/ Budget & Planning

A Large Entertaining Kitchen

Initial Budget: $120,000-$130,000


Final Cost: $125,000. At this price level, you're looking at a large kitchen remodel that fulfills a majority of the client's wishes with minimum compromise. That requires custom products and design concepts. When a client spends such a significant amount of money, designers often absorb minor fluctuations in cost.

Client's Goals:

  • Make an already large kitchen interior feel more open while maintaining a sense of intimacy

  • Allow two cooks to assist in meal preparation

  • Install appliances with the capacity for catered affairs

  • Include an island with seating for four that also would serve as a food prep center

Designer's Solutions:

  • Remove the half wall shared by the adjoining leisure room

  • Angle in two walls toward the island to retain openness while creating enough wall space to install the refrigerator and freezer units in close proximity, with counter space between

  • Design an island with two sinks, two dishwashers and ample counter surface

  • Include seating for four on the outer perimeter of the island

  • To balance the island's size, the designer:

    • Created negative space with columns and bookcases

    • Shaped the island to conform to the room's altered interior, improving traffic flow

    • Broke up the surface with two height levels, which also created a buffet area, a partition between the seating area and workspace, and a 6-inch backsplash area for placement of outlets

    • Used a darker wood and stain on the island to make it seem smaller and a lighter wood and finish on the perimeter cabinetry to make the space feel open

Custom framed and frameless cabinets; cherry wood with a dark stain on the island and maple with a white wash on the perimeter. A custom wooden hood and swivel TV pull-out. Accessories: polished brass hardware, undercabinet lighting, pull-out spice racks, cutlery inserts, tray dividers and roll-out shelves.

Appliances: Thermador double oven, microwave and cooktop; two Miele dishwashers; Vent-A-Hood 1200 CFM hood liner; Sub-Zero 601F freezer, 601R refrigerator

Countertops: Uba tuba dark green granite

Backsplash: Hand-cut Portuguese tiles

Flooring: Limestone

Sinks: Elkay, Franke

Faucets: Harrington



More in this category:« Kitchen Under $70,000

Funding Your Remodeling Project

Your finance options include:

  • Cash

  • A personal or bank loan

  • A loan from your credit union or insurance company

  • A loan from a savings and loan institution

  • Refinancing your mortgage

  • A home equity loan

  • A home equity line of credit

  • A Federal Housing Administration loan


Kiplinger's Personal Finance Magazine recommends borrowing against your home equity for jobs smaller than a full-home renovation. You can do a cash-out refinancing, which allows you to spend the difference between your first mortgage and your new loan on the project. Or you can go with a home-equity loan. Based on the amount of equity you have in your home, it offers a fixed-rate payment over a five-to-15-year term. For more flexibility, choose a home-equity line of credit. It sets you up with a revolving line of credit at a variable interest rate.

You can also pay for your new kitchen through one of two loan programs administered by the FHA. FHA-approved banks and other lenders actually make the loans, while the FHA insures the lender against loss. The Title I program is geared toward those with limited home equity and offers a maximum amount of $25,000 for improvements to a single-family home. It even covers the costs of built-in appliances and changes, such as lowering cabinets, that enhance accessibility.

The second FHA option-called the Section 203(k) program-offers an advantage to those taking on a fixer-upper. Under the program, the borrower can get just one mortgage loan, at a long-term fixed (or adjustable) rate, to finance both the purchase and the rehab of the home. The maximum amount of the loan is based on the property's as-is value and its expected market value after the work is completed.

To find an FHA-approved lender in your area, call the Department of Housing and Urban Development's customer service center at 1-800-767-7468.




1950s Retro Kitchen

Initial Budget: $25,000


Final Cost: $25,846. The budget grew after the client chose recessed lighting instead of a ceiling fixture and upgraded some appliance selections.


Client's Goals:

  • Make kitchen more efficient using existing space

  • Increase cabinet storage

  • Improve lighting

  • Update appliances, add a dishwasher, and change range from electric to gas

  • Create a look that is more 1950s retro than the actual 1950s kitchen that existed in the house

Designer's Solutions:

  • Moved stove to a longer wall, creating more workspace around the stove while maintaining adequate landing space at the refrigerator

  • Increased storage by using frameless cabinets, a full and a ½ round lazy Susan in the base corner cabinets, and full round lazy Susans in the upper corner cabinets

  • Installed a microhood to free counter space

  • Installed a new dishwasher to the left of the sink and a new self-cleaning gas range with sealed burners

  • Added new recessed lighting in place of a single, two-tube fluorescent fixture

  • Created a retro 1950s look with polished chrome cabinet pulls, 1950s memorabilia and removable colored cabinet door inserts

Frameless custom maple cabinetry in a Shaker door style with clear conversion varnish and removable green Formica panels. Accessories: Roll-out shelves, lazy Susans, tray dividers, cutlery insert, adjustable shelves, tilt-out sink tray and polished chrome pulls.

