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Oct 13 2015

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Quirks of the Quarry: A Tour of Polycor’s North GA Facility

Last week I had the pleasure of touring the depths of Polycor’s unexpectedly beautiful stone quarry in Tate, Ga. If you’re a stone novice like I was, then you may not realize what a coveted experience this can be for the public and industry professionals alike.

At more than 160 feet deep (though the stone vein actually continues at subterranean levels for thousands of feet), the quarry’s majestic “pit” is a dust-laden basin punctuated by monolithic blocks and tech-forward machinery. Encompassed by soaring stone walls, the pit even features a quaint, naturally occurring waterfall that feeds into a winding creek below – continuously pumped to prevent flooding. The area is generally restricted, and intrepid personnel require special training to traverse the pit and its surrounding areas.

Discovered by Henry T. Fitzsimmons in 1835, the quarry was later established as the Georgia Marble Company in 1884 by the locally prestigious Tate family (for which the town is named). Polycor did not acquire the site until 2003, and it has since gone on to supply the majority of marble used in iconic memorials, capitol buildings and other significant structures throughout the U.S.

The quarry is primarily used to source four color varieties of marble: White Georgia, White Cherokee, Pearl Grey and Solar Grey. A newly discovered area dubbed the Etowah Quarry, however, now also provides a plethora of salmon-colored marble.


As stone is sourced, stair-like formations referred to as “walls” (the vertical portion) and “benches” (the horizontal portion) are left behind. Workers slice the quarry’s walls before using innovative technology to sever the stone from the wall. The technique is similar to a water balloon. As the device fills with water, it expands and forces the cut stone from the wall onto the bench. Workers have little control over the size, but the bigger the piece, the higher its value.

Unusable pieces are put through a crusher that pulverizes the marble into variously sized granules. This dust is used in different industries, such as toothpaste production.

The stone that is kept for sale will then be categorized by color and grade, added to the inventory and relocated for further processing.

Oct 05 2015

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Why Hire a Pro?: The Benefits of Hiring a Certified Professional


October is National Kitchen & Bath Month, and the National Kitchen & Bath Association (NKBA) is stressing the importance of hiring a certified professional for kitchen and bath remodeling projects. Because the magnitude and complexity of these projects are well beyond the typical weekend do-it-yourself job, a higher level of expertise on product, design and installation is needed. Certified NKBA professionals provide insight into design options and technical necessities that clients wouldn’t necessarily think of on their own.

Professionals certified through the NKBA must maintain specific requirements to ensure they are always at the forefront of industry knowledge. NKBA-certified members have the following qualifications:

  • In-depth kitchen and bath industry experience, including proven knowledge of kitchen and bath design, as well as construction, mechanical, plumbing, and electrical systems
  • Expertise in NKBA Kitchen & Bath Planning Guidelines and Access Standards
  • Continuing education hours that enable them to remain up-to-date on building codes, safety and environmental regulations and new products

NKBA certified professionals can hold one of four titles: Associate Kitchen and Bath Designer (AKBD®), Certified Kitchen Designer (CKD®), Certified Bathroom Designer (CBD®) and Certified Master Kitchen and Bath Designer (CMKBD®). Each title is classified by a different level of industry experience and knowledge. When choosing a professional for a remodeling project, homeowners must consider the level of difficulty of their projects and the type of professional they wish to collaborate with.

“Hiring a certified professional for remodeling projects is a must,” says NKBA President Maria Stapperfenne, CMKBD. “DIY sounds good on paper, but homeowners are rarely prepared for the amount of work behind a remodel project; professionals provide much-needed insight into technical regulations and design innovations that the client isn’t even aware of.”

Certified professionals have an “engineer-type” mentality, notes Stapperfenne, which couples aesthetic judgment with practicality and safety. “They understand the components ‘behind the wall’ that enable the space to function properly and efficiently, while still maintaining sleek design.”

While cost is a major concern for most homeowners, the services of certified professionals are not out of reach; typically, professional fees represent about four percent of the total project budget. Also, hiring a professional helps avoid higher costs down the road. “If the project is done incorrectly the first time,” adds Stapperfenne, “a client will spend even more money hiring a professional to fix it.”

To find NKBA members near you for kitchen and bathroom projects, please visit nkba.org/prosearch.

Sep 21 2015

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Behind the Scenes at Sub-Zero Group


Based out of Madison, Wis., Sub-Zero Group, Inc. is a rare third-generation, family-owned company that was founded as the Sub-Zero Freezer Company in 1945. Since then, the company has made innumerous leaps and bounds, not only on a corporate level, but from a design perspective as well. Having acquired the residential side of commercial kitchen company Wolf in 2000, the company is bigger than ever with a host of newly announced innovations still on the way.

