Standard soapstone sinks can range in price from a few hundred to over $1,000. The standard-size sinks at Vermont Soapstone run from $400 up to $1,000 for a 36-inch two-bowl sink. “Custom sizes will cost more,” says Bowman. “Our 36-inch two-bowl custom sink is in the $1,200 to $1,500 range.”
How do prices compare with stainless steel or ceramic sinks?
“A good-quality imported stainless steel sink is about the same price,” says Bowman. “And compared to a good porcelain farmhouse sink, soapstone is probably less.”
Does a soapstone sink have to go with a soapstone countertop?
“We’ll sell you a sink on its own, no problem,” Bowman says with a chuckle. “In fact, we probably sell twice as many sinks as we do countertops, so those sinks get combined with all kinds of different countertop materials, like marble, granite, and the like.” No soapstone counters but still want the sink? Feel free to mix and match.
What special features are available?
Because they’re made of easily-cut stone, soapstone sinks can generally be customized any way you want it. Edges can be square, beveled, or bullnose. Drainage boards can be incorporated. “We can make a three-bowl sink with all the bowls at different heights. We can add a high backsplash so the faucets can be mounted on the back,” he says.
We’ve even built a handful of soapstone bathtubs for around $5,000.” When he spoke with us, Bowman was in Weston, Massachusetts, working in the mudroom of a high-end house to install a custom sink measuring five feet wide and a foot deep—perfect for dog-washing.
More on soapstone:
Finally, get more ideas on how to evaluate and choose your kitchen sink and faucet in our Remodeling 101 Guide: Kitchen Sinks & Faucets.
Textured, even excavated interior walls—the sort with charmingly exposed plaster or peeled-back wallpaper—are trending. (Read: Trend Alert: The Excavated Look, 15 Ways.) Not so much the other sort of textured walls: the “orange peel,” popcorn, or faux-stucco walls that might plague your house or rental.
If you love your new place but don’t love the textured walls, what’s the solution? To get some options, we talked with Joan Barton, owner of Los Angeles’s Dirty Girl Construction. (She has helped us with other pressing questions in the past; see her take on 5 Things Your Contractor Wishes You Knew (But Is Too Polite to Tell You).) Read on.
What are textured walls?
Textured interior walls (think: “orange peel,” popcorn, or swirled patterns) have a practical function, since the texture hides the signs of drywall installation—that is, the taped seams where the sheets of drywall meet—and other imperfections. “It’s cost-saving,” says Barton. “Maybe people actually liked it back in the seventies, but the reason it’s done now is to save money. It’s cheap and fast.”
That’s why you often see textured walls in rental or commercial buildings. It’s also a more durable surface than a smooth wall, and less affected by minor wear and tear. And some people still feel texture adds character: The bumps reflect light and create shadows, making ordinary walls less “boring.”
How are textured walls achieved?
Typically, the texture is sprayed on; sometimes patterns are added, either with a soft brush or an implement like a comb, rag, or sponge. And the textures and patterns have names: For example, there’s Santa Fe (for an adobe look), “orange peel,” “knockdown,” “swirl,” and “cat’s paw.” It’s also possible to apply ready-made texture paint using a brush or roller.
Four ways to get rid of unwanted textured walls:
To many of us, the best wall is the smoothest wall you can get. Here are four ways to turn a stippled surface into a smooth one. These methods will also work with walls that are distressed in other ways (should you tire of the exposed plaster or old-wallpaper look someday).
1. Apply a skim coat.
When drywall is installed, the fasteners and taped seams are skim coated—covered with a thin coat of joint compound, or “mud,” to level the surface in preparation for painting or papering. The same technique gets rid of textured walls. A thin coat of mud is applied over the entire wall surface, allowed to dry, and then sanded smooth. Especially bumpy walls may need more than one coat.
Skim coating a whole room is both messy and time-consuming. The job is perhaps best left to a professional who has the experience (and strategies) to keep sanding dust from infiltrating every crevice of your home.
Once the repaired surface is smooth, it can be sealed with a primer and then painted or wallpapered, as desired.
Over 10 years of Remodelista, we’ve seen architects, designers, and homeowners do inventive things with stair runners (which, historically, tend to be a little uninteresting). There was this dramatic green stair runner, and this casual painted runner. But do stair runners actually have a purpose? Do you really need one?
