Kitchen and bath advice from a remodeling expert

Kerry Ann Rodriguez, director of project development at Case Architects & Remodelers, joined staff writer Jura Koncius on The Washington Post's Home Front online chat. Here is an edited excerpt.

Q. I love the look of cement tiles in kitchens and baths, but I worry it's too trendy. Do you think they are here to stay?

A. Cement tiles certainly are a huge trend, but they really have been around for over a century. So, I think while they are very popular, it is something that has been around for a long time and I believe will trend again in years to come.

Porcelain imitations are also a great option because they are not only more affordable but much easier to maintain. While cement tiles requiring sealing and sometimes buffing, porcelain tiles do not and can be cleaned with regular household products. My recommendation would be make sure to get a sample or visit a local showroom. Some products are better than others and it is important to see what you're getting before pulling the trigger.

Q. Any suggestions on what to replace fluorescent tubes with in a galley kitchen? I have eight-foot ceilings so I can't have anything hanging too low.

A. There are so many great lighting options available now, especially with LED bulbs that give a lot of light and have a much longer life span. You can find many surface-mount chandeliers specifically made for eight-foot ceilings. There is a variation in the amount of bulbs and some that are adjustable so you can achieve the amount of light you are looking for and easily customize the lights' direction.

Q. When I remodeled my kitchen five years ago, I opted for a microwave over the stove and was assured the fan/vent would be sufficient. That was a huge mistake. Now every time I use the oven the smoke detector goes off when I open the door. If I had it to do over again I would definitely add a vent hood. Where do you stand on this?

A. Unfortunately, this is common issue, especially with a unit that is self-circulating. If your unit does vent outside, it may just not be strong enough with the range you have.

Ranges and cooktops, especially of the gas variety, require a certain amount of CFMs to clear out the amount of heat and smoke they can put out. I suggest an undercabinet mounted hood, like Vent-A-Hood, which is a great and affordable brand with lots of style options.

Q. I'd like to paint my small kitchen, now a pale yellow. What paint colors are trending this year?

A. White, white, white! It is fresh and bright, which is helpful in spaces that don't get a lot of natural light. If you fear it being too sterile, another popular trend is mixing black and white or gray and white. We often are using black or gray on the lower cabinets and white on the uppers. To warm up the look, just add brass finishes!

Q. I often see quite a mix of metals and finishes, in kitchens especially, in magazines. What's your take?

A. This is a trend that I am loving! I have done quite a few projects that have had a variety of finishes and they all turned out beautifully. This can allow a homeowner to experiment with a finish that may not be in the rest of the home. Specifically, I love the look of chrome and matte brass, a great combo in a more contemporary or eclectic space. But less is more, so don't over do it on fixtures. Limit how many different items you have in a space, or it can be overwhelming.

Q. We are trying to decide whether to include a tub in our master bath remodel. I don't think we would miss it, and it would be nice to have that space for other things. But I wonder whether omitting a tub would have much effect on resale value.

A. If you have another tub in the home you do not need to keep a tub in the master bath. But many buyers do see it as a selling point to have both a tub and a separate shower. Rather than limiting your shower space to a tub/shower combo, consider a wet room approach. This option allows you to have a larger shower space with a free-standing tub.

Q. We just bought a house with a tiny kitchen and are considering removing the fridge for much-needed cabinets and a countertop. We would include a mini fridge under the counter, with a larger fridge in the basement. What are your thoughts?

A. Refrigeration now has many different size options and configurations. It may sound crazy, but it can be much more functional to have under-counter refrigeration. There are drawer units that can be split into a fridge/freezer and door units as well. People with small children find these helpful so items like juice boxes and yogurts are within reach for little hands.

Q. I'm in a 1950s brick home and the heating vents are in the ceiling. Our basement is freezing in the winter. Any tips on keeping it warm?

A. Have you considered electric baseboard heaters? They are inexpensive and easy to install. Another option is heated floors. If you are considering new flooring, this would be the best option for maintaining a constant temperature in that area.

Q. What is the best way to put radiant heating in the floor of a bathroom in an apartment building with concrete floors?

A. Since you have concrete floors, doing a floating floor with a netted radiant heat unit below would be a great option. They are inexpensive and energy efficient.

Q. We are getting ready to gut our current bathrooms and, in the interest of "aging in place," we would like shower and flooring materials that are timeless and low-maintenance. Suggestions?

A. Porcelain all the way. It is durable and can be cleaned with everyday cleaners. You can use large format on the walls to minimize grout and smaller format on the floors to create friction and prevent slipping.

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