Much ado about Kitchen Countertops

Finding a suitable countertop for the kitchen can be challenging. It needs to be durable, stain-resistant, easy to clean & maintain and aesthetically pleasing.

Because of cost, I began my reno planning believing I should go with Solid Surface. I thought to myself, its about mid-priced and so long as I'm careful to maintain it (i.e. wiping off spills quickly, diligently using trivets, etc) I should alright. But the more I read about experiences of home owners who chose Solid Surfaces, the more the negative voices bothered me. Before long, I started to doubt if it is the right choice after all.

So before I make my final decision, I wanted to take a closer look into the world of kitchen countertops. I'll be posting as I go along so things might get messy for a while until I can organized it more coherently. I'll start with the simplest (and cheapest) and move up to the most expensive.

Next up: Laminates
Oh before I forget, most contractors and ID are likely to quote for the countertop as a separate item from the kitchen cabinets (but I'm not too sure about laminate countertops though).

My Draft Kitchen Layout

One of the IDs that I'm evaluating just got back to me with their intial design. I kind of like where they are going. Because I haven't engaged them, I can't post the design up as yet.

What I did do, is used IKEA's kitchen planner to do up the kitchen layout as they have proposed.

Kitchen Layouts

The kitchen layout deals not only with the proper selection and placement of appliances and cabinetry, but also is the very foundation of the design of the kitchen. It will also determine how cook-friendly the kitchen is.

A kitchen layout should be designed around a work triangle. From the smallest kitchen to one on a grand scale, all kitchens are equipped with the same basic appliances. The significance of a kitchen layout is to arrange everything within a functional kitchen plan.

Regardless of the perimeter shape of the room, most kitchens are organized around one of several basic kitchen layouts, each with its own type of triangle: One-Wall, Galley/Corridor, L-Shape, U-Shape, G/Peninsula Shape and Island.

However, in today's modern homes that embrace the open-concept by removing walls and eliminating door ways, new arrangement styles may be necessary. The traditional idea of lining the perimeter of a kitchen with base and wall cabinets may not work in a modern kitchen.

Kitchen Work Triangle

The kitchen work triangle is an imaginary triangle that connects the sink, refridgerator and hob. This work triangle is functional centre of any kitchen. The goal is to place the 3 most common workareas or zones in the most efficient distance apart, and to minimize unnecessary traffic through this work zone.

The 3 traditional zones are: Hob - Cooking/Hot Zone, Sink - Preparation Zone and Refridgerator - Consumables Zone. It might be different for you if you use the kitchen differently. These represent the 3 points of the work triangle.

Efficiency of the kitchen is the main goal of the kitchen work triangle, as it keeps all the major work areas near to the cook but not so close that the kitchen becomes cramped. The kitchen work triangle is also used to minimize traffic within the kitchen. If the work stations are too far away from each other, it probably means that you'll be taking a few extra steps each time you prepare something in the kitchen. On the other hand, if they are too close it means you might have a cramped kitchen with little place to work.

Kitchen Zones

Popularized by the modular kitchen, the concept of zoning the kitchen is based on the idea of setting up the work area to accomodate the function performed there. While we may or may not actually buy kitchen modules, I think knowing the design principles will still help us when we model our own kitchens.

Image courtesy of Dynamic Space by Blum

There are 5 common distinct work areas identified for a kitchen: Cooking/Hot Zone, Prep Zone, Cleaning/Wet Zone, Non-Consumables Zone, and Consumables Zone.

My motivation for this blog

For sure there are lots of reno blogs out there, and in them are many gems of information for those who would spend the time to read through all the posts. And then, there are the various forums where people meet to share about their experiences. Again, there are tons of information to be had but one have to have the patience to swim through the countless topics and postings to glean them. Finally there is the portals with articles on renovation design tips and ideas. But I found these to relate more to people living in the Americas, Europe and ANZ.

What I needed and hoped for is an online resource where I can find all of these information in one convenient location, but more importantly, which is relevant to me. I looked but I haven't found any with a local context.

So in response my needs, I decided I'd create one for myself.

Here in this blog, I'll be putting up all the information that I came across while doing research for my renovation. And for fun, I'll organize it tongue-in-cheek magazine style and group the posts into the following categories:
  • Küchen Essentials
  • Simply Living
  • Bedroom Basics
  • Bath and Beyond
I'm not claiming to be trying to create the "be all end all" online resource for all things reno in Singapore. That would be too conceited. What I hope to do is do something useful with the information that I've collected for myself and hope that it will be useful to those also embarking on the renovation trail.

The blog is still in its infancy so bear with me while I flesh it out. Post in comments if there is something you wish to contribute. I'll add it into the main post with due credits.

Woah! This is so going to the "About this blog" link... once I get around to doing it.

My Floorplan

Rollover your mouse pointer on the image to see the changes (shown in red) from the default HDB layout.

This is the floorplan to my new house. The current owner made some modifications which I liked. Basically he relocated the entrance to the 2 bedrooms. As a result, I have more contiguous space instead of having one of the bedroom door interrupting the flow of the living room.
Other changes I am considering:
  • Hack away the storeroom for a bigger contiguous space to play with in the kitchen. Since it is not a CD shelther I think this will not be an issue.
  • Relocate the common toilet entrance to face the service balcony. Again this is to give me a more contiguous kitchen space.

Air Conditioning

I'm considering either Diakin, Panasonic or Sanyo air-con systems.
My current StarMex Easy Clean, which I have had for a little over 2 years, has been a big disappointment. I've also been told by people who does air-con servicing that StarMex is known to problematic. I was skeptical at first, putting it down to either a bad installation job or just my luck that I got a bad unit.
That was until a week ago when my air-con went bonkers. It first happened to my room. On and off the air-flow wasn't cooled. It was just regular humid warm air being pushed out. Soon it was happening in the other rooms.