To get some answers to common questions about stair runners, we talked with designer Victoria Kirk, who established Victoria Kirk Interiors in 2007. Her company, based in Larchmont and Sag Harbor, New York, focuses mostly on residences in Westchester, Sag Harbor, and New York City. After more than two decades in the business, Kirk can provide plenty of intel on the subject of carpeting for stairs.
What are the pros and cons of stair runners?
There are a number of reasons to install carpeting on stairs. Kirk cites two big pros: It reduces noise made by people clattering up and down the stairs, and it adds a finished look to a stairway. Plus, in some circumstances, it makes stairs safer—for example, young children are less likely to get hurt by falling on padded steps.
But Kirk doesn’t feel runners always make stairs safer. “I live in an old house where the stairs are super steep and the treads are really narrow. If I had carpet on them, I’d be afraid of sliding. I prefer bare wood. But stairs with deeper treads should be fine with carpet.” Obviously, to be safe, stair runners should not be made of slippery material (such as silk or linen). And they must be properly installed with no loose corners to trip over.
Another pro: Foot traffic can mar the finish on wooden treads and leave scuff marks on painted risers (the vertical part of the stairs, between the treads). A runner protects both treads and risers from wear and tear. (Another option: the no-shoes-in-the house rule.)
Still, the look is more suited to traditional homes than modern ones. And bare wood steps are easier to keep clean than carpeted stairs. Vacuuming stairs is usually an awkward chore.
What’s the best material for a stair runner?
“An all-wool carpet is preferable aesthetically,” says Kirk. “There’s a theory that a synthetic or blend will hold up better, but I don’t really believe it. People first and foremost want the looks, and wool delivers that.” She’s a big fan of the striped flat-weave runners made of 100 percent wool by the British company Roger Oates Design.
Natural fibers like sisal and jute may not be your best choice, as they’re easily stained and can be rough on bare feet. But, she says, “sisal or jute is a great look and it’s cheap.” These days indoor/outdoor polypropylene that looks like sisal is becoming popular—it’s durable and easy to clean.
Is a dark color better than light? And patterns—yes or no?
“With a runner, you don’t want to go too light or too dark,” says Kirk. “Dark shows all the lint, while light-colored carpeting shows dirt and scuffs. I always push for a medium tone.”
As for the pattern, Kirk says, “If there’s a moment to have some fun on the stairs, go for it. I like vertical stripes, like the Roger Oates flatweave.” What she doesn’t recommend: “Bold geometric contrasting patterns. They can be dizzying, and make stairs hard to navigate—you can’t figure out where your next step is.”
Another thing to keep in mind with a pattern: If you need to match the pattern so each step looks the same, you could end up with a lot of waste (and increased cost).
How are stair runners installed?
Most homeowners aren’t aware that there are two styles of installation for stair runners: “Waterfall,” in which the runner flows over the stairs and is tacked down at the base of each step; and “Hollywood,” where the runner is tacked down around the tread and fits close to the risers.
“The decision usually depends on how your stairs are constructed,” says Kirk. “If there’s a quarter-round molding under the nose of the tread, you use Waterfall so the carpet falls gracefully over that edge. If there’s no molding, you go with the more tight-fitting installation, Hollywood.”
Unseen staples typically hold the padding and runner securely in place, though sometimes a “tackless strip” is used—a piece of wood that runs the width of the steps and is studded with sharp nails or tacks. Typically, stair runners are installed over a padding or underlay, which both reduces noise and protects the carpet from wear. A bonus effect: cushioning makes stairs feel softer underfoot, a boon to babies navigating on their hands and knees.
And what about those rods that hold stair runners in place? “Maybe for a grand staircase in a house in Greenwich, Connecticut,” says Kirk. “But they’re purely decorative.”
Is there a rule of thumb for how much of the tread should be covered?
“It depends how wide your stairs are,” says Kirk. “In a three- to four-foot-wide staircase, you want to leave about three or four inches of wood exposed on either side. But if your stairs are five feet across, you’d adjust your runner proportionally—maybe to a seven-inch reveal on each side.”
As for “wall-to-wall” carpeting over stairs: “Nobody does that anymore,” says Kirk.
Are stair runners made in standard widths?
They are. The Roger Oates flatweave, for example, comes in three widths: 24 inches, 27 inches, and 33.5 inches. But you can also have runners made to order. “Often people buy broadloom and have it cut to size,” says Kirk. In those cases, you’ll need to have the edges bound.
