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Remodeling your kitchen

ImprovingCosts: Minor renovations average $14,773, while major renovation projects average $43,213, according to 2002 figures from Remodeling magazine, an industry publication.

Value added: With a minor job, homeowners typically get 88 percent of their renovation dollar back at resale, according to Remodeling. But the figure drops to 81 percent for a major project.

Popularity as remodel target: Ranks third in the number of projects -- but second in terms of money spent, according to the National Association of the Remodeling Industry.

New trends: Kitchens are becoming the heart of the home, a place where the family spends time, as well as a place to entertain. In older houses, homeowners are knocking out walls to open the kitchen to the living area.

"We're seeing people invest $20,000, just in appliances," says Mark A. Brick, president-elect of NARI.

Look for: restaurant-quality appliances made for residential use, especially in stainless steel or with cabinet fronts; convection ovens; easy-to-clean cook tops with a multitude of burners, griddles, etc; dishwashers and food warmers in drawers, sometimes multiple units in multiple locations.


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Also hot: recessed lighting, cabinet lighting, task lighting and under the counter lighting, perhaps with a master control panel; granite, solid surface or stainless countertops; wood, laminate or limestone floors; natural wood cabinets, especially cherry, maple and oak. For an eclectic look, homeowners are mixing and matching different counter and cabinet materials.

Features to consider: Who does the cooking and how much will he or she use the room? Will more than one person be in the kitchen at once? Does the area have other uses like a computer or study nook for the kids?

Determine the features that will take the biggest beating, usually floors and countertops. "If you have a limited amount of money to spend, spend it there," says M M "Mike" Weiss, certified graduate remodeler and chairman of the Remodelors Council of the National Association of Home Builders.

"It's very important to have a professional designer to design your kitchen," says Don Sever, certified remodeler, and marketing committee chairman for NARI. "Almost every home center has professional kitchen designers on staff, and they will do a free or lower-cost kitchen design. For higher-end [projects], a paid kitchen designer will get a better result."

Remodeling suggestions and helpful hints: With granite counters, using a 3/4-inch or 7/8-inch thickness instead of the conventional 1 1/2-inches will drop the price $1,000 on an average kitchen, making it comparable to a mid-range, solid-surface product, says Darius Baker, certified kitchen and bath remodeler and a committee vice chairman for NARI

Want to save your back or make it easier to stay in the home as you age? Think about raising appliances, like dishwashers, four to five inches so that you don't have to bend quite so far to use them, says Julius Lowenberg, president of NARI.

Sometimes, homeowners pack the kitchen with so many cabinets, there's no room for heating ducts, which can produce a very uninviting space, especially in colder climes. Boston-based Tom Silva, the general contractor for PBS's "This Old House," recommends using radiant heat under the floors and granite counters. "It's very effective. It costs a little more, but it makes the [heating unit] disappear."

New products: "Technology is becoming much more pervasive," said Larry Spangler, CEO of the National Kitchen & Bath Association. Look for refrigerators with computers to track supplies; computers for recipes and e-mail built into counters and a host of "smart" appliances, among them Whirlpool's Polara, a refrigerated range which keeps dinner cold until a preset time, then starts cooking at a pre-selected temperature. And check out: wine storage coolers that chill reds, whites and champagnes at different temperatures simultaneously.

Other new items: quartz countertops, concrete countertops and bamboo flooring, says Nina Patel, a senior editor at Remodeling.

Special problems: Look at the space between your three main work areas: stove, refrigerator and sink/dishwasher, says Lowenberg. With a good design, you should be able to move easily between them.

The popular kitchen island needs at least 42 inches on either side to make it workable, says Baker. Too many people, he says, "are just trying to jam them in there."

Biggest mistake: The $80,000 kitchen "where someone located a dangling light fixture 7 inches from where a cabinet door swings out," says Jim Cory, a senior editor with Remodeling. "It would have cost a lot of money to fix, so the owner decided to live with it." Lesson: make sure you, and your contractor, do enough preplanning.

Professional or DIY: Several areas of kitchen remodeling mark it as one room where it may really pay to hire a pro. "Some faucets will require different-sized piping," says Baker. Building codes for electrical wiring are specific, he says, including the number of circuits, the distance between outlets and which appliances require dedicated circuits. And if you don't set cabinets plumb and level, you will have problems setting countertops, which could crack as a result.

Got the do-it-yourself itch? Stick to something you can complete in a weekend, like tiling the floor, adding Formica counters or installing a fan, says Lowenberg. Stay away from anything structural or electrical.

-- Posted: July 1, 2003


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