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The price of kitchens in the new age of revised expectations

13 years ago

We've all seen the guidelines counseling the kitchen should be about 10%-15% of the value of the house. So, now the prices of the houses are dropping, dropping, but the price of all the stuff for the kitchen? Not dropping.

We live in a city where property values have been quite low. There has been some depreciation but not as much as elsewhere. Still, it feels perilous to make a big investment, even 10-15%

We scrapped the total gut remodel plan and have decided to conserve our 80+ year old "antique" gumwood cabinets. My DH is doing all the cabinetry and refinishing. Still, the costs are mounting. Even as a mostly DIY in a moderate size (13 x 14) kitchen, it has probably passed the 10% guideline:

Plywood tools and materials for new cabinet insides $2K

Tile floor -- labor to remove old tiles, new subfloor and lay new tile $5K

New floor tiles -- these are nice handmold quarries -- 170 SF $3K

Range 30 inch $4K

Sink, faucet, disposal $1.8K

Dishwasher (Miele Inspira) $1.3K

Speed Oven (Miele) $2K

Hood $3.5-4.5K TBD

Tile or Backsplash 50 SF $.75K

Labor --TBD $2K

Counters $4K TBD

Track fixtures $1K

Painting, panel for fridge $2K

So we are at $35K and still counting . . . .we have probably passed the 10% guideline . . . and, albeit nice appliances and materials, this is a DIY with no change to footprint, no HVAC, no new windows . . . .and, we are retired. This is our forever house, and we can do this, but it feels -- scary? out of kilter?

Anyone else having similar thoughts about their remodels?

Comments (96)

  • 13 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    We are debt free other than our house payment (8 more years). For us, an we not only wanted to save money and make wise choices, but also to "pay as we go" using cash.

    I truly believe that when you borrow money in a line of credit, you spend a lot more than if you are writing checks. You tend to make the "it's what I *want*" decision, rather than "it's what I need or it's what will suffice" decision.

    We spent about $28K on our diy remodel, posted here:

    That's less than 10% of the value of the house. Sure, we did splurge on some things, but we also had some major savings. We bought our $3500 double oven for $800 delivered, for example, by buying at the Sears Outlet.

    High Level Costs
    $9000 Appliances: (includes $1400 for new intercom system)
    $2500 Fixtures and Accessories (sinks, disposals, lighting, etc.)
    $1700 Plumbing work (plumb the island for sink and icemaker, install dishwasher and icemaker, install sinks and disposal, pot filler)
    $5200 Countertops, including granite, fabrication and installation (~65 square feet)
    $2700 Floor (Teragren bamboo)
    $3600 Wood for cabinets (maple), cabinet doors and drawers, stains, finish, etc.
    $3100 Drywall, paint, ceiling and new door

    And, like one of the posters above, we bought a used Corvette, six years ago. Frugal as a Honda? No way. But we paid cash, and I smile every time I drive it.

  • 13 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Palimpest, I get the same thing from people. Im pretty casual and mostly live in my fitflops, the only jewelry I usually wear is one of my collection of vintage brooches, plus, I m a little eccentric. However, Im always amazed at peoples responses when they come in my house and look at my paintings and the TV stand and electronics storage I designed to look like a fireplace or the breakfast nook table I made out of old bar height table stands with an old restaurant small stainless refrigerator door as a top. I do not have any degree in design or decorating of any kind but seem to have a knack for mixing odd things through color association. I get lots of complements but also surpriseIm puzzled by this and wonder if they expected to see an old couch with wagon wheels on it or something.

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  • 13 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    jterrilynn & Palimpest I'd love to see pics of your home! Heck - I'd love to see pics of everyone's home!! :)

  • 13 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    This topic points toward a more general question of how one goes about making decisions that could impact the future, and I've never really known the answer. It's a balancing act among needs, desires, resources, forecasts, confidence, and faith. Some people seem to have it all knocked--they plan to the nth degree and all goes according to their plans. Others seem to fall into things by luck. Some seem disciplined and confident, yet have tragedy befall them and nothing they could have anticipated removes it all (war, acts of terror, depressions). The best one can do is to arrive at a comfort zone about what can be predicted and forecasted, make the best possible plan for that, and if the lovely kitchen fits into that plan, go for it. If the gut check says says the fit isn't there, then the planner won't enjoy the kitchen anyway. A certain amount of psychoanalysis needs to enter into play as well, i.e., "Is it a kitchen I need or compensation for the unhappy first marriage (childhood, loss of a parent, etc.) I experienced?" How well can the hand molded subways really compensate for that? I'm not intending to be glib. It's just that I'm struck by the juxtaposition of what I read in the news and our shared obsession with decor and appliances, which I think OP is feeling, too, and I'm trying to feel my way through it. Sometimes I think I have no right thinking about what would look beautiful these days. Or, it could just be that time of the month and I ought to keep my thoughts to myself.

  • 13 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Kitchendetective, I know what you mean about the thought that it may not be right to think about what would look beautiful because of the times we live in. I have a theory that most contemplative people in every age have thought the same thing. Can you imagine the end of WWII, when the world was forced to acknowledge the brutality of the Holocaust and of the war that ended the slaughter? Those GIs came home and bought all those suburban tract homes and went to work making families and buying cars and appliances - under the shadow of the cold war! Their children were taught to "duck and cover" at school, yet the society prospered like no other time in American history. (Well, except for all those women who had tasted economic freedom while working for the war effort and now needed Mother's Little Helper -Valium- to adjust to suburban housewifery!)

  • 13 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Lagrant, I totally feel you on 1) molesting your marble and 2) improving the quality of your family life.

    Our remodel was one week in when we (unexpectedly) found out I am pregnant. The plan was I would pay for the remodel from my salary from my newly secured teaching job. Well, baby is due January so I never signed that contract.

    Money is a touchy subject right now but the thought that new baby won't be crawling on impossible to clean gross 1962 linoleum makes me happy. Our dining room/kitchen remodel is literally half our house and I know it is going to really change our life interactions with three kids!