Appliances: GE gas range, dishwasher and over-the-range microwave.

Countertops: Laminate with square edge treatment. Using a separate laminate backsplash glued to the wall instead of an integrated one saved money.

Flooring: Vinyl

Sink: Kohler self-rimming sink; disposal

Faucet: Delta faucet; soap dispenser

Other: Paint, nine recessed lights




What You Need to Know About New Homes

 If you're buying a brand new home, you likely fall into one of these three categories:

  • Custom home

  • Developer-built home

  • Spec or model home

Custom home

With a custom home, you'll have as much freedom with the types of products and materials you use as you do in a remodeling job. You'll have even more flexibility than the remodeler when it comes to the kitchen layout and its door and window locations.

Developer-built home

Developers will typically put some limits on your choices, though how many and on what will vary by project. The choices are usually limited because they've made arrangements with suppliers for quantity discounts.

A development might have a "selection center" on site where you can view the products and materials included in a standard package and any upgrades. You may be able to pay extra, for example, to have maple instead of oak cabinets, or granite instead of laminate countertops. Some may even allow changes to the kitchen layout-added island storage or an extended cabinet run perhaps. Some will send you to an affiliated kitchen designer for an expanded selection.

Other developers may offer little or no flexibility, even if you are willing to pay a premium. If you have to have the home but hate the developer's kitchen, you can always buy it and then replace the features you don't like.

Spec or model home

For homes built on spec or those that serve as a developer's model, your chances for making changes to the kitchen will largely depend on how far along the project is. For most, you will get what you see.



More in this category:« New Vs. Remodel Remodeling »

What to Expect When Remodeling Your Home

The big-and obvious-difference between building a new home and remodeling an existing home is that you cannot start from scratch. Just a few examples:

  • You have to do demolition before you can start construction.

  • The floor plan and style of your new kitchen must take into account the surrounding rooms and the architecture of the home itself.

  • Electrical, mechanical and plumbing components may need updating to be brought into compliance with current building codes.

  • Structural elements such as joists and load-bearing beams may need shoring up.

  • Slanting walls and floors require installers to adjust the height of appliances and cabinets accordingly.

  • With the multitude of what-ifs and maybes that come up during a remodel, costs can mount more quickly than most homeowners expect, and labor may take longer. You and any designers or contractors involved will need to be able to think on your feet and be creative problem solvers.

Tip #1: Look for professionals with remodeling experience. Contractors and designers who usually work on new homes probably won't be accustomed to anticipating pitfalls associated with remodeling.

Tip #2: As soon as you start moving walls, raising the ceiling, putting in an addition — in short, any kind of structural work — you're starting to get into big bucks. That's when you need to ask yourself, do I move or improve? The answer depends not just on remodeling costs but also on potential return on investment, moving costs, land values and local schools.

Decorating and Home Improvement

If you're updating your kitchen because you're bored with how it looks, a little redecorating might be just the ticket. Fresh paint, new wallpaper and updated window treatments can revamp a room. Throw in a new faucet or light fixture, and you're good to go.

Small jobs like these often fall into the do-it-yourself category. Other options include hiring a handyman or specific contractor (plumber or electrician, etc.) or having the supplier or retailer do the installation for you.

Pull and Replace Remodel

This type of project simply involves removing old items and installing new ones in their place. In a kitchen remodel, this typically includes some combination of flooring, countertops, cabinets, appliances, sinks, faucets, and lighting fixtures.

Some homeowners might want to tackle some of this work themselves, hiring specialty contractors for some of the more difficult aspects. Many suppliers also provide installation services for an additional fee. If you want more extensive help, kitchen designers, remodeling contractors and design/build firms can provide design, installation and project management services.

A kitchen remodel of this size and scope probably won't take more than a few weeks.

Gut Remodel

A gut remodel involves "gutting" the entire kitchen by tearing out the walls, insulation, wiring and piping down to the framing. Why go so far? Older homes often have outdated plumbing, electrical and mechanical infrastructure that can't run all the modern amenities. Extra insulation can help keep your home warmer in winter and cooler in summer. Gutting a room also provides the best opportunity to add structured wiring for all your phone, fax, Internet, television and networking needs.

