Cabinets: If you have a good enough layout and solid wood cabinets, don't go to the expense and headache of ripping out and starting anew. Paint 'em and replace the old knobs with some sweet new hardware and you're on your way to a new-to-you kitchen.
Appliances: Shop for floor samples at high-end appliance stores and stores recommended by your plumber and/or electrician...chances are you'll get a better brand, better design, better service and lower prices than at some of the major retailers. Also, make sure you investigate and act on all possible rebates...we saved nearly $500 using rebates alone.
Countertops: I always assumed swapping out our mid-century laminate for a new surface would be a major production and a major expense, but as it turned out, it was neither. The countertop came off with a couple of turns of a screwdriver (watch out for built-in lazy susans, as the guts are often anchored to the countertop). As for the granite, we went through a company specializing in counter surfaces, rather than a big-box home store. The price was competitive and we felt the owner had a strong sense of pride in his workmanship. When the first counter cracked coming off the truck in our driveway, the company immediately located a similar slab, cut it and had it ready for installation the next day.
Measure twice, shop once: There are, for example, different sizes of undercabinet hoods. Make sure you know the size before you spend time driving to pick up what you think is the right one.
Get a guy with a truck: Preferably a pick-up. You can save hundreds if you're willing to dispose your current appliances, transport new ones and install them yourself (or arrange the installation yourself).
Sourcing: Find contractors and tradespeople through a local real estate agent. Agents can provide a veritable yellow pages of you-can-rely-on-me plumbers, painters, electricians and so on. If an agent is recommending a home professional, you can be fairly sure that he or she has delivered on time and on budget. You can also be confident that they're going to continue to do so for you, as contractors don't want to risk a bad report since agents provide a direct line to new business.
And a few personal thoughts:
- If you're someone who struggles with decision-making, redoing a kitchen can be torture. So if you can't decide, go with white cabinets, black granite and stainless appliances (with as little black accenting as possible). The look is timeless, transitional and peaceful. If you want to go bold, amp up the surrounding wall color and fabrics.
- If possible, do everything you can to avoid buying a counter-depth refrigerator...choices are limited and they cost about 50% more than their 30-inch cousins. Unfortunately, we had no choice.
- For a subtle, unexpected countertop, go with honed, rather than polished, granite. Honed granite has a matte finish, rather than a glossy reflective one. Honed granite can be more susceptible to surface staining, but there are products to help combat such risks.
Ultimately, a kitchen renovation doesn't have to take over your life or your wallet. We hadn't moved ahead with making the most-used space in the house our own because we just assumed that the expense and disruption (but mostly the expense) would be too much. We won't be making that mistake again...
So how about it, all you kitchen remodelers, have anything to add to the list? Leave a comment and let me know!