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The Kitchen: Considering a Remodel?

The how, what and why to refreshing your kitchen space

By Abigail Thorp

For most of us, the kitchen has become one of the most used (and viewed) spaces in the home. Gone are the days of hiding it away; now, we look to open concepts, plenty of counter space, and welcoming lighting and accessories to make our kitchens the beautiful and functional entertaining and family spaces we use them as.

As a primary space in the home we use and see every day, it’s often the kitchen you look to remodel first. But if you’re on a budget and want to make sure your money goes the distance, it can be hard to decide what choices to make when refreshing your kitchen, and if or when to do it yourself. The average kitchen remodel can cost anywhere from $20,000 to upward of $75,000. The good news is, there are ways to save money—as long as you don’t cut corners where it matters.

How can you save on cost?

When it comes to a kitchen remodel, the highest costs are typically the cabinets, countertops and appliances. It’s also important to know what kind of structural or electrical changes you have to make, as these will drive cost and time up. “Every remodel we do varies depending on style, products, and whether we have to move load-bearing walls, plumbing, HVAC or electrical,” explains Derek Adams of Creekside Construction in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.

When it comes to saving money, cabinets are a prime place to look. If your cabinets are in good condition, a fresh coat of paint can make all the difference and save you a boatload, says Daniel Yoder, owner of Panhandle Countertops in Bonners Ferry, Idaho. “That’s something that can really freshen it up.”

If you do need to replace the cabinets, opting for manufactured versus custom cabinets, or choosing less expensive materials and design, can help save on cost. “The best way to save money is to buy a less expensive cabinet door material (ie: alder), and have it painted or stained in one of the cabinet company’s standard finishes,” adds Deann Hammer of Broadway Design in Tacoma, Washington. “Also, the cabinet door style can drive up the cost. A standard shaker-style door design is less expensive than a cabinet door with a lot of detail in the design.”

When it comes to countertops, quartz is a popular and often affordable option, but laminate options have come a long way and are often half or a third the price of stone or a solid surface, advises Yoder.

When to hire someone and when to do it yourself.

Doing it yourself might not save you money in the long run. “Unless you have experience or friends with lots of extra time and skills, we don't recommend going at it solo,” says Adams. “It may sound cliché, but you get what you pay for!”

Particularly when it comes to installing countertops or cabinets and electric and plumbing, it’s important to hire a professional. “A professional is responsible for all of the job,” says Juan Oseguera of In-N-Out Construction in Olympia, Washington. He recommends first getting an estimate from professionals and asking questions to find out about their experience and ability.

If you’re dying to get in and do some of the work yourself, you can help with the demo, or even do something as simple as paint the walls (leave the cabinets to the experts). But don’t just start ripping stuff out. Call your suppliers first to find out lead times and availability, that way you don’t get stuck without a kitchen sink for six weeks, advises Yoder.

An interior designer can help provide the necessary design materials for you and your contractor, and also help save you time and money (and end up with a great finished look) by providing material selections and designer access to pricing and offerings, adds Hammer.

Now trending …

Say hello to light, warm and natural. Kitchen trends are firmly in the neutral category, and while white and grey are still a popular choice, even warmer neutral colors and materials are gaining traction.

“Now, more often than not, our customers are doing a combination of mountain modern or modern,” says Adams. In addition to color schemes, open concepts and easy accessibility to the surrounding spaces is central to current kitchen designs, adds Oseguera.

“Think warm-colored wood cabinets, earthy-colored countertops (like concrete color), and warm-colored lighting,” explains Hammer. “The new trend in kitchen designs is to make the kitchen feel more like the rest of the house, and less industrial.” Along with the neutral-hued trend is a focus on using organic materials whenever possible for added comfort and a natural feel.

Let’s talk appliances.

“Appliances are a category that can make or break your budget,” warns Hammer. Read consumer reports to find good appliances that will last, and don’t just opt for the cheapest. To save money, buy an entire appliance package from one vendor (added bonus, the finishes will match), she advises, or search out the scratch and dent section at appliance companies for great appliances with minimal damage that you often can’t see once it’s installed.

When it comes to choosing between an electric or gas stove and oven, take a look at your habits and what your space is set up for. Gas is cheaper to use, but if your kitchen isn’t set up for it, you’ll spend additional money for the change.

Ultimately, what’s important to you and your lifestyle will determine what your remodel looks like, but there are some important things you can consider along the way to save time and money, and also a whole lot of headache.

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