Kitchen Remodeling

Ready to remodel that kitchen?

Kitchen remodel rough

Kitchen remodeling, which is fun and exciting, can also be pretty intimidating. There’s the specter of spending thousands of dollars on a project that could go very, very wrong if you don’t plan well. If you live in a modest home in a middle-class neighborhood, it’s also easy to overspend and not get the return on the investment that you’d like. Besides, unless your last name is Rockefeller, you don’t have limitless financial resources upon which to draw.

However, if you plan well and consider the neighborhood context and don’t get too crazy, any work you do on your kitchen will probably come back to you. Kitchen remodels, whether modest or comprehensive, offer a return on investment of about 100% and sometimes more.

If you have plenty of money, you can hire an architect, buy new appliances, cabinets, and finishes, move fixtures around, add walls, take out walls, or add a new space entirely. You may belong to that lucky crowd for whom the question, “Is it nice or necessary?” never really demands an answer. However, if like most of us this happy situation doesn’t apply to you, then the following may help.

Kitchen remodeling for most of us

So we’re ready to remodel the kitchen, right? What’s the first step? Get books, clip photos from magazines to get a fix on style and color, go shopping to see what’s available? There are a lot of “first steps” when planning a kitchen remodel, but the very first is simple: Clean.

A thorough deep kitchen cleaning is going to do a number of things for you. It’s going to prepare the space for the next step of your project and it will bring you face to face with your clutter and every little deficiency in your kitchen.

Cleaning your kitchen is going to require that you empty all the cupboards, sort through everything that you have stored, and get rid of the stuff you don’t need, don’t want, and will never use again. In the deepest recesses of your kitchen, you’re going to dig out things you forgot existed.

If you can’t bear to part with something, no problem. Pack it up as though you are preparing to move. Put the boxes in the attic, the garage, or in your bedroom closet. If you’re a packrat, do what you must—just get the stuff out of the kitchen. There are lots of books that deal with decluttering your home and getting control of your stuff. If you need one of those books, check out the series of books by Don Aslett. They’re fun and can help you make a decision about which of the five can openers you want to keep.

Once the extra stuff is out of sight, you’ll have just the dishes, gadgets, and appliances you need for your kitchen activities.

Next, wash the cupboards inside and out, the walls, and woodwork. Wash the ceiling. Take a toothbrush to the stove, and defrost the fridge if you have to. If your kitchen hasn’t been deep cleaned in a while, get rubber gloves and TSP to cut through greasy build up, especially if you don’t have a good ventilation system.

You can call the kitchen clean when it’s been cleared out, washed, rinsed, and there is no dirt anywhere.

It would be perfectly reasonable to say that cleaning like this is sort of silly if you’re going to remodel. Still, this gives you a completely clean room to work with…and really, you may not need to do as much as you thought. With an older kitchen especially, it can feel like you just want to gut the whole thing and start completely over. That’s the point when it’s easy to get discouraged because the time, money, and scope of work seem unmanageable.

The advantages of cleaning are seeing what’s broken, what’s repairable, what works, and what doesn’t. You’ll probably have space for the stuff you use. If more storage is an issue you’ll have a better idea of what you need to store and can make the changes to create the most efficient storage.

When to remodel

If your kitchen is old, and the various elements are deteriorating, then just cleaning may not be enough. Still, you need to see what you have to work with and a clean space is going to make it possible to assess what needs to be done and in what order.

Once you can see what’s under the dirt and clutter, you can start to assess the situation. The following questions may help establish your priorities:

What’s your budget?

