Cost-effective kitchen adjustments and makeovers

The kitchen functions as the center of your family’s household in more ways than you might think.

Early in the morning, it’s where your family congregates as breakfast is scarfed, coffee and orange juice are thirstily gulped, itineraries are established and homework is finished at the last minute. In the evenings, it’s where families cook and sometimes also where they sit down to eat, depending on the size of the house. And on special occasions like birthday parties or other festivities, the kitchen often ends up being a center of activity or conversational hub.

The point of this preamble is to stress how much your kitchen is the fulcrum around which so much of family life revolves. With that in mind, doesn’t it make sense that you should be proud of the space? And on the heels of that, you probably want to improve certain aspects of it but are worried about the cost – completely understandable in these hectic times. As such, we’ve gone ahead and tracked down some tips for fixing up your kitchen that focus on savings and hopefully help keep your wallet from crying out for mercy.

Cost-effective kitchen adjustments and makeoversPerhaps your kitchen could stand to have a few cost-effective upgrades done.

DIY, DIY and furthermore, DIY
If you’re a person who has creative impulses or proven artistic talent, you might be able to put it to good use when retooling the kitchen. Follow the lead of the homeowners cited by DIY Network, who turned copper pipes, chunks of wood flooring and stainless steel sheets into modern-art-inspired cabinetry – undoubtedly for hundreds if not thousands less than they would’ve paid a contractor. In a very similar vein, a couple profiled by The Kitchn replaced their upper cabinets with shelves made from pieces of baseboard and placed cookbooks – as well as all the supplies that would usually go in a pantry – on them. They also used a coffee cart instead of an oversized kitchen island. 

The whole idea behind the “do-it-yourself” trend is to find utility in uncommon places. Take a look around your house – not just the kitchen but going as far as the nooks and crannies of your garage – for any items that could be repurposed. 

Buy parts in advance
Those who are going the DIY route don’t necessarily need to abide by this suggestion. But if you’re not, The Balance recommended buying any parts needed for your renovations in advance: everything from lighting and plumbing fixtures to tile and countertops. It’s better to have supplies you don’t need rather than need supplies you don’t have, after all. And if you bought merchandise from any major home improvement outlet, you can probably return it, so long as you saved a printed or digital receipt, for store credit if not a refund. (Tread carefully if ordering parts online – things can get dicey if you want to make returns.)

Vet your contractors 
It’s entirely possible – probable, in fact – that you’ll need to enlist the services of a professional to complete your renovations. Considering that we’re trying to save here, you might cringe at the thought of stories overheard from your neighbors about who did adequate-at-best work and charged for excellent performance. Relax. The vast majority of contract businesses in any trade, from roofing to electrical installation, established their reputations on the basis of quality work. However, you should still protect yourself in a few ways.

First and foremost, you should have all contractors you hire – and any subcontractors they bring on, as can occur if jobs become more complex than anticipated – furnish proof of licensure, insurance and bonding. These factors mean that they’re certified in their craft and bound by state law to cover any costs incurred in worst-case scenarios where they cause damage to your property. This might mean paying more now – instead of, say, hiring your neighbor who claims he’s good with sink fixtures and looking on in horror as he busts open a pipe – but you save in the long run by having better work done by better workers. 

Also, don’t think you have to pay the full cost up front. In fact, according to The Balance, you shouldn’t pay more than 10 percent of the contractor’s estimate. You can pay as you go in any manner upon which you and the tradesperson can agree, but never pay the total balance until the job is done to your absolute satisfaction.

Stick to your initial plan
When you start renovating, you should have clear goals in mind. Don’t begin the process thinking you need sturdier cabinets and end up with a brand-new gas range, for example. As HGTV pointed out, listing your essential upgrades along with the budget required for each in a spreadsheet using Excel, Google Sheets or any similar program. This helps keep track of your renovation’s actual priorities and can alert you to approaching overages.

Use energy-efficient appliances
If a new refrigerator, oven range or dishwasher is part of your kitchen renovation, here’s another opportunity for future savings. Be sure to purchase appliances that have the Energy Star seal from the U.S. Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Agency, which have saved households $362 billion in energy costs since the Energy Star program began about 20 years ago. Tankless water heaters for your sink and dishwashing needs can also help, as they are anywhere from 8 to 34 percent more energy efficient than conventional heaters, depending on water use.