A project of this size requires skilled labor from several different trades, which means it also requires a project manager. If you're not up for doing it yourself, a general contractor or design/build firm can do it for you. Some kitchen designers and architects also provide project management services in addition to design

Since a gut kitchen remodel probably will take two to four months to complete, installing a temporary kitchen in an adjacent room, the basement or garage is probably a good idea.


Sometimes, no matter how you try to reconfigure your home's floor plan, there's just not enough square footage. Even a small addition adds significant costs, though, because of the need to pour a foundation, add siding and roofing, and tie the new construction into the old.

In many areas of the country, building codes require an architect (sometimes even an engineer) to design or sign off on the plans for a residential addition. Even if that's not true where you live, for safety's sake, you're best off hiring an architect or a design/build firm to design your addition.

Depending on the size of the addition and other work done in conjunction, the project's length will vary. If the house will be open to the elements for a while or filled with workers for several months, you should consider finding short-term housing elsewhere.



More in this category:« New Construction

Be Ready for Constant Challenges

A fire-damaged garage

Damaged by fire, this garage was being used to store the carpenters' supplies during a kitchen remodel. One of the construction crew members left chemical-soaked rags in the garage over the weekend; the rags spontaneously combusted, causing the fire.

The general rule of kitchen remodeling is to expect Murphy's Law to be in full effect. Everything that has a chance to go wrong can go wrong, even things outside of the kitchen. For example, take this remodeling horror story:


During Steve and Binnie Sweet's 2008 kitchen remodel, it didn't take long before an unexpected problem arose in an unexpected place: their garage. "Everything was going well and on schedule," wrote Binnie. Then she found a frightening problem. "On Saturday, we came home from dinner at around 7:30, opened the garage door, and were greeted by a cloud of black smoke. Yes, we had a fire in the garage."


Binnie went on to write the fire was caused from chemical-soaked rags that carpenters were storing in the garage. The rags spontaneously combusted; Murphy's Law smirked. Luckily no one was hurt, and while there was plenty of damage done to the garage and the items that were being stored in there (including the Sweets' new dishwasher), everything was fixable and the fire didn't spread to other rooms.


Garage fires aside, here are some other potential problems you should brace yourself for:

  • Products delivered late, dented or with missing parts

  • The wrong products delivered

  • Miscommunication

  • More dust than you expected

  • Termites or carpenter ants in the walls, floor, or windows

  • Mold or moisture in the walls from leaky plumbing or poor flashing

  • Structural problems that need to be repaired

  • Asbestos or lead paint removal



When Good-Enough is as Good as it Gets

A man setting up a temporary kitchen

It might be a shell of your actual kitchen, but a temporary kitchen is a must during a remodel.

If you frequently prepare meals in your kitchen, a kitchen remodel will pose you with many culinary conundrums. It will be imperative for you to set up a temporary kitchen, which may not provide you the ability to prepare Thanksgiving dinner for 30 guests, but will at least help you cook an edible meal instead of eating out every day of the week. Here are a few tips for setting up your temporary kitchen:

  • Keep essential items handy: microwave meals and non-perishables like soup; condiments; cereal; microwave-safe dishes and utensils; dishcloths; dishwasher soap; paper plates and cups; coffee; coffee pot and sugar/creamer; paper towels; napkins; and garbage bags.

  • You'll be without water in the kitchen for a time, so plan to do the dishes in another sink or the bathtub. Or stock up on disposable plates and cups, paper towels and a disinfectant cleanser.

  • Move your old refrigerator or a small mini-fridge to a convenient space close to a water source. Add a table with a microwave above and a trash can below.


Obviously, small appliances such as microwaves, toasters or toaster ovens, hot plates, and small electric grills will be immensely helpful in preparing home-cooked meals. Just remember, the area where you set up your temporary kitchen might not be able to support multiple appliances running at the same time, not to mention any other electronic items typically used in that room. You might need to have only one thing plugged in at a time to prevent blown fuses.



More in this category:« Managing StressPacking »

Staying (Relatively) Calm Under Remodeling Pressure

A kitchen remodel can cause tempers to flare and create overwhelming stress. Remodeling setbacks can manifest in ugly and unfortunate arguments with significant others, family members, and even your pets (who are surely not to blame and can't even talk back). Remember, a behind-schedule remodeling project is not a metaphor for the lack of control you have over your life; it's just a remodeling reality.

