A Sleek and Cool Silestone Fireplace

Queen of the Tile was asked to work on a very cool, contemporary project in Houston.  It involved a shower pan repair, new tile on the kitchen floor, new Silestone countertops in the kitchen and one of the most interesting fireplace designs that we have ever installed.  The Silestone color selected was Kensho from the Volcano Series.  Here is the “Before” picture of the fireplace.

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The architect and general contractor for the project was Jesse Hager from Content in Houston.  The installation took two days because some of the pieces like the caps and side wall could not be measured and fabricated until after installing the larger face of the fireplace.  Below is the “After” picture.

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This installation was very detailed due to the precise cuts for the shelf and firebox openings and all the corners (top and side) were all mitred corners as can be seen in the next picture.

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Alot of other fabricators would probably find a project like this a pain in the a__, but Queen of the Tile is always ready for an interesting and different challenge.

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Do Renovations Pay Off?

According to Remodeling Magazine’s annual survey, only steel entry-door replacements can be counted on to boost home value enough to recoup 100 percent of costs. Of course, the value of a renovation doesn’t depend on the resale price alone, which makes deciding whether to do one more complicated than just crunching numbers.

“If the purchaser walks into a home and says, ‘Wow, look at this kitchen, honey, it’s so great,’ and if that home sells quicker, the seller still gets value from the renovation, whether they get the return on investment or not,” says Kit Hale, general manager of MKB Realtors in Roanoke, Va. The home might sell quicker, or the buyer might be so excited about a particular feature that they ignore other problems, such as water damage or much-needed maintenance elsewhere.

For anyone trying to decide whether to take on a home renovation, these five tips can help:

1. Think about what you, the current homeowner, want from your home.

Homeowners can get a lot of value out of renovations before they even put the home on the market. “If you have a dated kitchen or the stove doesn’t work, you can invest money now to glean some enjoyment as well as make the home more appealing when you sell it,” says Hale.

That’s what Erin Schaff and her boyfriend did when they decided to upgrade their two-bedroom condo in Victoria, Canada, several years ago. “It wasn’t in horrible shape, but we wanted to upgrade,” she says, so they spent about $10,000 replacing the baseboards, window trim, and floors. They also remodeled the bathrooms and upgraded the hardware. In addition, they put new cabinets, appliances, and granite countertops in the kitchen.

Schaff and her boyfriend enjoyed all those upgrades before deciding to sell their home earlier this year. She believes the renovations paid off, too. “Had we not renovated, we probably would have lost money as we had purchased the condo at the peak of the real estate boom. Instead, we turned a profit and covered most of the costs of purchasing the house we now live in,” she says.

To see the whole article, please follow this link.

Cracks in your New Shower!!

I had a previous customer call the other day that she had cracks in her shower wall corners. Thank God we installed her kitchen countertops and backsplash, not the shower!! So I went over the other day to take a look.

Slight crack in a Backsplash

Very Slight Crack

This is a common occurrence when your tile person does not have enough experience to use grout and matching caulk for your tile project. Let’s face it. All houses move and shift, be it a house on pilings or a house on a slab foundation. All houses move! And where is the first place you will see cracks or movement? Anywhere one plane of material meets another plane. In other words, where two walls meet in a corner, where your ceiling meets your walls, where your backsplash meets your countertop or in the walls of your shower.

Big Crack in the Grout

Large Crack in Grout

As an experienced tile setter, I learned a long time ago that all grouts have a matching caulk of the same color. I rarely buy grout at the box store on the Island because they only carry a few of the matching caulk colors. So I always buy my grout and caulk at Master Tile (now Crossville Tile) since they carry all the grouts and matching caulks. If they don’t have the one you need in stock, they will order it for you.

This is not an expensive step to take, but it is more time consuming on the job site and requires a bit more clean up. If cracking still occurs, there may be more issues at hand since we did all we could to prevent the cracks. If you have cracks after the fact, try and match the caulk as best as you can, scrape out as much old grout as you can and put a nice bead of matching caulk in its place. Caulk clean up is not hard if you don’t cut the caulk tube too far up the nozzle and use a damp sponge for clean up. After a few feet of caulking, you will be a pro. Or just call us at Queen of the Tile and Medusa Tile. We’ll take care of it for you. Happy Caulking!!

