Charming Kitchen - Minor or Major upgrade?

ChristyMcKFebruary 11, 2014

From an aesthetic viewpoint, our 1956 vintage kitchen melds well with our 1939 home. From a functional standpoint it gets on my nerves. Or maybe I just want a new range so badly I've gotten impatient with it's quirks. The pictured range is powerless and its performance sucks not to mention is cooks unevenly and has only 3 functional burners.

The primary motivator for the kitchen reno is the new range and oven. I originally thought I'd need to do a complete reno to accommodate a new range and steam oven. But I've come across the Lacanche Volnay (the exact same size as my current range at 39 3/8" and similar configuration only the 2nd oven is a warming drawer) plus a combi-steam oven. I could probably install the the combi-steam oven where there is currently a defunct dumb waiter (where the red framed bow and arrow girl is located in the back of the photo on the right side).

The other annoyances could probably be addressed (shallow double sink could be replaced, sticky drawers could be fixed, even the low hanging cabinets (14" from the countertop on the left) which prevent the coffee pot from fitting underneath them could be altered). I'm less sure if the heating vent underneath the sink which very unfortunately heats up the compost and trash bins (read: sometimes smelly) could be changed.

The cost of the new range, combi oven, modifications plus changing our home from oil to natural gas would cost $25-$30k. A full remodel with high quality cabinets (I don't want to replace solid wood cabinetry with something cheap) which would include extending the back of the kitchen out back to include a mudroom would probably easily be $60-70k. Is it worth it? In the end, we could afford either eventually and I know this is a personal decision but saving $30-40k never hurts. All opinions are welcome, even if you don't think it's a charming kitchen!

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If you like the cabinets and they function well for storage and are in good shape then replacing the oven, range, sink etc. would make a world of difference. Are you replacing the countertop in your first remodel cost breakdown?

    Bookmark   February 12, 2014 at 7:00AM
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Sophie Wheeler

Yor estimate for the addition is low. Add another 50K in for it. At least. You could keep a similar configuraton with modern standard sized appliances for that budget though.

If money wasn't an issue, I'd want a mud room and to be able to fit normal appliances on my counter.

    Bookmark   February 12, 2014 at 7:21AM
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The way you describe your current kitchen actually makes me think that you'd like to keep the old cabinets...just have everything function a bit better.

So, does your current kitchen store everything the WAY you want it stored?
* For example, are your pots and pans in the place you would prefer them to be and how you would like them stored? (Mine are going to have minimal stacking when everything's finished because I'll have dividers in a drawer for them and they will be located under my cooktop so that they are right where I need them)
* Do you have everything where it makes sense to have it stored or do you store things in cabinets because that's where you have space? As an example: it looks like you might have little ones from the gate into the a few years, will you want plates to be in a dish drawer so that the little one can reach them and help put plates on the table?
* You mentioned about drawers sticking - does that bother you and would you prefer slides that have full extension and soft close features?
* New cabinets would probably have a bit of a thicker bottom to them, so your heated garbage issue would be a little lessened. You may be able to do a little bit of insulation around the sides to lessen that issue even more (this could be done probably even if you keep the old cabinets). On the flip side, you're starting the compost cycle early in! ;-)
* If you go with a new, deeper sink, you will probably need your plumbing lines moved down to accommodate the new sink...we just went through this. While they were at it, they found that the line going to our main drain was a bit narrower than what they do now and they needed to replace some of the connections to the main drain to allow our garbage disposal to function more properly.
* Is this your forever home or are you passing through? If it is a "passing through" house, how long do you plan on being there?

Oh, and your dumb waiter...what a shame not to have it functional - that's a fantastic feature to have in a home. I wish that more homes had it.

    Bookmark   February 12, 2014 at 7:28AM
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I love your kitchen ... it's adorable!! If it were me, I'd try to fix the "annoyances" and keep it basically as is. I love that dumb waiter, too!! I vote for restore rather than replace.

    Bookmark   February 12, 2014 at 10:01AM
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I'm in the restore camp, too. I wish the kitchen in our house had been like yours... it would still be here and I'd have a buncha $$ in my pocket.

What is the floor in there? It looks great.

    Bookmark   February 12, 2014 at 10:07AM
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Thanks for all the feedback!

*aktillery: no - I wouldn't change the counter tops to start with. the cabinets hold everything I need. Given the 1956 remodel year (we actually found a date on one of the cabinets) there is likely lead paint in the older cabinets, but we are two adults with a puppy so from a health safety standpoint it's not a major issue. I think your re: making the sink/range/oven changes really improving the kitchen.

*hollysprings: you may be right re: the $$$$$...$. - which could definitely sway the decision. Spending $30k is one thing, spending >$100k is another!

*andreak100: the storage actually works pretty well. Not shown I have a pantry (perhaps an old cleaning closet?) that I have put shelving in, and the so I don't actually get frustrated that there is no place to put anything. There lids are on top of the pans but they are not otherwise stacked. Our baby gate is for our boxer to keep out of the kitchen and underfoot when we are cooking. This is our forever home so whatever we do I want to love it forever (or as long as possible) which makes me think do the small restore now and a bigger one later when we feel more cash rich. We don't want to borrow to pay for it. Yeah, a bigger sink would change the piping but we're okay with the cost of that change.

