Biggest bang for your buck in kitchen upgrading

A protester is pulled from the crowd by police during a protest over the arrest of Martese Johnson on March 18. Credit: Screenshot from Fall Line video A protester is pulled from the crowd by police during a protest over the arrest of Martese Johnson on March 18. Credit: Screenshot from Fall Line video

“Kitchens have historically served as a gathering place for friends and family, originally because it was usually the warmest place in the house,” observes REALTOR® Janet Matthews, founder of Charlottesville Town and Country. “The open floor plans that are prevalent today help with creating space and make the kitchen much more visible and integrated in to the flow of the house.”

Matthews knows that an updated kitchen is a big selling point when marketing a house today. “The cost of upgrading a kitchen is usually a good investment because most buyers see remodeling a kitchen as inconvenient and expensive. They don’t want to do it themselves.”
Remodeling magazine’s annual analysis reveals that upgrading a kitchen is estimated return anywhere from 70 to more than 100 percent of the investment when the house is sold. And as Matthews points out, an upgraded kitchen definitely gives sellers an edge.

“Spend your dollars wisely,” counsels Matthews. “Getting flooring, needed cabinetry, and appliances on sale can reduce your costs and help you sell your house.”

Key points are to do your research, plan wisely, and work in stages if that’s what the budget will cover. Visit model homes, home improvement stores, and websites to check out the latest styles and find what you love.

Start Small

You can make a big difference with some economical cosmetic changes. Often these are projects that do-it-yourselfers can handle easily. Fresh paint is a good place to start, but it’s important to find the right color and those little two-inch-square samples are very difficult to judge. These days, however, many paint dealers offer a small low-cost pot of paint that will cover a large enough space to really evaluate the color by daylight and under artificial light.
Other modest steps might include new lighting, new window treatments, or refinished cabinet fronts with new hardware. Even something as simple as replacing an old kitchen faucet—with that corrosion you don’t even see any more—with a nice new one makes a 
difference.

If You Have More To Spend

Perhaps the biggest impact can be made with new countertops. While granite is very popular these days it can cost as much as $50 to $100 per square foot installed. Less expensive options include composites, laminates, poured concrete, or butcher block. Laminate, for example, generally runs from $10 to $20 per square foot installed and comes in an amazing range of colors and appearances.

Whatever you choose, get the largest possible sample and check it by both daylight and artificial light. These days, the counter space is painstakingly measured with lasers for an exact fit. Some composite materials may arrive in pieces for ease of production and transportation, but are finished in the home with no visible seams.

In the past, backsplashes were often simply painted or covered with linoleum. (Remember linoleum?) Now, “subway” tile, coming in many styles and colors, is a popular option. Faux brick, marble, and tile are other stylish choices. A good option is to install the countertops, then get a large enough backsplash sample to be sure the colors blend well.

Often as major appliances fail over the years, they are replaced with something that no longer matches. Having all the appliances blend well has a very positive impact. They don’t have to be the top of the line. A fridge, stove, dishwasher, and microwave can easily be replaced for between $2000- $3000 although it’s possible to spend a great deal more.

You can often sell used appliances to cover part of the cost. Do your research with Consumer Reports or compare online, determine your choice, then watch for sales or as-is purchases. For example, if your fridge will be installed between walls, a scratch on the side doesn’t matter. In addition, when buying several appliances at the same time, you are in a very good position to negotiate terms that can save money on the purchase itself as well as delivery charges.

Finally, new floor coverings can tie everything together at a relatively modest cost. Again, there are many materials to withstand the traffic in a kitchen. Ceramic tile resists wear, spills, and stains while today’s vinyl flooring comes in a wide range of styles and colors. Some styles mimic wood or tile floors, but with much easier maintenance.

Whether you update in one crazy week or work at the project slowly over a period of months, upgrades in your kitchen can provide some real bang for the buck.

By Marilyn Pribus

Marilyn Pribus and her husband live near Charlottesville. Last year, a local home improvement company replaced their countertops and installed a backsplash. They had the kitchen’s wood floor refinished, then the two of them added the finishing touches with some carefully color-coordinated paint.

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