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Countertop Choices

With so many different countertop material options, how do you decide which is best for your home?

If you’re looking for a natural stone, granite is the best choice. It’s comprised of many different minerals that give each slab of countertop a unique and attractive appearance. Granite is ecofriendly, heat, scratch and stain resistant, and also has durability and strength to last over time with proper care. It was used in ancient Egypt to build pyramids and continues to grace today’s kitchen designs.

Expect granite countertop prices to range between $35-$200 per square foot.

Quartz is an engineered product and is one of the toughest countertop materials. Many enjoy this type because of its many options for color, patterns, textures, and finishes. There is no need for sealing and it is non porous and durable. It is resistant to stains, bacteria and scratches. It is low maintenance and can last a lifetime if treated properly. The downside of this stone is that it is not heat resistant and direct sunlight over an extended period of time will cause it to fade.

The cost of quartz countertops without installation fees included is about $25-$75 per square foot.

Laminate countertops are the most affordable due to the surface being made from layers of plastic that are bonded to particleboard or kraft paper to create a solid countertop surface. They come in wide ranges of colors and patterns. Because of its light weight, nature laminate can easily be installed with professional help. Higher quality laminate countertops can be tough, durable, and can even mimic the look of more expensive surfaces. Prices for this type of material range from $15-$50 per square foot.

A popular new countertop trend is using concrete. This is a custom made technique with various stamping and staining techniques. It’s durable and requires the same level of maintenance as granite. May have a textured finish and can be formed on site to fit oddly sized or shaped areas. Material is susceptible to stains and heavy weight may cause cracking. You would spend $70-$140 per square foot on this type of countertop.

Recycled glass countertops have some of the most unique appearances. They are made of glass held together with cement binder so a wide range of colors can be chosen. It comes from commercial and domestic sources. It is varied in design through different colors and sizes of glass that make no two alike. The material is durable and strong and is not prone to chipping or cracking. It’s easy to maintain and clean and also heat and stain resistant. It is also the only green building option available for counters. Price point for this type of material would be about $50-$125 per square foot.

Butcher-block countertops are ideal for those who enjoy baking and other types of food prep. They add warmth and natural coloring. It’s a soft material that’s easy on glassware and dishes. After years of use it can be sanded and resealed, making them look new again. The average costs per square foot of butcher block countertop can range from $40 to $60.

Marble is the quintessential classic choice for countertop material. It is made with metaphoric rock containing high concentration of calcite or dolomite. It is a luxurious surface that lends warmth and sophistication. This material varies in the size of the grains and amount of veining, stone quarried from different parts of the world have a unique appearance. Fine grained marble is more consistent in color. Here is a list of many types of marble you can choose from:

Carrara: White or Blue-Gray, from Italy, Connemara: Green, from Ireland, Creole: White or Blue & Black, from Georgia, Etowah: Pink, Salmon, rose, from Georgia ,Murphy: White, from USA, Parian: Very White, from Greece, Purbeck: Gray/Brown, from the UK ,Ruskeala: White, from Russia, Sienna: Yellow w/various color veins, from Italy, Swedish Green: Green, from Sweden, Vermont White: White, from Vermont, Wunsiedel: White, from Germany, Makrana: White, from India

There are three different finishes for marble countertops which are:

Honed or Matte– Sanded smooth with a soft feel, matte finish mutes color hiding scratches

Polished– Surface grinded and buffed to produce a rich luster that sparkles, brings out color and veining, most susceptible to showing scratches

Leather– Preferred on darker marble, textures the finish to better hide scratches and fingerprints while still offering some gleam

Marble costs vary widely depending on the quality and aesthetic appearance. A lower end price would be $40 per square foot, a mid-range price would be close to $60/sf, and the upper end can extend well beyond $100 / sf.

Solid surface countertops made with synthetic material and sturdy acrylics are versatile and durable. They have extremely low porosity which keeps bacteria away, promoting a cleaner and more sanitary countertop. They come in over 100 different colors and patterns. They are on the upper side of the price spectrum costing $75-$125 per square foot.

Tile countertops are produced using ceramic tile, glass tile, and porcelain tile. It is the most versatile material coming in a endless variety of styles, sizes, shapes and color. It offers unlimited opportunities to create a look tailor made for your home. They are heat-resistant and also stain and scratch resistant up to a point. One big advantage is that if one tile gets damaged, you can replace the one tile without having to get a whole new countertop. The cost of tile material is relatively inexpensive and can range from $20-$75 per square foot.

