Read This Before You Remodel a Kitchen
Don’t visit a showroom or meet with a pro without our expert advice on creating the cook space you’ve always coveted
by Josh Garskof, this old house magazine
Get the Pros Involved.
A kitchen remodel is a big deal—not something to be approached rashly. So before you even visit a showroom or meet with a pro, read our expert advice on creating the cook space you’ve always coveted.
Make Cents Out of Your Remodel
Worth the Splurge
- Second sink: Place it outside of the main cooking and cleanup zone so that a second chef can prep food, wash hands for dinner, or bartend during parties.
- Paneled cabinet ends: These decorative panels, which are essentially oversize doors fixed to any exposed sides of cabinets, give your kitchen a custom-built, furniture-like look.
- Full-extension, soft-close drawer glides: Installed under or on the sides of a drawer, they allow it to pull completely out of the cabinet so that you can reach everything inside. Plus, they eliminate slamming.
Not Worth the Splurge
- Glazed, distressed, and crackled finishes: These can increase cabinet costs by as much as 30 percent and can start to look dated as trends change.
- Pot filler: It does make filling the pasta pot easier, but it doesn’t help with the far worse task of carting boiling water to the sink when your fettuccine is done.
- Wine fridge: Do you really need 18 bottles of Pinot within arms reach and kept at precisely 55 degrees
Allocating Project Costs
Whether your budget is $5,000 or $50,000, here’s how it tends to be allocated.
Designer’s Cheat Sheet
To create a comfortable and good-looking kitchen, consider these rules of thumb for installing cabinets, countertops, and lighting.
Easiest way to save big: Keep your current layout. Taking down walls, and moving gas lines, plumbing connections, and electrical wiring will quickly erode your budget.
Three Ways to Save on Cabinets
- Choose a manufacturer that offers the door style and finish you want as a standard option, with no up-charge.
- Don’t pay for factory-built or custom organizers. Aftermarket utensil dividers, rollout trays, and back-of-the-door spice racks are a fraction of the cost at websites such as organize.com and cabinetparts.com.
- Avoid custom configurations. You can often use stock wine organizers, cubby units, and even appliance panels to fill awkward spaces that might otherwise require you to buy a custom cabinet.
How the Factory’s Cabinets Beat the Woodshop’s
The big guys may not offer the customization you get from a local craftsman, but factory-made-to-order cabinets have the following benefits:
- Warranties of up to 25 years on cabinets, accessories, workmanship, and internal hardware.
- Controlled environment that yields more stable wood, which reduces warping and splitting later.
- Computerized cutting tools that offer more precise joinery than anything done by hand.
- Baked-on finishes that are more durable than local guys’ air-dried ones. Dust-free finishing rooms also provide a smooth-as-glass surface.
Which Under-Cabinet Lighting?
For task light, pick one of these low-voltage strips or pucks.
XENON Accurate color, wide beam, and dimmable, but can get hot to the touch. Widely available at home centers and kitchen showrooms. $25–$125 for a 24-inch cabinet uninstalled
LED Energy-efficient, long-lasting bulbs; so thin you don’t need much of a lip to hide fixtures. Can have a bluish tint unless rated at 3,500 or lower on the Kelvin scale. A new technology, so pricier and harder to source. $75–$190 for a 24-inch cabinet uninstalled
Display Cabinets for Less
Rather than stacking glass-doored cubby units over upper cabinets, just order tall two-panel wall cabinets with squares of glass at the top. You’ll save 25 to 45 percent.
Blind Corners: Half-Moon Lazy Susan
An update of the old reach-in-and-spin organizer has two pivoting half-circle shelves that slide out from the cabinet. Rev-A-Shelf Wood Classic Half Moon Two Shelf Lazy Susan, starting at $235; cabinentparts.com
Blind Corners: Double Sliding Shelves
A front set of shelves slide out and to one side, allowing a second set tucked in the corner to slide forward. Square shelves, rather than angled ones, take full advantage of the cabinet interior. Knape & Vogt Slide-Out Base Blind Corner Unit, $660; rockler.com
Blind Corners: Pull-Out Shelves
Two height-adjustable peanut-shaped shelves snake out and to the side in one fluid motion. The shelves fully extend, so there’s no reaching inside for items tucked in the rear. Häfele Arena Plus Corner Pull-out Shelf, $790; kitchensource.com
Drawers Versus Rollout Trays
If you’re starting from scratch with new cabinetry, it’s a hands-down tie on price, so decide based on your comfort and the types of items you plan to store.