“It’s a family business, and family is at the center of everything we do,” said Jim Bakke, president and CEO of Sub-Zero Group, Inc. in a statement announcing the company’s 70th anniversary. “That sets us apart in the appliance industry. Since my grandfather, Westye F. Bakke, established the company, it has operated on the belief that if you make the highest-quality product, you’ll always have customers.”

But what makes Sub-Zero- and Wolf-branded appliances any better than the mélange of other options inundating the market today? That’s exactly what I set out to discover when I attended a tour of the company’s approximately 400,000-sq.-ft. Arizona manufacturing plant – held last week during the company’s 2013-2014 Kitchen Design Contest.


1) As several industry notables and I were led into the impressive desert facility, we couldn’t help but notice how starkly clean it was, despite churning out an estimated 350 units/day – a big jump from the approximate 180 units/day the location was producing when it debuted in 2011. The factory was built to replace a 165,000-sq.-ft. plant just outside of Phoenix.


2) The plant tour began in the fabrications area, where we were introduced to the handcrafted process behind Sub-Zero’s product. With the exception of various small parts, all Sub-Zero appliances and components are made at one of the company’s several U.S. factories. This in and of itself differentiates the manufacturer in a day and age where all too many have resorted to outsourcing.


3) Run by an advanced computer program that allows it to make style changes in seconds, a massive machine in the cutting facility uses five lasers to cut steel sheets. These will form the bodies of various refrigeration units.


4) An expansive area is dedicated solely to plastic fabrications. Here, skilled tradesmen create door liners, face frames and small parts that are molded and trimmed before being sent to assembly.


5) Falling in line with the company’s sustainability ethos, plastic scraps are fed into a grinding unit that pulverizes them into pellets that will be melted down and reused.


6) New-generation units are made with coiled steel, which is shaped using an automated system.


7) A rectangular slot is cut to mark the impending placement of glass sheets that will front refrigerator doors. This steel cutout is also recycled.


8) In the assembly-line area, workers begin putting together the pieces they have made while paying close attention to detail. Any misjudgment at this stage of the process could result in an entire unit needing to be scrapped (though they assured us this rarely happens).


9) Doors are assembled and equipped with insulation.


10) Before they can move forward with the assembly process, units must be tested to ensure they are fully operational. If an error is found at this stage, the unit must be repaired and tested again. Because of the high level of detail-oriented craftsmanship that goes into their creation, approximately 95 percent of units test successfully on the first try.


11) Toward the end of the tour, we were guided through an immense storage area where parts made elsewhere are kept for use at a later date.


As my group and I waited for those remaining to complete their tour, I found respite in the reception area, where fiery red, glass-like chandeliers hang in reference to the company’s Wolf-branded ranges. These elegant fixtures were only a modest foreshadow of the location’s true boon: a streamlined plant with a real-time order system that feeds directly into the assembly line. With thoughtfully sustainable products made right here in the U.S., this family-owned company is really on to something.

This video (link or embed: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nm1AMm-O49g) from the group’s recently launched “Reclaim the Kitchen” initiative perfectly sums up the company’s mission: to help families get back to the heart of the home with appliances as unique as the people who use them.

Aug 06 2015

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Bonding with Friends and FOOD!


I recently went for a long weekend with my girlfriends to a cabin in the North Georgia Mountains. I have done this many times before, but this cabin was my favorite. The view of the mountains wasn’t as great as I’ve seen, but the cabin itself had everything we needed to lose ourselves in good food and wine, relaxation, music and bonding.

With three bedrooms and three full baths, there wasn’t much sharing needed, although since my bathroom was on the main floor, we all used it. The huge kitchen – adorned with rustic, cabin-themed cabinetry – was open to the dining and living spaces, and the bar/island boasted four stools where we painted our nails, drank coffee and wrote up our grocery lists.


I haven’t eaten that much food in a long time. I made two dinners, which were somewhat healthy, but my friends really tore it up with homemade stuffed French toast one morning and orange zest-infused pancakes and sausage the next. In between those two meals were snacks of pimento cheese with bacon, chicken salad, chips, cookies and spicy popcorn. I was literally a slave to that popcorn, and I don’t even really like popcorn.


Aside from the big kitchen, we spent most of our time outside on the screened-in porch. Talk about outdoor living at its best! On one side was a living room-like seating area next to a table with four chairs and a huge fireplace. This is where we ate our meals. The other side had a wonderful porch swing that looked out onto the hillside. In between was a hot tub, and even though it was at least 85 degrees every day, we took advantage of it.

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Even though the cabin wasn’t decked out with the latest and greatest technology, and it’s design was “woodsy” rather than chic and transitional, I can’t wait to go back. I ate great meals, shared tea with some deer in our yard one morning and bonded with some wonderful friends I will have for life.