Spending money on a kitchen remodel might seem like an especially big investment, but it is one of the most-used spaces in your home, and it's important that it work well and look its best. So how much money should you spend on kitchen remodels, and how should you spend it? That depends on your goals for the makeover.
"What are you looking for?" is the question to answer, says Steven Ptaszek, certified kitchen designer (CKD) at Imagine That Kitchens and Baths in Minneapolis.
If your goal is simply to spend as little as possible while still making needed function and style improvements, the key is to avoid the big-ticket budget busters -- such as moving walls, installing new cabinetry or appliances, and relocating plumbing fixtures -- and focus on relatively inexpensive elements -- such as paint and hardware -- that make a big impact.
New kitchen cabinetry, for example, will cost you thousands of dollars, perhaps even five figures. But if your existing units are in good shape, you can paint or stain them, replace the doors, or replace the door and drawer hardware for a few hundred dollars.
Instead of replacing appliances all at once, you can phase in new models as budget allows without disrupting your kitchen's look or layout. "You don't have to go through a major remodel to change out a dishwasher," says designer Kathy Crifasi Simoneaux of Acadian House Kitchen & Bath Studio in Baton Rouge.
If you're planning to sell your home within a few years, you'll need a different spending strategy. Your goal is to make your kitchen as appealing as possible to a wide range of prospective home buyers. Don't worry about wowing them -- just avoid turning them off.
That means making sure everything works right, freshening dated looks, and providing most of the features that people are looking for.
Stylewise, stick with mainstream looks that aren't too traditional, vintage, or contemporary. Buyers will appreciate a space they won't have to change right away. "Ripping out a brand-new kitchen is not what a home buyer would want to do," says designer Cynthia Walden of Walden Design Group in Los Altos, California.
If you're lucky enough to have more than a bare-bones budget and you plan to stay in your home for more than five years, then go ahead and spend to suit your tastes and lifestyle. "I encourage these kinds of homeowners to design a space that meets their unique needs," Walden says. "These rooms need to work for them, both functionally and aesthetically." Feel free to make a bold style statement and not worry about what others think.
The key is to splurge here and save there based on what matters to you. In the kitchen, a high-end range might be important to you, but you might be OK with more modest cabinetry.
No matter which spending strategy is right for you, it pays to seek help from a professional kitchen designer. You might think that will cost a lot of money, but it can end up saving you a lot.
"I take my clients shopping to help them narrow down all their choices," Ptaszek says. "Otherwise, clients end up just getting glazed over from all the options. I'm their helping hand, and I let them know high-end isn't always the only choice."
Simoneaux says a pro helps you plan, which saves money. "I've seen too many people just tear out their kitchens with no real thought for what's next, then decide they don't like the new cabinets," she says. "We generally work with customers for six to eight weeks before they start the job. They save a lot of money planning ahead and selecting items they really like."
And who isn't trying to save money? "You pay for someone's knowledge," Ptaszek says. "I've already made the mistakes. You don't need to."
Get new tips, inspiration, and advice delivered to your in-box every week. Sign up for the FREE Kitchen & Bath Ideas newsletter.