  • 13 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago're a dude???

  • 13 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    For us, we enjoy nice things, but we also REALLY enjoy the fun in being thrifty.. its like a game.. how much $ can we save, how can we make a room we love with minimal cost. Its like a giant ongoing scavenger hunt. I really do enjoy it!

    We've been in this house for almost 5 years, and we've made lots of changes. Slowly added to each room and changed things as the deals come along etc. Our bedroom for example just needs a nice big dresser and we are done. The right one at the right price just hasn't come along yet. The rest of it has evolved and come together very nicely and on a tiny budget over the last few years. Our bathroom and three-season porch are the only rooms that are "done" - everything else will always be a work in progress. Of course I end up with things that eventually get replaced but most of the time I am pretty good at getting it right the first time.

    I hope this kitchen remodel works out the same way for us, but its a bit scary with a bigger price tag than we are used to - and needing everything to come together at one time is a little nerve wracking!

  • 13 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    "'re a dude???"

    Haha... I envision everyone is an attractive 40 year old lady with glasses, unless something in the post lets me know otherwise.. ;)

  • 13 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    I found kitchendetective's statement interesting. The world news has always been dismal. And daily we are surrounded by neighbors who are encountering a myriad of unspoken tragedies. Someone's mother with breast cancer, another whose teenage daughter has died in a traffic accident, a father who is suddenly taken from his family by a heart attack. Life is full of pain and suffering. It is vital that we not forget these pains and hurts.

    However, we also need to focus on what is good, noble, and lovely, commendable, and worthy of praise. Otherwise, one can become spiritually drained and empty. I try to embrace life with exuberance and joy. Do the best you have with what you have because life is also precious and beautiful. Creating tranquil beautiful kitchens adds intangible value to our family and friends lives as places of gathering.

    So, forgive my tangental wandering thought processes, but we each have to live with the decisions we make. And what may be economically bearable for me, might not be psychologically or economically feasible for someone else or vice versa. It's just tough to figure out the specifics from a gestault feeling of where you should be financially.

    Anyway, life is very short and should be lived with the most joy and exuberance that one can stand.

    And, lagrant, I'll admit, I can't resist a luxurious piece of stone either. Must fondle (and perhaps grope) it!

  • 13 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    >>I still molest my marble (lagrant's post)>>


    Let's remember, 10% is JUST A GUIDELINE. It isn't one of the 10 Commandments of Real Estate, because every single rule one could invent, wouldn't always apply in every situation.

    Some people spend more; some people spend that amount or less. Many of us have chosen to overdo our houses - some of us may get that $$$ back and some of us may not, although we all hope we'll get **something** for what's been done.

    Speaking as someone who lowered the resale value by taking out a desired third bedroom to create a separate dining room, then spent way more than necessary to turn an ugly cottage into a clean-lined modern space perfect for how we live, I can honestly say I don't regret a single decision nor a single penny.

    This is NOT our forever home. We knew that going in. It is too difficult for someone elderly to keep up and there is no economical way to modify it. I'll be sorry to leave it, we've had a great time here. But in hindsight I'm so glad we went through the agony and expense of the initial remodel instead of doing it piecemeal or enduring without.

    Too many people are caught in the "I've always wanted...." with their homes. We did a gut remodel and customizing of our very first home, and have had the joy of 20 years of living with every wonderful change that was done.

    Our neighbors have done nothing save for 'must do this as we've put it off too long already'. In terms of $$$ they are at about the same payback as we are. The value of our properties is in the land, not the house. But in terms of how much we enjoy our property compared to how they enjoy theirs, there is no comparison. The wife would dearly love to have my kitchen, even with its outdated cabs. Its bigger, brighter, has a spectacular hillside view, has four times the storage space and allows multiple cooks to work together. All the appliances are newer and more energy efficient.

    Not all value can be counted strictly in the numbers.

  • 13 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Wow so many amazing commnets. I love them all.

    I wonder if this were not a TKO (totally kitchen Overload)
    site would we really care what we spent on a kitchen or home?

    I agree this post's underlying comments are about how each
    of chooses to spend money or plan or worry or ....
    My problem is my fear. I find that I hang on to my
    pennies for fear of what might happen. I do this toooo much
    to the detriment of NOW. I wish I would allow myself to
    splurge more. Reading all these lovely comments is helping
    me to learn about myself. I hope to let go a bit more
    and let life take me where it will. That is is okay to enjoy
    my space and make it beautiful for today.

    When my kitchen is finished I assure you I will right out
    the price of what I spent. I guarantee the images I post
    of fancy (other people's kitchens) are in the 100 grand
    for their reno. And we need to all remember that. Looking
    at kitchen porn is fun but can make us covet too.

    I too am surprised that you are a guy. And I find this
    even more wonderful to learn about you. I am one of those
    posters who think everyone has a dog, 3 kids, is a woman
    like me who needs to loose 10 pounds to fit in her favorite

    I love the game of being thrifty. It is like a contest.
    My DH is one of these people who will bargain
    on everything. It used to drive me nuts but not anymore.
    We have the money to pay full price we just have fun trying
    to get the price down.

    That was beautiful. I love hearing how the space made
    the focus of the family change a bit. I also touch my
    granite and find myself enjoying cleaning it. Weird, I

    I have issue with spending money. I guess I grew up in
    Yankee home of always saving for a raining day. I worry
    too much and need to live more. I NEED to enjoy what I have
    because I am not taking it with me. I too, have 8 more
    years to go on my mortgage. And I paid cash for my reno.
    Today I wonder if I was being tooo thrifty and not kitchen
    practical. Today my daughter said. "Why do we have the
    trash here? It should be over there." And in my haste to
    be cautious I may have missed some important kitchen design

    My advice is do what you can to make it a kitchen you will
    love. I love my space but there are days I wish we had
    spent a little more. We were tooooo cautious and worrying
    when we don't need to be. Make your space a place you love
    to spend time in and if it goes over budget but you love it
    go for it. The reno should not be so much about money
    but more about making a place for you to love.
    Don't make the mistake I made.