Still, even the most rational people can lose it. Jack Gilhooly remained calm throughout most of his 2006 kitchen remodel, but displayed an uncharacteristically testy attitude by day 72: "...we have hit the wall! Patience is running thin. We are ready to have the project over with and get on with our lives."

Therapist, licensed clinical social worker and mediation specialist Erin Johnston — who, along with her husband, recently endured a kitchen remodel — offers some sound, sane advice for dealing with the stress a remodel is sure to bring along:

"I would recommend that the owner ask as many questions and clarify issues as much as possible as things occur, even if the contractor appears dismissive and annoyed with the questions. Addressing your concerns and assessing your options along the way is going to reduce the stress and frustration you experience during the remodel. Issues not addressed, but noticed by the owner during the process, are likely going to become the focal points in living with the space, resulting in a feeling that things are not complete or done poorly."

"Arguments with significant others should be expected. The best thing to do is to remind one another that the arguments are most likely stress related and not personal. Waiting to address the issue until tempers have cooled and each person has had a chance to understand the issue will help prevent escalation in the argument. Sometimes there is no issue to be discussed; it is simply an occasion when everyone is testy and the circumstances cannot really be changed."

"Try and steer away from an emotional decision or argument. Focusing on the use of space, reasons for the design preference, personal priorities, project timeline, etc. will assist couples in keeping away from the emotional arguments and indecision."

"Parents should consider and engage children in the planning process. Giving kids a chance to express their opinion and take ownership of the process helps them deal with the disruption. Having kids look at the remodel as an adventure and posting a kid-friendly timeline can be helpful. Giving kids age-appropriate remodel responsibilities is also a good idea."




Simple Steps to Avoid Catastrophe

A cat sits in the middle of remodeling mess.

Remodels-especially ones that are unorganized and messy-can pose plenty of potential safety issues for people as well as pets.

To truly stay safe during a kitchen remodel, you should probably move into a different home. Unfortunately, most of us don't have that luxury. Safety issues during a remodel are plentiful and it's hard to recognize all the potential dangers. As hard as it might be, you will have to trust that the construction crew in your home is taking the necessary precautions to keep the work area and surrounding areas safe.

While you may trust yourself to stay out of harm's way, if you have young children or pets, you'll need to be vigilant about their safety. When Candice Gilhooly remodeled her kitchen in 2006, she frequently discussed the issue of child safety in a her blog. "One of the hardest things is that our house is no longer childproofed (i.e., the refrigerator sits next to the furnace, and there are construction materials in the garage), which means I'm all eyes when it comes to my little ones," she wrote.

Making sure your children feel safe and comfortable with the various workers coming in your house, and the various work zones is also important. Therapist and mediation specialist Erin Johnston says that children should be introduced to everyone working on the project, and have a good sense of work area boundaries. "It is a good idea to introduce the kids to workers who will be in the house on an ongoing basis, both for safety and comfort factors," she says. "Kids should know the rules about who is allowed in the house, where they are allowed to go, and what they are allowed to do."

If you have pets you'll need to restrict their access to the construction area, especially during work hours. If it is difficult to keep work zones sealed off, or if your pets are easily frightened or upset by loud construction noises, consider finding a sitter or care-taking facility for them, at least during work hours.

Whether you have a family the size of the Duggars or you're living on your own, it's a wise idea to inspect and clean the work zone and surrounding areas at the end of each day. Yes, the remodeling crew should pick up after themselves everyday, but small things like shards of glass, nails and loose wires could get overlooked during the initial cleanup process. See our keeping clean article for more advice on staying tidy and safe.



More in this category:« PackingKeeping Clean »

Figuring Out What You Can Live Without

You've most likely packed up belongings for a move, so you will understand how the first part of this process works: you gather as many clean, sturdy boxes as you need.

Now here's where it gets tricky. You'll be packing up many kitchen items and not unpacking them for a few months. So you'll have to find storage space in your home or somewhere else. Also, make sure to pack up (or move) fragile items that are near or hung on the walls adjacent to the kitchen. Construction-induced vibrations during the remodel could damage these items.

You should decide which items might need to be unpacked during the remodeling process. You'll want to keep these items near the top of your boxes. Also, it's a good idea to label your boxes to make it easier to find these items.

You'll want to complete your packing before the remodel starts, and its advisable not to wait to the last minute. Of course, this means setting up your temporary kitchen before the remodel, which requires additional planning. If the start of your remodel gets delayed a few days — which isn't unlikely — resist the urge to unpack your kitchen items. There's no point in hitting the snooze button on your temporary kitchen. You'll need to get used to it sooner rather than later.