Kitchen Remodel: adding value and functionality
A full kitchen remodel is a big job, and it can be expensive, not to mention inconvenient. But a shiny, updated, and beautiful new kitchen can add value to your home and make your life more enjoyable, especially if your current kitchen isn’t working for you anymore.
Many people who start their home-buying journey start by looking at price, neighborhoods, the number of bedrooms and bathrooms, and perhaps how much land they would get. They look at homes holistically—will my kids have good school options? Can my family live a good, long life in this house?
They might not look at the details in the kitchen even after two or three visits to a prospective house or condo. A pre-purchase inspection will tell you if there are problems with the appliances, electrical system, plumbing, and other issues. But those reports won’t answer this question: is the kitchen functional and convenient to use? Will it work for you for the long haul? Is there enough cabinet and storage space?
The answer to those questions might not be apparent for a few months, after you’ve been using the kitchen daily. Then, you might start noticing that things are not as perfect as you thought when you put in a bid to buy your dream home.
Unless you can afford a staff of servants, the kitchen is the heart of the home. It needs to function on all cylinders, so if it’s not working, you need to remodel.
A question of cost
Let’s get this out of the way first: a full kitchen remodel is expensive. Depending on size and scope, it can cost tens of thousands of dollars and well into six figures.
You might ask yourself, is it worth it?
I hate my kitchen. Now what?
Once you determine that your kitchen does need a facelift, you’ll need to decide what it is that you don’t like.
Before you call a contractor, make a list of the things you don’t like or even things you hate.
Do the dated cabinets and countertops look like they came out of an 80s horror movie? Are those cabinets too shallow or inconvenient to use?
Make a list of things you really want, like a larger pantry or a bigger fridge.
Making such a list will force you to focus on what you envision, and it will help you prioritize—this will help you once the estimate of the cost comes in, which can come as a surprise for some. You might have to forget about those gold-plated cabinet handles.
Choosing a contractor
Once you have an idea of what you want, start looking at contractors in your area. You could ask friends or family who may have had renovations done in their own homes.
Or ask around at your workplace—some larger companies have informal online groups where coworkers offer information and recommendations about services in your area. Many of those contractors are small, family run businesses that depend on word of mouth.
When you start considering a contractor, check out their website—what kind of projects they take up, what services they offer. Some contractors might post on their website what their calendar looks like. Many offer links to reviews.
Look beyond the photos with the gleaming new kitchens or bathrooms. Go to their social media pages and see what they’ve shared and what previous clients say about them. While some reviewers might have negative things to say—virtually all businesses will have someone who is not happy with them—did the company respond? Did it seem like the contractor was trying to correct the issue?
You’re about to spend thousands of dollars, so it’s important to do the homework.
The design process
Some contractors will have designers on staff who will create plans for your new kitchen based on your list. Others will give you recommendations for designers they trust and with whom they have worked before.
While you can certainly do a lot of the work yourself—perhaps you’ve already gone to your local hardware store or a construction products supplier—a designer will draft the blueprint for your new kitchen and give you advice on things you might not have noticed when you first developed your list. They can give you ideas for more modern and functional elements.
Just remember that there are a lot of decisions you’ll have to make as you embark on the project, and a professional designer can help narrow your choices: do you want a modern kitchen? Traditional? Or the countertop’s material—granite? Quartz? What types of handles do you want for your drawers and cabinet doors?
Supply chain problems: Where’s my fridge?
The last couple of years have seen disruptions in the global supply chain system because of the COVID-19 pandemic. These problems have impacted everything from industrial machinery all the way down to home goods. This could include all those appliances you saw at your local store that you think will look good in your new kitchen.
Make sure you ask the sales rep at the store if the appliances you like are in stock or if you can expect delivery within a reasonable amount of time.
If you bought the appliances, and you’ve been informed about major delays, make sure you tell your contractor to see how this might affect their timeline to finish the job.
If it will be delayed by months, not weeks, you might have to buy something else. Or you could try to find the same item online at appliance stores in other parts of the country and have it shipped. This could save you weeks, and you get the same item you wanted all along.
Inspect, inspect, inspect
When you start receiving the items you ordered, make sure they are the right pieces—check the model number printed on the box—and inspect them as soon as they arrive.
The delivery personnel should offer to open the boxes to make sure there’s no damage and that all major parts are present.
Don’t wait to inspect the pieces that you don’t expect to have installed until the end of the project—decorative lighting or things like that because you might not be able to return them.
Have a plan
Now that you’ve decided to proceed, make sure you have a plan for your living arrangements during construction.
Having a plan for your kitchen remodel is not just about taking measurements, working on the drawings with your designer, and picking new appliances, cabinets and countertops.
What is your plan for food while the contractor is demolishing the old kitchen and building you a new one? Where will you store your refrigerated and frozen foods? Frozen pizzas and meals are a good idea, but where will you keep them?
Doing take-out and eating out at restaurants daily can be very expensive, not to mention unhealthy, as many restaurants prepare their foods with lots of salt and sometimes with extra fat. Yes, that can be delicious, but all those calories add up, especially if your project goes longer than expected.
If you have an extra room, such as an entertainment room or a basement—a “man cave,” perhaps—you could turn it into a make-shift kitchen. You could rent a small refrigerator or even buy a used one. A toaster oven, an Instant Pot, a slow cooker, and an air fryer are good options to make some of your meals, and they’re small enough to fit on small tables.
You might opt to move out of your home completely while the work is being done. Obviously, this would add to the final cost of the remodel. Remember, though, that the project manager on site might have questions as they move through the different phases of the job. It might be easier if you’re in the house already, so they can just come to you and ask those questions directly.
So, make sure you have a plan! Remember that a contractor can tell you that a job will take six weeks, but they often encounter delays, which could extend the timeline by several weeks.
The finish line
As things get finished, inspect your new kitchen as sections are completed and note things that are different from what you thought. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.
Contractors and the people who do the work follow the blueprint that you or the designer created. They might have done something differently. While they probably have a good reason for it, ensure that you approve of any changes.
Pull out every drawer, open all the cabinet doors, make sure all the shelves are there. These things are easily fixable.
But most importantly, make sure all the appliances were installed correctly and that they were inspected. If you had major electrical or plumbing work done, make sure it’s all safe and ready to be used. A fire or a flood caused by improper installation could endanger you and your family and leave you without a home for an extended period.
Once your kitchen remodel is finished, you won’t have to look at those old, granny-style cabinets or outdated countertops or use the dishwasher that’s leaving some of your dishes dirty.
On top of that, while it is inconvenient not to have a kitchen for weeks or even months, you will be glad you did it if you want to sell your home. The value of a new, updated kitchen will add to your bottom line.
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