Updating 90s honey oak kitchen for resale

leightxSeptember 20, 2011

Hello all!

Longtime lurker, first time poster here. I've been so inspired by all of the fabulous kitchen redos that we've decided to tackle a project of our own. Here's our situation.

We moved into this house 11 years ago, and have been stuck with honey oak cabinets, white laminate, and greyish white ceramic tile the entire time. We haven't really had the extra cash to remodel, and now we're looking to move to a different area entirely. We're trying to play that delicate balancing game between updating the kitchen for resale, and not spending more than is absolutely necessary.

Originally we thought we'd restain the cabinets ourselves, and look at slightly better laminate, along with cheap tile. After looking at the big box stores, we can put in granite for just a few hundred more, and I think that might be worth it.

There is an argument to be made that we won't get our money back on these updates, and I'm not sure that we will. We're competing with brand new builds (all dark wood cabinets and granite) and slightly better schools less than a mile away. Our house is also large for our neighborhood. Very few people will have updated kitchens in our neighborhood, but we're hoping to compete more with the new homes down the road (ours will be priced much lower per square foot ~ $70 vs $100). But with white laminate, honey oak, and cracked ceramic tile, these are updates that I'm worried potential buyers won't be able to get past.

Current kitchen is about 300 square feet of tile, and 72 square feet of counter top.

So, here's the plan:

Cabinets: we're currently experimenting with the General Gel Stain in Java, using Celticmoon's directions (thank you!!). I think this alone is going to be a huge improvement. We'll probably add very inexpensive brushed chrome (nickel?) knobs and pulls.

Granite: it seems like we can expect to spend about $38 / sf of level 1 granite, installed, usually with a new undermount sink thrown in. We were leaning towards New Venetian Gold, St. Cecilia, or White San Francisco. Any thoughts as to which would be the best for resale? WSF doesn't seem all that popular but I think it would look great with the cabinets - here's a pic which is fairly accurate (more greys than the golds in NVG or SC).

Backsplash, tile - we may do the backsplash ourselves, but will hire out the floor so we might avoid getting a divorce. Here's are a couple of options we looked at at the tile store (with our java gel-stained cabinet door for reference)- Travertine tile for floor on the left ($4/sf), White San Fran Granite in middle, Java gel stained cabinet door on right, and travertine subway backsplash ($6.50/sf) under that. The travertine floor tile looks darker and pinker in the pic than it does IRL - it more closely matches the color of the backsplash.

So...my question to all of you! Is this combination something that will be worth doing? Is it neutral enough for resale? Could we get away with spending less? Thoughts on color schemes, granite, or tile choices? We'll also be updating the lights to get rid of the nasty fluorescent boxes - any ideas? Simple cans?



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You're not competing with new construction. They have that battle won. You're competing against other "used" houses. Being the largest in the neighborhood, you're already going to take a penalty per square foot. Clean everything you can to the highest level, paint the rooms fresh and make the cheapest minor changes that you can do. Anything else is wasted money and effort.

You could get away with only doing a floor (at a much cheaper price than $4 a square foot) and new lighting. Remove those light boxes for semi flush lighting and a pendant over the island. Leave everything else alone. The floor and the lighting are the only things that SCREAM to me. The cabinets look to be in good shape, as does the counters. Don't waste your money on granite or anything else. Let the new homeowners do that if they want to.

    Bookmark   September 20, 2011 at 5:45PM
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I am not a real estate expert, just an opinionated bystander, so take this for what it's worth. :) If I were the one buying your house, I wouldn't want you to do a thing to that kitchen other than make sure it's clean. I would rather get a price break for an "outdated" kitchen than pay more for one with "updated" finishes chosen by somebody else. (Quotations because compared to my house, '90's decor IS updated. haha) Don't get me wrong, I think the changes you are proposing are very nice, but they might not be what I'd choose and (as a buyer) I would go for the bargain instead, assuming that structurally and layout-wise everything is fine, which it looks as though it is. For example, if it were my kitchen I'd prefer a HW floor. Other people would rather have tile of course. And I would probably leave the cabinets alone if it were my kitchen; I don't like dark cabinets for myself (they are lovely in other people's houses).

But I really think you should consult a few real estate agents in your area first. I am sure it varies with location and the state of the local market, and it might be that your house would sell faster with granite. I doubt I am representative of most buyers.

    Bookmark   September 20, 2011 at 5:46PM
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PS. Add inexpensive fluorescent under cabinet lighting to put light on the work surface and give it the psychologically cozy feeling. Good lighting is a lot more psychologically important to a home sale than is your idea of updates on a relatively recent construction kitchen. Make sure all the rooms, not just the kitchen, are well lit during showings with layers of light, not just the harsh glare of overhead. Open the drapes. Clean the windows. And turn on all the lights.

    Bookmark   September 20, 2011 at 6:05PM
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If I were a buyer I would see gel-stained oak cabinets, inexpensive granite, and bad lighting. And still plan to re-do it in X number of years. Your appliances are lovely, though! Anyway, I'd rather have a credit. Many houses with crap carpet offer a "flooring allowance." Figure out what you would spend on the kitchen then offer 50-80% of that. I'd be thrilled to get a few thousand to put towards what *I* would want to do to that kitchen. Lots of space, good appliances, great potential!

    Bookmark   September 20, 2011 at 6:34PM
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I'm with greendesigns - the only thing I would change is those light boxes. They make the ceiling appear much lower than it actually is and I think they are ruining the entire feel of the kitchen. The cabinets are fine and I would not change them. Up to you as to whether or not you think granite will sell your house faster. I don't think that the selling price will be any higher just because you put granite in but it might sell faster than competition. What is the rest of the house like - are you doing updates any where else?

    Bookmark   September 20, 2011 at 6:39PM
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Thanks so much for the feedback (and please keep it coming)!

Ok - so here's where I need honest feedback on cabinetry especially. The honey oak is not only dated (IMO), it is in dire need of refinishing. There are water spots everywhere, scratches, etc. They are not in good condition by anyone's standard - they've been neglected for 16 years now. Gel stain costs approximately $50-75 (and our time) to put in a more updated finish. Not worth it?

Tile is not only ugly, it is coming up (sounds "hollow" when you drop utensils on it), many are cracked and chipped, etc - which makes it look dirty all the time.

Counters are stained yellow in places, chipped, and the cheapest white laminate available. Is this something people can get past?

In other words, there is no amount of cleaning that is going to make the laminate, counters, and tile look good, or even presentable.

I know the general consensus on GW is to get away with as little as possible. Am I in the extreme minority of walking into a kitchen like mine, and being immediately turned off, thinking that I'd have to throw 10K into the house in order to bring it up to date? I think we could get it done for half that, and attract more buyers, but I could be way out of line?

This home probably won't be selling to buyers who have an extra $10-20K cash for updates. We're probably looking in the 220-240K price range (new builds nearby are going for 300K for similar square footage).

Maybe I'm just too picky as a buyer! I have problems envisioning how things will look with new tile, a fresh coat of paint, etc. I can accept that I'm in the minority though!

Is the general consensus that you will never get back what you put into kitchen updates? I'm sure it varies from region to region - but I'm looking for a general idea here. Would putting in an allowance for updates be attractive?

Thanks again all!

    Bookmark   September 20, 2011 at 6:42PM
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Well, it looks like you are committed to the gel stain or doing something about the missing door over the range and micro. I'm not a great fan of oak and would select something else if building, but yours wouldn't keep me from buying the house. The stained door in the photo below does look good from what I can tell, and brushed nickel hardware would be a good choice with it, but do understand that the look will not be for everyone.

Do your counters need replacing? The contrast between them and the dark stained cabinets will look even sharper if they are in good shape. Changing out counters is something most folks figure they could do easily enough, and if you let a buyer chose something they love instead of something you thought was neutral enough, they might be happier and you don't run the risk of dealing with the things that go wrong or unexpected things that have to be addressed once you start changing things. Which includes the splash -- something that can be a very personal choice.

I agree the lighting and the floor should be the priorities, and in that order. Cans will involve more ceiling work, but you probably have that once you take down those boxes anyway. You might look at 4-6 cans plus a hanging fixture over the island if you can find something that ties in with your kitchen table fixture and not spend a lot. Otherwise, stick with just the cans. Can you do the drywall clean up, texture and paint yourself?

Break up the look of all that tile with a room size under the table and something matching or coordinating in front of the sink (go larger). If you do change the tile, I wouldn't spend more than $1 sq ft. You can find end of lots deals, remnants and closeouts for that small amount of flooring -- but it could get ripped out by someone who wants hardwoods throughout, etc.

