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Kitchen Renovation-Nice Touches

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PART 1 of this two part blog entry covered some of the planning considerations and things you should do when contemplating a Kitchen renovation. Part 2 will cover some small items, that can make a big difference to the usability of your Kitchen. These items aren't just for use in new Kitchens. Most of them can be added relatively easily to your existing Kitchen. Several of these items were things I was going to leave out to get the budget in line. It took about 6 weeks to get the cabinets fabricated which gave me some time to work on getting these items back in the project. Fortunately in all cases I was able to scrape together some additional money to get these items back in the scope of work by the time the work actually began.

Under-Cabinet LED Lighting:
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When I was coming up with the original scope of work for the Kitchen I divided the work into "Must have" and "Like to Have" categories. I actually had to do some cutting within the "Must Have" categories to get the project on budget. This meant all of the items on the "Like to Have" list were off the table. I was able to come up with the money for the under-cabinet lighting and am so glad I did. I used unswitched (locally switched), AC powered LED lighting. The fixtures are 1 1/2" x 1 1/2" (3.75 x 3.75 cm) and come in various lengths to suit typical wall cabinet widths. LED lighting is very bright, but energy efficient. The 10' (3 M) of LED under-cabinet lighting I used uses just under 30 Watts when they are all in use. The strip lights I bought were AC powered and AC powered LED strip lights come in two varieties, individually switched or no switches. The unswitched lights are intended to be strung together and switched by a regular wall switch. I my case I would have needed 3 different switches and I decided I would rather keep the walls clean and switch the lights individually. This was a great decision. Many times I come into the kitchen and simply switch on the LED light directly in front of where I was working. This gives me a lot of flexibility and is very energy efficient.

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These lights give off a very even light on both the backsplash wall and the counter. The LED bulbs themselves are spaced about 4" (10 cm) on center and seem to have a very wide angle beam spread. You can leave up to about a 3" or 4” (7.5 or 10 cm) gap between fixtures and still get an even wash of light on the backsplash wall and counter-at least for the type of fixtures I have. You may need to leave a small gap between fixtures if the space you have is a bit wider than the available fixture lengths. The lighting has a bit of a yellowish color temperature, a bit like tungsten lighting. Without getting too technical color temperature is measured in a unit called degrees Kelvin. The color temperature of daylight is 5,000K. Typical tungsten lighting is around 2,700K and can appear more yellowish. I say “can appear”, because the human eye tends to compensate for different color temperatures. If the brain sees something like a piece of paper, that is normally white, it will compensate for the color temperature difference and you will "see" white. That same piece of paper will appear white to you in daylight, tungsten lighting or fluorescent under most conditions as long as there is nothing to give it away. LED lighting can be around 3,000K. The more expensive LED under-counter lighting has a more accurate color temperature of 3,500K. This points out one thing you need to be careful of. You don't want to mix and match fixtures made by two different manufacturers or from two different price points by the same manufacturers. While your brain will compensate for a single color temperature shift, two fixtures with two different color temperatures will appear to give off two different shades of light. So chose your fixtures carefully and make sure their color temperature in degrees K are the same.

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Lastly the fixtures are available in battery powered versions. These are a good solution for people who have cabinets already in place and aren't going to be opening up walls as part of a renovation project. I would not recommend these if you have easy access to the electrical wiring. While the lights are relatively low wattage, you will still need to keep a supply of batteries around. Also take a look at how easy it is to change the batteries. Some of these battery powered fixtures have a separate unit the houses the battery and switch, and can be used several fixtures.

GFCI Outlet/LED Nightlight:
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I was walking through Lowes Electrical Department one day on my way to the back of the store. As I passed through one of the electrical aisles I saw something very interesting to me: A duplex GFCI outlet with an integral LED nightlight. In plain English this meant a two plug Ground Fault Circuit Interrupting outlet with a built in LED nightlight. GFCI outlets are required within 6' of any sinks in a kitchen. They shut off when another path to ground appears, such as you have one arm in the sink and plug in an appliance that has some faulty wiring. The new path to ground for the electricity is your arm and by extension your body. The GFCI outlets turn off in the event of an excessive flow of electricity in the wrong direction. You've seen them before, in Kitchens or Baths near the sinks or on exterior outlets. They have a Test and Reset button on the face of the fixture in addition to the outlets. These outlets took the typical GFCI fixture and added a clear strip in the middle that housed an LED nightlight. I have seen fixtures before where one of the the two outlets is replace by a built in LED nightlight. The problem with this is you lose one outlet to gain the nightlight. A plug in nightlight has the same problem-you lose and outlet. Many of the plugin nightlights often have a light sensor intended to turn the nightlight off during the day or if the main room lights are on. In my experience the problem with these units with light sensors is they tend to flicker in low lighting situations. This flickering will quickly drive you crazy.

