Dear James: I am on a fairly tight budget, but I really want to remodel my kitchen to make it more functional and seem bigger. What are some improvements I can make on a limited budget? —Laura B.
Dear Laura: A kitchen remodeling project is the most common improvement to a home. Replacing all the appliances and moving them requires extra plumbing and electrical work, which can easy run more than $50,000. Don't despair. There are many low-cost improvements you can make to accomplish your goals.
In most cases, the money you spend on a typical kitchen-upgrade project is recovered plus more when you sell your house. If you can do it on a tight budget, you should be able to make some capital gains profit on the remodeling of your kitchen.
The kitchens in most older houses were laid out to be totally separate rooms, often with small doors to the dining room and the backyard. To make it look more contemporary and larger, try to integrate it into the adjacent rooms. This will also make it more functional for today's more casual lifestyles.
Remove a wall between the kitchen and either the living room or the dining room. This creates openness and a longer sight line, making the kitchen appear to be larger. It also often allows more natural light into the kitchen area.
Check the house plans, if you have them, to determine if the wall you want to remove is a support wall. If there is a second-floor wall directly above it, it likely is a support wall. Place a decorative wood structural beam under the ceiling where the removed wall was located. An engineer or architect can specify the size needed. If it was just a partition wall, any decorative beam will suffice.
A functional design idea is to add an island under the beam. This provides additional counter space when you are cooking large meals. It also provides a location for additional cabinets under the island. Design it with a cantilevered end, which can accommodate four chairs. It can be used as a casual dining table.
A standard design principle when remodeling a kitchen is to create a triangle layout for the refrigerator, range, and sink. This is fine with an unlimited budget, but to cut costs, don't move the range or sink very far from their current locations.
The cost to install all new water, plumbing, and gas or electric services for the range can be in the thousands of dollars. Plumbing and wiring are not parts of the project most people want to attempt themselves. The refrigerator can be located anywhere because it just plugs into a standard electrical outlet.
Install spring-loaded lifting shelves, which swing out from a cabinet below the counter to create additional counter space. These are ideal for some of the larger, heavier appliances, such as a standing mixer. By getting the appliances off limited counter space, the new kitchen will have a less cluttered appearance.
Select a high-end type of countertop, such as granite, for just one area. Instead of buying standard 1 1/4-inch-thick material, select 3/4-inch material, and place it over a strong plywood base. Attach 1/2-inch edge trim around the countertop to create the appearance of full thickness.