    Nancy, you reminded me what is important in my home and

    Doonie, Excellent words...

    Perfect topic. I keep coming back for more. Thank you.

  • 13 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Hi all,
    I'm new to this forum, but this thread is awesome! We had a budget of 28k for our remodel. What we found is that as we were making decisions for the kitchen, it affected other areas of our home and we needed to address other areas, which we didn't always anticipate in the budget. Our home is a 1978 ranch with an open floor plan.

    We are at about $42k, however, we consciously decided to make the upgrades or, for example, continue the hardwood flooring into the great room and hallway(+6K). We went through a process of looking online, in magazines, library design books, etc for each design element. We would wrestle with a decision until my DH and I came to a point where we both "felt" what was "right". Both in terms of quality & price.

    We have looked back at each purchase after installation and have not regretted one thing. However, I am glad I'm not the only person who is having this "hard economic time" guilt prey on our use of funds.

    I prayed specifically for this kitchen remodel. We've been in our home for 20years and entertain friends, family and strangers very often. I have had to ask myself and God many times if it's the best use of our money. I've got affirmative answers from both! And I'm extremely blessed and thankful for it's fruition!

    blessings and many happy memories in all these kitchen crazed homes;o)

    some kitchen pics of our remodel:

  • 13 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    For us, we enjoy nice things, but we also REALLY enjoy the fun in being thrifty.. its like a game.. how much $ can we save, how can we make a room we love with minimal cost. Its like a giant ongoing scavenger hunt. I really do enjoy it!

    joyjoyjoy, I KNEW we must be birds of a feather! I am exactly the same way. And I can repurpose almost anything. My splurge was my farm sink. But I shopped around, found the best deal and then asked if there was a coupon. Sure enough! So saved $100 on the sink that was already the best buy AND it was exactly what I wanted.

    Vate, Kitchendetective & Boxerpups,
    I have issue with spending money. My problem is my fear. I find that I hang on to my
    pennies for fear of what might happen.

    Do I ever hear you there! Well, I don't have to wait for the other shoe to drop. I need a new septic system. It's been coming, I just chose to want a kitchen and bathroom more and it was easy to ignore the handwriting on the wall until our flood last week. Can't put it off any longer. And to add insult to injury, more rain coming, likely 4 inches to start and continuing all week. I've been cash so far but now..........probably will have to get a loan. I've been dirt poor my whole life. I know how to do what I want for a price I can afford. And I know where to look. Patience is the name of the game. Anyone know where I can find a gently used septic system including leach field?

    My whole acreage was $72,000 6 years ago. I bought it for my horses, dogs and cats. Big surprise was the green shag carpet throughout the whole downstairs. I didn't remember seeing that when I looked at the house. What was I looking at that I missed that! But there it was in the two pictures I took inside the house so I must have been there. It got ripped out the first month. I put up horse fence first;-) I looked at and bought this acreage in one day. It had the right location and the right set up for my animals. The house was a bonus. I could have lived in the barn if there was no house. It had everything I needed.

    I spent more or less $8000 on the 1950 kitchen gut. I was very fortunate to get an old friend to do carpenter work and he worked cheap. I didn't keep track of every penny plus some things will be used in the bathroom as well. And there were things I already had and a few things I bought because I wanted them. And then there were a few things I bought and didn't use. As I wrote checks I saw the balance dwindling thousands at a time until about midway through when buying stuff was done. There was money left over from the $12,000 I had budgeted so I moved on to the bathroom. I don't even know what I could sell for today. I'm not planning to leave it alive. Many, many years ago I read in Better Homes and Gardens Magazine: Don't remodel for the new people. Remodel for you. Why fix a place for some unknown person who probably doesn't share your taste? From that day on I have never given it a thought whether my remodeling/decorating decisions will please anyone other than me.

    We have not had a raise since 2007. Mostly we were so relieved to still have a job that no one complained the first year. Not a lot of grumbling the second year but THIS year I hear rumbling. I think the owners have worn out the economy excuse. We're right there and we see what's going out. It will affect my social security check in two years. I'm sick to death of never knowing if I can afford to live. I don't want to go to work forever. When do I get to have fun?

    One of the sentences I wanted to post on the "what I would have done" thread that doesn't have a preview/posting button on it is:
    I am more than delighted to have the peninsula gone and every time I think about my new kitchen I suspect my face has the orgasm expression.

    The remodel was SO worth it!

    I learn something new every day!

  • 13 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    This is such a personal decision. Everyone's financial situation, life situation and priorities are different. I agree with you really need to go with your gut.

    I can see other poster's point about the value to your family of a better living space. But I also know my mother made amazing family dinners, and the kitchen was tiny.

    For us, the current economic situation has changed what we'll do. I would love to do more, but I have to look at the cost benefit analysis and also ask what else that money could be used for. We all have limited resources and have to decide where's the best place to put those resources - and the answer is different for everyone based on their personal situation and their priorities.

    We're trying to decide if we save longer and do a bigger renovation and add on a 3rd bedroom. People have told us to do it, as it'll add value to the house, BUT would that money be better put somewhere else - our son is 5, and we have college and retirement to plan for. Can we live perfectly well without the 3rd bedroom? A friend told me to do the 3rd bedroom and my son can get a scholarship or loans to make up the difference in college savings. BUT, I work in Higher Education and I know how difficult it is to get scholarships/financial aid, and I know how much those college loans cripple new graduates. I work part-time, but I'm looking for full-time work. If I get that, then we could do both. But in our current situation stays, it's probably one or the other. Personally, I go for bigger retirement/college savings over another bedroom that will be our office/exercise and occasional guest room. But that's me. Someone else would make a different decision. We think we'll move the tiny 2nd bathroom and built a bathroom off our bedroom, that will be expensive, but it will make a huge difference to our daily lives, so that I can see us doing.

