There’s More to a Kitchen and Bath Remodel than Meets the Eye

Popular co-host of the home improvement television series “Hometime” offers tips on protecting the beauty of your kitchen and bath improvements by getting tough on hard water

(ARA) – Ahhh . . . the sparkle of a new faucet . . . the shine of a new sink and the glimmer of a new showerhead. When you tackle a kitchen or bath remodeling project, these are the visual cues that often put you in a state of awe. But with the average bathroom makeover costing almost $10,000, and a major kitchen remodel adding up to $38,769 (according to Remodeling Magazine) -- it’s not just the sparkle and shine that will keep you satisfied in the long run. Equally important are the steps taken to protect the appearance and life of those newly installed products. In fact, one of the largest threats is from damaging residues of hard water.

Hard water contains dissolved calcium and magnesium that cause rock-like scale, soap scum, hard water spots, lime curd and other aesthetically unappealing build-up. According to Dean Johnson, co-host of the nationally syndicated home improvement TV series “Hometime,” “Hard water build-up can take its toll on everything from sinks and faucets to major appliances. Above and beyond the costly repair bills and shortened life of your appliances hard water can also quickly dull the appearance of newly installed faucets, sinks and shower doors.”

Johnson goes on to say that one way to keep that bathroom or kitchen looking fresh is to remove troublesome hard minerals from water with a home water softener.

How Does A Water Softener Work?

Installing a water softener will reduce the amount of calcium and magnesium ions in the water. This is accomplished through a process called ion exchange. The water softener uses a media bed of resin beads that holds sodium ions. When hard water passes through the resin beads, the beads attract and hold the calcium and magnesium ions and release the sodium ions. Water without calcium and magnesium is known as soft water.

Do You Need A Water Softener?

Hard water is probably the most common water problem found in the home. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, 85 percent of homes in the United States have hard water. And it’s not just well water that’s hard. City water users also experience hard water.

Before you even begin shopping for a softener, have your water tested by a water specialist, or ask your water provider for information about the degree of hardness of your water. Alternatively, you can obtain a testing kit and find out for yourself.

So how do you know if your water is considered hard? According to the Water Quality Association, hard water contains dissolved calcium and magnesium above one GPG (grains per gallon). Hardness levels are as follows: soft water -- less than one GPG, slightly hard water -- one to 3.5 GPG, moderately hard -- 3.5 to 7 GPG, hard --7 to 10.5 GPG and very hard --10.5 and higher GPG.

Do Your Homework And Explore Your Options

Once the hardness of water has been determined, it’s time to choose a water softener. “Although all softeners operate on the same basic principle, there are many options to choose from, including everything from manually operated units to fully automatic systems,” says Johnson. “With all the styles and brands of water softeners on the market today, there are a number of key product innovations to take into consideration when purchasing a softening unit.”

For one, most softeners are electric, but there are non-electric systems -- powered exclusively by the energy of moving water. Non-electric softeners do have benefits over electric units; there’s nothing to plug-in, no buttons to push, no timers to set or reset, no adjustments to make and no cause for worry during storms and power outages.

Another key feature to consider is how the system regenerates, or cleans itself. On-demand regeneration means the regeneration cycle is based on actual water consumption, as opposed to units with timers that regenerate only at preset intervals. With demand operation, the water softener can regenerate at any time of the day or night, depending upon usage, so it is flexible to changing water demands within the household. This is especially important when water needs increase, such as with extra household cleaning projects in the spring and summer. Additionally, some units offer the advantage of using soft water when regenerating, which provides better overall cleaning of the unit and ultimately extends the life of the softener.

Still another option to keep in mind is whether to purchase a twin-tank design softener or a single-tank design softener. With a twin-tank design, when one tank needs to regenerate, service automatically switches to the other tank to provide a continuous supply of soft water any time of the day. This means you’ll never have to go without the benefits of soft water while the unit is cleaning itself -- something that single-tank units don’t do.

According to Johnson, one of the most popular softeners on the market today that encompasses all of these benefits is Kinetico’s 2020c compact water softener. “The 2020c unit is the world’s smallest twin-tank, non-electric water softener -- and the first to accept block or pellet salt. The twin-cylinder softener fits just about anywhere, but it can still soften an entire home’s water supply, unlike big, old-fashioned systems. In fact, because of all of the unit’s benefits, I chose to install a Kinetico system in my own home.”

Third-Party Certification

When making a final decision to purchase a water treatment system, there are several other things to consider. First, make sure the system is third-party certified by an independent testing organization such as NSF International. NSF is internationally recognized for its experience in testing and certifying products to ensure they perform as claimed.

The Water Quality Association (WQA), the trade association of the water quality industry, also validates products. Look for certification seals on product literature and on the products themselves. But keep in mind that just because a manufacturer displays the WQA logo, signifying that the company is a member of the Water Quality Association, doesn’t mean its products are validated. And just because a component of a system is NSF certified, doesn’t mean the entire system and its performance are guaranteed. “It’s important to read all certification material carefully, just as it’s important to review and compare warranty information,” says Johnson.

You’ve already made a sizable investment in the remodeling of your home’s bathroom or kitchen. So why not protect that investment by introducing softer water into your life. Not only will a softener increase the life of newly installed fixtures and faucets, it can save you a considerable amount of time and money in the long run.

For more information about your water, call Kinetico at (800) 944-WATER (9283) or visit the company’s Web site at