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My contractor was taking out all of the switches and outlets as part of the work on the backsplash, so he didn't care what outlet he put back in. I simply picked up 3 of these outlets at the last minute to use in my Kitchen. The Pass & Seymour GFCI nightlight is sold at Lowes & Home Depot (among others) & comes in several standard outlet colors. These LED nighlights give off enough light to help you find your way around the Kitchen at night when no other lights are on. They do NOT flicker in low light situations, they dim from full brightness to off depending on the amount of ambient lighting present. I appreciate their good looks and the fact they do not use up an outlet wherever you want to have an nightlight. I don't know if one unit only would be able to light the whole Kitchen, but several spread out through the room do the job nicely.

Electric Range with "Turbo Boil" Burner:
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My existing 5 year old Glasstop electric range had lost the biggest burner just before the work on the Kitchen was to begin. I looked into getting the burner fixed and the cost was almost as much as the range originally cost me to buy. I started looking into getting a new cooktop and I settled on a Kenmore Elite cooktop that had a feature they called "Turbo Boil". Other manufactures have a similar feature they call various names such as "Fast Boil" etc. I paid more for the cooktop that had this feature included, but for me it is well worth it. Turbo Boil is simply a high wattage burner used to bring large pans full of liquid to a boil very quickly. This cooktop has two 9" (22 cm) burners. One is part of a 3 element burner cluster. The other burner is a separate 9" (22 cm) burner and has "Turbo Boil" marked on it near the edge. The regular 9" burner (part of the 3 element burner) is rated 3,000 Watts. The other is 9,000 Watts. Simple as that. The end result is you can bring a large pan of water to a rolling boil in between 3-4 minutes. This is a huge time saver, but it is not without it's downsides. You need to monitor this burner very carefully because you can go from zero to boil-over in the blink of an eye. You also may not use this burner very often except for quick boiling needs. You don't have the same degree of fine temperature control as you do with the other burners. For my purposes I do enough parboiling, brines and batches of pasta it was a great feature for me. Your mileage may vary.

Spray Hose Type Faucet:
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These faucets have been around for a long time, but there still may be some folks around who haven’t used them. People seem to have a love hate feeling towards these type of faucets. Since I am including it here, you know how I feel. This type of faucet has a head with a concealed 6' (1.75 M) hose that fits into the arm of the faucet. The faucet can be used normally and when needed the head can be removed from the arm and act as a spray head on a 6' hose. I love being able to pull the faucet out and use it to fill a large pan or pail sitting up on the counter (vs. sitting in the sink which may not be 100 percent clean. It is also handy for cleaning large sheet pans where you can remove the head and hold it up high near the top of the pan and spray the water straight down the pan and into the sink.

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The first few items were electrical or plumbing related items. This next round of items are organizational type items that help you both organize and maximize your usage of your base cabinets, wall cabinets, drawers & even doors. In my case they all came from a great store called The Container Store. I have used them many times for previous storage solutions. They have about 60 locations around the country, but if there isn’t one near you Google "The Container Store" and you can check out all of their creative storage solutions. If you can't find a similar item locally, you can order everything online.

Stepped Spice Storage Shelves:
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There are many solutions offered for storing spices. Some are quite elegant and beautiful but typically they suffer from 1 problem: They are good for small amounts of spices and are impractical or unusable for large amounts of spices. Rather than bore you with all of the solutions that don't work, let me cut to the chase and tell you what I bought and what works for me. The 3-Tier Acrylic Cabinet Organizer is an 18" (45 cm) long 3 level plastic shelf. It also had the advantage of being one of the least expensive units I looked at. Probably because it was about the simplest solution. It gives you 3 tiers of raised storage plus you can put another row of spices in front of the unit for 4 rows front to back total. Now if I was to put the spices flat on the cabinet I could get a total of 5 spices front to back. But that is how I used to have my spices in the old Kitchen and there is a lot of time wasted trying to search for jars in the back of the cabinet. With the stepped shelves it is easy to see and access all of the spices. One of the reasons I bought this simple plastic stepped shelf is I could customize the length. This unit is made of plastic, not stainless steel or metal so is easily cut. It does not have end supports which I would cut off if I shortened the unit. My cabinet had about 32" (81 cm) of clear space and I needed two shelves worth of spice storage. I bought four 18" (45 cm) units and cut them down to four 16" (40 cm) units using my band saw. I can't tell you how easy it is to find my spices now. I am in and out of the spice cabinet in no time now.

