Turn up the Heat
Bonnie Baber; photos by Cheryl Gerber
Renovating your kitchen is usually the most cost-effective upgrade you can do to your home, but it can also be the most expensive. Here are the five key questions that you might want to ask the experts.
1. It’s going to cost how much? There are ways to cut costs without sacrificing quality. Try to keep existing plumbing and electrical. Don’t make structural changes to the room, and make the most of small improvements like paint, wallpaper and lighting. Expect to spend anywhere from $2,000 for a cosmetic facelift, which means new cabinet doors, hardware, faucet and fixtures, to $20,000 for elaborate structural changes and high-end cabinetry, counters, appliances, flooring, custom work and other upgrades.
“Until you actually do the design or have a set of plans, you really can’t put a price on it. You can only estimate,” says B.J. Farrell, manager of Campbell Cabinet Co. Regardless of what you do for a budget, he says, don’t skimp on design, appliances or labor. These are the basis for a functional kitchen and you should get the best you can afford. Instead, to cut costs, you can use stock cabinets instead of custom, formica instead of granite. “Get product information and pay attention to durability and construction,” he says. “Make sure that whatever you’re buying is going to last.”
Also, make sure that all planning is done before you start work. Any changes halfway through the process will be expensive. Always check job progress before you place costly orders on cabinets and appliances. “You have to catch any mistakes before your cabinets are shipped out,” says Huey Brown, owner of Huey Brown’s Kitchens & Flooring Co.
2. Where do I begin? Have a general idea of what you’re looking for. “Today, the selection is incredible and choices are overwhelming,” says Farrell. With cabinets, for example, which today mimic a variety of furniture styles, “we’re talking about more than 300 door styles and color combinations per store.”
He tells clients to focus on color first. “This starts the process,” he says. “Style is important, but color is the first priority.” Jim Dantin, manager of Designer Appliances, Covington, suggests that clients first decide on “dark or light” or “white or not?”
3. Who is qualified to help me? “I always tell my customers to make sure they have a contractor with good references,” Brown says. “Know the last three to four houses he built.” If remodeling, you’ll want to check the credentials of the professional remodeler or renovator. Also, he says, you might want to ask to see the work of your trim carpenter. “Your carpentry and installation can make or break a kitchen,” Brown says. “The finished product is what makes it.”
4. What do you need from me? The first thing the homeowner needs to have is proper measurements, or a floorplan if building new, before deciding on a design. Most kitchen/cabinet companies will come to your home and take actual measurements if you can’t provide them, Farrell says. “We also must know the décor or style direction of your home so we can steer you to the right products,” he says.
5. Who’s the cook in the family? Whoever is the primary cook can make the difference in kitchen layout and appliance preferences, such as an all-gas range versus a dual-fuel range. Today you can get gas, electric or both. Also, one cook might prefer an all-in-one range configuration, while another might want a separate cooktop and wall oven. “The wall oven is higher, so you don’t have to stoop down,” Dantin says.
Another factor is whether the cooking surface should be on the island or against the wall. The best way to ventilate any cooking surface is with a hood, so if going the island route, you’ll want to look into a chimney-style island hood instead of a pop-up to capture any rising heat, steam, smoke, smells and grease. •