How much does a stair runner cost?
That depends on your choice of carpeting and the complexity of installation. “A standard-size runner is your most cost-effective choice,” says Kirk. “But the labor always costs more than the material.”
Kirk offers a ballpark estimate of $20 to $50 per square foot for broadloom, but that’s only the beginning. “The add-ons include padding, edging, and then the installation itself. If you have curved steps or landings, for example, pie-shaped pieces are needed to fit them.” And to get the job done right, you’ll want to hire experienced installers. That way your runner is sure to wear well and to enhance your home.
What if I prefer bare stairs but like the look of a runner?
You can save money by simply painting a runner (or stripes) on the stairs, as in this Remodeling 101 post on Nautical Stripes on the Stairs. Just choose a color that contrasts nicely for an instant runner effect, no vacuuming needed.
Let’s face it: Grout and caulk is not a sexy subject. But if you have tile in your home, you have grout—and some of the issues aren’t pretty. You may be a person whose tile maintenance is so meticulous that you never have a grout problem. But for the rest of us who tend to neglect this aspect of our homes (trigger warning: mold), we’re broaching the dirty subject and providing answers that show the way to leak-free, mold-free cleanliness.
To help us out, we sought the gentle guidance of Barbara Sallick, cofounder and senior vice president of design for the kitchen and bath brand Waterworks and author of The Perfect Bath, who holds firm opinions about these matters and isn’t afraid to express them. The bottom line: Ignoring grout and caulk won’t make it, or its attendant pitfalls, go away. Let’s take a deep breath, and begin with a softball question.
Grout and caulk: What’s the difference?
Both grout and caulk are used around tile, but they’re not related, says Sallick. “Grout is the material that spans the crevices between the tiles and makes the whole installation waterproof. It’s a natural product, generally made of ground-up sand and cement mixed with water. Caulk, on the other hand, is usually silicone-based, and it’s flexible. Typically, you lay down a bead of caulk along the joint between, say, a tiled wall and a countertop or bathtub, to make the intersection completely watertight.”
Even though grout and caulk are different, much of the advice that follows applies to both—whether they’re in a bathroom or kitchen, on a wall or on a floor.
What’s the best way to keep grout and caulk looking new?
To prevent stains, mold, and calcium buildup, particularly on grout, Sallick has three basic pieces of advice: Seal, clean, and ventilate.
“After it’s installed, the grout must be sealed to make it waterproof,” she says. “Your tile installer will know to do this—and if he doesn’t, you’d best fire him instantly.” Usually, the installer will seal the tile or stone once before applying the grout, then install the grout, and then seal it all again for ultimate protection. Sealing isn’t a one-time thing—but we’ll get to that.
Regular cleaning is a must to properly maintain grout and caulk. “I make sure my shower has a good bath once a week,” says Sallick; the same goes for grout in the kitchen. Any all-purpose cleanser will do: “There are many on the market, and they all do a fine job. Only a good cleaning will prevent the mold and grime that can easily build up in a shower.” Tip: White vinegar is good for removing calcium deposits on tile, glass, and fixtures.
Lastly, proper ventilation is key. “Especially in a bathroom, you need to have air circulating. That means leaving the shower door open, cracking a window, or turning on the fan. The tile and grout need to dry out after the shower or tub has been used.”
Does grout need to be resealed?
It does indeed. Grout is porous, and it doesn’t stay waterproof forever. Depending on how often the shower is used, the grout needs to be resealed, and that’s something you can do yourself.
“Put it on your calendar, just like an annual doctor’s appointment,” suggests Sallick. “Say, start the year in January by resealing your shower, backsplash, any place you have grout.” However, she warns, you should only apply sealer after a thorough cleaning: “If you see any spots, take a toothbrush and scrub them away. You only want to reseal a surface that’s entirely clean.”
Sallick isn’t loyal to any particular sealer—she says there are many brands that do the job. “Use a foam brush or a clean cloth, and make sure you apply it evenly over the entire surface, both tile and grout.”
Should I use a daily spray on grout?
