If you’re contemplating a kitchen remodel, you’re also weighing a considerable investment. But a significant portion of the upfront costs may be recovered by the value the project brings to your home. Kitchen remodels in the $50,000 range recouped 76% of the initial project cost at the home’s resale, according to recent data from Remodeling Magazine’s Cost vs. Value Report. To make sure you maximize your return, consider these seven smart kitchen remodeling strategies.
1. Establish your priorities
Simple enough? Not so fast. The National Kitchen and Bath Association (NKBA) recommends spending at least six months planning before beginning the work. That way, you can thoroughly evaluate your priorities and won’t be tempted to change your mind during construction. Contractors often have clauses in their contracts that specify additional costs for amendments to original plans. Planning points to consider include:
Avoid traffic jams. A walkway through the kitchen should be at least 36 inches wide, according to the NKBA. Work aisles for one cook should be a minimum of 42 inches wide and at least 48 inches wide for households with multiple cooks.
Consider children. Avoid sharp, square corners on countertops, and make sure microwave ovens are installed at the heights recommended by the NKBA—3 inches below the shoulder of the principle user but not more than 54 inches from the floor.
Access to the outside. If you want to easily reach entertaining areas, such as a deck or a
patio, factor a new exterior door into your plans.
Because planning a kitchen is complex, consider hiring a professional designer. A pro can help make style decisions and foresee potential problems, so you can avoid costly mistakes. In addition, a pro makes sure contractors and installers are sequenced properly so that workflow is cost-effective. Expect fees around $50 to $150 per hour, or 5% to 15% of the total cost of the project.
2. Keep the same footprint
No matter the size and scope of your planned kitchen, you can save major expense by not rearranging walls, and by locating any new plumbing fixtures near existing plumbing pipes. Not only will you save on demolition and reconstruction, you’ll greatly reduce the amount of dust and debris your project generates.
3. Match appliances to your skill level
A six-burner commercial-grade range and luxury-brand refrigerator might make eye-catching centerpieces, but be sure they fit your lifestyle, says Molly Erin McCabe, owner of A Kitchen That Works design firm in Bainbridge Island, Wash. “It’s probably the part of a kitchen project where people tend to overspend the most.”
The high price is only worth the investment if you’re an exceptional cook. Otherwise, save thousands with trusted brands that receive high marks at consumer review websites, like www.ePinions.com and www.amazon.com, and resources such as Consumer Reports.
4. Create a well-designed lighting scheme
• Install task lighting, such as recessed or track lights, over sinks and food prep areas; assign at least two fixtures per task to eliminate shadows. Under-cabinet lights illuminate clean-up and are great for reading cookbooks. Pendant lights over counters bring the light source close to work surfaces.
• Ambient lighting includes flush-mounted ceiling fixtures, wall sconces, and track lights. Consider dimmer switches with ambient lighting to control intensity and mood.
5. Focus on durability
“People are putting more emphasis on functionality and durability in the kitchen,” says McCabe. That may mean resisting bargain prices and focusing on products that combine low-maintenance with long warranty periods. “Solid-surface countertops [Corian, Silestone] are a perfect example,” adds McCabe. “They may cost a little more, but they’re going to look as good in 10 years as they did the day they were installed.”
If you’re not planning to stay in your house that long, products with substantial warranties can become a selling point. “Individual upgrades don’t necessarily give you a 100% return,” says Frank Gregoire, a real estate appraiser in St. Petersburg, Fla. “But they can give you an edge when it comes time to market your home for sale” if other for-sale homes have similar features.
6. Add storage, not space
To add storage without bumping out walls:
• Specify upper cabinets that reach the ceiling. They may cost a bit more, but you’ll gain valuable storage space. In addition, you won’t have to worry about dusting the tops.
• Hang it up. Install small shelving units on unused wall areas, and add narrow spice racks
and shelves on the insides of cabinet doors. Use a ceiling-mounted pot rack to keep bulkier pots and pans from cluttering cabinets. Add hooks to the backs of closet doors for aprons, brooms, and mops.
7. Communicate effectively—and often
Having a good rapport with your project manager or construction team is essential for staying on budget. “Poor communication is a leading cause of kitchen projects going sour,” says McCabe. To keep the sweetness in your project:
Drop by the project during work hours as often as possible. Your presence assures subcontractors and other workers of your commitment to getting good results.
Establish a communication routine. Hang a message board on-site where you and the project manager can leave each other daily communiques. Give your email address and cell phone number to subs and team leaders.
Set house rules. Be clear about smoking, boom box noise levels, which bathroom is available, and where workers should park their vehicles.
Consumers spend more money on kitchen remodeling than any other home improvement project, according to the Home Improvement Research Institute, and with good reason. They’re the hub of home life, and a source of pride. With a little strategizing, you can ensure your new kitchen gives you years of satisfaction.
John Riha has written six books on home improvement and hundreds of articles on home-related topics. He’s been a residential builder, the editorial director of the Black and Decker Home Improvement Library, and the executive editor of Better Homes and Gardens magazine. His standard 1968 suburban house has been an ongoing source of maintenance experience.
