For owners looking to add value to their homes, kitchen makeovers can provide a lot of bang for the buck. Just keep in mind that this type of renovation doesn't come cheap. Even a minor kitchen remodel averages $19,588, according to Remodeling magazine's annual "Cost vs. Value" report, though homeowners can expect to recoup 72% of the cost at resale.
"Many people approach home-makeover projects with champagne taste and a beer budget," says George "Geep" Moore, the remodelers chairman for the National Association of Home Builders. "You can actually do a lot [in your kitchen] with a minimal budget." In a 200-square-foot space, a typical minor kitchen remodel can include updating cabinet fronts and drawers, replacing the stove, countertops and flooring, installing a new sink and faucet, and painting.
Here, we've rounded up before-and-after photos of five kitchen makeovers that cost about $25,000 or less to show how far your remodeling money can stretch. Take a look.
From Not So Pretty in Pink...
Designer: Robert Criner, president, Criner Remodeling, in Yorktown, Va.
Before: "The pink cabinets in this kitchen were the obvious problem," Criner says. Since they were the focal point and made the room look dated, the homeowners wanted to get rid of them. They also wanted to open up the space by removing the wall that separated the kitchen from the dining room. Other areas on tap for a much-needed improvement included the countertops.
...To Understated and Open
Cost of renovation: $20,000 - $25,000 (excluding flooring and appliances)
After: Criner replaced the pink cabinets with new, stained ones, and the laminate countertops were swapped for a Corian solid surface. He also took out the wall by the dining room and relocated the stove to the other side of the kitchen. The homeowners, at their own additional expense, updated the tile floor with hardwood and purchased new appliances. They also removed the existing cabinets themselves. "This helped cut down the overall cost of the remodel [to the homeowners] from my end," adds Criner.
Tip for homeowners: If you decide to do some work on your own to help reduce costs, Criner strongly recommends consulting with your contractor first: "The work needs to be done on the front- or back-end of the contractor's start date -- not at the same time." Any work the homeowners decide to tackle also should be strictly cosmetic -- think painting or removing drywall, not structural work.
From Tired and Dated...
Designer: Dan Bawden, president, Legal Eagle Contractors, in Bellaire, Texas
Before: "[This homeowner] hated her countertops, backsplash and cabinet doors," says Bawden. The home was built in 1965 and still had the original white Formica on the counters. Initial conversations with the homeowner revealed that she wasn't willing to commit to the amount of money necessary for a full remodel. So, she and Bawden decided on a budget of about $20,000 and created a must-do list that fit within that price range.
...To Tiled and Updated
Cost of renovation: $18,285 (excluding appliances)
After: The most noticeable changes to this kitchen were the countertops and backsplash, which take up a considerable amount of space. Bawden replaced the nearly 50-year-old Formica with granite and added a tile backsplash. The homeowner opted not to blow her budget on new cabinets, but she did have Bawden install under-cabinet lighting. At her own additional expense, the homeowner replaced the appliances at a cost of about $2,500. Installation of the appliances, including running a new gas line for the stove, was included in the contractor's $18,285 price tag.
Tip for homeowners: When considering a kitchen renovation, Bawden says, you should ask yourself, "What bugs me the most about this space?" Once you know what you want to fix, talk to neighbors who've had similar remodeling work done and conduct online research. That will help you get a general idea of how much the makeover will cost in your area.
From Old and Cramped...
Designer: Kevin Anundson, president and co-founder, The OAR Group, in Elm Grove, Wis.
Before: This tiny kitchen was long overdue for a makeover to better suit the owner, who'd grown up in the home, Anundson says. From the cabinets to the appliances to the tile floors, the look and feel of the entire space was decades old. Modernizing the area and creating more space for entertaining was essential.
...To Contemporary and Inviting
Cost of renovation: About $25,000 (excluding appliances)
After: The remodeled kitchen has new cabinetry, hardwood floors, laminate countertops, tile backsplash, a center island, a new sink and faucet, and recessed and pendant lighting. The budget went further because Anundson's company, The OAR Group, which stands for "owner-assisted remodeling," allows homeowners to provide hands-on help with the renovation to help lower costs. Note that the $25,296 price tag excludes the cost of appliances, which the homeowner purchased separately.
Tip for homeowners: For those with a budget under $25,000 for a kitchen remodel, Anundson recommends focusing on resurfacing the countertops with a quality laminate finish, installing new lighting (recessed and under-cabinet), adding a tile backsplash and replacing the sink and faucet.
From Plain Vanilla...
Designer: Patrick Benkowski, president, RoadRunner Remodeling, in Fountain Hills, Ariz.
Before: While this kitchen wasn't in desperate need of a complete renovation, it was in need of a makeover to address its lack of lighting and color; the countertops, backsplash, appliances and sink were all white. To hold down costs, Benkowski says the homeowners opted to keep the existing cabinetry and appliances, which can be two of the pricier projects to take on in a kitchen remodel.
...To Bright and Blue
Cost of renovation: Around $20,000
After: This kitchen remodel entailed upgrades to the countertops and backsplash, as well as some modest plumbing work, but it's the new lighting that makes the renovation stand out. Benkowski employed two different treatments: under-cabinet lighting and blue pendants above the breakfast bar. Granite replaced the white tile countertops, and a new sink, faucet and disposal rounded out the makeover.
Tip for homeowners: If you're thinking about selling your home, "kitchens are one of the first places potential buyers look," Benkowski says. If yours isn't up to par, would-be buyers will likely offer you a minimum of $40,000 less than your asking price because they know they'll have to spend that amount to make improvements, he says.
From Aged and Impractical...
Designers: Rick Kazmierczak, president, The Kaz Companies; Mike Santoro and Mike Falkner, designers, The Kaz Companies, in West Seneca, N.Y.
Before: Santoro says the owners of this house, a Cape Cod built in the early 1900s, ran into the same problems encountered by most people with older properties: "[Their kitchen] was an unproductive area that was dated with limited cabinet space." Times have changed, he adds, and the ways homeowners use their kitchens today -- to entertain, for example -- require more space.
...To Clean and Uncluttered
Cost of renovation: $24,985
After: Rearranging the kitchen so that it was more functional was the key to the success of this renovation. Kazmierczak's team removed one of the walls to create more space and added another window. They replaced the countertops with a high-quality laminate and added a tile backsplash. The old, damaged cabinets were swapped for new ones with a stained wood finish that complements the age and style of the home. New stainless steel appliances, as well as a new sink and faucet, helped pull the room together.
Tip for homeowners: When it comes to remodeling a kitchen on a tight budget, Falkner, one of the designers, recommends that homeowners stick with standard features and accessories to keep expenses in check. Glossy photos in home magazines of uniquely renovated kitchens may look stunning, but keep in mind that the more custom you want a space to be, the more money it'll cost. "Design with practicality in mind," he says. "Pretty can be expensive."
Browne Taylor joined Kiplinger in 2011 and was a channel editor for Kiplinger.com covering living and family finance topics. She previously worked at the Washington Post as a Web producer in the Style section and prior to that covered the Jobs, Cars and Real Estate sections. She earned a BA in journalism from Howard University in Washington, D.C. She is Director of Member Services, at the National Association of Home Builders.
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