expand kitchen or add a garage?

lucie22November 20, 2011

X-posted in the remodeling forum.

My house is in the Pacific Northwest. The houses in our neighborhood are mostly older (built between 1900-1940) and are built on smallish city lots. Many have been updated usually in keeping with the age of the house. Only 2 of 8 houses on our side of the street have garages large enough for parking. Most people park on the street.

We had an architect draw up plans that include increasing the size of our tiny 1910 kitchen(with 1970s cabinets), add a bathroom (we only have one), create a mud/laundry room and some storage. It also includes a two car garage with a workspace. Of course, with banks not wanting to lend money it seems we will be able to borrow enough to either increase the size of the kitchen, etc., or build a garage and do an inexpensive remodel of the kitchen within the existing footprint. We are on a triple lot, so we can easily accommodate a large garage.

Which do you think would be the wiser choice?

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As the owner of a 1929 house, I think option #1 expanding kitchen, adding bath, mudroom & storage would add more value to the house than a garage. Sounds beautiful and I am jealous!


    Bookmark   November 20, 2011 at 8:41PM
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Lucie, I'd look at it this way--I can't picture your house, but a two car garage with a workspace sounds a bit out of scale with it--and consider also: will the workspace actually be used, or is it a fantasy addition because you have been told it is necessary to have a workspace?

I'd opt for this: add the second bath, laundry/mud room...but you also sound like you've been sold the total gut and enlarge a kitchen fantasy as done in the glossy upscale magazines. You could enlarge the kitchen a bit, but keep it in scale with the rest of the house both in size and details--there is only so much a house will sell for in a neighborhood, and if you are the most expensive one in the area, you will be selling at a loss most likely. A kitchen redo is not a guaranteed money-maker--you could be overdoing it and come in at a loss should you sell later.

By all means do the bath, etc., but keep the kitchen reasonable--and you might be able to squeeze in a one car garage with a work area at the same time, since on-street parking doesn't sound like a problem there.

You are lucky having a triple lot, whereas my city lot has a nice house, and a turn of the century garage which SHOULD fit two cars, but isn't quite deep enough for more than a pt cruiser, and looks/is too big to my eyes for the area--and parking IS an issue in my campus neighborhood! :)

    Bookmark   November 20, 2011 at 9:26PM
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Columbus guy don't worry, we'll doing a modest expansion of the kitchen. No double ovens or granite counters for me. Right now I have 3 drawers in my kitchen, a broken lazy susan cabinet, one shallow lower cabinet and 3 upper cupboards. I do have a pantry too, thank goodness, or it would be completely unworkable!
The garage workspace is my husband's fantasy space. He would definitely use it.

    Bookmark   November 20, 2011 at 9:50PM
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It makes more sense to get usable space out of these small homes. Garages are nice, but a second bathroom makes more sense. Very few people are going to get more jazzed about a workshop than a bathroom.

I'd go with option #1 for sure.

    Bookmark   November 21, 2011 at 10:53AM
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I would go with the overall question of "what do you want to achieve?" in terms of how you live in the house. What is there that might make you move, or that you are really frustrated by, in the house the way it now is?

Let me give you an example. We live in a 1905ish house. There are certain constraints due to the house design. For example, no upstairs bathroom, so it is impractical to have house guests (we sleep on the main floor). Or, the entry hall is constrained and there is no where to put things down or store things in the entry. So if I look at our life, 2nd bathroom and mudroom would de-stress life dramatically.

So on the basis of what I can imagine of your situation, I would go with the house upgrade.

The function of the garage can somewhat be replicated with a storage shed, and maybe a lean-to, for a very modest sum. A garage can also be built later, or in stages. We put a kit cedar shed on concrete blocks and it has lasted some 15 years so far.

But if your husband might start a cabinet-making business in the garage, then you have a different set of objectives.

Karin L

    Bookmark   November 21, 2011 at 2:47PM
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We've got five vehicles detailed weekly. (By mois.) I'll take the garage!

But if it's for resale, ladies choice. That means kitchen and baths.

    Bookmark   November 21, 2011 at 4:09PM
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Second bath is a must.

    Bookmark   November 22, 2011 at 10:11AM
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A small house on a triple lot may be a tear-down when you sell no matter what you do. At least in my city it would be, unless infill or subdivision is allowed.

I did also mean to say that a small kitchen can be very functional if you do some of your food storage outside of its footprint. Doing so might allow you to do the list for the house plus do a bare-bones garage that can be outfitted later as finances allow.

Karin L

    Bookmark   November 22, 2011 at 2:31PM
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House is definitely not a tear down - just the kitchen!

    Bookmark   November 22, 2011 at 9:56PM
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In terms of dollars, this is a no brainer. On average, you add WAY more house value with a bathroom, bigger kitchen, and more square footage then you do with a garage. It isn't even close.

Of course, if you are planning on staying here for years, resale may not be at the top of your priority list.

Also - the obligatory caution. Both of these are likely money losers. eg you spend 50k but your home value only goes up 30k. It is a bad idea to finance that type of renovation with credit. Cashing out equity and adding another payment is how a lot of people have lost their homes over the last couple of years. It is MUCH, MUCH, MUCH safer to just save up and make improvements as your budget allows.

    Bookmark   November 23, 2011 at 9:19AM
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Any architect that would advise you that the two projects are roughly similar in costs is delusional. There is NO WAY that the two plans cost anywhere near the same. A 2 car garage will be a very cheap addition, even with wiring for a workshop included. Maybe 20K if you add it on to an existing home's walls. A kitchen addition and adding a bath will easily be quadruple the cost of adding a garage. 75K would be a very modest budget for what you're talking about there.

The kitchen addition will make your life better, but if you go into it thinking it's going to be as cheap as adding a garage, you're in for big sticker shock and maybe even financial trouble. The average kitchen remodel in the US without any structural changes (which you are planning) is 30K. The average bath remodel is 15K. You are not only planing on doing both, but you are planning on expansion to do both.

Your basic infrastructure will need to be addressed. Most older homes do not have enough electrical service for a modern kitchen. Do you have a 200 amp panel? What about the condition and location of your plumbing for the bath? Have any galvanized plumbing in the pic? How do you plan to heat and cool the new space? How will you tie the old roof and siding to the new?

You need to talk to a bank ASAP. Banks are not in the mood for the HGTV "resale value" fantasy increases from home remodeling projects. They will want to look at the equity that you have in your current home vs. what the neighborhood comps will support. A new bath WILL add value to your home, as will a new kitchen. Just not anywhere near what TV would have you believe. If you spend that 75K and add that bath, you might get 25K of that back in a higher value for your home---which only counts when you actually do go to sell it or potentially refinance it. In the meantime, you've added 75K to your debt load. Your proposed remodel will greatly increase the comfort and functionality of your home, and it will be worth it to do from that standpoint as long as you go into the process with your eyes open and aren't blindsided by the financial implications of it.

    Bookmark   November 24, 2011 at 12:00PM
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