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 Thursday, April 24th, 2014

In today’s active household, the kitchen is unquestionably the “heart” of the home. Researchers say we spend as much as 60 to 70% of our waking hours in the kitchen. Sleek designer appliances, stunning cabinetry, luscious counter surfaces and lots of non-cooking amenities – like TV’s, DVD’s, computers and theatrical-quality lighting – have kitchens surpassing living, dining and/or family rooms as the entertainment and activity focal point in today’s homes. (And if you have any doubt as to the magical “draw” of today’s kitchen…just invite some friends over and see where the party congregates.)

However, maybe yours isn’t one of those “magazine-quality” designer kitchens that draws lots of attention and visitation time. If instead, counter clutter, dripping faucets and tired appliances – in out-of-date “once popular” colors (such as Avocado or Harvest Gold) – drives you, your family and guests away, then it is definitely time to update.

Improving and updating your kitchen can range from a simple cosmetic make-over to a full-blown redesign and remodel. To help you get underway, here are some suggestions, ideas and resources – ranging from the super easy to state-of-the-art dream kitchen remodeling.


First, eliminate crusty hard water deposits on faucets, sinks and counters that have accumulated over the years. Two easy answers: (1) soak a rag or paper towel with white vinegar, cover the area and let it sit for a few hours and (2) use 100% pure Sodium Carbonate (also known as Washing Soda). Sold at swimming pool supply stores as “Soda Ash.”

Next, remove clutter to make counters look larger and more inviting. A trip to your local hardware store, home center or Bed and Bath shop will provide a vast array of ingenious and affordable under- and in-cabinet convenience and storage products. Today, your only limitation is research, budget and imagination. If you're clever, a little of each goes a very long way.

Eliminate unsightly “wear and tear” wherever possible. Start by recaulking the kitchen sink and regrouting the backsplash and tile. If you’ve been putting this off because you don’t want to tie-up the most important room for 24-hours or more (until it sets up) – you’re in luck. Today, new fast-dry silicone rubber sealants can withstand water contact in just two hours after application. For info go to: http://www.polyseamseal.com/ click on “speed seal.” It’s mildew-resistant too.

Touching-up chips in porcelain sinks is also a cost-effective alternative to replacement that you can do yourself, with kits available at home centers or with the help of a professional. In either case, appearance will be greatly improved and persistent rust will be held at bay – for a while, at least.

New Euro-styled faucets give any kitchen a great visual and functional boost. The gleaming chrome of a contemporary design – with pull-out spray head – gives a big dose of “now” (and “wow”) for a minimal investment.

Lighting is another way to make your kitchen more up to date. Start by upgrading old kitchen toggle wall switches with more contemporary options. Dimmers are another way to add drama and elegance. For info visit http://www.lutron.com/hlc.

Under cabinet task lighting sheds light where it was previously dark and gray.

Use easy to install low-voltage surface-mount halogen lights that run surface wiring through small tubes called raceways to nearby outlets. Warm-and-bright task lighting does more to make your kitchen a comfortable place in which to work than any other home improvement.

Replacing kitchen cabinet and drawer hardware with new knobs or pulls is a quick and inexpensive way to put a new face on your kitchen. For info visit: http://www.kitchen-cabinet-design-ideas.com/cabinet-decorative-hardware-kitchen.html.

In addition to painting, adding new wall covering and repairing or replacing damaged flooring, you might also consider a ceiling fan for the breakfast nook.

Stepping Up to “Better”

Refacing of all types is a great option for updating kitchens. The most common and best known technique is “cabinet” refacing, which simply puts fresh new doors and drawer fronts on the existing cabinetry. New hardware, adding pullout shelves and interior cabinet amenities helps complete the upgrade.

Many homeowners are not aware that they can also reface older appliances as well, with a vast array options – ranging from new panels ordered from the manufacturer that simply slide into existing frames (in sleek colors and metallic finishes) to a variety of new custom-order face panel kits that turn dreary dishwashers and refrigerators into now and “wow.” Want real stainless steel? A chalkboard or a cork bulletin board refrigerator front? Maybe a splash of brilliant color? You can even have lavish, rich wood grains with a beautiful finish and detailed trim. Visit http://www.frigodesign.com/php/index.php. Today, refacing both cabinets and appliances makes older kitchens look like new!