Your remodeling budget is going to be driven primarily by how much you can afford, but you’ll also want to consider how much your home is worth. Redoing your kitchen can range from a few thousand dollars to spiff it up a little to $50,000 or more. Depending on where you live, if the value of your home is between $160,000-190,000, then a mid-range remodel could be a good value at about $25,000, especially if homes in your neighborhood are selling for around $190,000-220,000. It also depends on how much equity you have and how old the kitchen is. If you bought your house in 1974 and the kitchen has never been redone, you could probably get a home equity loan at an extremely good rate and do whatever your heart desires. If you bought your home two years ago, your options will be different. The goal should be to improve your home to the extent you can recoup any investment you make. If you have the money and want to do more, you may not get as much back, but it’s your kitchen and you’re the only one you need to please.

To maximize your investment, you can also put in some sweat equity and do some of the work yourself freeing up money for better appliances, custom carpentry, or contractor services like plumbers and electricians to move fixtures and install new circuitry that might otherwise be unaffordable. Projects that you might take on yourself might include painting, laying tile countertops, and installing flooring.

How well does it work?

How well does your kitchen work now? What features are particularly good? What do you really hate? How does the traffic flow work? Do you have good quality cabinets with plenty of drawer space that are just old and dingy? Are the appliances new, but the old floor dating back to 1968 looks terrible? Maybe the light from the big old windows is wonderful, but drafty? Is there enough counter space?

Make a list of everything you want to change. Then refine that list with your immediate priorities, for example:

Replacing the dishwasher is going to make doing dishes a lot easier and a new floor, chosen for ease of cleaning, durability, and aesthetics is not only going to look better, it will be easier to keep up. If cleaning doesn’t yield the space you need to store necessary items, then additional storage may be needed. Besides working better, a new range can be a lot more pleasant to use…especially if you like cooking. But what about the cabinets…do they need to be replaced or will refacing them work?

The end game with functionality is to improve how well your kitchen serves you. If you spend time working around appliances that don’t work, or a lack of storage and counter space prevents efficient use of your time, then any improvements you make will pay dividends in the long run.

How far can you get on your own?

Once your kitchen is clean, you may discover that with some modest improvements like painting and replacing hardware, your kitchen is fine. There are lots of small improvements you can make on your own such as replacing existing cabinet doors with new ones and springing the cash to replace the appliances that just don’t work the way they used to.

If you are willing to live with the mess and do the work yourself, you can accomplish a lot. A word to the wise…it’s easy to make mistakes and fixing your errors can be as expensive as hiring a professional in the first place.

You may be really handy around the house and not hesitate to gut the room yourself. In that case, all you need to concern yourself with is making sure that you obtain any permits needed for your remodel. Your local city or county building inspector can tell you what permits are required. If that’s the case, the only work you’ll probably need help with is electrical and plumbing, both of which for safety’s sake should be done by licensed contractors. Lots of folks do that work themselves, bypass the inspections, but then have to have the work redone when they sell, because it wasn’t done up to code in the first place.

Kitchen remodel finished

When to hire professionals

Despite the cost of hiring design and construction professionals, they can often help with a variety of problems.

Designers can help you choose and coordinate materials, build needed functionality into the design, and help you achieve your goals within the context of the home’s character. The net functional and aesthetic effect can add substantially to resale value as well as your satisfaction with the remodeled space.

An architect can determine structural conditions, incorporate the designer's vision, and work with a general contractor to make sure that the final outcome meets not only your desires, but also the building codes to ensure a perfect blend of aesthetics, building integrity, and safety. As a professional, the architect is legally responsible for the final design.

A general contractor is qualified to coordinate the entire project, orchestrate the schedule and supervise work as it proceeds. They are accustomed to working with subcontractors and can get action when a homeowner can’t. A general contractor takes responsibility for permits and meeting building codes. They usually offer a warranty, so if work needs to be redone, they’ll take care of it.

Contractor specialties range from plumbers and electricians to carpenters and plasterers, artisans to create and install custom tile and glass applications, and window specialists who will replace old single-pane windows with state-of-the-art triple glazed, custom fabricated windows.

And in the end…

The time and energy you save in your decluttered, revamped kitchen will pay you back many times over.


If you need a kitchen professional, find qualified, licensed contractors at Update Renovate .

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