the toolbox

Ideas for kitchen upgrades

Remodeling your kitchen gives you a chance to make the heart of your home both functional and beautiful.

Chris Peterson's "Kitchen Ideas You Can Use" (Cool Springs Press, $17.99) offers ideas and inspiration to help you do just that.

The book is filled with photos of kitchens in a range of styles, along with both decorative and utilitarian ideas. You'll learn about the many choices in elements such as cabinets, countertop materials, flooring and lighting, and you'll be introduced to storage options, handy extras and other features you probably didn't know existed. One section is devoted to bringing color into the kitchen.

Peterson aims the book at homeowners who are considering major renovations, but you can also take away ideas for making smaller, less expensive updates to a current kitchen.

Cables melt sidewalk snow

Imagine never having to shovel snow again — without moving to the tropics, that is. If this winter was the last straw, there is an option for next season: EasyHeat Sno-Melter Cable Kits can be embedded in a driveway, sidewalk or other concrete or paver surface to warm it and melt snow and ice.

Cable kits are available in sizes that cover 10 to 100 square feet. Multiple kits can be combined for bigger areas.

The system, from Emerson Industrial Automation, is designed for installation by a contractor or a skilled do-it-yourselfer who can do intermediate-level electrical work. The installer attaches the cable to a wire mesh or rebar reinforcement, hard-wires the cable to a power source and then covers the mesh or rebar with the surface material.

The kits are designed for use with an automatic controller, which is sold separately. The controller turns on the heating cable whenever moisture is present and the temperature drops below 38 degrees.

The cable kits are available from some electrical distributors, building supply stores and online retailers. A 100-square-foot kit sells for about $250.

Remove coffee stains

Q: Do you have the answer for removing coffee stains from the inside of ceramic coffee mugs? I don't know where to start, as they are badly discolored.

A: Sara Vestal, a china and crystal restoration expert with Replacements Ltd., recommended mixing equal parts dishwasher detergent and hot water and applying it to the stains. Let it soak 10 minutes, and then rinse.

If that doesn't work, she suggested trying Polident denture cleaning tablets. Fill each cup with water, drop in a tablet and let soak.

Other cleaning experts recommend a mixture of lemon juice and salt for removing coffee stains. Apply it with a sponge, rub and rinse.

Akron beacon journal