Win for ergonomics: They take one step to open. For rollouts, you open the doors first, then pull the tray.
Are better for storing large cookware: Rollouts are slightly smaller, and low sides don’t corral tall items as well; they tend to fall overboard if you pull the tray too fast.
Drawers Versus Rollout Trays: Rollout Trays
Are easy to retrofit: Add them to any base cabinet anytime; add drawers typically only when the base cabinet is made.
Are better for storing small items: Low sides let you see inside and take stock of foodstuffs; also, the height between trays is adjustable, allowing for extra rollouts.
Best Practices for Open Shelving
>Anything stored on exposed shelves will collect dust, so consider them only for:
- Everyday objects, like coffee cups and cereal bowls, that you wash frequently
- Cookbooks, which don’t show dust and are generally stored in the open anyway
- Oversize items, like soup tureens and serving platters, if you don’t mind giving them a quick rinse
- Wine racks, since bottles won’t fit behind the doors on wall cabinets
The Pros (and Cons) of a Pro-Grade Range
It tops many a kitchen remodeler’s wish list, but is a high-firepower cooker really the right choice for you?
- Burners can put out two to three times the BTUs with controls that go from simmer to sear.
- 20-plus-year life expectancy
- Heavy-duty all-stainless-steel construction
- Comes in many standard sizes; widths of 24 to 60 inches.
- Handsomely styled showpiece
- Needs a 10-inch duct (versus the usual 7-inch) for a high-power vent hood to whisk away that extra heat.
- Costly parts and service calls
- Can weigh more than 900 pounds, requiring extra support in floors.
- May stand out 4 inches beyond typical counter depth.
- $5,000–$10,000 sticker price
Next-Gen Cook Top
Induction uses an electro-magnetic field to heat stainless-steel or cast-iron cookware.
- The ease of electric with the power and control of gas.
- Faster and more energy-efficient heating than standard electric.
- A cool-to-the-touch top that won’t burn the kids.
- A pro-grade cooktop in an island without running gas lines. Just add an outlet.
Get A Good Hood
Recirculating fans are little more than pricey white-noise machines. To effectively exhaust steam, smoke, odors—and, if you cook with gas, carbon monoxide—you must vent outdoors. You’ve also got to match the hood to the range, both in terms of dimensions (a 30-inch range needs a 30-inch hood) and of air flow, as expressed by cubic feet per minute (CFM), to firepower, or BTUs. Factor the latter using this calculation: BTU/100=CFM
Note: The distance between the hood and cooktop, where the hood is installed (island or wall), the length of the duct run, and the number of bends can skew this number. Consult with an appliance pro before you buy.
Bottom-Line Fridge Facts
- Get an in-door ice dispenser/beverage center only if you’re choosing a side-by-side configuration. Otherwise you’ll forfeit fridge capacity for what amounts to a mini freezer on the back of the door.
- With French door models, make it easier to organize and access your frozen foods by choosing a two-drawer configuration for the bottom freezer. Those garden peas and fish filets are too easily deep-sixed in a single drawer.
- Even counter-depth fridges stand proud of their cabinetry housings by 2 to 4 inches to provide clearance for the door and hinges. To keep the fridge from sticking out farther, choose a model with recesses in the back to accommodate the plug and water line. Just make sure to align your outlet and water hookup accordingly. Otherwise, furr out the fridge cabinet from the back by an extra inch or so to enclose the sides completely.
- Safeguard the computer chips that control your fridge by replacing the power outlet with a surge protection receptacle, which you can find at home centers or electrical supply shops for less than $30. Or you can guard all your electronics with a whole-house surge suppressor for about $600 installed.
Get Drawer Dishwashers if You…
Frequently do small loads. Run just one drawer at a time to use less water than a full-size machine.
Have a galley or narrow kitchen. There’s no tip-down door to contend with.
Never want to put away another dish. You can pull clean dishes from one drawer when you set the table, load dirties into the other after the meal.
Want to hide a second dishwasher in a butler’s pantry or wet bar. Use just one drawer, and hide it behind a wood panel so that it blends with the cabinetry.
The Most Useful Faucet
A gooseneck with pull-down sprayer stands high enough to accommodate lobster pots and cookie sheets, works in both traditional and contemporary kitchens, and comes in an array of finishes and designs from just about every major manufacturer.