7 Smart Strategies for Bathroom Remodeling
Most homeowners dream about getting a bathroom that’s high on comfort and personal style but are concerned about making the right decisions on materials, fixtures, and amenities that will have lasting value. Fortunately, there’s good news.
A bathroom remodel is a solid investment, according to Remodeling Magazine’s annual Cost vs. Value Report. A $15,000 bath remodel will recoup almost 75% of those costs when it’s time to sell your home, and a more extensive $50,000 job returns 70%. In addition, you can maximize the value of your investment by using smart strategies to help you to get the bathroom of your dreams while keeping costs under control.
1. Create a plan, and stick to it
“The biggest issue in a bathroom remodel is adequate planning, no question,” says Jeani Lee, a certified kitchen and bath designer and president of the Iowa chapter of the National Kitchen and Bath Association (NKBA). “You need to thoroughly evaluate how you plan to use
the space, what kinds of materials and fixtures you want, and how much you’re willing to spend. Don’t begin your project until have answers to every aspect of your plan.”
In fact, the NKBA recommends spending up to six months evaluating and planning before beginning the actual work. That way, you can be confident of your priorities and won’t make decisions under duress. Once work has begun a process that averages 2-3 months—refrain from changing your mind. Work stoppages and alterations add costs. Some contractors include clauses in their contracts that specify premium prices for changes to original plans.
If planning isn’t your strong suit, consider hiring a designer. In addition to helping establish style and effective use of space, a professional designer makes sure all aspects of a project are harmonious so that contractors and installers are sequenced in an orderly fashion. A pro charges $100 to $200 per hour, and spends 10 to 30 hours on a bathroom project.
2. Keep the same footprint
No matter the size and scope of your planned bathroom, you can save major expense by not rearranging walls, and by locating any new plumbing fixtures near existing plumbing pipes. You’ll not only save on the demolition and reconstruction that moving walls and pipes require, you’ll greatly reduce the amount of dust and debris your project generates.
3. Make lighting a priority
When it comes to adding creature comforts, your first thoughts might be multiple shower heads and radiant-heat floors. But few items make a bathroom more satisfying than lighting designed for everyday grooming. You can install lighting for a fraction of the cost of pricier amenities.
Well-designed bathroom task lighting surrounds vanity mirrors and serves to eliminate shadows on faces. The scheme includes two ceiling- or soffit-mounted fixtures with 60-75 watts each, and side-fixtures or sconces providing at least 150 watts each distributed vertically across 24 inches (to account for people of various heights). Four-bulb lighting fixtures work well for side lighting.
4. Clear the air
Because bathroom ventilation systems are basically hidden, they usually don’t appear on a must-have list. Nevertheless, bathroom ventilation is essential for removing excess humidity that fogs mirrors, makes bathroom floors slippery, and contributes to the growth of mildew and mold. Controlling mold and humidity is especially important for maintaining healthy indoor air quality and protecting the value of your home—mold remediation is expensive, and excess humidity can damage cabinets and painted finishes.
A bathroom vent should exhaust air to the outside—not simply to the space between ceiling joists. Better models have whisper-quiet exhaust fans and humidity-controlled switches that activate when a sensor detects excess humidity.
5. Think storage
“Adding storage to the bath is a challenge, and should be a top consideration in the planning stages,” says Linda Eggerss, editor of Kitchen and Bath Ideas magazine. To add storage:
• Think vertically. Often, upper wall space in a bathroom is underused. Freestanding, multi-tiered shelf units designed to fit over toilet tanks turn unused wall area into storage. Spaces between wall studs can be used to create niches for holding soaps and toiletries. Install shelves over towel bars to use blank wall space.
• Think moveable. Inexpensive woven baskets set on the floor are stylish ways to hold towels. A floor-stand coat rack can be used to hang drying towels, bath robes, or clothes.
• Think utility. Adding a slide-out tray to vanity cabinet compartments gives you full access to stored items and prevents lesser-used items from being lost or forgotten.
6. Contribute a little sweat equity
You can shave labor costs by doing some of the work yourself. Again, discuss this with your contractor; the agreement you both sign should specify what projects you’ll assume responsibility for. Some easy DIY projects:
• Install window and baseboard trim; save $250
• Paint walls and trim, 200 s.f.; save $200
• Install toilet; save $150
• Install towel bars and shelves; save $20 each
7. Use low-cost design for high visual impact
If you’d like to add visual zest to your bathroom but are concerned about going too far or creating a one-of-a-kind look that might put off a future buyer, try a soft scheme. A soft scheme employs neutral colors for permanent fixtures and surfaces, then adds pizzazz in items that are easily changed, such as shower curtains, window treatments, towels, throw rugs, and wall colors. These relatively low-cost decorative touches provide tons of personality but are easy to redo whenever you want.
With good planning and budget-savvy strategies, your new bathroom will provide years of satisfaction.
John Riha has written six books on home improvement and hundreds of articles on home-related topics. He’s been a residential builder, the editorial director of the Black And Decker Home Improvement Library, and the executive editor of Better Homes and Gardens magazine. His standard 1968 suburban house has been an ongoing source of maintenance experience.