    If college and retirement savings were done, then I might make a different decision. MIL recently refaced all her cabinets and has the cherry kitchen she wanted when they built 15 year ago. They had 2 kids in college and couldn't afford the cabinets she wanted. Now, with no college, retirement nicely set up, she did the kitchen she wanted, and she LOVES it. I could see myself doing something similar if all my other needs were taken care of. But they're not, so I'll make decisions based on my current situation and I'll probably lower my expectations, as I don't want to get caught out later on. And besides ANY countertop is better than what I currently have, so it doesn't have to be premium material for me to be happy.

  • 13 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    >.I'm sick to death of never knowing if I can afford to live.>>

    But isn't that the whole point of this discussion? It doesn't matter if you spent $5,000 or $50,000 or even $500,000 on your kitchen. Despite the obvious pleasure we take in our beautiful new kitchens, it is far more important that it NOT affect our future lifestyle in retirement.

    My kitchen is everything I need and maybe 60% of what I want (after all, the remodel was 20 yrs ago and the appliances are in the process of being replaced). But what is important is that our home was paid off three years ago, without that we wouldn't have been able to retire early.

    Could I remodel the kitchen to 100% of my 'wanna haves'? Sure. Could I get it back in resale? Nope; maybe 25% if I was really, really lucky. So will I do it anyway, since I love to cook and have the extra funds?

    No, I won't. The house is paid off but worth 25% less than it was three years ago. When we eventually sell it that money will be added to our portfolio, currently down 10% from its highs. It is fairly evident that future stock market gains will be modest so every dollar is going to count.

    I'll replace the stove and hood because it's necessary. And they'll be better than average because a RE agent advised us that having overimproved the house, we needed to remain consistent with everything else. But beyond that it's only necessary maintenance.

    I don't regret what we spent in the past. But I will be very careful what we spend going forward. We feel fortunate to have a solid financial footing in place, but this is not the environment to be taking on unnecessary expense.

  • 13 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    A huge problem occurred when people started treating their houses as an investment that was going to bring large returns rather than as a place to live. We would Never buy a car, use it every day, and Demand that we get a much higher price for it when we were done.

    One of my bosses parents' were able to sell the house they built 30+ years ago for some 8 or 9 times their initial investment. The area developed, the setting is beautiful, and the house is not unmanagably large. He on the otherhand, lives in a $2M+ 10,000 sq foot behemouth nearby. Does anyone *really think he is going to sell it one day for $18M? I don't. But I think he hopes so.

    This does not happen in areas like where I grew up. My parents have always carried full replacement value on their house of 40+ years. Its insurance value? $800K. Its market value in the area? $250K on a very good day. People there don't make the mistake of thinking their retirement fund *is *their *house.

    Granted I am stuck living in an area that I *must pay a lot more for shelter, however, it is not something I would spend all my savings to purchase, and touch retirement? Forget it.

  • 13 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    I agree that your house in not an investment. We had friends that made 500K on their house. That won't happen again. Other friends have said their retirement IS their house, and have spent 200K on it. If they were retiring now, and had to sell, there is no way they could do that. I don't want to put all my eggs in the one basket.

    We do need to do something about the kitchen/laundry room/2nd bathroom. I want to do a lot, and I've already told my husband that his job will be to talk me down. I want a lot of things, but I don't want to be broke when we're retried and need to move in with our son. I want to be financially independent MORE than I want a sparkling kitchen. So I'll only get some of what I want with the house, but it's still more than many people have.

  • 13 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    I anticipate working into my 70's or 80's, even if it is only part time work. So, maybe that's why I think my renovation is more palatable. I don't understand the focus on retirement. But that's just me. I am thrilled to be working and absorbed in life. I don't intend on leaving much, except good memories, behind, for my children.

  • 13 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Built my custom dream home five years ago, went way over budget on everything thinking we would stay there a very long time. We moved 3 1/2 years later after the market went down and lost a lot.

    Now I'm back in frugal mode which feels more comfortable. Bought a house that costs 1/2 of what we paid for the custom house.

    Budget for redoing the kitchen in this house is $6,000 about 1.5% of the price of the house. It's not a large kitchen, already has nice appliances and most work will be DIY.

    $1,500 Refacing cabinets using unfinished wood doors
    $2,000 Granite countertop budget
    $400 Hardware (Ebay) and simple tile
    $600 Sink (undermount stainless) & faucet
    $700 Wood floor allowance, installing ourselves
    $800 Kobe range hood

    This will be a white kitchen with floor to ceiling cabinets, Kitchenaid stainless appliances, granite and a high end look at a fraction of what we paid for our last kitchen. After studying the comparables in the neighborhood we will see a positive return on our investment. The house also needs wood floors in other rooms, paint and DH is going to install lots of molding (he does woodworking as a hobby).

    I'm loving the idea of adding value without breaking the bank. Even if we go over by $1,000 or so it's still within reason.

  • 13 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Some economists believe we are teetering on a time of deflation -- when value drops and prices rise due to less demand.

    If you agree with that, then traditional guidelines on what to spend don't work at all because they are based on an assumption that values will rise.

    All anyone can say is plan accordingly and do what's best for you. No two situations are the same. I faced this last summer. We had to do the reno and I made a lot of compromises. I'm happy with the result which is way better than before and doesn't make me second guess what I did or what was spent.

  • 13 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    We had dinner with two other couples for 4th of July and I shared with them my observations of the many kitchens and situations in the financial and design spectrums that are the GW kitchen forum. Both couples are experiencing kitchen lust but both know that they can't afford or need what is "out there" in the stores. They are watching our project with interest and both guys have served as laborers for it.

