Kitchen Remodeling on a Budget

Does it Make Sense to Remodel Your Kitchen in 2009?

Are you tired of looking at your old kitchen cabinets, countertops and appliances? We all want a designer kitchen but with today’s economic woes the thought of spending $50,000 or more to remodel your kitchen may seem unthinkable.

Given today’s lower home resale prices, over-investing in a high end, custom designer kitchen may not make as much sense economically as it once appeared. Making wise choices now about how much to invest in home remodeling projects will ensure the best return on investment when you decide to sell your home later.

But with retailers and contractors offering deep discounts, now may be a great time to consider giving your kitchen an economy renovation! Read on and learn how to update your kitchen on a tight budget.

Why Invest in Kitchen Remodeling?

For homeowners planning to live in an older home for the next three to five years, minor kitchen upgrades now can provide a nicer place to live and, according to experts, typically return between 90% and 105% of the amount invested in terms of a home’s resale value.

Waiting for economic recovery to begin renovation will most likely mean you’ll pay more in the long run, as the price of appliances, materials and labor go back up … and you’ll be living with an outdated kitchen in the mean time.

Start by Setting a Reasonable Budget

Once you commit to updating your kitchen, start by setting a budget. If you only have $5,000 to spend, you’ll probably be looking at a facelift; repainting, possible refinishing cabinets and replacing the faucets. Remember, done wisely, even small changes can have a big impact.

If your budget is in the $15,000 range, you might consider replacing the countertops and replacing appliances such as the range and dishwasher. If you really push the limit and are able to do some or most of the work yourself, you could even replace kitchen cabinets.
In most cases, a complete kitchen remodel will still typically require a budget of $25,000 or more if you plan to take everything down to the studs and start fresh. But, by selecting less expensive materials and appliances, experienced do-it-yourself homeowners can pull off a complete kitchen renovation by shopping around for appliances, cabinets, flooring, etc. on a modest budget.

Consider Re-facing Kitchen Cabinet

When planning a minor kitchen upgrade, one major decision is whether or not you need to replace cabinets. If the existing cabinets are still serviceable, but just need a fresh look, refinishing or painting cabinets may be an option.

Changing cabinet doors, hinges and pulls can give a kitchen a completely new look. Ask a couple of local cabinetmakers for an evaluation to see what’s possible. While you don’t have a lot of options to change your kitchen’s layout with this approach, the decision to replace cabinets is a major factor in determining the scope and cost of the project.

If you do decide that your old cabinets are beyond fixing or you want to change the layout of your kitchen, you need to recognize that your budget needs will be significantly higher and be prepared to set your budget accordingly. In fact, many people end up putting off kitchen renovation simply because they can’t or do not want to keep their existing cabinets, eliminating the option of a low-cost facelift.

Pre-manufactured, modular kitchen cabinet systems can also help save money versus hiring a custom cabinet maker. Once you have decided new cabinets are a requirement, spending the time to do your homework and evaluate all your options will really impact your bottom line budget and how realistic the project will be relative to your budget constraints.

Affordable Kitchen Countertops

Surfaces take a real beating in the demanding kitchen environment, making natural stone the most popular choice when it comes to kitchen countertops. Granite is the toughest stone for kitchen surfaces, with marble being softer and somewhat less stain-resistant.
Limestone, slate, soapstone, and sandstone are softer, but can also cost less. However, unless you are remodeling a very small kitchen, natural stone countertops can really inflate the overall project budget, typically costing between $40 and $100 per square foot, installed.

Engineered stone is another option, typically made by combining crushed quartz with polymer resins to create a durable and attractive and nonporous surface. While it may save money versus high end granite or marble, engineered stone doesn’t really save a whole lot at between $45 and $90 per square foot, installed.

Ceramic tile is a great choice for the economy kitchen remodeling project; available in an almost endless range of colors, patterns, and styles, it can be installed by most experienced do-it-yourselfers. And, at $10 to $30 per square foot, installed, ceramic tile is a real cost-saver, especially in a kitchen with lots of countertop area!

Laminate is also a cost-effective option and is relatively easy to install, but typically scratches, stains and shows wear more than ceramic tile. Laminate (or post-formed) countertops run $10 to $30 per square foot, installed, so cost is typically about the same as for ceramic tile.

Kitchen Appliance Replacement Options

After cabinets and countertops, the most costly investment in most kitchen renovations will be appliances. But there are ways to keep the cost down when selecting and installing major appliances.

