Ramseys: Remodeling a kitchen doesn't have to bust your budget

Barbara,Clair Ramsey

Most people agree the kitchen is the most important room in the home. Think of the kitchen as command central, where everything gets used. Depending on your tastes, the kitchen can certainly be the most expensive room to renovate as you struggle to match your budget with your desire. Additionally, one decision drives the next -- the location of plumbing, electrical and gas outlets may influence the placement and quality of cabinets, counter tops, appliances and lighting fixtures. You may even end up relocating or supplementing the household utilities to get the kitchen layout you desire.

The potential cost of a kitchen redo is why many people simply live with what they have instead of completely remodeling or buying new construction. However, there are other options.

If you are one of the lucky people who love their homes, feel their location is great and think their neighbors are wonderful, consider these alternatives. First, if your cabinets are in good condition but dated, consider having them refaced at a fraction of the cost of replacing them. You can also reconfigure, with some limitations, the use of space. For instance, you can shift out cabinets for drawers, or trade an appliance such as a compactor for more drawers, recycle bins or that wine grotto you always wanted.

Next, consider replacing the drawer glides. Full extension glides allow you to utilize the full drawer and reach items in the very back. Self-closing glides close themselves quietly if the drawer is pushed in just short of closing.

Of course, new counter tops will add the finishing touch to those upgraded cabinets. When choosing material, the least sought-after surface is ceramic tile. Granite is still the most desirable and most expensive. Up and coming may be man-made quartz. While it's still more expensive, the nonporous nature of quartz discourages bacteria. Although this surface currently doesn't have the depth in appearance of granite, quartz is starting to catch the eye of some home remodelers.

Next, consider new flooring. Hardwood or laminate flooring does not work well in wet areas like a kitchen. Ceramic tile can be hard to stand on, cold, and hazardous if something is dropped. Traditional vinyl has always been associated with a less expensive home. However, the new Luxury Vinyl Tile (LVT) has some definite possibilities for a more expensive look while being warmer, softer and quieter than tile.

LVT, a PVC material, is not affected by water. It comes in three quality levels and is made by at least four manufacturers. Some LVT can have the depth of wood flooring with textures and imperfections. Others LVT floorings have the depth of ceramic or slate tiles. Installation is either glue down or linked together as a floating floor with no underlayment. Costs can be reduced when floor prep is minimal and installation is over existing flooring. Installation is easy for a do-it-yourself savvy homeowner with a knife to score and snap off the excess. The tight locking system creates close joints and the surface is easy to clean. Costs per square foot range from $3.50 at the low end and up to $6 on the upper, with installation costs an additional $3.50.

Another up-and-coming flooring look isn't the product but the cut. Station tiles (12 by 24 inches) provide a new look over traditionally laid tile or diagonally laid (high labor with more waste).

Finally, take a look at your appliances. As appliance technology has improved in recent years, functionality has also improved. Remember, if you start replacing your large appliances, the cook top is the most visible item. It is truly the most used appliance that you stand in front of, almost as much as the kitchen sink. Just the appearance of a new cook top makes a big visual difference.

If none of these ideas appeals to you but you still want to crank up the kitchen a notch, consider upgrading your small appliances. As Americans have grown more health conscious, we've looked for ways to eat more organically or with fewer additives. "Antioxidant" is the buzzword for use of a VitaMixer or a juicer. Technology has allowed miniaturization of large-scale appliances for home use. Single-serve coffee makers and high-powered food processors used to make baby food and fruit smoothies are just a couple of the commercial products now found in homes.

Technology has also allowed small appliances to have digital screens, pre-sets, sleek designs and a plug, which appeals to many male shoppers and redefines the meaning of "tools" for the kitchen.

Barbara and Clair Ramsey are local associate brokers specializing in residential real estate. Their column appears every month in the Daily News. Their e-mail address is info@ramseyteam.com.

Barbara and Clair Ramsey