A great many kitchen remodeling projects end up disappointing a homeowner—or shocking them with the cost—simply because they did not spend the necessary time to determine what they wanted and what they could afford.
Wants and Needs
Start by asking yourself what persistent problems you experience with your current kitchen. Is it a matter of too little space to cook effectively? Too little space to store food and dishware? Do you lack dining areas? Are the appliances ineffective or too old? Or does the kitchen just make you wince because it is so dated and so ugly?
Establish a prioritized list of things you would like in your new kitchen, ranked according to their importance. It’s helpful to distinguish between those elements you absolutely need and those you simply want.
Early on in your planning, confront the two-part reality of a kitchen remodeling project: the logistics of the work itself, and the expense involved.
If the work will be done by subcontractors managed by a general contractor, you will have strangers tracking through your house and making noise and mess for a matter of weeks or perhaps even a couple of months. If you plan to do the work yourself, the downtime for the kitchen will likely be much longer—and do you really have the time and DIY skills necessary to accomplish this?
Also, consider the financial payback on a new kitchen. If you are planning to remain in your house for many years, a dream kitchen might be worth the $85,000 it will cost, since it will serve as a functional and attractive family space for decades. But if you are an empty nester who plans to downsize to a smaller home in the next five years, perhaps a surface-level kitchen renovation is really the more practical option. A kitchen is a highly personal space, and your idea of a dream kitchen may not be anything like the next owner’s idea. Kitchen remodels return a good portion of their cost in improved home equity—but not all of it. A $100,000 kitchen may improve your home value by $50,000 to $75,000, but don’t expect to get your full investment back.
Prepare for Compromise
Right from the beginning of the planning stage, establish a mindset that is willing to look for ways to cut costs on your kitchen remodeling project.
By far the easiest (but most expensive) way to remodel a kitchen will be to off-load most of the planning, design, and management of workers to a general contractor. But the GC comes at a significant cost, and you can save a lot of money if you are willing to serve as your own GC and hire and supervise individual subcontractors to do the hands-on work. Your cost savings will be greatly amplified if there are some of the tasks you are willing and able to tackle yourself.
Also be ready to compromise on the materials in your new kitchen. It is easy to get all dreamy-eyed about solid-walnut custom cabinets and Italian marble floor tiles, but you will find that there are stock cabinets with hardwood veneer and mass-produced porcelain floor tiles that will also look great. Is that commercial-grade gas range really necessary, or will a good quality consumer range do the job? Are lava-stone countertops at $250 per square foot really that much better than solid-surface countertops at $85 per square foot?
If you’re truly creative, you might even think about using reclaimed cabinets and other materials to create a vintage kitchen look that is both unique and inexpensive.