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Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Kitchen Remodel: How I Kept It Frugal

Back to my KITCHEN SAGA. If this can save anyone even a few minutes or a few dollars, I will feel a lot better, since I over-researched the whole process.

How to keep it frugal. For many of the non-frugal, this is easy. You have the boundary of your budget. Then you can say to the sympathetic designer (aka cabinet salesperson
ON COMMISSION in many cases): Oh, I WISH I could afford the WHATEVER, but must alas settle for the WHATEVER MINUS.

Thanks to my frugal ways, I, of course, have to set my own boundaries. I could have spent pretty much whatever I wanted. The first of my two boundary-creators is common to us all; the second is peculiar to my situation. You may have to find your own way to stick to the frugal path.

Boundary 1: If you cruise the discussions of kitchens that are all over the internet, what is most desired is a timeless kitchen. Some people justify their extravagance with excuses like This is my forever kitchen. I can't fool myself like that. I know that whatever I like now, will be nothing special in 5 years and seriously dated in 10.

Once something gets really old--like my friend's 1940s bathrooms, which I swoon over--it does indeed become timeless. But kitchens and bathrooms don't usually get to that point, because people tear out almost new kitchens all the time. Even in this post-housing meltdown age, the curbs are littered with torn-out kitchens when a house changes hands.

So my first boundary-creator is the knowledge that whatever I do will be trashed when my house changes hands.

Boundary 2: I have a bonafide French friend. The french, of course, are noted for their frugality, though French frugality and American frugality are quite different. My French friend, let us call her Brigitte, redid her kitchen a few year before I did mine. Her kitchen was in worse shape than any of the slumlike kitchens in my graduate student apartments, by the way. Brigitte is the epitome of French frugality and also a quick decision-maker (the opposite of me). She planned her kitchen, saved up the cost, and did her kitchen with extreme rapidity. On a budget.

Whenever I told her I was pining for some expensive thing or other--like a French stove or a Wolf stove or stainless counter tops--she would roll her eyes in a French way and say, But that is ridiculous. And she was right. So every time I contemplated an indulgence--like the $8000.00 French stove--I pictured her discovering the cost and rolling her eyes in shock. If even a French person thinks the cost of a French stove is ridiculous...well, you get the picture.

I highly recommend a French person as a boundary-creator.

How do you keep it frugal?


Shelley said...

Well, so far my boundaries have come from a) not wanting to send more to landfill than necessary (b) knowing this house will probably be rented out within the next 3-4 years (c) knowing that the biggest problem beyond simple repairs is that I have too much junk around. I've cooked food and entertained on a regular basis in this old kitchen for nearly 15 years now, it's not like it doesn't work the way it is.

Hiring a decorator is just not part of my lifestyle and I can't say I wish it could be. I just want the kitchen to be in good repair and to make it warmer if I can. It's on the north side of the house and it's the coldest room in the house, even when I'm cooking. I know if I was really bored with it all, I could paint the cabinets, but that's really more work than I care to take on, so that would be a last gasp measure.

Decisions are still being made; the man is coming on Friday to give us some estimates. We'll see how it all goes. I'm planning on a before and after post, definitely. Eventually...

Funny about Money said...

Well, we found that every time we said to a salesperson that we wished we could afford XXX but would have to settle for less, they would either blow us off altogether or show us the ugliest things in the house. This was as true at HD and Lowe's as anyplace else. The "we'll have to settle for xxx" ploy just didn't work.

We went for relatively low-end cabinetry because at the time we thought we would be selling or renting the house in five to eight years. That was a mistake: the house is now worth so little that in five years there's no way we can get our money out of it, nor, with a depression on, can we rent it for anything like the mortgage payments. Because the cabinets are disguised junk, we probably will end up having to replace them before we can get rid of the house.

In fact, I probably will end up having to sell my own house and move into that house when my son reaches a point where he needs to move on. So, paradoxically, I wish we'd spent a little more to get better quality.

I happen to like Mexican tile for countertops. The guy who was doing our remodel insisted he could install it, and he did the job for less than my regular tile guy would have charged. Here, too, we got what we paid for: having no clue what he was doing, he attached the trim tiles incorrectly. Several of them fell off and had to be reattached with glue. And though Mexican tile is designed to have wide grout lines, these are not supposed to ape the Mississippi River...there's more grout than tile on those counters! I should have insisted on having my regular guy do the job.