Lava countertop is custom cut for each individual order, glazed with enamel at heat in excess of 1,300 degrees Fahrenheit. The glazing used gives it a very smooth, non -porous finish that is completely water resistant. As the countertop cools, small cracks in the glazing appear, known as crazing, they give the countertop a completely unique appearance. It resists chipping and cracking, withstands heat, stains and acid from cleaners or foods. Will not fade in the UV rays of the sun. Can be finished glossy or matte look. Be prepared to spend $250-$300 per square feet on this material.

Crafted from cured epoxy synthetic material , acrylic or polyester resin countertops can be produced to any standard lengths. They have seamless finishes, have many color and style options and are cut to order from “blanks” or can be customized. They are durable, resistant to impact, staining, UV rays, scratches, heat and acids. The level of coloration found in the resin can be regulated to produce a variety of effects. They are also non-porous and do not support the growth of bacteria or fungus. The only disadvantages of this material is that it lacks consistency among products and not all are created equal, you get what you pay for. You can spend between $50-$125 per square foot.

If you are going for a contemporary or retro look then stainless steel is the way to go. It is clean and efficient, that also complements materials such as wood cabinetry and natural stone flooring. Comes in a number of different finishes that are durable and non-porous. It is one of the most sanitary materials you can use. The average minimum cost of this material is $67.76 per square foot and the average maximum price of stainless steel countertops is $95.51 per square foot.

Manufactured from a type of clay that is heavy in a mineral known as kaolinite, porcelain countertops can be produced into slabs that are coated with pigmented glaze and fired at high temperatures to enhance its strength and beauty. There are many available colors and patterns with several finishes. One popular brand for this material is Neolith. They are 30% stronger than granite and can be installed over existing countertops that also requires no sealing. They are durable lightweight slabs that are heat resistant, easy to clean and can be recycled. You can spend between $60-$100 per square foot based on the specific material, type of edge you have beveled into it and the complexity of the job. The more corners, cutouts, and seams you have, the higher the cost per square foot is likely to be.

With all these options to choose from it can be hard to decide which material to use when remodeling your home. Always remember to stick to your budget and to choose the material that you think would fit best with your design.


Hurricane Safe Rooms

Living in Hawaii, which is prone to hurricanes and tropical storms, it is a smart idea to have a hurricane safe room installed in your home. Even though we haven’t had a hurricane hit since 1992, Hurricanes regularly come close to our shores. It’s always best to make sure you are prepared for the worst.

Older Hawai’i homes that were constructed using the single wall method, typically haven’t endured a hurricane since their construction. Unless they have been retrofitted, they are vulnerable to structural collapse under a hurricane’s high wind pressure and wind borne debris impacts. As a general rule, homes on Oahu should consider having safe rooms if they were built before the late 1980’s.

The first thing to do before constructing your safe room is to check if your home is in a hurricane evacuation zone or an area prone to flooding. A safe room will not protect against the dangers of flooding. If you are not located in one of these areas, here are some things you should have in mind when designing a safe room. It should be located in the interior of the structure, as close to the center as possible and have no outside walls. It should be large enough to store emergency supplies as well as fit family members and pets.

Depending on the event you are preparing for these are space requirements to consider for residential one-and two-family dwellings: 7 square feet per person, and  40 square feet per bed ridden person

After deciding an appropriate size, now it’s time to think about if you are going to install the safe room in an existing home or as a separate building. If building inside an existing home, the most convenient location is the basement.  Since we are in Hawaii and basements are not plentiful, placing a safe room on the first floor interior of a building will work, as long as it’s supported by interior walls. A major benefit of building a safe room within a home or garage is that it allows those inside to get to safety without having to go outside in the weather. One safety measure that comes with building a safe room in an existing building is that it has to be weighed against the challenge of retrofitting the building. The cost according to FEMA, of a 64 square foot room of their design ranges from $6,600-$9,000. A 200 square foot room ranges from $12,000-$14,500. Keep in mind that these are national averages, and are based on modifying an already existing room. Altering the structure of your home to add a safe room will have higher costs.

Design factors to consider while constructing your safe room are;

Walls: Sturdy and resist high velocity projectiles, resistant to positive & negative wind pressures. Should be made with concrete or reinforced with steel anchors and be windowless

Doors: Made of solid wood or metal, door frame should be reinforced if possible

Windows: If you do not have an interior room to use as a safe room, it is important that any windows in your room are reinforced. You can install bullet proof glass, reinforce existing with shatterproof laminate, install Plexiglas windows, but the best option is to have metal hurricane shutters.