    They emphatically said that they want a face-to-face eating area for family interaction at a table daily. One couple has their first grandchild now and are inveterate party givers. That wife would rather have a better kitchen with attached large eating spaces than a living room. The other couple "renovated" cosmetically to sell, then ended up not selling and the wife is sad that they didn't put more thought into the reno because she has to work in that kitchen from now on and they will probably not spend any more on the kitchen ever (its problem is inefficiency). One person is a vet, one is in sales, one is a U of M. science technician, and one is stay at home. All are anticipating retirement and want to save as much as possible for old age and other things. The idea of spending a lot on appliances or appearances is out of the question for either one. Neither couple thinks that "help yourself to food" snack drawers and beverage coolers conveniences for children is a good idea--they will monitor any young people using the kitchen. All prepare foods from scratch and use fresh foods in season. Both husbands do some of the cooking and have favorite recipes. Dogs roam both kitchens. Their kitchens are working kitchens and one is also uniquely decorated, the personality of the owner. Both would gladly use their own kitchen instead of my old one. They replace appliances as they die, but are not worried about matching them. I needed this conversation--sometimes I get crazy and need reinforcement that my new kitchen with the big space but otherwise modest features is going to be a mistake. Peer pressure from the GW!

    [a lack of plunk space either side of the range is the major problem in both of their kitchens]

  • 13 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Doonie >> I anticipate working into my 70's or 80's, even if it is only part time work. So, maybe that's why I think my renovation is more palatable. I don't understand the focus on retirement. But that's just me.

    My focus on retirement is from seeing people around me struggling when they are older. My parents struggled financially, and are now fine as my mother inherited money from my grandmother. I don't expect to inherit anything. And I don't expect to get any social security either.

    My FIL had to retire earlier than planned due to medical reasons. MIL is still working part-time as a consultant, so that has helped

    A friend is 57 and was laid off, he can't find work, so it looks like he has early retirement that he didn't plan on. I actually have several friends with parents in their late 50's/early 60's that were laid off, and can't get any work, no health insurance, can't sell the house etc.

    The economic situation at the moment is very difficult, and maybe it won't be like this when I get to retirement age. I'm a plan for the worst and hope it doesn't happen kind of person. Part of that is balancing between enjoying life now and saving to enjoy life later on.

  • 13 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago


    Excellent points. Fortunately for us, the area we live in has remained fairly economically stable. I know there are lots of people having a really tough time of it.

    Hopefully, we have made the right decision for us. Time will tell. I have had several people tell me I should just have built a new house. That seems wasteful to me and too much of a time sucker. After I am done with this project, I have no intention of doing such a thing again.

    We have enlarged our main living area so we could easily take in aging parents, if we ever needed to for health or finacial reasons. And we have made both of our familys aware of that.

    I am driving a 10 year old 4 cylinder car that I take good care of, I don't buy much in the way of clothing, or jewelry, I don't spend money on dining out. So, I am fairly frugal in other aspects of my life. People would never suspect, from my tshirts, Chalco's and Eddie Bauer shorts that I live in such a beautiful home or that I am obsessed with gorgeous kitchens.

    I know there are unforeseen events that occur in life, and we have been very frugal at paying down our debts. The house is our only debt, and it had been paid down substantially. Now we are taking on more debt again, after pinching pennies for years. It does make me nervous sometimes and I will be so relieved when the last bill is paid!

    I saw a movie trailer today for a movie called "RED". Stands for Retired, Extremely Dangerous, stars Bruce Willis and Helen Mirren as ex CIA agents who can't give it up. Right now, that is exactly how I feel about retirement. Boring. But who knows. I may change my mind.

  • 13 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    I agree with not building a new house. We like our house, we like our neighbourhood.

    We will do work on our house, but the size and scope will probably be less than we want, but also more than minimum. We're leaning towards the middle - do some things that don't have to be done as they'll improve our space considerably, but also hold back on some other areas. We have layout/space issues to solve and to do that will mean less money for appliances, cabinets etc, but fixing the space will be worth it.

    For me it is a balance between living and saving. My grandmother had a large estate because she didn't live, she didn't do anything and just saved more money. I don't want to be like that, she was miserable and had a really bad kitchen!. My parents struggled as they spent and didn't save, they now have have a inheritance from my grandmother, which is lucky as it would not have surprised me if she left it all to the cat. I don't expect to get any, and that's OK. My mother lives to cook, and she has her dream range that cost $15,000 Australian, bought courtesy of her mother's savings. So, someone is enjoying that money. But I can see my parents spending it all, and ending up back where they were - but with a rolls royce range.

    I'm trying to do the middle road - enjoy life, have fun, but not spend everything, so there's some there later on when I need it. Will it be enough - I don't know, but I want to be as financially independent as possible.

  • 13 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    hmm, i am about to tap into my equity for a major remodel, one which will finish the remodel we started fifteen years ago, before dh became ill.
    this remodel will add a new kitchen, entry, fireplaces and two bdrms upstairs,plus laundry and bath. not to mention the backyard will finally be terraced so we can have an outdoor space directly over the brook. all in all i believe (and hope to hell!) that the investment will increase the value of my home by at least as much as it costs me. it won't be extra fancy, but i think it will finally make my home as spectacular as the setting.
    i've been here for 21 years and may be here forever, but if not, i'll be more able to sell a finished home for much more than an unfinished one.
    still, i'm scared to go farther into debt, though i'm reducing my interest rate by half, and will even have extra cash at the end of the month.
    submitting the app this week, and sweating the details...

  • 13 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    "We can all convince ourselves that we'll be a better driver if we just had the Ferrari, but the sad truth is that you're going to be driving on the same residential streets that you drove your Honda on. Now, if you want to take up weekend trips to SCCA solo events, then maybe the Ferrari will get an outing worthy of it's heritage. That doesn't mean that you're going to be able to afford the 40 foot enclosed trailer and chauffered motorhome that the airline pilot who parks next to you has, but at least you're getting some of your money's worth on the track."

    That sounds just like one of the guys I used to autocross with, lol. He now has his own race track! Super nice guy though and very generous. I also had a couple of friends buy Ferraris, only to find that they couldn't afford the basic maintenance ;-)

    We were able to save a lot on our higher end appliances by getting floor models. We are also taking up the old floor tile ourselves, though DH isn't sure he feels comfortable doing the install of the new tile.

