Kitchen renovations: not for everyone?

Should you renovate your kitchen? Of course! Unless you might need the money back again soon... Everyone would like to be spending time in their dream kitchen, but no room in the house costs more to renovate. And if you sell soon after putting your savings (or more likely, your re-financed mortgage) into a perfect luxury kitchen renovation, you will on average get back only around 50% of the cost in added value to your home. If you want a good return on your home-improvement investment, focus on painting and sprucing up the yard.

So who should renovate their kitchen? Anyone who plans to stay a few years in the home, and will not stress their budget to pay for it. That's good advice for any investment in a personally owned home, in fact... Buy a home to enjoy, and if you keep it long enough you might have made a pretty good investment as well.

What does a new kitchen cost? As little as a weekend of repainting old cabinets and several hundred dollars of new appliances, or as much as you want to spend on custom cabinets and high-end accessories. On average, a kitchen in our area can be completely renovated for between $15,000 and $55,000 depending on size and style. That leaves a lot up to the buyer!

Where should you start? If no renovations are needed, you can get the entire design done for free by your local cabinet sales department. But keep in mind that their training (and the drawing system on their computer) is oriented toward selling cabinets. I like to start by drawing up the existing room myself, and trying several new layouts on paper, before asking our suppliers for cabinet plans. Keep in mind that you may also be upgrading structure, wiring, plumbing, and other systems, so you'll want to know what the entire project costs (not just the cabinets) before you agree on a plan. I recommend starting by finding a builder with good references and lots experience renovating, rather than just new construction. Ask around- the best information about builders comes from their clients!

Jerry Hiam, Putney VT



Gerald Hiam

Jerry Hiam learned carpentry in New Hampshire in the 1970's, studied architecture and engineering in evening college while working as architectural project manager and licensed construction supervisor in Boston in the 1980's, then moved with his family to Vermont where he has designed, built, and renovated homes since the 1990's.

In addition to operating Putney Design LLC, Jerry's photographs of wildlife and landscape have been published in books and blogs, used at wildlife refuges in England and the U.S., and are available to purchase locally and on line at Fine Art America - Gerald Hiam, or to download for non-profit uses from his "Putneypics" flickr site (2,000,000+ views).