*jellyblast and deedles: yeah - I've seen kitchen updated kitchens that aesthetically are absolutely horrid and there would be no question about a remodel. Here, I too this kitchen has already aged well. Most modern remodels have a harder time doing that (maybe they just need more time!). The floor is some sort of laminate the prior owners put it - don't know exactly what it is, but it does make it feel nice and airy even if it's difficult to keep clean.

So far, I'm leaning toward the smaller fix because it get's us the things we want the most without a lot of future do-over costs in the future so if we decide to go for the full meal deal we can. It also seems like it gives us the most flexibility in the long run: (new cabinets or the start of a down payment for a condo in Hawaii?!). Our upstairs bathroom also has a 1950s feels and if we remodeled the kitchen, the bathroom would all of sudden feel like it needs a's a slippery slope. More opinions welcome.

    Bookmark   February 12, 2014 at 10:36AM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

I was thinking that if you are going to get a new kitchen with new cabinets and the layout will be the same with only minor changes for the new stove and sink, etc. then I think it would be a big expense to end up with almost the same thing. If you are going to enlarge the area and end up with an entirely new kitchen then it really is just a very personal decision about whether you want and need a new kitchen.

I would agree with hollysprings, that to add a mudroom and add on to the kitchen would be a lot more expensive than $60-70,000. If you are going to be there in the house for a long time, if your life style would justify a large kitchen for gatherings of family and friends, or you cook a lot and have more than one person cooking at a time and it would really make you happy then go for it.

If you have the money to do it, don't forget, any updates that you do in a kitchen will increase the value of your house.

But just a small restore project will do the same thing too. If you are content with the kitchen as it is and don't want to lose the character of it, it is a really nice kitchen and the things that annoy you seem to be easy to fix.

    Bookmark   February 12, 2014 at 10:49AM
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Thanks for your thoughts. I like the layout and we'd would probably keep it largely the same. We are only two people and don't need a huge kitchen - this space works efficiently. I'm starting the think the benefits of replacing the cabinets, counter top and back splash (a huge expense and effort) may not be the worth the cost.

There could definitely be improvements: a doorway (not shown) taken down could make for a longer counter which we'd like; we'd be able to fit my coffee pot/grinder under the cabinets, fresh, non-lead paint cabinets would feel cleaner, and our current "mudroom" which is mostly outdoors in a covered porch area could be brought inside, but I'm not sure it's work the $!$!$!$! required at this point.

More and more I'm leaning toward a 'minor' remodel with a new sink and new range and keeping the original cabinets and counter top. It's amazing to me that this 'minor' remodel would cost in the $30k range thought admittedly I am looking at a very spendy range! Yet, it seems the smartest move may be to do what we really really want now (range!) and then wait until new cabinets are what we really, really want. I have a feeling we might rather put cabinet $ toward a condo in Hawaii :). Either way, doing less now gives us more freedom to chose what we really want in the future.

    Bookmark   February 12, 2014 at 1:35PM
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I think it's pretty, too.

Perhaps someone said this in another way, but what if you simply took down some of the cabinets and put them up properly? Like lifting the 14" to 18" off the countertop?

Having the heat duct redirected under the cabinet. Very cheap fix.

New range you'll love.

I think this might be a case of doing what's necessary to feel better in your space, vs. the huge cost & inconvenience of a total reno/remodel.

I like the space the openness. People are going crazy knocking down walls these days to get that! :) You're ahead of your time. Or they were in 1956!

    Bookmark   February 12, 2014 at 1:47PM
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Christy - it's really sounding to me as if a "refresher" is the way to go. It actually sounded like that's how you sort of were leaning in your original post as well, but want to get opinions to be sure.

If you like the functionality of the kitchen layout, you're likely to keep your cabinets about the same. We'd encourage more drawers if you went new...but certainly doing that isn't really worth the overall cost difference that I'm anticipating from refreshing rather than redoing.

I think that as you described it yourself - your kitchen looks charming and with the tweaks that you mentioned, it's likely to serve you well into the future.

Oh, and you can thank all of us by inviting us to the Hawaii condo since you're THAT much closer to making it a reality now that we've saved you all that cash! ;-)

    Bookmark   February 12, 2014 at 1:47PM
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I love your space and would just do the minor changes.

    Bookmark   February 12, 2014 at 2:59PM
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andreak100: For months I've been thinking a complete remodel but as I've started to price things out (cabinets are expensive!) and really assess our values we've started to question whether a complete remodel is the right thing at this time, so gradually I think I am coming around to a "refresh" instead. Will definitely keep you in mind for the Hawaii condo! :)

CEFreeman: I agree. The openness is rare for our era of home and one of the things that sold is on it when we bought it in 2012. Thanks for the tip on the heat duct - I'll definitely discuss this with the HVAC guys. The cabinets are solid to the ceiling so I don't think I can move them, but I might be able to shave off the bottoms & put in a new backsplash to get them to a height I can put my coffee maker/grinder under - will definitely get a cost estimate for this.