When it comes to preventing the buildup of mold and grime in the shower in particular, many people swear by spraying down the shower each day. Not completely necessary, Sallick says: “If your shower is properly sealed, you don’t need to spray daily—cleaning once a week is fine.” But for a shower that gets a lot of use, or a bathroom that’s not well ventilated, it can’t hurt to spray the tiles regularly. You don’t need an expensive product; it’s easy to make your own. One tried-and-true recipe: 1 cup of white vinegar, 2 tablespoons of dish detergent (known to be a good grease-cutter), 2 tablespoons of liquid fabric softener or dishwasher rinse, and 3½ cups of water; shake to combine. If the vinegar smell puts you off, add a few drops of essential oil. (Another method: baking soda and vinegar, mixed into a paste. See Expert Advice: Editors’ Top 23 Cleaning Tips for a few more solutions.)
Before spraying, use a squeegee to remove water drops and help speed the drying process.
My grout is already stained and discolored. How do I clean it?
If you’re moving into a rental or haven’t kept up with regular maintenance, you might have grubby-looking grout on your hands. If a regular cleanser doesn’t do the trick, try a spray-on product with bleach (such as Tilex), and use a toothbrush to scrub stubborn spots. Hydrogen peroxide is also effective: Spray it on, let it sit, and then scrub. Repeat if necessary, then keep up with routine maintenance to prevent a big job down the road.
My grout is cracked and crumbling. What can I do?
Don’t neglect this, because water seeping through cracked grout will cause the wall and floor to rot. You can’t just put more grout on top of old crumbling grout, Sallick warns. Without a firm surface to adhere to, the new grout will fall apart in less than a year. The old grout needs to be scraped out, but Sallick advises against doing this job yourself. “It takes patience and care, because you can easily chip the tiles. You want a total professional who’s done this job before—if you’re the guinea pig, he could ruin your installation. Also, you should replace the grout only where there’s a problem.”
Note that your grout might be crumbling because either you didn’t hire a really good professional to install it or you didn’t maintain it properly (i.e., regular cleaning and resealing).
I’ve neglected my caulk and there’s mold underneath it. What to do?
If you haven’t effectively prevented mold built-up, your caulk may be beyond cleaning. This is another case where you have to remove the old caulk first, clean the area meticulously so no mold remains, and then replace it with fresh caulk. Again, it’s probably a job for a professional.
Grout in the kitchen versus grout in the bath: Should I care for them differently?
Though, say, a kitchen backsplash isn’t exposed to as much water, Sallick offers the same advice: Keep it clean. “I’m a big spaghetti sauce splasher, so I wipe down my tile backsplash every evening after I cook.” She also recommends resealing the grout at the same time you’re resealing in the bathroom: Get a date on the calendar.
What about grout on a tiled floor?
The same advice applies. Install it properly by sealing it twice, and then care for it by keeping it clean. Grout underfoot gets dirty much faster than on a backsplash. “If you’re persnickety about the grout on your tiled floor, you need to take a brush and clean it to bring it back to the original color,” Sallick says. It will always darken, which is a good reason to install dark grout to begin with: It’ll show less dirt.
Is there anything else I should know?
When it comes to the threats of mold and mildew, Sallick says, “It’s all horrible. You need to prevent it at all costs, and you can do that by keeping your bathroom and kitchen clean.”
Her best news: “You shouldn’t have a problem with your grout for at least 15 years if it’s been properly installed and you’ve kept it clean and sealed. Grout is not an everyday thing that you need to think about.” In sum: Do your due diligence, but don’t let it keep you up at night.
For much more advice on the care and keeping of the bath and kitchen, see our Bath Guide and Kitchen Guide. And for expert tile and bath advice (including more tips from Barbara Sallick), see:
Meet the unsung hero of the fixtures world: the wall-mounted faucet. Of all the decisions you need to make during a remodel, the location of the sink faucet may be an afterthought. But where the tap attaches matters—and can even save cleaning time, particularly in the kitchen, where wall-mounted taps are less common than in the bath. To get some professional input on the pros and cons of wall-mounted faucets, we talked with designer Malachi Connolly, who recently completed Julie’s renovation in Brooklyn Heights. (She opted for a wall-mounted kitchen faucet there and loves how it leaves a blank, clean space behind the sink.) Here’s what to know.
What is a wall-mounted faucet?
Unlike a deck-mounted tap (which is installed on the countertop behind the sink), a wall-mounted tap attaches onto the wall behind the sink, and extends over the sink. Wall-mounted faucets are available in a variety of styles, sizes, and finishes (and are well-suited to the DIY Faucets Made from Plumbing Parts trend too).
