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Seven Questions Before You Start a Kitchen Remodel

The kitchen makeover is the most visible, most expensive, and most angst-ridden household project. Plan it well and swell with pride, even though your financial advisor may crumble in despair. Here is a quick list of things to consider to get you off to a good start.

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  1. Motivation. What is driving you? Are your Jonesing to remodel, or remodeling to keep up with the Joneses? Is your kitchen outmoded? Too small? Ugly? Do you just plain hate it? Maybe you have some inheritance money to burn.
  2. Extent. Do you want to take the room down to bare studs? Or do you want to keep it simple and, perhaps, just reface the cabinets? Or do you want to go really berzerko and move walls, re-plumb and rewire? Maybe add a skylight or two.
  3. Quality. Just how far up the "high-end" scale do you want to go? You can skimp or splurge on virtually every element of your kitchen. And in deciding this, you need to consider Point 4.
  4. What's appropriate? Usually, you don't want to build beyond the level of your neighborhood. Know that if you pump $60,000 into a 1300-square-foot home in a tract neighborhood, you aren't going to get much of that money back if you sell. And your neighbors might think you are just a little ostentatious.
  5. Distribution of Labor. How much work will you do yourself, including design? Maybe you just do some deconstruction. Maybe you refinish cabinet doors or hang the new cabinets (try it only if you are a precision freak). Do you know a certifiably wonderful contractor who will do the job, or do you want to hire subcontractors?
  6. Waddya mean, no kitchen for a month! Are you prepared for the disruption? Even if your project keeps to schedule (and how often does that happen?), you may be without a kitchen for a couple of weeks, and likely much longer.
  7. The Black Hole. Maybe the budget should be the first item to consider, but really, do you want to be depressed before even beginning the project? One remodeler suggested--not so tongue in cheek--that you do a rough budget, then double it. For good measure add a few thousand dollars more. Follow the same process for the schedule.

These are some general suggestions for starting your project. You should explore every element in detail--know prices, timing, what's good, better or best. Remember, careful planning on the front end keeps your remodel from being a pain in the back end.

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