Posted in Consumer Protection, Hot Topics, Planning, Return on Investment

Weighing in on the Cost of Remodeling

An article in the San Francisco Chronicle, “Save Money: remodeling now, upgrade later” by Arrol Gellner, has merit however I have to take issue with a couple of points. Namely, I disagree that the idea of buying inexpensive cabinets now and replacing later is not as simple as Mr. Gellner makes it appear to be. Secondly, Arrol Gellner’s appliance advise may lead to complications later. Kitchen Designer Peggy Deras, has successfully challenged this idea that appliances are not easy to replace later because appliance cut out sizes are not standardized. Please read on at Kitchen-Exchange for her article, Comment on Arrol Gellner’s Appliance Advise.

I have been a fan of Mr. Gellner since I was introduced to his work and insightful articles on architecture, however I would have to argue with his idea of cabinets being fairly simple to remove and replace. Mr. Gellner’s theory of using budget cabinentry for the short term a fairly open-ended way to save money may not be so simple or cost effective.

I would caution that homeowners be aware of the variance in toe kick’s depths from different cabinets manufacturers. A standard 24″ deep cabinet may have a toe kick depth of 21″ but I have seen variances, which leads to the question about what to do with the scar on the floor. If the difference is less than 3/4″ than a matching shoe base can be installed to hide the gap. If the foot print of the cabinets changes, even slightly, means the flooring will have to be patched or replaced.

If you have a peninsula, and you want to change it later, (shorten it, angle it, or remove it) and the flooring is hardwood and continues throughout the rest of the home, the patching in of the new material will show a visible shade difference, unless the whole floor is sanded and refinished. So what to do? In order to make this budget transition work, and remain “simple and cost effective later”, keep the footprint fairly the same, always order extra floor material, for repairs later, or do as they do in Europe, tile under all the cabinets now, so no matter how the foot print varies later, this makes using budget cabinetry for the short term a fairly open-ended way to save money. Yet, one has to question, is a short term investment in new budget cabinets really a good investment? I would suggest a better way to save money in the short term by painting the old cabinets now, removing really ugly wall cabinet doors and opt for open shelves instead. Paint kitchen cabinets is very budget friendly, while planning to remodel the kitchen properly later is a better investment.

The Los Angeles Times, Real Estate section, Sunday January 6, had a great article by Marni Jameson I recommend everyone read before remodeling. “Mad for makeovers” is about homeowners that focus on remodeling for comfort, not resale. The article quotes Dan Fritchen, that “remodeling in a down market can make a lot of sense…you just have to be smart about it”, author of 2005’s “Remodel or Move? Make the Right Decision.”

Quoting the article, A national survey that Fritchen’s Web company, conducted last fall among 5,000 homeowners found that folks are planning to spend as much as ever on home improvements in 2008 but they plan to do so more carefully.

Also the article profiles one homeowners justification for remodeling rather than moving. Mark Yegsigian of Laguna Hills is a certified public accountant and financial planner who also has a real estate license. He describes himself as “the bean counter’s bean counter.” He has some sage advise on remodeling and able to back up his statement with the numbers to prove it.

Another safe move, Fritschen added, is fixing a design problem. For instance, it could pay to open up a galley kitchen and add space or an island. Likewise, if you expand a tiny bathroom, you probably won’t lose.

Fritschen says, “I don’t see galley kitchens or tiny baths ever coming back.”



Laurie Burke, connected to the design and construction industry since 1996. A seasoned residential kitchen and bath design specialist , Laurie has designed thousands of kitchens & baths as well as other cabinetry projects requiring technical precision in design drafting utilizing state of the art 2020 software for creating accurate plans and elevations. Through on- going product knowledge training and a desire to always stay current with an evolving marketplace, Laurie Burke maintains a strong command of knowing the appropriate Fit & Finish materials required for a residential remodel to meet the budget, the timeline of a project and a client's need for a finished product that meets their satisfaction. Kitchen Designer by trade, foodie, techie, weekend traveler for fun. For more information contact me at

2 thoughts on “Weighing in on the Cost of Remodeling

  1. Great bounce Laurie!The problem with just putting flooring underneath the cabinets, as they do in Europe where cabinets move with the owners rather than staying with the house, is that flooring details like a walnut inlay in a wood floor that follows the line of the cabinetry become difficult to achieve without the cabinets in place.There is also the issue of our floors that sag in older homes: Cabinets MUST be level, but there is no limit to how much a floor can go up and down.I had one kitchen in San Francisco where the floor fell away over three inches in a course of a run of cabinets around the room. It made for some pretty tall base cabinets on the low end of the run, even with trimming toekicks down, you are limited by the height of dishwashers and other undercounter appliances.It’s challenging, to say the least, for a contractor to deal with such issues: and becomes even more so when the floor is prefinished under the cabinets.Peggy


  2. Oh, yes how that is true about older homes and floors! Designing in Santa Barbara, I got in the habit of ordering 12″ wide 1/4″ skins that the installer could rip to size for toe kicks rather than using the standard toe kick material.


Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s