Options abound for remodeling your home's most important room.
Thursday, March 25, 1999
Your kitchen is looking tired. Or maybe you''re just tired of looking at it. Or maybe it''s making you tired. Something has to give, but where do you begin? And how far do you go?
"If you look at it and say it''s pretty awful, start over," says Dan Peterson, design consultant at Hayward Home Design Center in Pacific Grove.
"A lot of people do a backward remodel. They start with the floor, then the countertop, then realize they''ve got to do something else. Look at the whole kitchen first," advises Peterson. "If you replace the floor or countertop, you''re stuck with the cabinets and have to reface. People should start with decent cabinets."
Cabinets may look OK on the outside, but "the question is ''how is the carcass of the cabinet?''," according to Arthur Brost, designer at Cypress Cabinets in Sand City. "Check the interior. If it''s particleboard, is it flaking or chipping? Check the horizontal rails and vertical stiles that face the frame of the structure," he explains. "If the joints are separating or splitting, it''s a sign that the carcass has gone beyond its life."
Age, whether old or not-so-old, says Brost, "does not have a bearing. It could have been put together with very good material and workmanship. If the carcass has good strength characteristics and the drawers are working, then it becomes a good candidate for refacing."
Both Brost and Peterson caution that refacing, a technique which rebuilds the cabinets on the outside only, is not necessarily going to save you money because so much of the cost of cabinetry is in the doors and drawer-fronts which are all replaced when refacing.
"If the kitchen is old, economics say that you can replace it for what it costs to reface," says Bob Seger, architect at Carmel Kitchens & Bath. "The best possibility is to tear it out and reconfigure it so it''s done properly with things where they should be, not where they are.
"The kitchen," continues Seger, "is the most important room in the home, where everyone gathers. It''s the first thing a woman looks at. Whatever you do, you will get it back when you sell the home. A good rule of thumb is [to spend] not more than 10 percent of the value of your home."
Seger''s guesstimate for a full replacement starts at about $25,000 for a small kitchen and goes up based on the quality and quantity of the specific merchandise and the overall design. Cabinets account for about one-third of the cost; construction approaches half the cost and the remainder is light fixtures, plumbing fixtures, appliances, countertop and backsplash, and flooring. A high-end large kitchen can run over $100,000. How much it will cost, says Seger, "is all about choices."
Most choices are in the range of products available. More expensive cabinets, explains Seger, offer more choices and the ability to customize. "We have good, better and best. Most people want best but settle for better," he comments.
Whether you replace or reface, or do nothing with your cabinets, new countertops are either essential or simply an option to create a new-looking kitchen. Countertops for the average kitchen can run as low as $1,000 for laminate like Formica, to about $4,000 for Corian and even higher for granite. In the middle are solid surface veneers that look like Corian, and ceramic tile in a wide range of choices, says Ron Berti, owner of Sam and Ron, Inc. in Sand City. Each type of countertop offers different advantages and maintenance requirements.
Similar considerations apply to flooring, which runs from vinyl (generally the least expensive), to stone and wood, the more expensive. "Floors influence the character of a room because it takes so much of the room," says Christi Sutphen, interior designer at Miller''s Carpet One in Seaside. According to Sutphen, both laminate floors and ceramic tile have grown in popularity the last few years, although she notes a current resurgence in wood and natural products like cork and natural linoleum.
Although laminate can be easy for the do-it-yourselfer because it usually is a floating installation laid over the old floor, Sutphen recommends professional installation for other flooring materials, many of which "require some chemical ingenuity" to install.
Doing it yourself can also be a choice for installing cabinets. "Anyone up to it and with moderate carpentry skills could install them," says Brad Tidwell, kitchen designer at Home Depot in Salinas, which carries mostly stock rather than semi-custom cabinets. "The finish part tends to get people in trouble. For example, moldings require more skill than the average homeowner [has]. Many of our customers are comfortable doing it themselves."
According to Tidwell, refacing systems are also available for the do-it-yourselfer. "It can be scary but a lot of people order unfinished doors and drawer-fronts, then paint them, as well as the cabinets, to match," he adds. "Cosmetic changes are a good idea if you''re tired of the way it looks. Even putting new knobs on can change the look of the kitchen."
High-end kitchen designers also provide some low-cost solutions to give your kitchen a facelift instead of a makeover.
"You can start with very plain flat cabinets and achieve a new look with paint," offers Peterson. "You can create a cabinet with glass doors. You can replace drawer-fronts with glass [to create a pocket for decorative items]. On a plain door, you can plant moldings to spruce it up. "The cost is minimal, even for a rental," says Peterson. "In a weekend, you can make it look attractive."
Other suggestions by Peterson are placing a decorative box with pierced fretwork on cabinets with open space at the top, adding moldings at the bottom of cabinets or adding wainscoting using paneling, molding and paint. He adds that there are "tons of things that can be retrofitted into existing drawers and cabinets" to customize them.
Adding "inch lights" or strip lights for task lighting, or "hockey pucks" to dramatize items in a glass-front cabinet can enhance a kitchen. "You can do these yourself," says Peterson. "The main thing is getting a power source for the transformer."
If doing it yourself is not an option and you want a contractor, whether the job is cosmetic or total, all the kitchen experts had similar advice. Always ask for references for whom the contractor recently performed similar work and call the references. (The contractor''s license itself can be verified by calling the State Contractor''s Licensing Board, a toll-free service.)
But whatever you do, don''t jump out of the pot and into the frying pan. Never, experts say, tear anything out until the new items are there and ready to be installed.
"The best thing," comments Kelly Wilson, design consultant at Hayward Home Design Center, "is to plan and select everything before you start. The more times you change your mind, the more it will cost you. Specify everything," she says, "before you get bids. Give yourself a realistic time to get the job done--some [materials] can take two months. Some contractors can take six months to get the one you want. The more time you give yourself, the more you''re going to get what you want. Realize you can''t predict everything. Problems come up, be prepared for that." H&G