Jaw-Dropping Kitchens and Baths: Add Unique Touches to Your Home for Improved Function, Increased Value

Hand Made Subway Tile

As Realtors, we notice that many clients, upon seeing a new home for the first time, quickly inspect the kitchen and bath areas. “The kitchen is the heart of the home”, as the saying goes, and we find this to be true: at parties, family gatherings, breakfast on Sunday-the kitchen seems to have a gravitational pull where everyone wants to gather and mingle.
Additionally, bathrooms play an important role in the eyes of homeowners as well. Certainly, it’s a room originally built for function and that alone, but taking things a step further and adding some creature comforts and eye catching features not only attract buyers, but can add to the overall satisfaction and happiness of the homeowner once the purchase is complete.
An effective method to add a little ‘eye candy’ to both kitchens and baths is through the use of unique materials for countertops, back splashes and showers. There are some breathtaking choices available now for countertops, such as amethyst. There is even a technique your local tile and granite specialist can perform that gives the look of leather, imagine that! They provide a refreshing alternative to the ordinary, and certainly make a room stand out. Another item that recently caught our eye while visiting Medusa Tile was glow in the dark tile. Yes, that’s right, glow in the dark! By day, it keeps its wonderful secret hidden, but when the lights go out….Baby, you’ve never seen an effect like this! Tile your shower floor, add a few accents pieces along the wall, or use your imagination to create a dramatic effect no other home is likely to possess.
The way you install your new choices can add function and interest as well. Rounding out the end of a kitchen island to accommodate a seating area is a popular and sought-after feature in many homes. It provides a convenient area for kids to have breakfast, friends to sit and chat, or even to lay out a buffet style dinner for guests.
Perhaps you’ve even considered adding a mural in either room with the use of glass mosaics? There are so many choices that can be made, we’ve seen much of this work firsthand and it truly adds to the beauty of a room and gives a unique twist to it that will set your home apart from the rest of the block. It is proven that updating your kitchen and baths adds significant value to your property’s value when it comes time to sell.
With so many decisions to make and products to choose from, you should contact a local specialist that can give you ideas and educate you on all the materials available for use in your home. Whichever products you choose, your home is bound to stand out above the rest with a little help from the experts. Let Marisa at Medusa Tile help you with your selections and installations and let our dynamic team, Debbie and Natalie, help you get your property sold!

This article was written by Natalie Clark and Debbie Olsen at Galveston Real Estate. Thanks very much girls!!

Why is There a Huge Range in Granite Countertop Pricing?

Have you seen those signs around town saying “Granite Installed for $ 18.00/SF”? Or the one for $ 99.00 a piece? A piece of what? Why is there such a difference in pricing? There are a few reasons. When shopping for countertops, as with anything else, be sure to compare apples to apples because there is a vast difference in natural stone countertop fabrication.

Many of the less expensive companies can offer a lower price for these reasons:

1. They are using pre-fabricated granite material. This is a 8′ or 9′ long granite piece that already has a Full Bull Nose edge on one of the long run sides. These pre-fabs are cut and edged at the factories in China or India. They are done very cheaply. There are not many colors to choose from. There also is not a consistency from 1 piece to the next, so if your project requires a seam because it is longer than 9′, the seam is likely to look bad. If you are updating a bath vanity, a pre-fab may work okay, but if your project is your kitchen which has a turn or two in the configuration, I would not recommend pre-fabs. (I will go into more details about this at a later date.)

2. This less expensive company probably does not have a true shop or warehouse and is going to cut your pieces in your driveway and make a huge mess.

3. This company may hire illegal workers, pays their workers in cash, does not withhold for social securty,etc. and probably does not have insurance.

The bottom line is this. If you are working on a rental house or something you are flipping, the less expensive guys might be okay. But if you are shopping around for your personal home, I would stay away from the guys with a sign on the side of the road. It’s just like your Mom told you growing up, “You get what you pay for.”

The kitchen project below was NOT done using pre-fab granite and was installed by Queen of the Tile!

Granite Island with Silestone Countertops

Victoria Regio Countertops with Green Beach Sea Glass Mosaic

Granite or Silestone: That’s the Question

Silestone Countertops

Blanco-Zeus Silestone Kitchen

Customers ask me this all the time:  What material is better for kitchen countertops, granite or silestone?  Well, I’m a bit partial, but I will be as honest as I can on this subject.  They are both wonderful products and each have pros and cons.