  • 13 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Donnie, as long as you're happy with the resulting kitchen and can manage financially, what you're doing is good. As others have said, everybody's financial situation is unique, and hopefully yours will work out the way you want.

    fallingwaters, I feel for you. It's completely true that an unfinished house is worth so much less. We bought our cottage at the height of the previous bubble. No sooner had we gutted it than the Loma Prieta earthquake happened. No damage (there was nothing but the studs and joists left anyway) but values fell 25% in two years.

    We were so far underwater we should have turned into salmon, LOL. But we had to struggle to finish, because there was no choice but to go forward once that crowbar took the first bite of plaster.

  • 13 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Just for what it's worth, have listened to a radio lecture from the Aspen Ideas Festival by Richard Florida. His major topic dealt with critical mass subpopulations that can bring new entrepreneurial energy to a mired economy, but on the way to that train of argument, he let fly with a few statistics.

    I'm still chewing on this one: In the wake of the last major economic downturn (1929-1930s) it took 19 years for the previous dollar value of a home to return. He foresees a similar situation for today's devalued homes. Have been chewing on that factoid for days.

  • 13 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Well, I can't really say what my home would sell for at the present time, but I know I'm not willing to do any work on my house unless I'm paying cash.

    I've lived with white laminate cabinets and pink Formica countertops for almost 10 years. Some of the cupboards are kept closed with Velcro! Still, I wouldn't remodel if I had to take out a loan for the work.

    I am keeping my remodel at $15K and this is including my half bath off the kitchen. No new floors and am keeping the same stove and refridge, but everything else is going. I'm getting handcrafted Amish natural cherry cabinets/vanity base for $9K installed (includes tear out of the old), granite tops in kitchen/bath, new faucets, new dishwasher and micro/hood combo, backsplash, etc., etc.

    Maybe our costs are a lot lower here in the Midwest, but this is about 6% of our home's tax value.

  • 13 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Great thread.

    The prices of cabinets in particular is appallingly high for many of us, and I don't understand what goes into that number.

    However, I will say this:

    When the kitchen designers and cabinet and appliance makers are telling me to spend 10 - 15% of my home's value on a new kitchen, I automatically cut it in half.

    Maybe b/c I'm ornery and mean. Dunno.

    But it reminds me of how the diamond dealers came up with the idea that a man should spend 2 months salary on a ring - OR ELSE! That's ridiculous. What an arbitrary number.

    I live in a very expensive metropolitan area (NYC). Apartments range from $500 / sq ft to well over $2000 sq/ft.

    The idea that a $1,000,000 one-bedroom apartment should have a $100 - 150K kitchen is laughable (although in NYC, I don't doubt some people do exactly that.)

    Just not us.

  • 13 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Those numbers, or 20% in general-- are supposed to be cutoff numbers, not "supposed to spend" numbers. NYC is an unusual market. Much of the country has the opposite problem. Its very hard to spend less than 20% on a decent kitchen if you live in a $75K ,$100K or 150K -valued house.

  • 13 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    My current kitchen is very dysfunctional in it's layout. Plus the cabinets are original from the 50's. Counter tops are lime-sh green, back plash is yellowish green. The carpet is from the 60-70's being red, orange, browns. The appliances are 20 years or older. The windows in the kitchen and DR are either original or 30 years old anyway. When I look at what we're spending on this kitchen remodel I get ill at times. My husband bought the home 15 yrs ago for 85K. Prices today with the kitchen how it is now, might get 120K. We're going to end up putting about 1/2 of that value into a new kitchen and windows. It will be a gut job - hired out. It will probably be our only kitchen remodel.

    But one thing that puts it into perspective for me is that people don't hesitate to buy a 3/4 ton 4X4 pickup with all the options for close to what were going to pay for our kitchen remodel. And of course vehicles lose there value.

    It is stressful thinking how much money is going into this. But my kids are grown - why not.

  • 13 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    This is a great, thoughtful thread - the question and the responses. I only have a little $0.02 to throw in:

    - If you are a bargain-hunter type ... and only if you are ... you might scour around to see if your exact or very similar high-ticket items (the range and hood etc.) might be at a discount somewhere ... on Craigslist (so much is these days w/the housing slump and economy, some great finds) or at liquidators or other places. You do need to do some hard thinking about warranties and whether you want to buy new new though.

    - If you want a range, for instance, that works well but it's mainly the look that is drawing you to the high-end range and hood, I'd say look around in more places and ask if people have seen things that fit the general profile for less. Now that the pro stainless steel big appliances have been on the market for consumers for quite awhile, there are plenty of more mainstream kitchen companies marketing their own sleekly designed pieces that are similar in look.

    - Tile prices vary hugely ... if you have your heart set on something amazing, I understand, but if it is not really intricate design or something, you can probably find a wide variation in prices for a product that looks very similar. (Others can advise you on how cheap is too cheap for tile, for quality etc.)

  • 13 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    It would be very difficult for you to do a complete kitchen remodel within a 20% or $24K guideline. This is a problem in areas of relatively low house values. The flip side of this guide is also problematic in areas with relatively high house values. The "average house price" in my neighborhood is currently $600K. However using that 20% guideline and investing $120K in a kitchen would not get you the return here either The value won't go up to $690K (assuming a 75% ROI on the kitchen.)

    The average house that is *selling* in my neighborhood is $400K. People are only buying the less expensive properties...or the occasional really expensive one. Not anything in the middle.

    In this market you have to make the investment to remodel for your own use, and if it ends up costing you more than you could expect to sell for, you just have to hope you can stay put and enjoy it.

  • 13 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Great thread. As others have implied, the important part is not the numbers, but how much it increases your enjoyment of life.

    That being said, the numbers are still fascinating. Just to throw a few more actual numbers out there, we're about 75% done with our down-to-the-studs kitchen remodel, and have kept very accurate numbers. The kitchen is 16x12, and our plan included tackling a small adjacent (4x4) powder room and mudroom (4x8).

    We are in the fortunate position to be able to think of this remodel as quality first (and cost second). It's our forever house, and we want to enjoy it so we're spending money that we would likely not get back if we had to sell.