Power: Back-up power source like a Goal Zero Solar powered generator to provide light

Ventilation: A ventilation system independent of outside power lines is worth considering because of the same size of safe rooms and the possibility the room could be needed for more than 24 hours. To prevent air leakage, safe room should not have lay-in ceilings, unless there are hard ceiling above.

Sleeping Area & Storage: Because there is no way of telling if at some point you will need to stay for over 24 hours, consider additional floor area to accommodate sleeping. Also think about if you have a need for cabinets or special lockers, include these as additional needed area in design

Here are a couple smaller items you can add to your safe room: =

-Install a hard-wired phone in the room

-Place a 72-hour emergency kit for each person in safe room

If you are retrofitting an already existing room, there are pre-fabricated safe room kits that can be purchased. If you go this route, you may want to have your room inspected to make sure it meets FEMA design requirements. If you have any questions or are considering having a professionally built safe room, you can contact us anytime.

Below are some helpful links:

Click here to check if your home is in a hurricane evacuation zone or an area prone to flooding:

Follow this link to see the requirements of building a safe room in your home:


Honolulu Condo Remodeling

How come no one ever talks about the remodeling of a condo  here on the islands? All you hear about in Honolulu’s home improvement industry is the remodeling of a home, or the construction of a new one. What about the fixer upper condo’s that are hiding in plain sight. There are far more condos for sale in Hawaii then there are homes.

There is a lot of thought that goes into the remodeling of a condo.  It’s best to keep in mind if it’s for your own benefit or if you decide to sell the property in a few years.  Planning to stay for over 5 years then design for yourself. Having a goal of designing for yourself, helps you in deciding how much money you are willing to put into your project. If you decide to sell the property sooner than treat the project as if you’re flipping a home. Flipping could help you save in the long run because it usually requires less money since the goal is to sell the property.

Prioritization is key when deciding to renovate your  space.  It is best to have a budget and keep track of all expenses during the process. Most times it will cost more than you think, so be sure you are financially responsible.  Before you start any renovations make sure you get a scope of your project. Having a plan will help you before any work starts to begin.  Now comes the time to hiring the professionals. Often  times people find their design and construction professionals through word of mouth. It’s always a good idea to compare three quotes, so you can get quality work for a reasonable price. Make sure they each have a detailed list of what needs to be done and the types of materials you plan to use. Once you have decided on a contractor, it is now time to get all the appropriate building and city permits needed for your project. Once all these necessary steps have been taken, it is now time for construction to begin.

During the time of the remodeling there are pros and cons of staying in your home depending on the scope of work. If there is only minor changes being done, it would be a good idea to stay in your home. One of the biggest advantages of staying while work is being done is that you can monitor the contractor’s progress every day. While being on site you can also  address any issues as they occur and save time and money. The downside of being in your home is all the mess that comes with the work being done. If you are having a full gut remodeling there wouldn’t be a way for you stay during the renovation. You wouldn’t have any working appliances and it would take longer for the contractors to get the job done. Make sure to consider these things when deciding to stay or leave during the renovation .

After the work is done there is a final walk through process, so you and your contractor can walk through the project together and discuss any issues you may have before moving in.  Create a punch list of items that are the very last list of unfinished work.  After the work on this list is completed, your contractor will expect to be paid. At the end of the job, the contractor owes you certain paper work which could include the following; Written warranty statements, operating and maintenance manuals, inspections data card, and an original certificate of occupancy. Once you have received these documents, it’s now time to give the final payment.

During this time of renovations the national average cost is $36,845. Most homeowners spent between $17,170 – $60,507 on their projects. You can expect the costs in Hawaii to be higher on average.

Here is an example of a kitchen renovation that Barker Kappelle completed in 2014


February 2017 Hawaii Home Magazine Cover Story

We are excited to have another one of our projects featured in Hawaii Home & Remodeling. This Month’s issue features a Kahala home we built in 2015. One of the home’s highlights is its backyard. It was designed to maximize outdoor spaces for Barbecues and get-togethers with friends and family. The backyard is centered around the pool bar and the lovely tiled pool. Inside, floating cabinets highlight the bathrooms and generous amounts of mahogany add a dark accent to the light paint palette.