Let’s talk about Silestone first.  Silestone is a man-made quartz product that comes in 2cm and 3 cm thicknesses and a variety of beautiful rich colors.  Silestone is made with anti-bacterial magic stuff put into all slabs, thus the need for sealing is not necessary.  Silestone is also a more flexible material, thus eliminating the need for plywood decking for support.  Although sometimes decking will still be required so the drawers do not interfere with the edge lamination.  Your builder or granite fabricator should be able to help you with this option.

Granite is a natural stone that is quarried from all over the world, sliced to 2 cm and 3cm thicknesses, polished and imported to our area.  All natural stone varies in its porosity, but all natural stone should be sealed.  This may sound scary, but it is not.  Sealing is included in all installations by Queen of the Tile.  This process should last 2 – 3 years depending on how you are cleaning your countertops.  I encourage all our customers to use a Stone Tech product called Revitalizer.  It is a cleaner and a sealer, so everytime you are using it, you are re-sealing your tops and should never have any problems.

Have you figured it out yet?  I believe that  whatever shortfalls granite or silestone  may have, these issues can be easily overcome one way or another.  So I tell my customers to pick the color that best suits their decor and just go with it!

Granite and Silestone Edge Options

Edge Options for Granite and Silestone Countertops

3 Edge Options for Slab Countertops

There are 4 things that will decide how much you pay for your granite countertops.  The material and color  you choose, the edge option you choose, the slab yard your material comes from and the fabricator you choose to do the fabrication and installation.  I have already touched on the slab yard experience that is a must for your project.  In fact, if your granite fabricator or remodel store does NOT let you select your own slabs*, you should not use them!!  This means that they might be buying inferior material from an natural stone importer that is bringing in poor quality slabs.  If you are “flipping” a house or your project is for a rental property, this might be okay.  But if your project is for your home, I would run away from this fabricator or remodel store!  I encourage customers to make that trip to the yard so they know exactly which granite slabs (and color shading) will be going into their home.

Let’s talk about material thickness today.  Natural stone and quartz slabs come in 2 thicknesses:  3/4″ (also called 2 cm) and 1 1/4″ (also called 3 cm).  You have 3 common options on what edge thickness you will have installed.  Please see the sketch I have drawn to better illustrate the edge options.  What’s the difference in the two materials, you ask?  Obviously, 2 cm material costs less(on average about $ 5.00-$ 7.00/SF) than the 3 cm material because you are buying less material.

The common edge choices when using the 2cm thickness is a 3/4″ edge or a 1 1/2″ laminated edge.  The second choice is laminated because a 1 1/2″ strip of material is glued to the bottom edge of the countertop, making the edge 1 1/2″ thick.  When using 3 cm thick material, the common edge is 1 1/4″.  We have laminated the 3 cm material before, making the final edge thickness equal to 2 1/2″ thick.  We have also used 2 laminations on the 2cm material, making the final edge thickness equal to 2 1/4″.  These were done due to the need to cover 2 layers of plywood decking for a bartop or just due to customer preference.  You must be careful that your granite laminations do not interfere with the drawers opening after installation.  On some occasions, more plywood decking must be installed.

As noted earlier, the 2 cm natural stone material costs less than the 3 cm material and there are often more color choices in 2 cm material.  I’m not quite sure why, but the Houston countertop market has focused more on the 2 cm material, while the Austin and Dallas markets install more 3 cm granite material.  It is also a common miconception that using 3 cm material will lower your labor costs since the fabricator is skipping the lamination step. While this is true, 3 cm material is so much heavier to install that 4 – 6 men or more are required to lift these pieces when a 2 cm job is usually installed by 2 men.  You will save some money due to the fact that plywood decking** is not necessary for a 3 cm installation.

*  If your selection of countertops is a quartz product like Silestone, you won’t be asked to go select your slabs because this product is a man-made product.  While some specific colors will probably vary a bit, the overall color and pattern remain fairly consistant to the samples you see in the store.

**  Plywood decking is not required when installing a quartz material like Silestone since these quartz products have a bit more flexibility than a natural stone has.