Why would I prefer a wall-mounted faucet over a deck-mounted one?
“Many people choose a wall-mounted fixture because of its clean appearance; it’s a style that’s both modern and utilitarian-looking,” says Connolly, adding, “You often see them in restaurant kitchens.”
To Connolly, a wall-mounted faucet becomes part of the backsplash as a design element. “When you put something on a wall, it’s more like a relief or a sculpture,” he says. “And the tiles around it—the color, the shape, the grout lines—are part of the composition.”
What are the advantages of a wall-mounted faucet?
The main plus: This type of tap makes it easier to keep the area in back of your sink clean. Dirt and calcium deposits tend to accumulate there, so the area is much easier to keep spick-and-span without hardware in the way.
And, as Connolly points out, if you’re a fan of the double-jointed (or articulated) faucet, which scissors back and forth to easily fill big pots with water, installing the fixture on the wall provides more range of motion.
What are the disadvantages?
A wall-mounted faucet is harder to install and costs around 30 percent more than the deck-mounted type. And since fewer styles are available, it’s not as easily replaced.
Another disadvantage: If you like to have a separate spray nozzle, you may need to install one on the deck. “Some wall-mount styles do have a sprayer,” says Connolly, “but having the hose dangling at the backsplash isn’t ideal.”
Is a special type of faucet needed?
Just make sure the fixture you buy is suited for wall-mounting. It’ll come with all the hardware needed to install it.
How high up should you position it?
“That depends on the shape of the tap,” says Connolly. “Figure on about eight to ten inches of clearance, measuring from the deck to the faucet head.”
How far out should it reach?
Connolly recommends that the faucet should extend out at least seven inches from the back of the sink, so you can wash your hands without banging them against the sink. So, if your countertop is 24 inches deep, that would put the spout about 11 inches from the wall.
Do you need to install a wall-mounted faucet on a special surface?
Since the fixture is supported by the plumbing pipes, rather than the wall, regular backer board for tiling (that is, a stable waterproof board) should suffice, says Connolly. And it doesn’t matter what type of backsplash you have. While it’s usually tile, you can also install the tap on a wall with waterproof paint or even on stone slab.
What else should you consider when installing a wall-mounted faucet?
With all these measurements, it’s best to have a professional install a wall-mounted tap. It starts with the plumber installing the pipes, which must be in positioned so the tap will be centered over the spot where the sink will be. “Once you install the plumbing, you can’t move it,” says Connolly. “Well, maybe by half an inch, but not enough to make a difference if it’s really out of whack.” For the next step, the cabinetmaker measures where the plumbing rough is installed so they know exactly where the sink cabinet needs to go.
And if your backsplash is tile, there’s another detail that should be attended to: For the best appearance, you’ll want the grout lines perfectly aligned with your wall-mounted tap so everything’s centered.
Are there situations where installing a wall-mounted tap isn’t possible?
It’s almost always possible to install a wall-mounted tap (unless you have a window directly behind the sink), but some conditions require extra work. Let’s say you want to install the faucet on an exterior-facing wall—which, in a cold-weather area, could lead to frozen pipes. “In those cases you’ll need to fur out the wall,” says Connolly; that is, build the wall out a few extra inches. “That gives you enough room to encase the pipes with two to three inches of high-density spray foam insulation.”
A stone slab backsplash also creates difficulties: You’ll need to have holes drilled for the faucet, and they must be precisely centered. “But if you’re able to afford a stone backsplash, you can afford a good contractor to coordinate all that work,” Connolly says.
Can I replace a deck-mounted fixture with a wall-mounted one?
Not without making other changes. If your existing tap is mounted on the sink, the sink will have one or more holes to accommodate that. So if you’re swapping out your tap, you’ll also have to replace your old sink with a new one that doesn’t have holes. If your faucet is installed on the counter itself, you’ll have to replace your countertop.
Looking for more tips on kitchen faucets? Start with our Remodeling 101: Kitchen Sinks and Faucets guide, where you’ll find help with faucet and sink selection, installation and maintenance. For more expert opinions on faucets, see our posts:
N.B.: Featured image from the Bear Creek Bovidae Bath in Austin, Texas, an entrant in our 2017 Considered Design Awards.
Finally, get more ideas on how to evaluate and choose your bathroom sink and faucet in our Remodeling 101 Guide: Bathroom Sinks & Faucets.