7 Budget Considerations for Kitchens

Budgeting for a new kitchen or bath, even a modest-size one, is no small feat. It pays to approach the task armed with dollars and sense.
Scope, Budget, and Priorities

Updating a kitchen has long-term financial benefits. Experts say you can recoup 80 percent or more of the project's cost when you sell your home. Yet, even if you're not planning on moving, a kitchen improvement can do much to improve your lifestyle.

If you'd like to make your space look and live better without spending more than you can afford, some cost-control basics are a good starting point as you plan your kitchen (or bath) project.

1. Define the Scope How big is the project? Cosmetic changes won't fix old appliances, cheap cabinets, out-of-style surfaces, and design flaws. Yet, often a home's structure and site make adding on, bumping out, or knocking down walls impractical or cost-prohibitive. If you don't really need more square footage, it is usually possible to gut the room and work within its dimensions. Also, by limiting structural costs, you may choose to put more money into the ooh-and-aah stuff.

2. Budget Just as sticker shock afflicts new-car buyers, new-kitchen outfitters are at risk of appliance apoplexy and cabinetry coronaries. If products aren't expensive enough, wait until you figure in labor, installation, and design costs.

For some items, such as cabinetry, flooring, tile, and plumbing fixtures, labor costs can equal or exceed the costs of the products or materials. It's also wise to allow a 10-20 percent cushion in the budget for unforeseen expenses. So, a $30,000 kitchen budget might contain as little as $10,000-$15,000 worth of products.

3. Set Priorities Knowing what's important and what's not will help you make the most of your funds. Your general goals may include a lighter, brighter, more up-to-date kitchen that feels less cramped and fits a casual, family-centered lifestyle. You may want a gas range, a large sink with a pullout faucet, and easy-to-clean surfaces. Make a list of splurges as well: painted-wood cabinetry and hardwood flooring; granite countertops and glass-door cabinets.

Continued on page 2:  Professional Advice