28 October 2010

Your Kitchen Makeover: Dozens of Decisions to make before Work starts

Pocono Record

Whether you're the galloping gourmet chef or prefer to open up a box of Sara Lee, the kitchen is the central hub of the house. It's where bread is broken, discussions take place and disagreements are resolved.

It's no wonder homeowners are willing to spend the most on a kitchen remodeling than anywhere else in the home.

Before deciding on remodeling, there are a few things to consider — most importantly is your budget.

"Prices can really run the gamut when remodeling a kitchen. A homeowner can easily spend $1,200 to $21,000 and anywhere in between," said Ruth Schoeneberger, certified kitchen designer for Morris Black Kitchen and Bath Designs in Bartonsville. "If you are working within a budget, you will need to make compromises and determine where you want to be within value and what is important to your design."

There are products for every price category. "Most homeowners agree that they are only doing the job once and will go with quality products for their durability," said Cheryl Franz, kitchen designer for Monroe Marble & Granite in Stroudsburg.

Some would rather spend their money to have an energy-efficient kitchen, while others prefer function and style. In either case, with many different products to choose from, your compromises should be minimal.

Do your research, suggested Schoeneberger. "If you are not educated, you can have a lot of remorse down the road," she said.

Like clothing trends, designs, colors and types of materials used in the kitchen can become outdated. If you plan to update your kitchen for the purpose of selling your home, you might want to consider using a professional kitchen designer to give you tips in the latest styles.

After you have a realistic budget in mind, now it's time for some homework. "Get on the Internet and research different kitchen styles to find out what your style is and what you like. There are free kitchen planning guides available online that come with a checklist," said Franz.

"Once you have a visual of what your dream kitchen would look like, interview several contractors and ask for a list of references. It's important to get your estimates in writing. Never go on a handshake."


When making budget-conscious decisions in your kitchen, consider the different price points.

"Many think that refacing your old cabinets will save you money; however, by the time you pay for the labor, you could be spending just as much as if you went with new stock cabinets that are economically affordable and will give your kitchen cosmetic changes without the custom cabinetry price tag," said Franz.

Once you've picked the wood, then you can choose the finish. Buyer beware: Multiple layer finishes cost more and drive the price up. Each has various levels to determine the price points. "Darker colors are coming back for the cabinets, light oak is done. We are seeing a lot of dark maple and cherry finishes," Schoeneberger said.

Many consumers are looking for ways to incorporate green choices. There are manufacturers that offer hardwoods from sustainable forests and that use products that contain recycled contents.


If the thought of granite countertops has you salivating more than the food you're preparing, it may be time for new countertops.

"In today's kitchen, everyone wants granite countertops and a breakfast/snack bar for an eat-in kitchen," Schoeneberger said.

Granite offers durability and a lot of different color options. "Engineered quartz has a higher value because of its durability and warranty, making it more expensive, but it cannot compete with the exotic look of granite with its beauty, energy and motion."

Even in a tough economy homeowners are still remodeling and still going for the luxury item. "It's the jewel of the kitchen that really makes a statement," said Franz.

"I would never recommend Formica countertops. If you can't afford the full granite countertop, a good compromise to that would be granite tiles over the top of your existing counter top. These big granite tiles, without the large grout line, are less expensive but still give the same luxurious look of granite."


The verdict is in and the lights are coming out. "No more wasted space above the cabinets with soffits and recessed lighting. People want that extra height for storage. With so many kitchen gadgets and gizmos, we need to put it somewhere," Schoeneberger said.


Flooring is a personal taste. "Many want the look of hardwood floors, but you will still have spillage, drops and scratches. There is more wear and tear in the kitchen than any other room in the house. Porcelain tiles are still the best on a kitchen floor. Ceramic tiles are less expensive but not as durable as porcelain. It really depends where you want your luxury," Franz said.

Good investment?

Don't expect to recoup remodeling money when trying to sell your home. And the more you spend, the more you lose. According to Schoeneberger, in today's market, no one cares about what use to matter years ago.

"Home buyers today do not know quality and won't pay for it either. All they look at is the price," she said.

Bev Waring, an agent with Realty Executives in Stroudsburg, said, "In this market, I would say no to a kitchen renovation to get a house sold. The house may sell more quickly with an updated kitchen; however, the homeowner most likely will not get a full return on the investment."

According to Realtor magazine, a midrange kitchen remodel brings an average 72.1 percent return on investment, while an upscale kitchen redo returns only an average of 63.2 percent.

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