elfa Door & Wall Rack Solution:
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elfa is a Swedish company that makes many types of creative storage solutions. The Container Store sells this line exclusively, and I have used their products many time before. An example of this is the wire mesh shelves I use to hold my GRILLING GEAR. This particular product consists of a door height shelving standard, which can be screwed directly to the door (or wall) or hung on a door using adjustable top and bottom mounting clamps to secure it. There are 6 different shelf types that can be used on this system. They range from shelves intended to hold small spice jars up to shelves that can hold 2-Liter soda bottles. The shelving standard can hold up to 6 shelves, which can be mixed and matched to suit your particular storage needs. This system is very space efficient when it is mounted to the back of a closet door. You get 6 shelves of additional storage which basically fits within the confines of the door opening and takes up next to no room outside the door opening. I bought one of these with 6 shelves intended to hold spices. I mounted this unit on the stair side of the door from my Kitchen to my basement. I use it to hold overflow spices, where I have one or more unopened backup jars of certain spices. This is a really clever storage solution in that it creates more storage space without require much additional space for that storage.

Drawer Organizers-Flexible:
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i bought several “Kitchen Dream Drawer Organizers” from the Container Store. They are expandable drawer organizers which expand to provide a tight fit on drawers anywhere from 18” to 21 1/2” (46 - 55 cm) in depth. I am very pleased with these items because they help the drawer not turn into unorganized general clutter. It is very easy to find exactly what I am looking for.




Drawer Organizers-Fixed:
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I also got some “Silver Mesh Drawer Organizers” which are epoxy coated steel wire mesh bins that come in modular sizes that you can mix and match to create storage solutions within the drawer. I picked up several of these to help organize my silverware drawer and the drawer where I keep my various measuring spoons. In the grand scheme of things there are small items, but they help keep the drawer organized and make it very easy to find what I want when I want it.


Base Cabinet Drawer Unit:
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The area under the oven was a wide open cabinet without a shelf and this was a storage problem. It was really too big to be used as a wide open storage cabinet. The elfa Cabinet Sized Mesh Drawer Solution comes in 3 widths and consists of a 4 runner frame that can receive 1,2,3 or 4 wire mesh sliding drawers. The drawers are modular in height so you can pick drawer heights to suit your storage needs. You can use 2 double height drawers, or two single height drawers, plus a double height drawer or 4.... I think you get the idea. There is also a solid top cap you can get for this unit that acts like a top shelf above the top drawer and keeps things from falling into the top drawer.


Stackable Bins:
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The elfa Cabinet Sized Mesh Drawer Solution was narrower than my cabinet width so i also picked up some clear acrylic nesting/stackable storage bins to utilize the remaining space in the cabinet. The Container had bins in many sizes, so I was able to use up the remaining space rather efficiently. I bought 4 units that were about 4” wide x 4” high and 20” deep (10 x 10 x 50 cm). I use these to hold small lose items like lidded plastic storage containers of various sizes. What is nice here is I pull out one bin and all of the similar items are all together.


Wall Cabinet Shelves:
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To help use the space inside of several wall cabinets more efficiently I bought several Container Store Chrome Cupboard Shelves. These shelves come in several widths and heights to suit different cabinets sizes and storage needs. The shelves use a flat metal wire that makes it easier to slide items on and off the shelves. There is also a raised lip in the back to help keep items from sliding off the shelves. These shelves also fit very tightly together when arranged side-by-side and it made it easy for me to use 2 shelves to hold 3 types of plates side-by-side. There is also a convenient one-legged model for use in corner cabinets. The Container Store also has other styles and brands that may suit your needs better.

So there you have it. With the help of some organizational items you can fit a lot more in some of these cabinets than you ever would have imagined. Plus they help keep you organized, so even though you have more things in each cabinet or drawer, they are actually easier to find. Some of these small touches have made a big difference in how much I like the new Kitchen.

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