Few home remodeling projects are as popular or exciting as getting a new kitchen. However, there are important things to consider before you start knocking down walls.
Your strategy for remodeling depends on your personal goals: Are you planning to stay or are you remodeling to sell your home more easily? What works within your budget, and what ideas are overly expensive and impractical based on your home’s value?
Of course, home improvement projects aren’t always about earning a return on your investment. Some homeowners just want to build their dream kitchens despite the costs. Regardless of why you’re remodeling your kitchen, it’s important to take a hard look at the costs, downtime, and value-added benefits of the remodel. It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement, but practical planning can prevent you from making costly mistakes.
What to Consider When Remodeling
Kitchen remodeling can increase your home’s curb appeal and create an ideal space for people who love cooking, dining, and entertaining. However, the process is complex because you have to deal with electrical wiring, plumbing, pipework, appliances and possibly a gas connection. Costs can easily spiral out of control. The average cost of remodeling a kitchen is $21,751. Lavish remodels can run $50,000 or more. Most homeowners should consider what they really need, set a strict budget and watch carefully for cost overruns and unexpected expenses.
Common Mistakes Made When Remodeling Kitchens
The most common mistake that most people make is trying to do some, most, or all the work themselves. Kitchen remodels rank among the most difficult contracting jobs. You have to consider demolition, hauling away debris, managing complex connections, and installing some of the heaviest home appliances and equipment. It’s important to choose a reliable general contractor and not hire a friend or local handyman.
Other common mistakes that end up costing time and money include:
- Paying in advance and waiting forever for the project to be completed
- Getting distracted from your goals and revising your project continually
- Settling for a cookie-cutter kitchen to save time and money
- Worrying only about surfaces that show and ignoring cracks and weakened infrastructure
Hiring an Architect
Should you hire an architect? Unless your project just involves cosmetic changes, you should consider hiring an architect, which can save money and prevent expensive revisions to your plans. Architects can solve complex issues and provide innovative solutions to technical problems, such as rewiring the kitchen, making alterations to interior, or exterior walls, and ensuring that the work is up to local building codes. An architect can also match the architectural details of your home and ensure architectural integrity.
Appliances, Counters, and Cabinets
In most kitchen remodels, the cost of the cabinets alone can run as much as 30 percent of your budget. You should consider whether you need new cabinets. Refacing and resurfacing your existing cabinets can make them new without incurring major expenses. Counters are also expensive depending on the materials you choose. Most homeowners want new appliances, but you should stop to consider whether you really need stainless steel appliances, a subzero refrigerator, copper cookware, and other expensive options — especially if you and your spouse don’t really cook at home that often.
Estimating Kitchen Remodeling Costs
It’s wise to develop a Plan A and Plan B for most of your choices such as appliances, counters, and cabinets. The more research you do, the more accurate your estimate will be. Remember that the unexpected can easily throw a monkey wrench into your plans. For example, older homes might require asbestos remediation or major electrical upgrades. If cost overruns threaten to shut down your remodeling project, having a Plan B can get things back on track and under budget.
What’s Worth the Money and What Isn’t
Unless you entertain lavishly and frequently, you probably won’t need a commercial walk-in cooler and freezer. You might want to use exotic hardwoods in your kitchen, but are they really necessary? Shopping around for big-ticket items can save a lot of money. The cost of custom cabinets can vary by as much as $15,000 for 30 linear feet.
If you love to cook and entertain, creating your dream kitchen can certainly be worthwhile. However, according to Remodeling Magazine, major kitchen and bathroom remodeling jobs almost never add enough value to your home to recoup your investment. If you’re planning to sell your home, a cosmetic job of cabinet refacing, painting, stripping, and refinishing the floor and making a few other improvements can pay off big.
Fancy electronic cooking gadgets can be a big waste of money unless you’re sure you’ll use them personally. Most cooks prefer their own brands and methods, so fancy tools won’t increase your kitchen’s appeal. Sorry, but a big investment in molecular gastronomy tools isn’t worth the expense.
Lighting, however, can be an area where form meets function. If you learn about the color temperatures of light and use that knowledge to create a warm kitchen atmosphere with under-cabinet lighting, pendant lights and energy-efficient LED lighting, you’ll save money on energy and bulb replacements.
Low-cost flooring — especially in high-traffic kitchens — works as well as more expensive materials. You can get a fine hardwood or tile floor for $2 or $3 a square foot. You don’t have to spend a fortune to get a serviceable floor.
Counters are often a matter of pride with serious cooks. Most visitors to your kitchen notice the counters first. That’s why granite and quartz are good choices — even if more expensive. However, you can get good granite at $20 a square foot instead of paying $45 a foot. Cheap formica and laminates can make your kitchen look cheap, so avoid choosing these to save money.
Choosing the Right Contractor for the Job
The single most important decision you’ll make about remodeling your kitchen is choosing a contractor. The right contractor can help you through the process, make valuable suggestions, and even get a discount on your major appliances. You should research contactor reputations, customer reviews, testimonials, and business history of complaints and legal actions. Ask three or four of those with best reputations to bid on your project.