Another great option for upgrading without breaking the bank is to “reface” existing countertops. A new technique transforms tired old counters into gleaming granite in just two or three days for about two-thirds of what true granite costs. It’s 95% percent real granite, ground and blended with polymer resin that is formed into large slabs only one-quarter inch thick. It is then installed right over existing counters for a real granite look. It's heat-, stain- and scratch-resistant, doesn't need sealing, and (unlike real granite) carries a 10-year warranty. Visit http://www.granitetransformations.com/granitecountertops.html .

Other great mid-range “Better” ideas include, replacing appliances with new energy-saving models, removing dropped-ceilings with fluorescent light fixtures (and replacing them with dimmer-controlled recessed lighting) and maybe even adding a skylight. For info on the latter, visit http://www.veluxusa.com/products/

When Only the Very “Best” Will Do

If it’s time for a complete redesign and remodel from top to bottom, call in the experts. There are a wide range of specialty kitchen shops and Certified Kitchen Designers in most areas, and home centers now offer qualified design and installation services as well. For help in getting started, visit the National Kitchen and Bath Association at http://www.nkba.org/.

In addition to choosing the type and style of cabinetry that suites your taste and needs, be sure to investigate the options with regard to redesigning your existing layout and the addition of desirable features – such as adding a center island.

Counters are generally considered to be the most important single element in overall kitchen design and choosing the right material for a complete remodel is a daunting task. For an overview and look at today’s top 10 materials, visit:

http://interiordec.about.com/od/kitchencounters/tp/tp_countertops.htm . There you’ll find that granite is the number one choice – and it is the most expensive.

However, there is one option that provides a beautiful granite countertop at about half the cost (or less). Granite tile, which is often used by the budget-conscious, has recently gotten even better with bullnose edges, inside/outside corners and pre-formed backsplashes. Check it out.

A complete kitchen remodel gives you an opportunity to include the latest in dazzling energy-efficient designer appliances, sleek interior wall surfaces and dramatic flooring – in rich wood or sleek imported tiles. And don’t overlook the opportunity to reconfigure existing windows or to replace old dreary sliders with elegant hinged French Doors. For info visit

http://www.therma-tru.com/patiodoors.aspx .

Do Your “Home” Work

Review the many products and technologies that are available today. Learn what benefits they can or do provide and determine what is right for you and your family, your lifestyle and your pocketbook.Bank of America’s Home Equity business recently sponsored the Study of Life expectancy of Home components, which gives homeowners a detailed overview of how long certain products and improvements will last, so they can make the right choices for the long-term. For instance, if well cared for, kitchen cabinets can last for 50 years, while granite countertops will last a lifetime.

Also, investigate financing options for your kitchen upgrades or remodeling – including a home equity loan or line of credit with Bank of America, Equal Housing Lender *. Click here for more information.

And don’t overlook “hidden” benefits of investing in major energy-saving appliances and improvements – such as various income, property and sales tax credits offered by federal, state and city governments.http://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?c=Products.pr_tax_credits

Some utilities also offer energy discounts and credits. Many now also use “tiered” pricing and by decreasing the amount of electricity, gas or water used, you could fall into a lower pricing tier and be charged at a lower and more favorable rate.    

Upgrading for today and Tomorrow

Beyond all of the obvious and immediate reasons for upgrading your kitchen there is still one more important consideration: resale value and potential return on your investment.

The recently published “2007 Cost vs. Value Report” by Remodeling magazine http://www.costvsvalue.com revealed the following national averages for:

           
Project Cost Return Percentage
Minor Kitchen Remodel $21,185 $17,576 83%
Major Kitchen Remodel $55,503 $43,363 78.1%
Ultra Kitchen Remodel $109,394 $81,096 74.1%

Lesson learned? Bigger projects (and bigger budgets) generally have a slightly smaller return percentage-wise. Being a bit more frugal (and creative) pays if you’re planning to sell. If you’re planning to stay – go all the way.

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The Carey Brothers, James and Morris, are nationally renowned experts on home building, remodeling and everyday household maintenance. They share their three decades of experience as award-winning contractors with regular appearances on television, on radio – with their own "On The House" weekly program – and in “how to” articles in magazines and syndicated columns in hundreds of newspapers. The Carey Brothers' entertaining and informative "tips" for homeowners are also heard daily on hundreds of radio stations nationwide. Their latest books, Home Remodeling for Dummies and Home Maintenance for Dummies, are available in bookstores everywhere.

*Credit and collateral are subject to approval. Terms and conditions apply.

Bank of America  Equal Housing Lender

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