On the other hand, I do think Mexican tile (installed correctly) or butcher block does create a somewhat more "timeless" kitchen than regular tile, composites, or granite. Neither Mexican tile nor wood can be manipulated by changing sizes, popularizing certain colors, or creating a rage for a specific product (such as granite). Assuming you care for it decently, in ten years Mexican tile or butcher block should not look dated.

We've been very pleased with the mid-range Sears appliances we put in the kitchen. They work and they hold up. Again, because they're not the height of style, they also are more or less timeless. No matter what you buy, kitchen appliances are now engineered to give out in about seven years, so it's foolish to pay extra for swell-elegant stoves, dishwashers, and refrigerators.

Catherine said...

Our kitchen renovation was top-to-bottom. The floors sagged, the pipes were rusting through, the wiring was dangerous, and the appliances were old and inefficient. I had a rough budget in my mind of $12,000 for everything. In actuality we spent $16,000 but we got a lot for that: new drain pipes for the entire house; new wiring in the whole kitchen; all new cabinets and counters; new stove, fridge, dishwasher, microwave and disposal; refinished hardwoods in the kitchen; and new sub-floor and sheet vinyl floor in the breakfast room. I kept our kitchen renovation frugal in several ways:

1) We did the demolition ourselves- took the cabinets and sink out, gave away the old appliances, removed two layers of wallpaper; and pulled up the old vinyl and sub-floor.
2)I designed the kitchen myself using Ikea's free software program.
3) We bought several floor jacks and rented a sander, and leveled and refinished the hardwood floor ourselves.
4) We bought three of our appliances (stove, microwave, dishwasher, all stainless) at a discount warehouse. They were all one brand, Maytag, which got us an additional $200 rebate from the manufacturer.
5)We got a "floor sample" fridge at a $350 savings from Lowe's. In reality, it was still in the box and in perfect condition. While not stainless, it has a steel-look epoxy finish that's easier to keep clean. And a freezer on the bottom, a feature I love.
6) One of the Ikea cabinet door finishes we liked was 50% off on closeout, which saved us about $850- enough to pay for the Corian countertops. I never wanted granite or tile- it seemed too difficult to keep clean and undamaged, and unfriendly to fragile glasses and dishes.
7) When the electricians and plumbers were through, we patched and painted the walls and ceiling ourselves.
8)We installed the new ceiling light fixture and gas stove ourselves. I also hooked up the icemaker water line myself- the delivery men were supposed to, but it was a freezer-on-bottom model and they didn't know what they were doing. :)
9) Vinyl flooring may not be everyone's cup of tea, but we have three dogs and the matte, finely speckled pattern not only hides muddy paw prints and is easy to mop, it looks exactly like the Corian counter- a happy accident.

While keeping the same basic footprint as the old, the new kitchen has twice the storage and counter space. It might seem stripped down to many people, but it's 150% improvement over what we had before! If anyone is interested, I can link to before- and-after photos.

Duchesse said...

We bought boxes of end-lot Mexican tile (the kitchen is small) but put in an Aga cooker, the full monty 4-oven model. So I would amend Brigitte's approach: figure out what's worth it. It's the heart of the house. And one service call in 17 years.

Frugal Scholar said...

@Shelley--My husband painted our cabinets and it made a huge difference. We did have to replace because they were crumbling from within. If your cabs are structurally sound, you should try it.

@Funny--Don't feel bad about the cabs. The pricy ones re disguised junk too. That is why they are shown with countertops--so you can't see how poorly constructed they are.

Frugal Scholar said...

@Catherine--I should put this up into the text. It is relly a primer on how to save money on renovation. Mine involved much less! I would love to see pictures!

Frugal Scholar said...

@Duchesse-I remain jealous of your AGA (what color?) Luckily, they are not appropriate to my warm climate. I have Mexican tile too. I never thought about replacing it.

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Allon said...

Nice blog i like it
If you start shopping for kitchen cabinets, I suggest that maple wood is one of the most popular material options on the market. It's attributes include:

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