    But we're still trying to do it as inexpensively as anybody would. That means we got multiple bids, scoured the internet for deals, etc. And we'll still be out well over $100K when it's all said and done. Here's where our money has gone:

    * demo/protection: $3K
    * framing: $10K
    * subfloor & floor: $5K
    * electrical: $7.5K
    * custom doors: $2K
    * custom cabinets: $27K
    * plumbing: $3K
    * countertop: $6K
    * cabinet install: $3K
    * cabinet finishing: $3K
    * appliances: $13K
    * asbestos: $1.5K
    * windows: $8K
    * lighting: $1.3K
    * cabinet hardware: $0.9K
    * tile: $2K
    * millwork: $2.5K
    * various other labor/materials: $10K

    I don't think these numbers are at all atypical for the higher end kitchens in our neighborhood. Our details include custom flush inset cabinets, custom banquette, leaded glass windows, top-nailed wood floors, hand-molded tile, etc.

    If you go down to the studs, don't forget to plan for the unexpected. We found asbestos, unusable sub-floor, missing structural elements, etc. And I don't think that's at all uncommon.

    It would have been easy to spend more. For example, our appliances are high end (Sub Zero, Miele), but we got demo models from appliance stores and the distributors.

    Our kitchen is going to be exactly what we want, but did we need any of the high-end details? Of course not. On the other hand, it's a beautiful old house, and we realized early on that it wasn't going to be inexpensive to put in a kitchen that would respect that.

  • 13 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    My oh my. I started reading this fascinating thread but it's very long and it's getting late. I do feel a little better--

    like someone mentioned early, the $ spent in proportion (to house value) cannot possibly be a straight line. I have seen so many beautiful kitchens here and wondered how much they cost. I also know lots of people DIY and wonder if that's how they save $$.

    But now I have read some numbers and felt a little relieved. In my area, my guess is (please trust me, I live in a very OLD house that's nothing near luxurious, mansion-like, whatever, whatever) my house is about 1.5 million. This is just the way it is. I know back where I went to School (St. Louis) people own CASTLES with same price...Anyways, I have been pinching, pinching, and pinching pennies. I got appliances online, begged and bargained with the contractor, went to places to haul back cheap stuff (recessed light housing units, etc), and I was still mad that my planned 40 K has been exceeded. Guess I should not feel too bad. I splurged on a pot filler...

  • 13 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Have attended a few open houses for local Parade of Homes. Am pleased to note that some "palaces" are more modest in floorplan and that I've seen a number of geothermal heating and cooling installations. That's progress for all of us--more sensible homes in the community which will survive and flourish! And I saw a couple very sensible kitchens, even if they had lots Kitchen-Obsessed features also.

  • 13 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    I'm guesstimating that when done our kitchen remodel will be about 35k give or take a few. That is about 6% of what we would get if we sold. The kitchen was from 1982 and very inefficient, plus the beauty of this place is the views overlooking the Gulf and the kitchen was closed off to that. We are redoing thie and the whole condo because we can and because we want a place for the two of us to enjoy.

    My custom cabinets cost less than semi custom kraftmaid when you factor in my cabinetmaker gave me the same price installed. We splurged on the farm sink I had always wanted but still saved because our plumber had it sitting around. We went with a Bosch single oven (because I like to bake and also because if we ever do sell, people expect no less than Bosch) and a Bosch cooktop that was very inexpensive. a samsung French door fridge, and we splurged on a top of the line ka dw (the European brands didn't hold as much). we also splurged on the sharp undercounted mw because we're getting older and I seem to be getting even more vertically challenged. Granite counters and all my knobs were less than $4 each at Lowes. oh and a blanco faucet.

    we did keep in mind resale by budgeting our redo based on other condos in the building, but it wasn't our driving force. comfort and enjoyment were. BTW: with what we paid for the condo in May and what we would be able to sell it for after our redo, we would most likely get 100% back because we bought the worst looking condo in one of the best buildings, and budgeted based on what other condos in our building are selling for. Thankfully they are still selling in our building.

  • 13 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    I posted when this topic was first active. That was before we started our remodel. That began in mid-August on what was in fact, probably not coincidentally, Friday the 13th.

    I can now report actual v. projected. This is a galley kitchen, gutted but with no structural changes. We did have to rework the plumbing and do electrical. New appliances, cabinets, countertop, backsplash and flooring. I'll list my guesstimate, followed by what I actually spent:

    "Cabinets $16K - painted maple, 3/4 inch plywood, all drawers on the bottom, paneled DW and refrigerator, large pantry, 4 glass doors flanking window. ~27 linear feet of cabinetry in a galley kitchen w/hallway housing pantry area"

    Final cost: $16K

    "Appliances $10K - splurging on my dream fridge which is a fully integrated Jennair side by side, GE Monogram convection range, GE Advantium OTR microwave, Bosch panel ready DW. Price includes delivery and installation of refrigerator only. Husband will install other appliances"

    Final cost: $10,290

    "Flooring $1200 - 180SF of Anderson oak engineered plank HW, to match existing floor. No installation cost, my son will install. He's done other flooring for me so I know he can handle the job."

    Final cost: $1,260.00 for flooring. $481 for adhesive, vinyl underlayment and the dremel tool my son the installer conned me into paying for.

    "Those costs I know. The ones I'm not sure about yet are:

    Counters ~$2000? - doing granite. Haven't been to stone yard yet, will probably use my contractor's fabricator unless I get a better bid from someone else"

    Final cost of granite slab, fabrication and installation: $3,291

    I got the ogee edge I wanted, which I know was pricier. I also include the cost of an entire slab, although I have ~50 SF (at $12/SF) left which I'm going to use to create a buffet on my back patio. If I'd done a simpler edge and just priced the granite I used, the overage would only have been a couple of hundred. But woulda coulda shoulda...