For instance, while every gourmet chef would love to have double ovens, a basic single gas oven, especially with an integrated range top, is one way to really keep the lid on your appliance budget. How much are you willing to sacrifice in order to complete your kitchen renovation within your budget constraints? And how often do you cook big meals that require dual ovens, convection, etc? Asking yourself these questions as you plan your kitchen project and then prioritizing needs can really help you make the best trade-offs and choices.

Tests show that there is relatively little difference in reliability between high end brands and models as compared to less expensive ones. You may not get all the bells and whistles or appliances with the designer/commercial kitchen look, but shop around for appliances and you can find some great deals these days! Also, ask about low or no-interest financing or delayed payment plans that could reduce your initial outlay, leaving more funds for other aspects of your kitchen project.

While you don’t want to skimp so much that you end up hating your oven, range, dishwasher or refrigerator, you also don’t want to over-invest in kitchen investments; it won’t add enough resale value to justify buying the most expensive models and unless cooking is really a passion, you probably won’t find yourself wishing you had paid more in the long run!

Saving Money on Kitchen Sinks and Faucets

From a performance standpoint, both functionally and in terms of durability, there is little difference between the various brands and price points available these days. Really, what you pay for when buying a high end sink or faucet will be style and uniqueness of design.

Stainless steel remains the most popular choices in kitchen sinks. But, there is not much difference between lower gauge and the thicker, more costly higher gauge models; most will resist dents, stains, scratches, and heat about the same. A basic stainless faucet will match your stainless sink nicely and costs far less than brushed nickel or other finishes.

Another great value if you don’t want the metallic look is an enameled cast-iron sink. The Kohler Smart Divide kitchen sink has a lower lip between the dual bowls, making it easy to wash large items.

Bowls in kitchen sink models range from 6 to 12 inches deep. A deeper bowl helps reduce splashing, but one that is too deep forces you to bend over more. Also, if you select an under-mounted kitchen sink, remember the drop-in will lower it by another inch-and-a-half.

The choice is clear when selecting a sink and faucet; you can keep your budget down by selecting basic, functional models made with quality materials and avoiding the designer models made with higher cost finishes. Really, if you spend $500 on your faucet, it will make almost no difference in terms of your home’s resale value than a basic stainless steel model!

Affordable Kitchen Flooring Options

When it comes to affordable flooring, the good news is that less expensive materials can often a better choice for the rigors of kitchen wear and tear than more costly materials!

Solid wood flooring is known for natural warmth and may be a great choice in high-end designer kitchens, but it is costly to install, can discolor, is easily dented and wears quickly. And, at $7 to $12 per square foot, installed, it is not the most economical choice.

Engineered wood or bamboo flooring is easier to install than solid wood since it is typically nailed, stapled or glued in place, or else floated, without fasteners. However, it can dent and show stains and spills more than other flooring materials. At $5 to $10 per square foot, installed, it is an economical choice; if you install it yourself you can save even more.

Ceramic tile is typically resistant to wear, moisture, scratches, dents, and stains. However, since it is very flooring hard surface, you should be prepared for dishes to break if dropped! Labor intensive to lay and grout; prices range from $8 to $15 per square foot, making ceramic tile a less economic choice for kitchen flooring.

Plastic laminate flooring may be one of the most affordable options; it can be floated without using glue or fasteners and wears better than most wood flooring products, resisting dents, scratches and UV fading. While it can’t be refinished and may be damaged by some types of liquid spills, at $4 to $8 per square foot, installed, plastic laminate flooring looks great and helps keep the budget in line.

Vinyl flooring is stain and UV fade-resistant, easy to install and long wearing. Today’s vinyl flooring products can reasonably imitate the look of stone or other natural materials, although a vinyl floor is not likely to help your new kitchen win designer awards. But, at Price $3 to $7 per square foot, installed, it is an affordable kitchen flooring option worth considering.

While linoleum is available in many styles and colors today, it is not as long wearing as the plastic laminate products and will run you $4 to $9 per square foot, installed.

Summary: Making Smart Kitchen renovation Choices

While many people are choosing not to make home renovations in the current economic situation and given the current decline in home resale prices, remember that everything is cyclical. For homeowners willing to accept some risk in the short term, having a new kitchen they enjoy and adding long term value to their home still makes a lot of sense.

Everything is a buyer’s market right now, so smart homeowners will strike while the iron is hot, getting a great deal on the new kitchen of their dreams by making wise decisions, setting and sticking to a reasonable budget and knowing they are making a long term investment in their home!

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