Louisiana purchase: thanks!

    Bookmark   February 12, 2014 at 4:08PM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

Christy, I am in the same position with only two of us at home now and our kitchen remodel is almost 15 years old, and starting to look tired. So I have already decided to just refresh. IâÂÂve already started updating the stove and replaced an older refrigerator, kept the same sink but replaced the faucet. My counters still look very good and IâÂÂm happy with them. I need to do a little painting and the hardwood floor needs refinishing again. I want to replace all my kitchen stools. ThatâÂÂs about all IâÂÂm planning because I have other renovations I need more, like the bathroom.

I am surprised that the minor remodel will cost that much too. Did you say that the $30,000. included switching over from oil heat to gas? I just wonder how much of that cost was all kitchen update? If you have only gotten one estimate, I wouldnâÂÂt hesitate to get a couple more estimates. Even if you are committed to the contractor you got the first estimate from, you might want to know if there is a big difference between what he is charging in comparison.

If you have a list of definite jobs that you know you want to have done, you might want to see if you can get a lower price, because you would probably feel a lot better about the update.

I wish I could help more about costs, but I am the least able to do that. IâÂÂve only done the one remodel 15 years ago and I have no idea what anything costs any more. To me, it sounds like a lot, but maybe some more experienced members can give you a better idea. Maybe have whoever gave you the estimate break it down for you, how much each part of the job will cost.

    Bookmark   February 12, 2014 at 4:20PM
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Those cabinets look great for almost 60 years old! Probably solid wood throughout too, I'd guess. My in laws had very old cabinets, probably from the 1930's and they were tough! Went through a flood and came out only needing a fresh coat of paint, they don't build them like that anymore! Yes, the drawers and door hinges squeaked and sometimes stuck,(probably from the flood) but they still are hanging in there, almost 80 yrs later

    Bookmark   February 12, 2014 at 4:29PM
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prairiemoon2: yeah, the $30k estimate includes switching from oil to natural gas ($2k to bring it to the house and $6-8k to put in a new furnace and replace the electric water heater and get it ready for a gas stove). We estimate it will take ~6-8 years to earn back the ~$10k with the reduced energy costs of having natural gas instead of oil. The range I am dreaming of is very expensive, ~$11k so that's a big part of the budget, along with the $3.5k combi-steam oven, so we're already at 24.5k without the sink or modifications to the dumbwaiter so we'd probably be over the 30k mark! (I should make myself look at other ranges and probably will, but the Lacanche is so beautiful and its the perfect size and configuration). My next step is to get several estimates from plumbers, HVAC people and contractors so we'll see how the cost shapes up.

hpny2: They are solid wood and in good shape for being 58 years old! Looking at the materials used in today's cabinetry did sort of make me question whether changing them would really be an upgrade. It's amazing how solid wood can last and last.

    Bookmark   February 12, 2014 at 5:36PM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

Yes, I think when you get firm prices for all the work you want to do, it is a lot easier to make a decision. It looks like you are going to convert to gas any way separate from the kitchen remodel, so that is $10,000. off your kitchen estimate, right there. And the stove and oven are about $14,500. and getting the rest of the estimates for the other work you want to do, will give you a much clearer idea of which way you want to go.

You have your work cut out for you! I hate getting estimates, for some reason. I think it is trying to find qualified people that you have confidence in that is always the hard part for me.

    Bookmark   February 12, 2014 at 7:35PM
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Your current kitchen really is charming and cute, and I think your smaller plans would work just fine to give you the space you'd like to have. I don't know that I'd ever seen a Lacanche stove before, but now I am finding myself deeply covetous. So pretty!

Also, as the owner of two boxers whose favorite spot is smack in the middle of the kitchen floor, I applaud your baby gate boxer solution.

    Bookmark   February 12, 2014 at 8:20PM
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I think your kitchen is charming!

Thanks hollysprings, for posting addition info. I didn't always want to wonder, maybe I should have seriously considered an addition since I'm losing a mud room. I suspected as much for costs, and decided against it; would not be able to get the kitchen I wanted.

As I read the posts, I think OP may be at the minor update leanings.

    Bookmark   February 12, 2014 at 8:29PM
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prariemoon2: I'm with you on getting estimates - a necessary evil but it feels like such a hassle though it's amazing how informative first impressions can be.

bakerjen: I keep telling my husband our girl boxer (1.5 years old) needs a brother! I keep hearing boxers are like potato chips - you can't have just one! Love, love, love the breed and always happy to "meet" other boxer owners. The pic is for you! I haven't seen the Lacanche in person yet but since I'm in Seattle that'll soon be rectified!

mags438: thanks! it seems every situation is different and calls for different solutions with different budgets. It sounds like you are getting the kitchen you want so that's great!

    Bookmark   February 13, 2014 at 12:04AM
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