updated kitchen or bathroom can provide a big payoff when you sell
your house ó not to mention the benefits while youíre still living
there. Thereís a wide range of possible improvements, from simple to
extravagant, but it makes sense to spend your money on items that work
best for your lifestyle and your budget. "We ask the customer to
start out by developing a wish list of must-haves and
nice-to-haves," says Molly Madsen, owner of Affordable Bath and
Kitchen in Mequon and Greenfield. "You can achieve what you want
in a number of ways."
Get professional advice early in your
project, says Dave Heigl, director of CabinetWerks in the Third Ward.
"A professional can help you determine the scope of your project
and give you advice concerning what will and wonít work in your
home," he says. "If you just want to update your kitchen,
bring a design expert over to your house to make some suggestions. On
the other hand, if you are planning to enlarge the room, get an
architect involved. These people will help you get the most bang for
your buck," he says.
If you are working on a limited budget,
there are things you can do to make your project more affordable.
"Do some of the work yourself, perhaps the demolition or the
painting," says Steve Sobieski, owner of Weisflogís in
Pewaukee. On the other hand, if you want to do a bigger project, but
you donít want to do it all right away, work with someone who will
help you plan to do it over a period of time, in stages. Put together
a master plan, then figure out what can be done at what point, he
"Maybe you canít get everything
on your wish list, but do your research before so you can get some of
the things that are really important to you," Madsen adds.
1. Cabinets and countertops
The first thing most people think about
when updating a kitchen is new cabinets. "A good quality cabinet
is really important. If you get something that is strong and
well-built, it will last you 20 years," Madsen says. While you
can get cabinets with a plethora of features, if you put something
inside every cabinet, you can increase your price very quickly, she
If you donít want entirely new
cabinets, you can reface or paint them for a striking new look.
"Youíd be surprised at what new cabinet hardware can do,
too," Madsen says.
Decorative crown moldings can add a
classic look to cabinets. "I have gone into kitchens where the
cabinets did not have crown molding on top. Adding that molding and
some lighting really finishes it off nicely," Heigl says.
New countertops also make a big impact
in a kitchen. "Upgrade your countertops from laminate to granite
and you will see a dramatic improvement," says Sobieski.
"The cost of granite has come down significantly in recent years
to almost the same price as Corian. We do a lot of this kind of
work." If you have room, consider installing a kitchen island for
the extra cooking and storage space.
While youíre at it, contemplate a new
sink and faucets. "If you upgrade the sinks in either the kitchen
or bathroom, you are not necessarily talking huge dollars, but it is a
big improvement," Sobieski says. One suggestion: "Use name
brand products so if a problem arises, the manufacturer will stand
behind it," he says.
A splash of color in the form of a tile
backsplash creates a great focal point, Madsen says. Custom ceramic
tiles can be quite expensive, but you can get the look of custom tile
by mixing it with stock tile. "Create a pattern and include some
custom tiles throughout the space," she says.
2. Appliances and flooring
Sparkling new appliances will give your
kitchen a showroom look. A new stove and refrigerator can make all the
difference. "We are still getting a lot of requests for stainless
steel," Sobieski says.
Be realistic about what your room can
accommodate, Heigl advises. "Sometimes people want to put too
much into a kitchen. Theyíll give me a full-page list of appliances
that would require an addition to the room. Create a wish list with
some guidelines. If you think youíre going to use a commercial oven
or a warming drawer, for example, we might be able to work it
in," he says.
If what is underfoot is in sad shape,
it will deflect attention away from your improvements. "We are
installing a lot of tile flooring. It can be expensive, but you can
find very nice stock tile, too," Sobieski notes. Of course,
hardwood floors are still extremely popular.
3. Showers and tubs
A growing number of people are deciding
that they donít need a bathtub in their bathroom. "One thing we
are seeing is people are taking bathtubs or whirlpool tubs out. They
arenít using the tubs, but they do use their showers. Personal
showers are one of the fastest growth areas and it is where you are
going to see more value in the future. If you have one bathroom in the
house with a tub, that is sufficient," says Sobieski.
Adding a master bedroom suite that
includes a master bathroom is very popular as well, says Sobieski.
"There are so many three-bedroom ranches everywhere in this area,
some owners who arenít using all three of the bedrooms any longer
are combining two of those bedrooms and converting it into a master
bedroom suite, including a new master bath," he says.
"Everything is on one level and you arenít tearing up the rest
of the house," he says.
Madsen advises you to give some thought
to how youíre using your house. "Spend your money where you are
going to spend the most time. Most people find they donít use a
whirlpool bath. It would be wiser to spend money on a great new shower
with body sprays and multiple shower heads," she says.