I'd see what your options are on the lighting, spend maybe $100 for rugs, do a little staging and save the rest to spend on your new house.

    Bookmark   September 20, 2011 at 6:46PM
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If the gel stain is that inexpensive it seems a reasonable project.
If the counters are that bad, what about a new laminate counter?
If you can tile yourself, then a cheap backsplash upgrade seems reasonable. Just simple Home Depot white subways?
Throw rugs for the floor. That's a big job no matter what you do.
Can all of this be done for under $1000?

I agree with others that you won't be competing with new builds, but if the market is really slow in your area a slightly nicer kitchen might just get bodies through the door to look.

    Bookmark   September 20, 2011 at 6:49PM
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I think TKO Gardenwebbers are not your typical house-hunters. Though most of us here would rather have the "kitchen allowance" to apply to a remodel, I think many buyers don't see it that way. I would post over on the Buying and Selling forum here at GardenWeb and see what they say. There are a lot of realtors and house hunters over there, and the usual consensus is to make it look "move in" ready, not like a fixer-upper. Our budget remodeled kitchen at the house we sold this summer was a huge selling point; we sold in three months when there were many cheaper houses around the block on the market over a year! We only spent about $13K, though we did it two years ago and it was for us, not resale at the time.

    Bookmark   September 20, 2011 at 6:59PM
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We did gel stain the door over the microwave, but only on the back (in case we hated it). I suppose it's not too late to go back at this point, but for the money, I think it's probably worth the update. Like I said, the finish on the counters is in bad shape. I agree about the white counters looking even worse though, with the darker color.

Replacing the laminate was our original idea, but with that much square footage, it didn't seem to be that much cheaper than going with inexpensive granite. Maybe Lowe's was just showing us the more expensive options - but their laminate was only $200 cheaper than the grantite that we looked at (from the granite yard, installed). Maybe we can find cheaper laminate?

Cheaper tile is definitely an option! Is ceramic a possibility? I personally despise it, but for a cosmetic update, would it be worth it?

    Bookmark   September 20, 2011 at 7:01PM
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Our house had been for sale for a year. We finally decided it was never going to sale and we badly needed a new refrigerator. So, after getting great discounts and price matching on appliances we updated them and added granite counters. We had put in a new updated laminate, a nice backsplash of tumbled marble along with new ceramic tile on the floor 5 years ago. Anyway, two days after the appliances and granite were installed in July, we got an offer on the house. We didn't change the orangey oak cabinets. We just considered the money collateral damage. We'll never know if the changes sold the house or not but don't care because it was worth it to us. Our house was also the largest in a neighborhood going down hill.

    Bookmark   September 20, 2011 at 7:02PM
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Price your house close to the smaller ones in the neighborhood. If people ar looking in your neighborhood, why not have a larger house for almost the same money? Do all the smaller ones have brand new kitchens?
I too feel it is not worth the effort to try to make this kitchen better. The deal for the buyer should be getting a really good bargain on this house.

    Bookmark   September 20, 2011 at 7:03PM
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You didn't discuss the rest of the house, but that is part of the equation. If lots of other rooms are similar vintage, you really want a buyer who is happy to get a better price and may be a DIYer and will fix everything.
Agree that lighting is key to imagining being " happy" in the kitchen.
Agents can be good for advice but some will tell you to do all kinds of things to make the house easier to sell at a better price ( not profit) and so they won't tell you just to cut $10k or whatever off the price. If you and DH have time and labor available to make changes , then again , I'd look at the whole picture of cleaning, sprucing, outdoor tidying and not just the kitchen.

    Bookmark   September 20, 2011 at 7:10PM
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You'd be surprised at what a thorough cleaning and a touchup pen can do. Try that first, because gel staining is a LOT of work to do right. You have to take the doors and hardware off and disrupt your kitchen and your life. Done wrong, it just looks like amateur finger painting, and then you've got a mess on your hands that will need a lot of $$ to fix. You're going the right route by experimenting first. If you like the results, don't mind the labor, then go for it. The material costs are low. It's the labor that will get you down before the project gets done.

Bleach the counters. As long as you don't have any spots with the laminate coming off, a good bleaching can make those counters look great. Then, wax them. It won't be food safe, but it will keep them looking nice and anything else from staining them for a while. If that doesn't work, you haven't wasted anything. Check out your local box store for the in stock laminate counters. You can DIY for about a quarter of what even a cheap granite will cost.

If you can't DIY the floor, then don't do it. Labor is much too expensive to pay to install something that someone else will hate. Plus, the demo is what's the pain, and you don't want to be paying labor rates for that. If anything, look at the new vinyl floating floor sold by Home Depot that you can lay over the tile. A nice dark wood color would look really nice and ground the kitchen.You'd be surprised at how nice that floor looks in person. A rug will add a spot of color and life without any effort at all. Repeat that color (red?) around with tea towels a couple of accessories.

The big money expense should definitely be those lights. They are pretty horrid, and they draw the eye right to them. You can turn off the breaker and do the demo and then have the electrician come in and do the electrical needed for a couple of cans or semi flush fixtures. I agree with adding cheap under cabinet lighting. You'd really be surprised at how homey that makes the house feel. It's huge.

    Bookmark   September 20, 2011 at 7:13PM
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Updating your kit may not give you the return financially but it will help sell faster in this real estate climate. If you do go with the really dark gel stain you might look at Ikea butcher block counters as an inexpensive alternative.

    Bookmark   September 20, 2011 at 7:14PM
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I tend to agree with equest17, but you need to talk with real estate agents about the needs and wants of likely buyers in your area for your house.

If it's the case that potential buyers won't have an extra $10-$20k for kitchen renovation, then are they also likely to prefer a move-in ready house, as equest17 suggests? If so, then doing something about the tile and laminate that can't just be cleaned makes sense. So does replacing those ceiling light squares!

Basically you need to determine which approach would make your house appealing to potential buyers: an allowance or a move-in-ready kitchen?

    Bookmark   September 20, 2011 at 7:26PM
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I echo equest17 and kashmi. Find out about your specific area. Who are your buyers? If they are working couples with children, then likely won't want to tackle a kitchen remodel.

On HGTV programs, I am always hearing "kitchens and bathrooms sell houses." I would recommend shows like "Designed to Sell" or "Get it Sold" for general ideas to get your house ready for sale.

Good Luck!

    Bookmark   September 20, 2011 at 7:50PM
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I'm doing something similar. Remember you get back about 75% of the price of a remodel more or less. 10,000 spent equals about 7500 back BUT if you DIY it costs about a third overall of what you would pay to have it done so that 3300 (1/3 of 10,000) gets you 7500 back well over double your money!

    Bookmark   September 20, 2011 at 7:53PM
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I agree with those who said to #1 replace the light boxes. That alone is what really is dating the kitchen, and causing the "feeling" that the kitchen is putting out.

I also think if you can, do that first, and then see what you think after the ceiling is painted.

If the $ for granite you wouldn't miss, then I say do it, because that lets your listing read-recently updated kitchen, granite counters, SS appliances.

I would not change the flooring. I would use throw rugs and towels as mentioned by others.

PS your kitchen appears very spotless and well maintained, and neutral.

    Bookmark   September 20, 2011 at 8:02PM
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You say the kitchen has been "neglected". That doesn't bode well for the rest of the home. What do the baths look like? The rest of the home? Kitchens and baths sell houses, but the rest can work for or against that sale as well. And, the primary first impression is the from the street curb appeal. If you can get that right, make the rest clean and fresh without any more LIGHT FIXTURES, then you've got a good chanc eof that first week on the market being a hit for you. IF the price is right. And, the price is the most important element of them all!

    Bookmark   September 20, 2011 at 8:20PM
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just adding another voice.

first thing I saw and would want to change are the light boxes.

secondly, about your counters... never underestimate the power of comet. I had old nasty, white laminate counters... yellowed, stained, you name it. Comet worked WONDERS.

good luck!

    Bookmark   September 20, 2011 at 8:22PM
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I can't see how awful the condition is but assuming it is as bad as you describe, I agree with much of your plan. I'd do the WSF granite because it is pretty on its own and will look great with the gel stain and stainless & nickel choices. I'd put in nicer lighting than the boxes. Get the hardware like you plan.

