling your home or are interested in buying a home; please feel free to contact me at 901-230-2610 or 901-756-8900. You can email me at Melissa@YourKeytoMemphis.com. Be sure to visit www.YourKeytoMemphis.com for all of your real estate needs.

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101 Things To Do In Memphis #28: Best Memphis Burger Fest

best memphis burgerA favored event among local foodies, the 3rd annual Best Memphis Burger Fest will be held on September 21st at Minglewood Hall on 1555 Madison Avenue. Talented locals and restauranteurs will participate in this cooking competition, which is sponsored by Best Memphis Burger Blog and Memphis Paws, Inc. Last year, almost $6,500 was raised for Mid-South Spay & Neuter Services through the event.

The festival runs from 10:30 am to 6 pm with live music playing throughout the day. Cooking teams will compete in four categories: best Memphis burger, best veggie burger, best anything-but-beef burger and best extreme/creative burger. Teams also will kick off the day with an early morning Bloody Mary competition. Meanwhile, hungry attendees can participate in burger eating contests. In addition, there will be vendors, food trucks, pet adoption opportunities, corn hole for the kids and more. Admission is $7.

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