Simple rules for a successful kitchen remodeling job

Think enjoyment, not resale value, say the editors of Consumer Reports. Kitchen remodeling today is all about what you need, rather than some over-the-top designer’s checklist that makes slabs of fine Italian marble, a butler’s pantry and gargantuan appliances seem as necessary as a refrigerator and range.
Consumer Reports calls it the return of the classic kitchen — one that’s welcoming, efficient and timeless, not glitzy or super-sized. In short, a room you want to spend time in for years to come.
And CR points out that now is a perfect time to get started, before remodeling activity starts to heat up later this year, as many experts predict. You’ll find plum deals on countertops and flooring, the best contractors eager for work and willing to negotiate, and stylish, less-expensive appliances with premium features — such as induction on ranges and cooktops and improved insulation on refrigerators — that boost function and efficiency. You’ll also see a growing number of “green” products, such as bamboo flooring, that deliver performance and value.
The average amount spent on a kitchen remodel is $15,000. But no matter how much money you plan to spend, these four simple rules apply:
1. Don’t rush. If it’s been a while since you thought about remodeling, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the wealth of innovative products that combine value, performance and good looks. Take the time — anywhere from a few weeks to several months, depending on the scope of your project — to meet with pros, browse the Internet and visit showrooms and home centers. Haste can also be expensive. Changing their minds after the work got started typically added about $1,500 to the cost of a kitchen project, according to almost 3,000 readers CR surveyed about the hidden costs of remodeling.
2. Don’t get stuck on size. Bloated showpieces are out. In addition to being expensive, huge kitchens can be exhausting to work in. There should be only about 4 to 9 feet of space between the sink and the refrigerator or between the sink and the stove, according to the National Kitchen & Bath Association. Islands should be only 3 to 4 feet deep and 3 to 10 feet wide and have a 42-inch-wide aisle between the island and surrounding cabinets. Anything bigger can be hard to use and clean.
3. Beware of budget busters. “While we’re at it …” are words that can break any budget. It’s one thing to make unexpected structural repairs (in fact, you should leave a 10 to 15 percent cushion in your budget for such surprises), but it’s another to add decorative flourishes just because a skilled carpenter happens to be in your kitchen. But don’t settle for a cheap option, promising yourself that someday you’ll replace it with what you really want.
4. Get everything in writing. Whenever you hire a pro, the written contract should list each phase of the project; every product, including the model number; and copies of each contractor’s license and workers compensation and liability insurance to confirm that they’re still in effect. Call references and, if possible, visit them for a visual inspection.
Common Remodeling Gripes
CR asked homeowners and contractors to tell them their troubles. Here’s what they said:
Homeowners sound off. General contractors were significantly more aggravating than subcontractors such as plumbers, electricians, and painters, though not quite as annoying as the cable or satellite guy, according to a nationally representative survey of 913 homeowners conducted by the Consumer Reports National Research Center. Failing to show up was the top complaint. Also annoying were not taking the time needed to do the job right, not listening or understanding requests, and leaving a mess.
Contractors’ pet peeves. Kids and pets were on the list. Other complaints included homeowners calling at all hours of the night and not appreciating the minor imperfections that come with handcrafted work.

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