I do not see the new choices for the floor or bs as working best for your kitchen. You need cooler, less gold/yellow, colors to go with your new granite, hardware, ss appliances and gel stain cabs. In fact, I would not do a bs at all as that can be left for the new homeowners to personalize their space. If you do a nice job sprucing up, that can be their fun, bite size, project. The cost of going with the granite is a small enough difference with the laminate to be worth it. The WSF looks nice and is less common, so the buyers will feel it is special and not like what their friends already have or like a new house wannabe.

I have to disagree that you will take a big hit for having one of the few larger houses. If someone has kids in the district and doesn't want to disturb them by moving to another district, their choices for other large houses will be few, which will help you. Also, if the other houses are much smaller, it would cost more for the buyers to extend than to buy your house. A few years ago, people took on big expenses figuring they could always get it back. Now, fewer people have the money or credit to extend.

FWIW - I am a full time r.e. agent with over 20 years experience. I get paid in part for helping people get their houses ready. As to the comment that agents tell sellers to drop money on their houses to increase the agent's commission, that is ridiculous. We'd rather get it clean, touched up and smaller things get done so that it can get listed and sold sooner. We try to recommend the biggest bang for the homeowner's buck because when we get proven right, it means the house sells easier overall, we get referrals and maybe even sell it ourselves (as opposed to only being the listing agent). The more salable, the better. If a seller spends too much and expects a high price for their investment in the new work, then it makes it harder to sell. It also could get endlessly delayed if the project is too big, which can make a big difference to the sale price in a declining market..

    Bookmark   September 20, 2011 at 8:42PM
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I love the changes you're thinking of. And I think so much of the decision to update or not is region-dependant. We used to live in a subdivision in the midwest with a lot of new construction all around and I think in that market it would have helped the speed of the sale to update an 11 year old house. Now we live in a new england town where most of the houses were built in the 1960's and very few have been updated in the last 20 years, so an 11 year old kitchen looks new and so stumbling on a kitchen like yours that's HUGE (look at all that counterspace!), and has an island (cool!), and a bazillion cabinets would leave a person thrilled. Few would see the change in finish as desirable over what's already there -- maybe the granite, but then again I'm probably jaded from hanging out here because everything in me wants to tell you to go for the granite. But, here's the thing -- your house has a lot of features going for it right now -- just in the one picture I've seen I can see your kitchen is huge and has a ton of cabinet space and another ton of countertop/work space. The sensible side of me says to invest the sweat equity to change out the florescent lights for the can lighting (It will be a nasty job, but a huge change), and clean it super well and stage it and sit back and wait for the sale to happen because those two features (space and storage) are hard to add later, but the other updates can be completed little-by-little by on a tight budget. I really think that the lighting change will be enough to sell it to 99% of the people around here, and most likely it will also appeal to most of people there, too -- afterall as Green Designs pointed out, the people who MUST HAVE NEW are a mile away looking at new construction. Also, I do not believe updates will get you a higher price (despite what the NKBA would have you believe -- they make a lot of money convincing people to spend on those things), so I think you will essentially be handing decorating dollars over to the new owner of your house that you could use on the one you buy instead, and enjoy them yourself for years to come.

One last thing, FWIW, I think the floor tile in the sample set up is looking pink because of the green cast to the granite. I would probably not use things that have casts to them that are opposite on the color wheel --- green will always intensify pink, and it will be even more intense when you have miles and miles of green countertop paired with miles and miles of pink cast tile flooring.

    Bookmark   September 20, 2011 at 9:02PM
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I'd go medium on this one, because you're not in a neighborhood with expectations of high-end finishes:
-Replace the light boxes with updated fixtures
-If the tile really is bad and will scream "deferred maintenance" then take it out, but replace with some nice tile-looking sheet vinyl.
-Gel stain the cabinets if you're confident you can do it well. What will you do on the sides of the cabinets that are laminate, not wood?
-Add hardware to the doors and drawers
-Put new laminate counters in. When I see granite over honey oak it makes me cringe. It's like lipstick on a pig. I'd want to replace the cabinets but feel guilty for wasting granite. Granite would actually be less appealing to me than laminate in this case. And buy the stock laminate pieces, they're more like $10 per linear foot: way cheaper than granite.
-Don't put in a tile backsplash, just paint the walls. Make it look nice, but not hard to rip out if someone wants to redo it.

You should be able to do all of the above for under $2000.

    Bookmark   September 20, 2011 at 9:04PM
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"you need to talk with real estate agents about the needs and wants of likely buyers in your area for your house." I second that.

You said that the newer build areas have better schools. This will impact your house sale a lot more than the condition of the house. Is this going to be a show stopper?

I have been looking all spring and summer to buy a house as an investment. I am looking at houses at or below the median price for our city. It was VERY CLEAR to me that the house has to look as good as it can to "sell quickly". The houses that need work/sprucing up lingered for a long time. How you get the house to look good is the art of real estate, I guess.

Unfortunately, with the recent housing market crash, the banks are not willing to loan you the money to remodel. People can't remodel even if they want to.... Make it look as good as you can for as little money as you can get away with. You may not get everything back BUT it will help you to sell it faster.

As the houses go higher in the price point, the buyers are more likely to factor in the remodel cost before living there. (A typical GW TKO buyers are in this category, I think.)

There are two different factors to selling: the time it takes to sell and the price you get for the house. When it looks good, it will sell faster. On the other hand, you may not necessarily get all your money out of it.

If I wanted to REALLY sell my house, I think doing everything so that the house sells FAST would be more important than getting all of my money back. Until I actually sell and close, I have nothing!

    Bookmark   September 20, 2011 at 9:23PM
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If you can really redo the cabinets, countertops with granite, new sink, new light fixture, new hardware and new floor with tile for $5,000 I think it will probably be money well spent. That is not a lot of money for a kitchen remodel and it will look much much better. People like updated kitchens and most people at that price point will love granite.

How are your bathrooms?

    Bookmark   September 20, 2011 at 10:02PM
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Thanks so much for all the feedback - very appreciated!

To answer a few questions:

Here's a closeup shot of the cabinets in their current state:

Pretty rough. I don't think we're necessarily directly competing with new houses around here, but there will absolutely be buyers looking at both (I know we will be), and coming from model homes filled with dark cabinets and granite, our current kitchen is going to look - ugh.

Neighborhood: Our neighborhood is one of the nicest "older" ones in the burbs where we live. The next step up would be the neighborhoods a mile away with new builds. There aren't many 3000+ sq. ft. homes in our city unless you move to the newer neighborhoods, which is why I think there will be buyers looking at both. The price point will mean that they're looking at both as well - there just aren't that many resales in the area at that price point. We'll also be competing with newer homes, built 5 or so years ago, with granite and darker cabinets (and possibly some whitewashed cabinets. These are next to the brand new neighborhoods.

Their schools aren't that much better overall (similar ratings) but they *seem* nicer - they are only 3-5 years old, and the surrounding homes are newer. Our elementary school would be considered 3rd or 4th in the district (out of 15 other schools), and the middle school would be 2nd (out of 5). High schools are about even, but again, the one in the newer neighborhood is perceived as being better.

Floor: Closeup of the chips and such - although it looks like replacing the flooring is a unanimous YES (although with something less expensive with the travertine at $4/ft).

Sheet vinyl wouldn't work - everyone in our neighborhood has ceramic tile (at a minimum), and I think that would be expected. I'm intrigued by the Allure product - but again, we're looking at $3.50/sf (although DH and I could install). The problem is that we have a lighter laminate (similar to honey oak I guess) throughout the downstairs. So I'm not sure a wood look in the kitchen would be appropriate.

Counters: I don't think anyone at this price point, in this town even, will be looking for better granite. :) They'd just move somewhere else entirely. There are no custom homes here. Prefab laminate is an option we haven't looked at yet. That's going on the list to consider. If it's considerably cheaper, it might be worth doing that instead of granite for sure.

@Kris ma - you might be right about the pink tile and green granite. It's definitely coming across that way in the pics. I'd have to go check it out in the showroom and bring a real camera I think. The granite is warmer than the large photo above - there is tan and gray and cream, with flecks of deeper garnet. It didn't seem greenish in the showroom...

Time to sell: DH and I both work from home, so we really want to minimize the amount of time on the market. We aren't looking to move until next spring (once school is out) - so we have lots of time for other DIY projects.

Rest of the house: Overall, I think it's fairly good. We've repainted recently, but trim and probably doors will need to be touched up. I'll probably repaint the master bath and the kids' rooms as well. We do have laminate throughout, which I know will be a turnoff to some buyers, but it has served us well and is in good shape. I'd change it out with something nicer if we were staying, but I think it will show just fine. I'll post pics of other rooms later.

    Bookmark   September 20, 2011 at 10:53PM
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Just adding a slightly better image of the White San Francisco granite that we're considering. I think this one looks a lot more like the one in the granite yard (warmer than the one at the top of the thread). The red is deeper / darker IRL though - it doesn't look quite so cherry red, but more of a mahogany.

    Bookmark   September 20, 2011 at 11:07PM
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Are you in the Austin area? My DB and SIL said this summer they didn't think they could sell there house if a job came up that would have moved them out of the area --- they were talking about leasing. Sounds like that market is hurting still.

If the cabinets need really need it, the gel stain sounds like a good plan. If you want to spend a little and kick it up (don't worry, I'm still saying spend less elsewhere) -- consider removing the crown, adding a panel from the top of the cabinets up to the ceiling or nearly there and then reattach the crown. The idea would be to give the cabinets the look of cabinets to the ceiling that is currently so popular in higher end kitchens -- all for the cost of some trim work and some more stain (you may have to experiment to get the stain to match going over the cabinets).

When I last had white laminate (and on the grout of the tile I originally had here), Soft Scrub with bleach was my go to for getting them clean. If that doesn't work, even after sitting a while, or Bar Keeper's Friend for rusty spots, or if the finish is just shot (rubbed off over the years) then a new counter might be worth it. Shop around. Talk to realtors, friends and neighbors. You might be able to get granite for under $30 sq ft, but you want to make sure you aren't experimenting with some schlock who will leave you with a worse mess. If what you've seen is as good as you find, I like the first WSF picture -- it is a lot lighter than the one with the cabinet door next to it. Try to get a slab with more of that lighter pattern if you can. I agree with Dianalo on the less common and better colors. Don't do a tile splash. Just clean paint.

Lighting -- we're all agreed. I can tell you that getting rid of a huge light box in my kitchen made such a huge difference. People thought we'd expanded the kitchen after it was gone. Do what you can DIY.

Flooring may be a wild card here -- would someone walking in see cracks and chips? They are going to be looking at the whole house, so they'd have to be pretty obvious. If they are, then not doing something about the floor would be a big red flag -- not just for a new floor but to look for other maintenance issues.

Someone above mentioned the click flooring. Something like that might give you a new floor without the mess and expense of taking out the tile, leveling and installing new tile. A vinyl could come in many looks. I think you can even get cork in that type and that would be very updated -- softer on feet and knees too). Any of them should last for years and long enough for a new buyer to be ready to do something different. That's a floor you could DIY and save a lot on labor, which if the real expense in the tile removal and installation.

Beyond that, I would echo those who said make sure the whole house is really clean and in good repair. Make some smart choices and DIY as much as you can and you should be able to sell quicker and get a good return. Best of luck on it all.

    Bookmark   September 20, 2011 at 11:38PM
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leightx-I agree with the vast majority of the comments made by other posters above. I think you need to take a look at what the other houses in your neighborhood that are for sale have to offer--type of countertops, appliance level, condition, finish & type of wood for cabinets, etc. and try to match them on level of finish.

Unless the "used" houses you're competing with have granite, I would not go that route. The WSF is beautiful, no doubt about it, but you're not staying there to enjoy it. Your goal is going to be get the remod done as economically as possible while at the same time giving the home an updated look that will attract buyers. Try Comet, Barkeepers Friend and even bleach if you have to (but please don't mix them together) on those laminate countertops and see if you can get them sparkling like new again. If not, there are several "stone patterned" laminates that are standard stock at Lowe's/HD that will look great and save you some serious $$$. You could save some extra cash by putting in a 4" laminate backsplash and painting the space between it and the upper cabinets vs. installing tile as was suggested above.

Economically, you can do much better on the tile price for both the floor and backsplash right there in Lowe's or HD--both have tile with a travertine/marble look that would fit in with the level of home you have for $0.88sq ft. It may not be your 1st choice, but again, you're not staying there and it would be an upgrade from what you currently have. The money you save there can go toward any bathroom updating that may need to be done. As a side note--the dark grout with the lighter tiles screams '80s to me--I'd go with a coordinating color grout vs. a contrasting one.

Definitely change out the light fixtures. This might be an area where you can add that little extra "bling" to grab the potential buyers attention and maybe they will end up overlooking some of the other minor flaws.

As far as the cabinets go, if it were my kitchen and I was going to do something with them (other than leaving them as is), I would probably paint them vs. staining them. So much can go wrong with the stain. Knobs or pulls would be an inexpensive update too. Another option is to wait on doing anything with the cabinets until you've tackled the countertops and floor and see if they still look like they need a facelift--the other changes may be enough to suprise you.

Lastly, to make your house sell faster, definitely declutter and stage it. Make it look like a beautiful oasis where potential buyers would want to come home to after a hard days' work. Use lamp lighting (vs. overhead lighting) during showings to give a softening & calming effect, straighten up and vacuum every morning before starting work so the house is ready at a moments' notice, make sure the exterior of the house is neat, clean, mowed & has some color and curb appeal. If the potential buyer can't get past the outside appearance on their ride-by, you're sunk.

Good luck with the remod & upcoming sale! I've got my fingers crossed for you!!

    Bookmark   September 21, 2011 at 12:04AM
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I agree with all the other posters!

- don't do the granite. Stick with a decent looking laminate.
- you can stain or paint the cabinets (painting might look better? white is in...)
- some knobs or handles will make it look a LOT better! they're cheap and easy to install.
- get a good-looking but cheap vinyl tile flooring. vinyl nowadays looks pretty good and will instantly upgrade the look. however, real tile isn't too expensive, but the labor is way more intensive (and costly if you're not DIY).

    Bookmark   September 21, 2011 at 12:17AM
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Have to agree that painting might be a safer route than staining. As another poster pointed out, so much can potentially go wrong with stain. If it's not done well it can look blotchy and amateurish. I once bought a paint sprayer for about $35 (a few years ago!) and painted my cabinets in place (took the doors off and covered the rest of the kitchen with plastic, and sprayed the frames). Then sprayed the doors outside and reinstalled. Aside from the cleaning and prep, it didn't take too long and looked great.There have been a few recent threads on painted kitchens if you're looking for inspiration. One I really liked was the "Sally Wheat" kitchen (also from Texas),and I'll give you the link below. It's basically BM Fieldstone paint on the cabinets, either a white or black counter and white subway tiles with polished nickel/stainless hardware. Could be done quite easily and if you use in-stock laminate and Home Depot subways should be pretty inexpensive. Just one of many potential options you'd have if you went with paint.

Also, after reading through the above posts I have to agree that not everyone is as obsessed with kitchen design as we are. I actually think most buyers look at a run down kitchen with horror and think money, time, and effort...not potential and a fun project. Most buyers want a kitchen that's done and requires no work or thought...hard as it is for us to imagine.

Here is a link that might be useful: Sally Wheat kitchens

    Bookmark   September 21, 2011 at 1:25AM
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My mom and aunt spent two years selling a home in our town. Kaismom and others nailed our experiences: It isn't a question of whether they could recoup their costs but whether they could sell it at any price.

At a certain point, buyers begin to think that your home hasn't sold because it is damaged goods. So I would dig in and get the work done before the initial listing. Also, it's crummy to discover that "yeah, my instincts were right" and do more repairs once it's on the market.

Stain vs. Paint: My understanding is the grain will show through on oak if you paint it. I would vote stain.

Counters: I would replace the counters because I noticed you said they are chipped, not just stained. That's a dealbreaker for me. I would get more bids for laminate. I cannot believe the cost is so close. Are these the Lowe's bids? Something is not right, and I worry it's that their granite installs are where they're cutting corners. Wiser heads than me have pointed out that nicely done laminate is more attractive than poorly done granite.

Backsplash--Love the suggestion to leave this small piece for the buyer.

Replacing the lights: I would vote yes, but sheetrock repair lies ahead. Mud and sand--if you've done it before. You will need to texture it, and I would definitely hire someone. This will be very noticeable if you screw it up and you can't cover it up with furniture like along a wall. If you don't know how to mud, if you get a good texturer, he might also do hot mud and sand that. That would be more money obviously, but it might be worth it to you. (Note: hot mud is NOT for the homeowner to try!)

Good luck!

    Bookmark   September 21, 2011 at 2:18AM
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I haven't read all the posts, so I apologize if this doesn't help, but I read that you're on a budget, trying to fix up your kitchen for sale. I agree with one of the posts I read that the big thing I hate about the kitchen is the lighting and that missing door on the cabinet. Maybe the floor too. So I just wanted to tell you, I just got 400 square feet of tile (Ceramic that looks like stone) for $500 with free shipping and no sales tax. They have since taken off the free shipping, but even with it, they have some great deals!

Here is a link that might be useful: Warehouse Sale

    Bookmark   September 21, 2011 at 8:36AM
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Agree with the comments about lighting and floors; I think livewireoak's idea of the floating floor (tile or wood pattern) over the tile is the least painful way to go and you can declare the tile underneath. First impressions are important and the damaged tile floor would turn me off much faster than a new good quality floating laminate.

Another idea for the cabinets- You might want to try General Finishes Rub on American Oak Gel Stain in the damaged areas with a top coat of Rub on Poly after a good cleaning. That will be a lot less work than gel staining to a darker color and will markedly decrease the visible damage. A quart will do your whole kitchen.

Here is a link that might be useful: General Finishes gel stain

    Bookmark   September 21, 2011 at 8:59AM
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There are paints that you can use to refinish laminates, but I've seen them used more on rounded corners. I'm not sure how they'd work on your square edges. And the ones I've seen look very laminate if not painted laminate. They won't fool anyone, but they will give you a new finish.

I didn't see your posts late last night. They weren't there when I started typing. That last photo of the granite looks good and if you can do that for near the cost of laminate and you need to do something, that might be worth a splurge. We looked at something similar for our kitchen and I like it better than a lot of what I've seen used here. You're not spending a lot on the cabinets and the lighting won't be too bad is you can do some of it yourself.

The counter and the flooring are the two areas that can take the most money, so make sure you really need them and then look for the most cost effective options. That might be a little more for granite and a lot less for a non-tile flooring. There are lock-in options that look like tile so you can deal with the wood transition. The link below has some options -- didn't find verification that they can be installed over your tile, but the ones I've seen can.

If I wasn't in the middle of the craziest time of year for us, I'd drive over and spend a day helping you stain so I could see it in person.

Here is a link that might be useful: Lock-in tiles

    Bookmark   September 21, 2011 at 9:25AM
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Leightx, you mentioned that the Lowes quote for new laminate was not much cheaper than grantite. Just FYI, I got quotes on new laminate from Lowes, Home Depot, some other small shops and handymen, and by far Lowes was more expensive than the rest. I'm talking more than 50% higher than HD for the exact same thing. It may vary by region, but don't discount the possibility of laminate being considerably cheaper before you price other stores.

    Bookmark   September 21, 2011 at 10:22AM
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Hi all - thanks for even more input!

Ok - I went and checked out HD's in stock laminate, and once that's all priced out, we're looking at $850 (DIY install). We'd have to get a sink as well - but that's minimal. So...approximately $1500-2000 cheaper. My big concern is that it will be $800 spent in vain - is an improved laminate going to be a selling feature like granite would be?

Looking again at houses in our city, with 3000+ sf, we're still looking at mostly (80%) new builds, all with granite. The older houses are not updated, and I can't imagine that they're going to sell any time in the near future. Most have been on the market well over 100 days. We'd like to avoid that if at all possible.

I talked to a realtor friend who lives in my neighborhood, and she agreed we were competing with new builds. She's coming over early next week to give me her feedback on kitchen and bathroom updates.

Lascatx - if you're helping stain, come on over any time you want!! Heck, I won't even make you help if you just want to come over and check it out. ;) We are just north of Austin, and the housing market here is bad. The only saving grace is that we didn't pay that much for our house in the first place (relatively speaking), so I don't think lose money unless we sink a ton into updates.

    Bookmark   September 21, 2011 at 11:40AM
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My brother lives in Round Rock. I haven't seen their house yet, even though I've met them in Austin when DS was on the UT campus. They put in a wood laminate, have peeled wallpaper and painted a lot. I don't think they have granite.

There was a story on the news yesterday that home sales in the Houston area generally are up for the last month. Looked like the hottest areas were close to downtown and foreclosures made up 20% of the total. From what I've heard, foreclosures may increase before the and the housing market return to normal. Do you have a lot of foreclosures on the market? Have you studied the online listings of all the homes in your area? Have you actually gone looking at the houses? Condition is often hard to assess in a photo and foreclosures often have been stripped down. They are also generally sold as-is, so selling your home in good condition and offering a home warranty may help put you above the foreclosure market and buffer some of the concerns about pre-existing vs new construction.

Trying to do some math, it sounds like you can get granite in there for about $2800-$3000 (will you have to pay extra for a sink cutout? Tax on that amount will add a couple hundred more. Make sure you have all the costs factored in.

You haven't included any names or photos of laminate. In my book, there are very cheap looking laminates and laminates that most people will have to touch to figure out if they are laminate or stone. I think which you are getting bids on would make a difference in deciding whether granite was worth more.

Have you gone to a fabricator directly? You might be able to get a better price on the granite too.

I'd love to come play with stain -- I don't sit and watch very well. LOL My timing may not work for you though. I'm in the middle of a school project and then marching band takes over the month of October. Don't know if I could find a day in between. Would be fun though.

    Bookmark   September 21, 2011 at 12:18PM
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As soon as you posted the close-up of your scratched cabinets, I had the same thought as scrappy25, which is to find a stain to match your existing cabinets and do touch-up, and I wouldn't even fool with a top coat. They could look brand new in maybe an hour's time vs. several days (weeks?) of a dark gel stain job. (It took me 12 days to do a 7' length of bath cabinets.)

In the picture that includes the backsplash, look at the granite directly to the left. Wouldn't that look pretty with your existing cabinet color and floor tile? See if there is a cheaper version of that color. You asked: "is an improved laminate going to be a selling feature like granite would be?" My opinion: No.

I agree with everyone who suggested redoing the lighting.

Finally, have you considered leaving your existing tile and coloring the grout to a lighter color? mydreamhome mentioned the dark grout lines detracting, and I agree. It reminded me that grout can be painted, and in the interests of time and money, you could get a lot of bang for your buck with very little work. See examples of before & after grout lines at the link below.

Here is a link that might be useful: Grout Paint

    Bookmark   September 21, 2011 at 1:42PM
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So I guess I'm somewhat torn with the cabinets:

Option 1: touch up with lighter (honey oak colored) stain. Cost and time: minimal.
Result: 90's honey oak cabinets in better condition. (To me as a buyer, this would still be a huge turnoff, but again - I could be in the minority on this one).

Option 2: restain with darker gel stain.
Cost: under $100
Time: significant, but doable (we're not selling for 8 months, we work from home and can go out and apply coats whenever).
Result: updated cabinets. Darker color may turn off buyers who are more drawn to honey oak or painted cabinets (not sure what percentage that would be).
Someone asked about about staining the (possibly laminate) sides - the cabinets are solid oak custom (not builder grade), so no worries there.

I have no desire to paint. After painting numerous bookcases, desks, etc - I've come to the conclusion that painting would be more work than gel staining, and look worse too. I am probably just a crappy painter, but dealing with brush strokes and drips is just downright annoying. I agree that it would look fine though, and I will be painting our bathroom builder-grade cabinets for sure.

Love the idea of the grout paint! Is that something that HD or Lowe's might have as well? I'll do a search...but thanks for the idea. That might be worth a shot before we retile.

    Bookmark   September 21, 2011 at 2:17PM
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I have no partiality to the grout-paint product posted; it was just the first one that came up on a google search. Surely, any hardware store would have something similar.

    Bookmark   September 21, 2011 at 2:47PM
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Before you do anything to your cabinets, get a bottle of Old English Scratch Cover and try that. You may be astonished at how much better your cabinets and woodwork will look-super easy to use, too. Our previous house had old dark woodwork that looked dinged up and dry, and it looked MUCH better with a quick wiping of the scratch cover stuff.

There is a great little book called "Dress Your House For Success" that gives tons of other ideas like that to inexpensively prepare your house for selling quickly.

    Bookmark   September 21, 2011 at 4:03PM
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I think you need to develop a budget for the whole house spruce up before you decide if 3K worth of granite will be an expenditure that would be worth it. You don't want to blow the whole thing on a single element. And that budget will tie into exactly what pricing that you think the home should sell for. Cleaning and painting won't involve hardly any expenditure, and that should be your target while you do your research. Open houses, new construction viewings and scouring the neighborhoods can give you a general idea, but only a realtor will be able to do a market analysis for you using the prices of the sold homes in the area. I'd start interviewing realtors ASAP with the stipulation that you aren't going to want to list until spring. That's a common situation, and they should be able to provide you with the market specific info you need in order to be able to create your worklist.

    Bookmark   September 21, 2011 at 4:13PM
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I was just on redfin last night checking out houses in my area that are for sale. I am in the midwest and my area may be completely different from TX, but I figured I would give my thoughts to the mix. :)

The houses I was looking at are between $330,000 - $375,000. Most are around 15 years old. I was very surprised that most of the homes on the market in my area have the same honey oak cabinets that you do (not necessarily builder grade, but the same color). Many had changed to stainless appliances, but did not do anything to the cabinets. And most had plain white laminate with the 4 inch backsplash as well. In other words, all these kitchens looked the same.

The homes that stood out were the ones that updated the kitchen. By me stained wood is a lot more popular that whtie cabinets. Those that did put granite in put new venitian gold or something similar.

While that wouldn't necessarily be *my* choice for my home, all my co-workers that were looking over my shoulder were ooohing and aaahing over the updated kitchens.

The updated kitchens got noticed and they stood out. I agree that you have to price your house at the right price, but you want to stand out as well.

If you have the time to gel stain, then I say it can't hurt. I'm not a granite fan, but so many people are. If the new homes have granite, and you have the money to do it, I probably would. You could also put butcher block on just the island to make it stand out as well.

The average homebuyer is not GW obsessed. They just want a home that doesn't need a ton of updating.

    Bookmark   September 21, 2011 at 4:13PM
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Asahi Eveleth

Lurker here and first time poster! My husband and I have been looking at houses for the past 9 months and with that said, I would walk into your kitchen and want to change a lot. We wouldn't have the money for a full gut, but I would want to come in and paint the cabinets (possibly with that Rustoleum Transformation stuff), new counter tops, new lighting, and definitely new flooring. Personally I would prefer a white or cream cabinet but I know a lot of people like the dark look too. I would do more of a mid-range color instead of something so dark as the java. But again, that's just my opinion.

    Bookmark   September 21, 2011 at 4:18PM
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You will never please everyone. But granite has a wow factor that cheap preformed laminate just doesn't. The laminate will be better then what you have now, though, but it won't wow anyone. It will look like preformed laminate.

If many of the other houses have granite it probably is worth doing if you can do it fairly reasonably.

    Bookmark   September 21, 2011 at 4:21PM
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I posted over in the Buying and Selling forum, but will add a few comments here, too.

First off, you *are not* competing with the houses in your neighborhood. You are competing with new/newer builds, which feature stainless steel appliances, tile floors, and granite countertops as standard kitchen features. They also have newer heating/cooling units, newer roofs, etc. Combine that with the current super-lower interest rates, and the fact the the vast majority of people do not want to move into a home knowing that they will have to put several thousand dollars into updates, and you have some serious competition.

Second, don't follow the mindset that says that since you plan on selling you can just go ahead and put in the cheapest crap possible and buyers will "look past" it. I know people are giving well-meaning suggestions, but really. I was house hunting just last year, and I could sure as heck tell when someone had done a thoughtful update using a mix of old and new versus a cheapie Band-Aid fix. Putting $5,000 towards upgrading/repairing your kitchen is 2-1/2 percent of $200,000, hardly a huge outlay; if your sell price is higher, the percentage is even lower.

Flooring: Go with the new tile. It's pretty much standard in all new builds in your price range, and it's the first upgrade most homeowners with vinyl in their kitchen and bathrooms do. You can get lovely tile reasonably priced at Lowes or Home Depot.

Cabinets: The dark gel stain can look lovely if done well, but it may contrast too much with your laminate flooring in the adjoining rooms. Forget that you don't like honey oak; a lot of people really do love it, or at the very least don't mind it. Your kitchen has great bones, it's your laminate and flooring (plus the light boxes) that is really dating it, not the cabinets. And with new countertops, backsplash and hardware they will pretty much read neutral and look great. Not "custom kitchen" $50,000 remodel great, but "we've taken care of our home and reasonably updated it" great.

I would first try the Howard's Restor-A-Finish in the original cabinet color and see how that looks. Another (a little pricier) option is to look at just replacing the door and drawer fronts.

Countertops/Backsplash: Get the granite. There's absolutely no competition between it and laminate, even the better quality laminate. My granite fabricator told me that he's putting granite in new builds that start at $135,000. And I'd install the tile backsplash, too. You want your kitchen to look finished, as if you upgraded it for yourself.

    Bookmark   September 21, 2011 at 6:13PM
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I just sold my house which was adjacent to a busy road in a market where DOM is about 90 and sales price is about 85% of asking. We asked 10K higher than the realtor suggested and sold in 25 days for about 99.5% of asking. The house had a busy road and a large retirement home next to it.

That said the realtor told me our wow factor was the kitchen. We spent 7K redoing it 2 years ago. We moved the island, had our honey oak cabinets professionally sprayed with cream paint, added beadboard and SC granite and travertine backsplash and refinished the hardwood floors. We also had some cabinets cut for glass.



The house across the street that has better views and no street next to it had no updates. It is 600' larger and is still on the market for 40K less than we sold ours for. Your appliances are nicer than mine were.

My opinion after looking at houses is that if you are a smart shopper it is better to do some upgrades. For $180 I painted the bathroom vanity black got a remnant of granite and added a vessel sink from Amazon. It was another inexpensive update than made my house stand out.

Remember, not everyone wants a brand new house, there are huge expenses associated with putting in landscaping and window treatments and other items need in a new home.

    Bookmark   September 21, 2011 at 6:18PM
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I'm definitely not an expert, but we just had to go through this with our house in Virginia. We had been renting it out and the tenants left unexpectedly. The house needed a lot of work thanks to it being a rental for many years.

We had planned to replace all the flooring - it needed it. But the kitchen was in good shape - just very dated. We had green laminate counters and pretty much the same oak cabinets that you have now.

I opted to put in granite from Lowes. I did that because, as in your case, it was only going to be a few hundred dollars more than doing another laminate.

I know that most GWs would see the cheaper style granite from a mile away. But for many people, the thought of buying a house with granite in the kitchen says a lot.

We didn't do anything to the cabinets other than clean them and change the hardware. The flooring was a newer upgraded vinyl.

Honestly, the biggest change in the house was the fact that we updated the flooring throughout and painted the entire interior and updated all the light fixtures. It made it look and feel like a brand new construction.

We listed it for a little more than our realtor suggested and sold it in a few months. We would probably have sold faster if we listed a little less, but I was happy with the results.

It's a tough market. Buyers are expecting to get something for nothing and desperate sellers and practically giving that to them.

Good luck to you. It's definitely not an easy thing to balance!

    Bookmark   September 21, 2011 at 6:49PM
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OK, another option instead of the granite--what about a granite overlay? I had forgotten all about that option until I saw a thread posted today inquiring about it. We had looked at the overlay online when redoing MIL's kitchen a few years ago. In the end, an investor friend of the family made an offer on the house before we got to the countertops, so I never got beyond the online info. I want to say I read somewhere that you could do that for around $800-900 for an average sized kitchen. I posted a link to the site we had looked into, but know that there are multiple companies that do the overlay so you might want to google it yourself--search word = granite overlay. May be worth checking out.

Here is a link that might be useful: Granite Overlay

    Bookmark   September 22, 2011 at 3:00AM
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Asahi Eveleth

Another suggestion is that maybe you should have your realtor take you to a few of the houses that are your competition. Then you can know exactly what you're up against and can formulate a great plan of attack.

gmp3 the change in your kitchen is amazing! I love how it turned out and it truly is a wow kitchen. I love the corner glass cabinet and how you raised it up to give it that custom feel.

    Bookmark   September 22, 2011 at 8:34AM
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Thanks, Leightx has nicer cabinets than I did...no exposed hinges on hers, plus mine were the dreaded cathedral style doors.

Whatever you do, get several quotes, two years ago quotes for our counters ranged from 8K to 3K, all for the same granite. We are rennovating a house now and we have had the same experience. Just make sure the people you hire know what they are doing.

Great idea to shop the other homes, our realtor did that prior to pricing our home. You also may want to go to the new homes and see what colors, styles they have in the models, they know what is curren and aopeals to most buyers.

    Bookmark   September 22, 2011 at 9:43AM
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And, the biggest reason to shop other homes is to see what they are asking and then the realtor tells you if that's realistic or not. If home prices are way low and there's going to have to be money brought to the table to sell, which has been an extremely common scenario, then there's only so much budget fix money to go around. You've got to have that knowledge before starting out blind planning all kinds of changes.

    Bookmark   September 22, 2011 at 10:55AM
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you should not be talking to just one realtor. You need to shop for a good realtor just as you would be shopping for any other important purchase/decision in your life. Just because she is your friend does not mean that she can sell your kind of house.

You need to find a realtor that knows your particular price point, city, demographics, type of house and has demonstrated a good track record.

I see people listing their houses with agents (maybe at the owner's insistence) at too high of price, and the house just sits and sits.

I have been looking and lurking at houses for a LONG time. (decades...) This is really a tough market out there. Unfortunately, the amount of data available to a typical buyer makes your past mistakes "transparent". For example, if you list a house and fail to sell, it is 'clearly' visible to anyone on Redfin/Zillow. It was not like this 5 years ago. Once the listing lingers, the house comes across as a damaged good or has a hidden defect....

Good luck.....

    Bookmark   September 22, 2011 at 12:09PM
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Gmp3 - lovely kitchen! I hope mine turns out half as nice. I have those same barstools. :) I actually do have exposed hinges on mine, but they are a dirty brass so the blend in with the honey oak! I'm trying to figure out if I should paint (???) so they blend in with the java stain, or replace with brushed nickel to match the rest of the hardware. Or switch to ORB for all hardware.

Putting in cheap(ish) granite won't be an issue. This isn't the market that people would be expecting any more than that, or even recognize it if they saw it. There are no historical houses to redo, or custom houses going in. I'm getting more quotes today, but we're looking at roughly $36-38 / sf for Level 1 (which varies between companies). $36 was for 2cm (the rest are 3cm).

I looked into doing the Granite Transformations overlay a few years ago, and if remember correctly, it was more than we're getting quoted for slab granite! Crazy.

There's not much for sale in our neighborhood that's comparable right now, but my realtor friend (who lives in our neighborhood) suggested that we go look at the new model homes. She agrees that we are directly competing with them, and that buyers are looking at both resales and building new, especially given the square footage.

Most resales don't have updated kitchens, and have been on the market over 100 days (or longer, with several price reductions). I'd rather avoid that if at all possible!

I had a countertop guy come out today and he's emailing a quote. Electrician (to replace horrid light boxes) is coming out tomorrow, as well as the tile guy. Can't wait to see the quotes on all that - it will help us decide on the granite as well.

Thanks for continued input!

    Bookmark   September 22, 2011 at 12:51PM
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I think it would be good to do the granite, it's not THAT much of a deal breaker at even $1500 more that's isn't like 3K more. I think a potential buyer might be so grateful for it because it sounds like they might never have it otherwise. It might be an exciting deal "maker" for a buyer. I know watching some of these shows unless it's granite they are so disappointed and most do not have an extra dime for upgrades later. Nowadays they are having to put down large down payments unlike a few years ago. I'd do it and do the gel stain like you planned originally. I liked your original plan but maybe a better match of materials, the colors seemed a little like they didn't match as well as they could but otherwise you're golden!!

    Bookmark   September 22, 2011 at 1:45PM
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I'd leave the hinges alone, they are expensive and you may have to redrill holes, I spray painted mine and no one noticed. Yours will disappear with your gel stain.

My new house has a light box and we were planning on painting it white. I didn't mind it, but now I am wondering if I should have the electrician install a few cans! ;-).

    Bookmark   September 22, 2011 at 1:57PM
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I'd leave the hinges alone, they are expensive and you may have to redrill holes, I spray painted mine and no one noticed. Yours will disappear with your gel stain.

My new house has a light box and we were planning on painting it white. I didn't mind it, but now I am wondering if I should have the electrician install a few cans! ;-).

    Bookmark   September 22, 2011 at 2:00PM
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I have another point of view. I know no two people's tastes are exactly alike, so why try to redo a kitchen you KNOW needs upgraded? You are competing with new builds where people can pick and choose what they want in them. Why not offer an incentive-$5000 or $7000 or whatever you'd budget to do the upgrades YOURSELF and say "Hey-we will GIVE YOU a kitchen remodel stipend" This way, they can do what they will with it-redo a bathroom they'd rather have done, put it into the kitchen and get what THEY want or pocket the money, use it for new furniture. Offering something unique is a HUGE selling point that could easily tip a buyer into buying your house--"Hey, we GET money for upgrades!"

    Bookmark   September 22, 2011 at 3:06PM
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I apologize at the outset for not reading all the prior posts.

But, for what it is worth, I would not do a thing. You can never prove or disprove which would have been a better choice, but save yourself some money and time.

You do not have a kitchen that everyone will say "OMG, we cannot even move in until we gut that." You do not have a kitchen that will make a buyer say "I MUST get that home with the amazing over the top kitchen". Those are the only two extremes that matter. Unless you were going to make it fabulous, which would be foolish, you should let it be.

Make it clean and bake apple pies in it. Save your energy for YOUR new house!

    Bookmark   September 22, 2011 at 3:09PM
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I would do what you are considering: lights; floors; granite; and cabinets. You already have the stainless steel appliances. What is important to many people and a great selling point--is granite and stainless. Most people are not picky or knowlegeable as to the "level" of the granite.

Many buyers do not want to have to remodel. An updated kitchen (in addition to the lower price level of your neighborhood) may tip the decision to buy your home vs the new construction.

As far as a credit--many lenders will not allow that.

Even if the updates are not exactly what the buyer would chose--assuming the house is priced fairly--the kitchen will look nice until the buyer can make the changes they want. That is a selling point.

    Bookmark   September 22, 2011 at 7:32PM
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Leigh, thought of you when I saw this. I was actually researching wood flooring but came across this place that has granite (including prefab granite counters) and laminate too. They are in Houston, but I bet you can either get someone to install in your area or find something similar. You wouldn't be that much further than going to Clear Lake or Galveston. Anyway -- for what it's worth. Hope the plans are coming along.

    Bookmark   September 26, 2011 at 3:57PM
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I forgot the link

Here is a link that might be useful: Flooring/granite center

    Bookmark   September 26, 2011 at 3:58PM
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When my son was getting his ready to sell, he had some blemishes on his oak cabinets....I just took a rag, put it into some med. oak stain , and rubbed it on the cabinets...and low and behold, it did marvels!! Those belmishes actually disappeared...so before you try anything else, give this a try. I understand it is a "trick" that many do who are remodeling homes...and what do you have to lose?...maybe a couple bucks for a little can of stain (it won't take much).

    Bookmark   September 26, 2011 at 7:44PM
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Have you given any thought to a slate floor (or slate-colors)? I have seen the real stuff for a very reasonable price and the variation in colors could pull all the colors of the cabinets backsplash and countertops together. For instance: Java cabs, SF granite, trav backsplash, and slate floor (like earth slate from the houstonflooringcenter website-not toooo busy). I think anchoring the room with a darker floor of any type will keep it from being too choppy.
I also think spray-painting the cabs off-white (BM deserted island?) with rented compressor and spray painter wouldn't be terribly hard either. Liquid sander, primer, paint. It would definitely bring light in and buyers love light! Different countertop (kashmir gold?) stained or dark painted island, and a medium dark floor (slate, walnut travertine color, or such.) This, along with light wall color might raise the look of the ceiling where the dark cabs might not. Darker floor drops the floor too so room feels taller. :)
Also, I love subways, but...in this traditional style kitchen, I might look at putting 6 or 8 inch tiles on the diagonal, (with decorative inserts?) just to eliminate so many horizontal lines; point the eye up. I have seen subways in a herringbone pattern too; kinda cool. There is a phenomenal blog some genius here at GW created that will give you a gajillion ideas. finishedkitchens.blogspot.com

    Bookmark   October 6, 2011 at 12:03PM
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Paint the cabinets. Replace the floors. Replace the lighting. Done.

RE: paint--Ben Moore has a new water based alkyd paint that looks interesting...I'd consider using it if I were painting kitchen cabs. I've never used it...saw it when I was at the store earlier looking for info on their new Full Spectrum line. I find the idea of an Alkyd that is low VOC and can be cleaned up with water (as opposed to turps/mineral spirits) intriguing.

Linked below.

Here is a link that might be useful: Benjamine Moore Advance Waterborne Alkyd Low VOC

    Bookmark   October 6, 2011 at 4:06PM
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but wait...there's more! these two ideas might work too even more economically. you could try putting gray slate-like floor (laid in that cool brick pattern and it color coordinates with stainless) in and black laminate counters that read like soapstone (not shiny). Repair the oak and add hardware. (and of course change lighting). Paint walls white-ish. Then, if it doesn't pass muster, paint the cabs White too. You could even ever-so lightly glaze them with stain if you wanted, just to give them a little dimension. It would be classic and i think very marketable. with either of these, subway tiles would be appropriate. especially with the floor tile in the same pattern.

gray floor, oak cabs, black "soapstone" or honed granite.
1/3 of the way down this page is the renovated kitchen:

Gray floor, white cabs, black "soapstone" laminate or honed granite
1/4 of the way down this page, just after the picture of diane keaton at her desk:

    Bookmark   October 7, 2011 at 3:07PM
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gmp3, what color did you spray paint the cabinets? They look great! Did you spray paint the hardware dark? Which granite counter did you choose since I love it!

    Bookmark   October 7, 2011 at 8:35PM
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I think SC Granite means Santa Cecilia Granite? It looks like from rereading gmp3's post, she did spray paint the hardware. I feel she was blessed in no soffit, hardware already on her cabinet, wood floors, a large kitchen and recessed lighting to begin her project. I have none of these in my kitchen. I love the overall new look and would love to know how the cabinets were spray painted (were doors removed and was primer used first?) and what paint brand and color was used that looks so beautiful to me.

    Bookmark   October 8, 2011 at 10:27AM
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If I was a buyer, your kitchen would be the deal breaker for me and I would not buy your house if I had no time to redo it unless it was priced well below the market and I was given $20,000 toward upgrades.

I would paint the cabinets an off-white color, spray paint the hinges, change the floor to the travertine tiles and do that pretty backsplash or an inexpensive white subway tile. I would replace the counters to one of the three granites you chose since it is a wow factor and has sold homes in my area to have granite counters and at least it will be good for describing your updated kitchen. I would pay someone to do recessed lighting.

If all of this is too much money, then change the lighting to recessed lighting, change the tiles and put in a grout to match the tiles. Use the bigger tiles to have an updated look. I would then gel stain the cabinets in a honey gel so that only the worn areas will be covered.

Good luck and let us know what you do and take pictures of any changes you make to share with all of us.

    Bookmark   October 8, 2011 at 10:46AM
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if i was a buyer that kitchen would be a big turnoff for me too, but if i was a younger DIY'er buyer I would be interested in making the fixes myself and getting the credit. given the conditions of the market i would do some work to ensure it shows well and allows the house to move in a slow market. i would have cabs painted professionally white, new granite, remove lightbox and do floors.

    Bookmark   October 8, 2011 at 12:06PM
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Gel stain the cabs. Use Rub-n-Buff on the hinges. Get new hardware from Cabinet Hardware Designs (I've used their stuff in three kitchens--LOVE IT!) Paint the counters, and give the buyer an allowance for the cost of medium-grade granite. Rip that tile out and put in something that looks nice, but isn't expensive (or hard to tear out & replace if the buyer doesn't like what you put in).

When you talked about updating the kitchen to sell, here's what I thought of, from Emily Freeman's blog, Chatting at the Sky:

"This is where I stood when we walked through the house for the first time and I almost cried because the owner had just told me they had recently updated their kitchen. This is also where I stood when I realized how much I hated it and I didn�t want to pay for their new, ugly kitchen in the price of the house."

Make updates that don't cost a lot . . . and give your buyers an allowance to make upgrades. Emily's kitchen had brand new cabinets and a granite-topped island . . . and while they still bought the house, it was a close call because that kitchen was so distasteful to her. So, just food for thought.

    Bookmark   October 8, 2011 at 12:21PM
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I painted my 90s oak kitchen cabinet Linen White and added granite counters. I think the total cost, including new oven, sink, cooktop, granite and all painting was around $14,000. The granite was the largest part of the expense.

My house sold last week after 3 days on the market.



    Bookmark   October 9, 2011 at 1:32AM
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AnnKatheryn, I love the updated look with the paint and granite counters. Your kitchen went from OK to WOW! No wonder it sold so fast! Thanks for letting us know the paint color. What gloss did you use?

    Bookmark   October 9, 2011 at 2:12AM
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My daughter had the same issue, and she put eye-catching dark granite on the island only (got a deal on a remnant piece) -- also had it cut a little larger and put some benches up to it for "eat in " counterspace. Then really "staged" the rest -- no clutter, a few "wow" accessories (maybe covering up stained area of laminate), etc. Sold right away.

    Bookmark   October 9, 2011 at 6:18AM
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pics above annkathryn posted illustrates the Texas version of the SGottaG Hamptons kitchen I linked from cotedetexas. Classic. Besides adding light to the space, white kitchens look clean. Buyers love light. Buyers love clean. If the white kitchen doesn't make the rest of the house look dark or dirty, i think it will sell your house fast. But if it does, then stay with the wood so things flow. Note that annk's cabinets go to the ceiling. If yours are white and the walls are white, it will give the same feeling of lifting the ceiling height. Fear not the white.

    Bookmark   October 9, 2011 at 10:16AM
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lynn2006 the paint was semi-gloss. My painter did an excellent job on everything. The work was done a year ago and it still looks good.

kacy27 I never dreamed I had a SGottaG kitchen; I think my humble kitchen isn't nearly in that league. The granite is cheap ubatuba rather than soapstone, no subway tile backsplash to name just two missing elements. And I'm in California, not Texas or the Hamptons. But my kitchen thanks you for the compliment!

    Bookmark   October 9, 2011 at 12:01PM
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annkathryn, your painter did an excellent job and if you did not live across the country form me in California (I am in NJ), I would hire him! Thanks for letting me know he used Semi-gloss since I like it so so much. Did he prime the cabinets first?

The Ubatuba granite is beautiful!

    Bookmark   October 9, 2011 at 12:07PM
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P.S. AnnKathryn, did your painter spray paint the cabinets or use a brush? Did he prime? Oh how I wish you lived in NJ so I could hire him!

    Bookmark   October 9, 2011 at 12:12PM
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lynn2006 yes, I think he used 2 coats of primer and 2 coats of paint. He took off all the doors and painted everything with a brush. Like most people who have painted their oak cabinets, there's still a fair amount of grain visible if you look carefully. It doesn't bother me, but some people wouldn't care for the look.

My painter's a gem - I had him do lots of work in the house I just sold and plan to use him for my next house.

    Bookmark   October 9, 2011 at 3:48PM
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Andalee, you posted a link to Emily Freeman's blog about how she updated her kitchen in her new house. It just shows people have different tastes but I hated her black cabinets and loved the lighter ones the previous owners had put in.

    Bookmark   October 9, 2011 at 4:51PM
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AnnKatheryn, I like the look and feel your painter did a great job! I wish he lived near me.

    Bookmark   October 9, 2011 at 8:02PM
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Well, I know it has been a while, but I realized I forgot to post an update! We finished everything in Dec '11, and have really enjoyed it. The house went on the market this weekend, so we got a little over a year in our 'new' kitchen. We got a full price offer today, and our home is priced higher than anything in our neighborhood (the house 2 doors down in 500 sf larger, and priced $5k cheaper). I think it was worth it - total cost was right around $7K.

Granite: NVG light
Gel Stain: Java (General) - 3 coats
Tile: Home Depot
Backsplash: Home Depot

Here is a link that might be useful: More Kitchen Remodel Pics

This post was edited by leightx on Tue, Apr 23, 13 at 12:40

    Bookmark   April 22, 2013 at 9:54PM
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Leightx, I Love the changes in your kitchen and do to the size of it, the dark cabinets with the gorgeous light floors and granite counters looks so rich looking! Despite liking white kitchens, I would have been very happy with your updated kitchen and not changing anything. I also like that you changed the lighting. Thank you for sharing. It was worth upgrading the kitchen to sell so quickly and for a very good price.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2013 at 12:16AM
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It does not even look like the same kitchen.

Your Photobucket link does not work, it asks to login. :-)

    Bookmark   April 23, 2013 at 10:37AM
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Oops! Fixed the link! New one is below as well - there are about 10 more pics with different angles. Lighting is odd in some of them.

Here is a link that might be useful: Kitchen Redo

    Bookmark   April 23, 2013 at 12:41PM
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