Our small kitchen in the 1980s in Northeast Phoenix came with original appliances, tile countertops, fluorescent box lights, and a dropped ceiling, including a groovy trash compactor. When we purchased the house in 2008, we know we’d have to renovate it soon. For years the price tag – and the task – seemed overwhelming.
When the odd-sized oven was scorching everything after the main electric cooktop burner went out, it was time. If we needed to sell the house, we were sure we’d take a hit, baths, and kitchens still sell homes. The last thing I wanted was to renovate at the finish line or make incremental upgrades for someone else. If carried out perfectly, I knew this space would enhance the look of our house. Here are eight things I learned from remodeling my kitchen, which took six solid weeks of construction and a few months of planning to complete.
1. Select the right cabinets
My mantra is an affordable design. I’ve known a lot of builders and architects who adore soft-close drawers and doors, quality hardware, modern look, and a number of organizing options that make cabinets highly functional. Initially, I liked the price, although the additional costs are way more than advertised and added up fast. What I wasn’t aware of was that these cabinets have a fiberboard back panel, and contractors who don’t know much about it will have a hard time figuring this out. We should sign our construction contract to describe the whole system of laminate (technically melamine foil and particleboard) inner cabinets filled with wood panels; it could’ve saved me a few mistakes and more than half-dozen trips.
2. Look for a kitchen designer
One of my best investments was the money I spent on a kitchen designer. Yes, you can do this yourself by using software, for example. However, a designer that has familiarity with the product can save you a lot of frustration and time, helping you maximize storage in a tight space. It helps especially if you’re specific about the amenities and the layout you want.
3. Set a reasonable budget
Out of frugal DNA and necessity, I was sure I could do an affordable remodel. While I wanted to do an affordable remodel, the term ‘affordable’ is itself a relative term. When we only started thinking about this project, we had a rough figure of $12,000 in mind – perfectly reasonable if you watch some home-improvement shows. Unluckily, that’s less than half of the cost our remodel ended up incurring.
4. Plan ahead to save some bucks
We hoped to save money by hauling away the old appliances and cabinets, having a local non-profit demo, and assembling our cabinets. Some services offered a free demo service when you donate your used appliances and cabinets. Unluckily, we couldn’t schedule the demo in time for our contractor as they were booked weeks in advance. We also learned that financing might take longer than a remodel. We were communicated that it takes roughly 45 days or more after pre-approval to acquire a home equity credit line. So apply at least 2-3 months before you’ll need it.
5. Add shine with a backsplash
A backsplash is regarded as the jewelry of a kitchen. What you select can define your style and either detract from or add to a cohesive look. For some years, I’ve noticed a trend toward seamless stab-glass backsplashes. The look is durable, modern, clean, and seamless. Sounds great, isn’t it? When installed, a big, glass subway tile looks more green-gray, but it adds substantial polish and shine to very minimal kitchen design.
6. Choose quality countertops
Generally, generic slab granite doesn’t fascinate me. However, quartz countertops, which are built from natural ground stone bound with resin, are trendy. They come in tons of colors, fit a modern aesthetic, and are more maintenance-free and durable than other surfaces. There’s no question about quartz being a splurge, but it’s worth it.
7. Prioritize efficiency oversize
Our whole kitchen doesn’t exceed the 120 square feet mark. For years, we have been dreaming of extending it onto an unused, small patio, but we knew it was a budget buster. By maximizing the space we had (in addition to the extra cabinet space from raising the ceiling), we made our small kitchen feel surprisingly roomy, and the efficient layout has made cooking far less stressful. Our daughter is in love with space. She calls it ‘her’ kitchen. And the cupcakes? Awesome.
8. Prepare for a mess
After the remodel, the general mess and dust took a toll. We were literally sick of fast and take-out food. Looking back, though, it was all worth it. For the very first time, I enjoy spending time in my kitchen.
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