Trimming the fat: cost-saving ideas for redoing kitchens

January 02, 1994|By Michael Walsh | Michael Walsh,Contributing Writer Universal Press Syndicate

Fact: Too many people spend too much money on kitchen remodeling. How much is too much? A penny more than what it takes to get what they need and want, regardless of the kind of budget they have.

Remodeling a kitchen involves every life-support system in the home -- water lines, gas lines, wiring, heating and cooling ducts -- and so requires the efforts of a small army of skilled workers such as design professionals, plumbers, electricians, contractors and on and on. What's more, a kitchen requires more components -- cabinets, counters, appliances -- than any other room in the house.

Still, there is a right way and wrong way to approach the task. Doing it the right way can produce a fine kitchen at an affordable, reasonable price. The truth is that you can get good design and high quality construction and other elements -- and save money at the same time.

Here, then, are ways to save money on your kitchen remodeling project -- and still get exactly what you want:

1.) Define the scope of the project. Think long and hard about what you want and what you need to do. Trim the frills and you'll trim the budget.

2.) Foremost in your mind should be achieving a good, practical, efficient design, including a floor plan, appliances and amenities that make cooking easier and more enjoyable. How a kitchen looks is important, but how it works is critical.

3.) The best kitchens are built on the best plans, and the best plans come from professionals. Hire an architect, interior designer or kitchen designer. The money they save you will compensate for what you pay them.

4.) Work with design professionals, contractors, plumbers and electricians who share your common-sense attitudes about good value.

5.) Become an educated client and consumer. Build your own portfolio of kitchen ideas from the pages of decorating magazines. Read consumer publications that rate appliances and building materials. Get books on kitchen design.

6.) Establish a not-to-exceed figure for remodeling. Try to find unusual materials in unlikely sources -- salvage yards, restaurant supply stores and so on.

7.) Scale back the scope of the project to control costs. Per square foot, a kitchen is the costliest room in the house to remodel. Plan for a compact, but well-equipped and well-appointed, cooking area and devote more, but less expensive, space to an eating area.

8.) Recycle whatever you can. Existing appliances can be repainted by refinishing companies or automobile paint shops. Existing laminate cabinets can be refaced with new laminate. Or you can simply replace doors and drawers. Keep the sink and add a new faucet.

9.) Comparison shop for the things you can't recycle and have to replace. You may get a better price on appliances if you buy all of them from the same dealer. Otherwise, look for model closeouts or sales.

10.) Don't buy more appliance than you need. Popular, expensive double wall ovens may be overkill. How many times a year will you find yourself roasting and baking at the same time? Avoid appliances with too many frills, such as dishwashers with a dozen different settings or digital readouts.

11.) Give a free-standing refrigerator the look of an expensive built-in by building a drywall alcove for it or framing it with cabinet components.

12.) If you can, without sacrificing a good floor plan, keep the sink in its original location to keep plumbing costs down. Keep the range in its original location so you won't have to pay to have the gas supply line moved. Cut labor costs by doing the demolition -- and whatever else your skills will allow -- yourself.

13.) If possible, establish a temporary kitchen in an extra bath, the basement, the laundry room, even the garage. It'll make life easier during the weeks or months the kitchen is out of commission.

14.) Don't expand the size of the kitchen unless you have to. Adding on may mean extending the foundation or basement (and heating and cooling ducts, plumbing lines and wiring) and requires far more extensive and expensive construction work. If you absolutely need more space, look for closets, pantries or other adjacent rooms you can borrow space from.

15.) If you have to choose between expensive materials and expensive hired help, choose the latter. A good cabinet maker can do wonders with pine and plywood.

16.) Use inexpensive materials lavishly and expensive materials judiciously. Save the granite for the island or a back splash behind the cooktop and use laminate on remaining counter tops. Put your money where it shows and where it will have the most visual impact.

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