Additions & RemodelsDesign Ideas

Remodeling Opportunities in the Kitchen

A modern kitchen serves as an ideal hub for the home. Whereas kitchens were once private places solely for food preparation and dishwashing, they are now often well lit, open spaces used for everything from entertaining to surfing the net. While nearly everyone would like an up-to-date, multi-purpose kitchen, many are overwhelmed by the prospect of major remodeling.

Consequently, many homeowners settle for a simple refurbishing that does little to improve the way the room functions. If you are considering a minor upgrade of your kitchen, take time to ponder the possibilities. You may be better off redoing your kitchen entirely, even if it means waiting another year.

Openness and Size

As kitchens have taken on larger roles, they have grown in size as well. Nothing more reliably dates a home than the size of its kitchen. Even traditional food preparation tasks involve a range of equipment we once never imagined. From microwaves to food processors to bread makers, many countertops have become so crowded that there’s no place to put a cutting board! To create an open, versatile, modern kitchen, you almost always have to enlarge the space.

Finding extra space for that bigger kitchen isn’t always as difficult as you might guess. Often nearby hallways and closets can be eliminated or relocated to make room. In many homes, combining the dining room and kitchen creates the space you need. If necessary, a small addition to the home can accommodate your new kitchen.

Gathering Ideas

To get a handle on all the possibilities, visit builder’s model homes. Not only will you see the latest in layouts and finishes, you’ll also get a pretty good idea of what’s popular. That popularity usually translates to higher resale value later on. You can also get ideas from remodeling and home fashion magazines available at local grocery and home center stores. Home shows offer another opportunity to get ideas.

As you find ideas you like, place sketches, notes, brochures, photocopies, etc. in an Idea File. Later, a designer can help you try to work all your favorite features into the plan.

Here are some answers to the most common questions about kitchen remodeling:

Q: At a giant home center store near my home, they have all kinds of kitchens on display. Can’t I just order one and have them install it?

A: Home center stores sell a great quantity of cabinets, countertops, flooring and other kitchen components. Typically, their prices on such items are very competitive. Their shortcomings generally come in two areas. First, they often provide very limited design assistance. There are exceptions, but beware of counterpersons who call themselves designers simply because they’ve had three hours of training on a computer design program. A poorly designed kitchen can be a nightmare that you’ll have to live with for a long, long time.

A second problem with home centers is inadequate quality control with installation. Who’s actually doing the work and what is their track record? Usually it’s one of several subcontractors that may vary greatly in quality. While the store will usually stand behind the work, you don’t want to spend two years trying to get installation problems resolved. In summary, you need to be just as careful about contracting with a home center as you’d be contracting with any other kind of service firm.

Q: My kitchen is very out-of-date. We’ll be selling in a year or so. Does it make sense to remodel it?

A: Probably not, but there are exceptions. Usually you’ll want to stick to painting and perhaps replacing the floor and/or countertops. Major work doesn’t normally pay off. For the best advice, talk to a local Realtor active in your neighborhood. They can tell you about what has been selling and for how much and make predictions about whether you’ll get a positive return on your investment.

Q: What is cabinet refacing and is it a good idea?

A: Cabinet refacing is a procedure for renovating cabinets. The refacing firm removes the old cabinet doors, drawer fronts and hardware. A veneer (a thin layer of plastic or wood) is glued to the remaining, visible cabinet faces. The veneer can be wood-grain, white, or any one of a wide variety of finishes and colors. Then, new matching cabinet doors, drawer fronts and hardware are installed. Often a new floor and countertops are installed at the same time. Because the old cabinets are reused, there are both labor and material savings, typically totaling 25-50 percent. When first available, the methods and materials used often delivered less than satisfactory results, but in recent years results have improved considerably. The primary drawback is that the owner is left with great looking cabinets arranged in an outdated layout. Cabinet refacing is a good option for anyone who wants to improve the look of their kitchen while retaining the old layout.

Q: I’m confused about whether to go to an architect, a contractor, or a kitchen dealer to get help making decisions about my new kitchen. Which is best?

A: Each has its advantages and disadvantages. Basically, contractors tend to be strong on construction but weak on design. Dealers tend to be strong on cabinetry and designing within a space, but weaker on construction and enlarging spaces. Architects are of little use unless they specialize in kitchens and in remodeling rather than new construction. While their designs are often glorious, they are famous for designing things that cost much more than the budget allows. There are, of course, exceptions to all these generalities.

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