The Most Versatile Sink
A single basin, the bigger the better, but no deeper than 10 inches or you’ll be up to your elbows in suds all the time and leaning in too far. Choose one with a flat bottom, to keep glasses from tipping, and a drain placed toward the back of the basin so that it won’t get stoppered by a stack of dirty dishes.
The Right way to Handle Waste
- Hide it in a rollout base cabinet within one step of the sink, or no more than two steps away if it’s in an opposing island.
- Place an additional recycling bin on the rollout, or multiple bins on a second unit near the exterior door if your municipality requires sorting.
- Use slim cans that require frequent emptying, to keep odors at bay and prevent back strain from hefting too-big bags.
Counter Top Edges: Eased
- No added cost.
- Goes well with both modern and simple Shaker styles.
- Ideal for tops that are thinner than 1¼-inch.
- Chip Resistant
Counter Top Edges: Full Bullnose
- $6 to $7 per linear foot up-charge.
- Versatile design for any kitchen style.
- Gentler when you bump into it.
- Spills can roll right into drawers unless bottom is kerfed.
Counter Top Edges: Ogee
- Add $8 to $12 per linear foot.
- Ripples and coves have a formal look.
- Projecting points can be uncomfortable to lean against.
- Prone to chipping.
An Alternative to Granite
Consider these stain-resistant man-made alternatives that never need to be sealed.
Engineered stone offers a quarried look, minus the variable veining, with a zero-maintenance, zero-worry surface. The rock-hard quartz-and-resin slabs also come in brilliant colors that you can’t find in nature, such as green apple, juicy orange, and fire-engine red. Shown: Late Autumn by Ceasarstone
An Alternative to Granite (Continued)
Solid surface can be ordered with an integral sink, so there are no seams to clean. Its warm matte finish resists heat, and can be sanded if it gets scratched. The acrylic polymer material comes in dozens of colors, including ones that mimic the look of stone, such as Carrara marble and lapis lazuli. Shown: Buried Beach by Corian
Choosing the Right Floor: Hardwood
YOU GET: Traditional good looks (possibly using boards hiding beneath your existing floor); a comfortable and warm surface that’s gentle on dropped dishware.
BUT: Will scratch, dent, and lose its luster over time and need refinishing.
PRICE: $8–$30 per square foot installed
Choosing the Right Floor: Porcelain Tile
YOU GET: Easy cleanup and durability; wide range of sizes, colors, and textures.
BUT: Cold and hard underfoot; grout lines attract dirt and grime; dropped dishware will break and could crack tile, as well.
PRICE: $11–$25 installed
Choosing the Right Floor: Cork
YOU GET: Cushiony, natural, glue-down surface with a factory-applied varnish.
BUT: Cushiony, natural, glue-down surface with a factory-applied varnish.
PRICE: PRICE: $10–$18 installed
Choosing the Right Floor: Linoleum
YOU GET: The comfort of wood with the design and color palette of tile—either in a glue-down sheet or 12-by-12 inch tiles; a traditional and antimicrobial material made from natural linseed oil.
BUT: In a large kitchen, seams between sheets may be visible.
PRICE: $4–$8 installed
If budget doesn’t allow you to create your dream kitchen in one shot, don’t compromise. Do it in phases.
Where to invest now:
Layout: This is the time to open the floor plan, add the island, and rearrange the flow.
Infrastructure: Get the framing, subfloor, windows, plumbing, and electrical right or all those new finishes and appliances won’t perform as expected.
Cabinets: Go for quality construction, premium glides and hinges, and as many cabinets as you can afford.
Countertops: Conventional wisdom may say to phase-in upscale countertops, but demoing the old and installing new can damage your cabinets and plumbing.
What you can wait for later:
New appliances: Unless you’re changing their size or configuration, your old range and fridge will work just fine until you get your next tax return.
Pricey light fixtures: Throw in cheap placeholders while you’ve got the electrician on hand. You can easily replace lights yourself once the wiring’s complete.
Splurge-worthy faucet: You can get a decent one for less than $75 that’ll tide you over for months or even years. Just make sure the drill-outs in your countertop match the configuration of your future faucet.
Backsplash: Paint the walls above your counter with a scrubbable semigloss to protect them while you save up for that glass mosaic. Holding off also gives new cabinets time to settle, thus preventing grout and caulk problems at the seam where the backsplash meets the counter.
This article by Jason Garskof, This old house magazine. “Read This Before You Remodel A Kitchen”