    "Labor ?? - husband is doing demo, electrical and plumbing but contractor has plumbers and electricians available if husband can't get to everything on time or gets overwhelmed"

    Wait, let me stifle my bitter laughter...husband did NO labor whatsoever. This was by far my biggest overage. In fairness, by the time the project actually began, it was the start of a very busy work schedule for him. Still, I had hoped he would do the lion's share but it just didn't happen. My labor charges also had to include not only the contractor's original estimates for demo, plumbing and electrical but options my husband insisted on that jacked up the cost of the electrical work considerably. And my late-in-project request that they handle the tiling for the backsplash. Anyway, final labor cost: $6,855, without tile work which I itemized separately below.

    "Sink $500 budgeted - have seen Silgranit single for $318 online so hoping I"m ok on that"

    Sink was just under $500. But I forgot I'd need a faucet expense: $969.

    "Miscellaneous including lights, pulls/knobs, and unexpected costs $3000-$5000"

    I didn't include the cost of the backsplash, which is simple white subway tile. Tile, supplies and labor to install: $971.

    Other miscellaneous:

    Knobs and pulls: $339
    Lighting fixture over sink: $260

    "So, I'm hoping to get the kitchen finished for ~$35K."

    And my actual total, as we approach the end is just over $40,500.

    Although I went over budget, I did get everything I wanted in this kitchen. The homes in our area have dropped in value but even with losing $300K of paper equity, we still spent around 10% of the (reduced) value of the house. I'm fine with that. As I mentioned in my original post we aren't going anywhere and this is the kitchen I've always dreamed of.

    Hoping this is instructive for others who may be reading and planning, as I did for so long!

  • 13 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Beckyg, I love what you said here:
    "When the kitchen designers and cabinet and appliance makers are telling me to spend 10 - 15% of my home's value on a new kitchen, I automatically cut it in half... it reminds me of how the diamond dealers came up with the idea that a man should spend 2 months salary on a ring - OR ELSE! That's ridiculous. What an arbitrary number."

    Totally arbitrary, I agree. I specifically told my sweetie that he shouldn't spend more than two WEEKS' salary on my ring, and he didn't. I couldn't stand the stress of walking around with $6000 or $10,000 or whatever on my finger, and there was just no way I could see that it made sense to sink so much money into a piece of jewelry.

    I guess the reason I'm more okay with the 10% thing on kitchens... ok, well part of it is because our house is worth maybe $270k. Actually I think that's the main reason I'm okay with it! Because 10-15% of MY house corresponds pretty well with the maximum that I think makes sense to spend on a kitchen. Haha. I can't imagine spending $150k on a kitchen.

    But aside from that, a kitchen--assuming you're going to live in it for a good while--has a much bigger influence on your quality of life than a ring does. The spaces we inhabit really do influence the ways we live--like the poster who talked about molesting her marble (haha) and said her kids used the new island and socialized whereas before they would've retreated to their rooms. It does matter how living spaces are designed and how they look. The way they look and they way they flow and function influences not only how you feel in them, but what you do in them.

    That's why I am dead set on having a banquette and table in the kitchen instead of the ubiquitous "raised edge of the counter with barstools" that our ex-architect kept pushing. We're planning on having kids soon, and it would be what, six years or more before they'd be big enough to easily use barstools and a raised counter?! Whereas little kids can easily sit on banquettes, space to hold kids' toys can be built into banquettes, AND our friends can sit there too when they're visiting. Space matters!

  • 13 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    I know I'm reading this post late, but I just have to say that I think you are being WAY overcharged on labor costs. $5K to remove old tiles and install new ones is crazy considering its only 170 sq ft. It would probably take like three days total of labor. $2K for labor for the backsplash is also totally overpriced - thats probably two days of labor and is something that almost anyone can do. My husband and I are redoing our entire kitchen (new ceiling, hardwood floors, new cherry cabinets, granite countertops, faucet, electrical, etc.) for under 10K. I know we are lucky that we are talented and can do most of the work ourselves, but when we do hire people we get estimates and make sure we get the best possible price. I have a contractor in the family who is very honest, but I hear a lot of stories from him about other contractors who take advantage of people all the time just because they know they have money and will spend it. Best of luck with your kitchen.

  • 13 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Hi avettfan, thanks for your post. Well, we now have the floor down. My DH took out all the old tile and subfloor himself, saving some cost. The final bill for tiling the kitchen and hall -- putting down subfloor, the tile (it is a pattern and took almost a half day to work out) and grouting/sealing was a little over $2000 including the material cost for the new subfloor, sealer, grout, and for nearly 5 days work. The estimate for the backsplash is $500-$700. So you were right.

  • 13 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Sayde, I am really glad to hear things are coming in under your original estimate. I think you could also get a better price on the painting/fridge panel as well.

    We wanted to save a lot and made our own fridge panel by getting matching cabinet grade wood and staining it to the exact match of our cabinets. It is so simple to do and looks perfect.

    I can't wait to see pictures of your finished project.

  • 13 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    avettfan, well you are right again. We are going to save by painting ourselves. And there is a site on line that will cut 24 gauge stainless to the exact measurements -- or send you a full sheet so you can cut. We are going to save on the counters by using butcher block. But along the way, decided to splurge on a copper hood. I can't wait to see the pictures too! We are doing so many things ourselves and it is just taking forever. But slow as it is, it is going well so far. (floor is in and the restored cabinets are in process . . . .)

  • 13 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Wow! It was tough to get through all the posts, but very enlightening! I've been stalemated on my remodel plans after the realization that my planned budget may not be adequate. But I have a renewed sense of determination now to get the kitchen I want for the budget I have. The planning is harder than I imagined it would be! I can only guess how hard the actual remodel will be!

    As soon as I return from a trip with my grandchildren that was planned last minute and NOT in the budget, it's full steam ahead with planning and work beginning in early March 2011.

    Thanks for all of your words of wisdom!

  • 13 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    bumping this forward because I think we need to keep these concepts in mind as we approach the 'holiday season' and a winter with new posters.--F

  • 13 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    this thread definitely belongs at the top - enlightening reading.

  • 12 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    bumping this up as an experiment--I tried bumping another old "don't forget the money" thread this morning but cannot find it

    Let me know if one with a new post discussing "under water" mortgages shows up.

  • 12 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago