Reality bites - dealing with budgets

Molly PhillipsOctober 25, 2012

I'm working on my kitchen mini-remodel....which is rapidly going astray, especially once I got layout advice from you good people. :)

I need some perspective.

I got a quote from a respected cabinet guy the other day. He quoted out completely replacing our current cabinets (which are natural hickory) with paint grade maple (which I prefer), OR adding to our current hickory cabinets and revamping what we have as much as possible to go with our new layout. The price for the painted maple is around $14k while revamping what we have will be $7500+ (depending on labor time).

I don't really know what I'm asking here since you aren't looking at my kitchen, house, cost of living area, LIFE....but I'm typing while I'm thinking. I originally didn't want to go over $10K in my budget because I'm not adding value to the home, really, just function to the kitchen that a buyer or appraiser probably wouldn't notice. Plus, we aren't selling anytime soon, so resale doesn't matter anyway. Clearly, though, with either option, I'll be going over $10K easily, considering I still have to replace floors and countertops, plus some small electrical and plumbing jobs.

I guess one question I'd have for you is - do you wait to get what you want, or make the changes you can now so you can USE the function you need? You know, now that I see what we can do, I want to put a sledge hammer to our kitchen TODAY.

Where do you draw the line in your budget and where should you be flexible/realistic? It's not like I'm trying to decide between 2 sinks, but major aspects to a working kitchen! I'm not sure I'll ever be able to convince my DH that we should get all new cabinets when these are fine, but I'm also disappointed that modifying what I have (which I don't *love* but would be fine with if it wasn't still more than half the price of getting all new cabs) is still way over what I thought in my head it would cost.

Part of me is thinking I just wasn't realistic to think I could do anything for $10k or less from the beginning. The other part of me thinks if I go up to $15k, I'll just go to $20k with the next decision and it will get quickly out of hand. All parts of me seem extremely high maintenance.

I am all over the place with this post. Maybe I'm just tired. I think I just wanted to live in this utopia world where the decisions would be easier.

Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Hi there,
Where do you draw the line? It's all about your budget of course:) And your priorities for a well functioning kitchen.

You might want a pretty marble countertop but maybe you have knob and tube wiring and you really need to put money towards electrical although that's all hidden behind the scenes...I'm a big believer in prioritizing based on necessity and integrity and soundness of the house (alas, usually "behind the scenes") and saving for those pretty finishes afterwards.

Without knowing what your particular issues are with your kitchen, have you considered painting your cabinet doors or replacing the doors instead of the whole box? Or maybe you really have some functional issues that need to be addressed.

With all the HGTV shows on TV, decor magazines, Houzz and Pinterest, it's really easy to start daydreaming and wishing for that beautiful high end kitchen but at the end of the day it really is about cooking. My dear mother who passed away two years ago created some fabulous and memorable meals from her electric stove. You don't need fancy gadgets to create great meals and memories.

    Bookmark   October 25, 2012 at 11:52PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Check these threads:

Scrimp on this, Splurge on that....:

Where to splurge and where to save??:

Scrimp and Splurge - Where'd you hold back, where'd you go nuts?:

    Bookmark   October 26, 2012 at 12:07AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I think your question is probably more about what kind of person you are. You're either the kind of person who is perhaps more worried about the timeline (that is to say, more concerned about how much you absolutely hate your kitchen now) and you do what you can now and perhaps have to make some sacrifices on some of things you might have really wanted, or you're the kind who knows what you want and you'll wait until you can get it.

I happen to fall in the latter group. I'm just not a person who can do "placeholders" if I know what I really want. I lived with a giant bare wall in my kitchen for three years because I couldn't find the exact right art for it. I found a lot of things that would have looked fine, but until I found THE thing for that spot, I'd rather look at an empty wall. But that's not how a lot of people operate and it's an approach that is fraught with problems, to be perfectly honest.

In my mind, and as you point out, cabinets sort of dictate the feel of the entire room, so I'd spend some time really thinking about what you and your husband really want that room to look like conceptually (I find flipping through photos on Houzz very helpful for this). If you decide you really want painted cabinets, then you should have that (but do consider painting what you have if that's an option).

As far as budget creep, that's why I'm picking out pretty much everything we want for our kitchen and getting quotes before we even think about starting. I'll make a spread sheet with each item on it along with its cost and we'll save until we get that much or we'll take a look at where to cut. If we fall in love with something in the middle of the project that we decide we want that's not on that spreadsheet, we'll have to deduct something else. It's a lesson I learned when doing our house renovation and I found it much more helpful to break things down to an itemized list, rather than look at one large budget number (and not just because the bottom line turned my stomach). That way it came down buying a different sink or cutting out a luxury item which helped me "keep it real" and keep the budget in check.

    Bookmark   October 26, 2012 at 12:24AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I can tell you what kind of person I am. Only you know what kind of person you are. I hated our kitchen when we bought the house in '99. We were years away from remodeling so I painted our very dark cabs and DH removed and replaced the laminate counters. We replaced the avocado sink and horrible faucet. All of that helped the aesthetics, but not the function of the space.

We could have done a lower end reno six-seven years ago, but I knew it wouldn't have gotten me the end result I wanted most. I decided that, to me, spending less money to have a kitchen that didn't make me truly happy and meet my goals would be a waste of money. Not worth doing. So we waited. And waited. And waited. I am not a patient person by nature so it was very difficult. Now that the kitchen and surrounding rooms have been reno'd, I'm extremely happy we waited. I wouldn't have my Carrara, yummy wood floors throughout, fabulous appliances, or functional layout had I not waited.

So, my advice is to wait. Plan, plan, plan while you're doing it. Tinker with layouts, research appliances, visit tile stores, etc. You can develop a realistic budget for what you want as you go. The ultimate satisfaction of getting what you want in the end is worth it.

    Bookmark   October 26, 2012 at 1:30AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Hickory has a much smoother grain than oak and takes paint rather well. I'd personally have the cabinet make do the extra cabinets that I needed to be able to improve the FUNCTION of the kitchen, and then DIY the paint job on all of it to save some additional money. You might actually make your target budget if you did that.

I have to ask, do you think of the clothing that you purchase as "wasting" money on something that depreciates in value? Or do you view it as buying something to keep you warm and stylish? Your money isn't being "thrown away" on reworking a kitchen that you USE every single day if it improves HOW you work in that kitchen. You are buying a more pleasant and stylish existence. And isn't that what money is for anyway? To make your life more pleasant to live? Even if some of the things you purchase are a bit more intangible than others?

    Bookmark   October 26, 2012 at 1:55AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

You mentioned that you weren't adding value just making the kitchen more functional. I don't know how dysfunctional your current kitchen is, but a more functional kitchen is worth more to me as a buyer.

    Bookmark   October 26, 2012 at 6:39AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

why is "modifying" what you have more than half the cost of replacing all? "Revamping" is too vague a term-describe what you mean.Replacing doors? painting doors? gelstaining the hickory? adding dovetailed drawer boxes? adding glass doors? resurfacing to a new look? You use the phrase mini remodel, yet, refer to a newer layout.....changing layouts
doesn't keep a project in the "mini" category. But some layout changes will be more involved than others,obviously.If a buyer wouldn't notice what you will be doing, it is a concern and gives pause to look this all over some more. And then there's doing some stuff yourselves-Ready to assemble cabinets/install your own floors/etc.

    Bookmark   October 26, 2012 at 8:10AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I lived with my 1948 kitchen for 15 years. I could have simply replaced the floor and cabinets at any time. But I had a vision to make my kitchen bigger and make it integrated into the flow of my very compartmentalized house. So I waited, I cursed, I was miserable. Finally, we decided to bite the bullet and do a kitchen extension. To me it was worth the wait, but I do wish we hadn't waited so long.

Only you can decide whether its worth it to increase your budget a bit or wait. If you wait, things aren't going to get cheaper, but you could save more. If I were you, I would price out the electric and fixtures, the plumbing, sinks and faucets, flooring and counters and then make a decision. IMO project creep is inevitable, but a realistic item by item cost analysis (rather than a budget) is helpful. Why cost analysis? Because it is easy to set a budget of $200 for a sink, but when you actually pick out your sink, it might be $500. Hardware could be $100 or $1000 depending on what you pick.

As for adding value, real estate is not the only value. Consider the happiness factor.

    Bookmark   October 26, 2012 at 8:12AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I looked at your posts and I like your current kitchen, it looks recently done. I also find the color palate a bit warm for my taste, but that is easily fixed.

Can you make two bullet lists, one of what you really need and one of what you really want?

I went through the kitchen design process with help from this forum. I took all the practical advice offered and have benefited with a very functional kitchen. I did not renovate over budget or over my neighborhood.

I know what I like and am also careful to compromise on some things to make sure I don't over improve my home.

Even the most expensive kitchen will look dated in 20 years, and the kids will likely move out before that. These truths help keep things in perspective.

    Bookmark   October 26, 2012 at 10:19AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

How long have you been in this house? If it is new to you, I'd live with it awhile until you know how it really works and which of your wish list ideas will work in a change. I really think in a kitchen that size that the prep sink takes up valuable counter space.

I think your original cabinets are lovely, and I'd probably add to them. But if you want to get rid of them, maybe you could sell them. Nancy-in-mich bought some cabinets from Green Demolitions and I'm sure there are other places that buy complete kitchens, granite and all.

    Bookmark   October 26, 2012 at 11:30AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Molly Phillips

Thanks for all of the advice, support and links. :) I've been reading and thinking all weekend.

Herbflavor, just to follow up with you - it originally started as a "mini" project because I was just going to add an island with a prep sink - not move any existing appliances, cabs or counters. That all changed when I posted that layout on this website and got slammed for it! So really, all of the helpfulness of this site has been a "splurge" in itself, as it moved my "mini" to a "more substantial" but it will make it more functional and better in the long run.

marti8a, we've been in this house for 2 years, so long enough to know I don't have enough counter space. I hear you on the prep sink but also hate the 5 l-o-n-g feet between the stovetop and original sink. I'm dumping the pantry to add more counter to that area of the kitchen.

Thanks again to ALL of you - I'll continue to think and research and see how else to save money while trying to do this as soon as I can.

    Bookmark   October 27, 2012 at 9:16PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Lovetodream, having now had lots and lots of full-extension smooth-glide drawers (instead of doors and shelves), if it were mine I would not consider for a moment sinking money into the current cabinets, attractive as they are.

Your current layout would irritate me too no end, and a little island in the middle would not be a fix.

If that were my kitchen, and my previous spending preferences the same now, I'd look at Ikea and the other cabinet lines that have sprung up to compete at its price line. I used Ikea to get just the layout I wanted, almost all drawers, it cost very little, and I am very happy with my kitchen. BTW, paying for a new kitchen out of the regular checking account, instead of savings, is a very nice feeling.

    Bookmark   October 28, 2012 at 6:46PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

lovetodream, I have been in your shoes in so many ways. I first started wanting a remodel of any kind about 10 years ago. But 'stuff' got in the way. 3 years ago, I looked into refacing the cabinets. The price wasn't bad, but I didn't really gain anything (extra storage and counters). So, then it became a remodel.
I too posted a few layouts on GW. Everyone's opinion was great, but it made the project bigger than what I was hoping. I became so confused. I could probably find a way to afford some of the suggestions, but I wouldn't have felt good about it. I had to come back to my reality and accept what was enough for me. Could it be better? Sure! But, I am still happy. There are so many wonderful, knowledgeable and helpful people here. I've taken so many of their suggestions and adapted them to the scope and size of project that I can financially handle. We start demolition November 26th. I will get the nice cabinets I want. I will get the storage and counter space that I want. It's all good.

Hope this helps!

    Bookmark   October 28, 2012 at 8:39PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I hadn't been following your kitchen posts, so I went back and looked. The biggest problem with your kitchen is not hickory or maple. It does need some color, but the biggest issue is the layout. That kitchen was built to wash dishes, not to cook. About 2/3 of the kitchen is dedicated to a sink and DW while the food storage and cooking are crammed into the remaining third.

I would not put more money than a can of paint and a rug or mat or two to break up the floor and give some comfort underfoot unless I was able to fix the underlying problem. The problem is how to do that.

I have a prep sink in my island across from the cooktop. My DW and larger sink are across the room. It works well for us, but I have my cooktop in the middle of a 9 foot run, so I have some room to work. And my kitchen is a little more than a foot wider than yours, and my aisles are still at the narrower end. I have 34" cabinet depth for my island, so you would probably be limited to 21" vanity cabinets plus top to put you right at 24". You can get a 15" prep sink into one -- that's what I have. I do think that would be some improvement, but it doesn't fix the fact that so much valuable space is underutilized. You can test the idea with some boxes, a narrow table. If you want to test it in action, even get a commercial kitchen table like this one and then find another use for it (garage, potting bench?) or sell it (link below):

I would suggest looking at whether you could rearrange some of the existing cabinets to keep roughly the same footprint but gain some better used space. To make that work, at least one of the fridge or pantry has to move (could be both) and it looks like the fridge would give you the most space. I would look at moving the DW to the other side of the sink, moving the fridge (including the cabinet above and surround) and possibly the narrow cabinet next to it and put them on the end of the run near where the DW was. You would have to figure out how to place the door cabinet where the DW would go and the drawer stack on the end. Both walls have a little give on the ends, so you might get lucky with the measurements. If not, then talk to the cabinet guy about cutting one down or making one to match -- or fill a space by finishing sides with a skin and putting in shelves for baskets, a pullout towel bar for the sink, or if on the stove side, maybe a pullout or tray cabinet.

If you want to try both, I would try the pantry on the other side of the dining room doorway. You could also look at flipping that with the fridge against the wall on the DR end and the pantry at the other end, but you want to make sure you don't close up your sink and DW too much. If you lose a corner cabinet over there, then you could look at a small peninsula with a prep sink in that corner. Treat the cabinets like puzzle pieces and see what you come up with -- or post the measurements and let folks help you.

You can look at a narrow island or a peninsula, but neither one is going to give you the room you want for seating without being in an aisle. You could give the girls a pint sized table in that area for play and eating -- then move into a bistro set or a couple of reading chairs and a side table. Or try a bench -- possibly a narrower table, a circle or a square that will give you a bit more room coming into the room.

Here is a link that might be useful: John Boos Table

    Bookmark   October 28, 2012 at 11:58PM
Sign Up to comment
More Discussions
Unsealed leathered Virginia Mist?
My Virginia Mist/Jet Mist counters are installed and...
Kitchen cracking in back panels
We had brand new white shaker cabinets installed in...
Viatera Minuet
Hello! I am about to start a kitchen remodel and I'm...
Kitchen window or no?
We are planning our new home. I am a difficult time...
Here's as close to a reveal as I may ever get... :)
I'm not going to call this a reveal because I am not...
© 2015 Houzz Inc. Houzz® The new way to design your home™