A hub for much more than just meal preparation, kitchens are the emotional center of a home, where members congregate, tell each other their days, eat their dinners or breakfasts, and of course, cook and bake. This hasn’t always been so. The kitchen’s modern iteration as the hub of a house is actually fairly recent.
Until just before the first World War, kitchens were dark, dirty areas with poor ventilation. Cooking was done over smoky fires which left soot. Indeed, some architectural styles separated them from the rest of the home with a wide hallway or housed them in independent buildings (which also reduced the ever-present risk of fire). At the beginning of the 1900s, however, fuels such as gas and electricity became more widely available for home use, and the industrial age made mass production of cooking appliances economically feasible for most modern homes.
The kitchen was then re-designed, and re-imagined, dispensing with the clutter and the disorganization that had been typical. Architects such as Margarete Schütte-Lihotzky created designs equipped with gas stoves and built-in storage, and subsequent designers continued to focus efforts on improving functionality.
Post-WWII, the American economy’s significant boom helped the country dominate the world market in consumer goods. The wartime research into new materials and technologies was used by large companies such as General Electric, Westinghouse, and Rubbermaid, to develop innovative products with an emphasis on consumer choice. Kitchens came to take on more and more social functions, especially in increasingly spacious suburban settings, thereby growing into the central hub we know today. The kitchen then became a female space, a haven for the idealized domesticity of the comfortable housewife.
All of which brings us to the present day, when kitchens reign as the most important room in the house is virtually undisputed. It’s the locus of childhood memories, a place where busy families spend what little time they have together, where meals are both prepared and served (especially as the formal dining room is used less and less). It should come as no surprise, therefore, that realtors agree that a minor kitchen remodel is one of the savviest improvements a homeowner can make, recouping an average of 92.9 percent (and upwards of 100 percent, depending on the market). Let’s look, then, at the top ten reasons to remodel a kitchen.
1. It’s falling apart – This is obviously the number one reason to remodel a kitchen, or for that matter, any room in the house. Broken or outdated appliances, cracked tiles, peeling Formica countertops, missing doors, worn runners, cabinets that are separating from the wall…the list can go on. A kitchen in this state of deterioration merely has outlived its useful life and needs something more than a painting facelift can give.
2. To increase the value – As we mentioned above, kitchens are the center of a home. And buyers look for kitchens that are already attractive and functional. Even a small remodel can help sell a home, though this will depend on other factors, such as current market prices and location.
3. You’re spending too much on your power bill – Outdated appliances can take a toll on your wallet that can be remedied easily with newer, energy-efficient ones and solar-powered water heaters. Adding skylights can also help reduce the need for lighting, aside from providing prettier, natural sunshine for those Instagram pics.
4. It’s too retro – Maybe the last occasion a contractor stepped foot in your kitchen was at some point in the mid-70s. The harvest yellows, the laminate cabinets, the brightly spotted backsplash (seriously, polka dot tiles?!), the avocado-colored dishwasher may all have been the height of style forty years ago, but have quite frankly become unbearable to live with, (and that’s without even mentioning the oddly placed cabinetry and wine racks around the window). If any of this sounds familiar, maybe it’s time to redo your kitchen.
5. Unsuitability – Even if the kitchen layout was a great fit for the previous owner, it might not meet your needs. Kids may require an area with a computer for their homework, you need more shelving and storage for all your kitchen gadgets, maybe you want to open the space into the dining room for an open plan, or perhaps it’s as simple as putting in a breakfast nook. For whatever the reason, the way the kitchen is formatted doesn’t suit your needs.
6. Special needs or aging in place – If a homeowner has a person with special needs in their family, there may be some modifications that can better accommodate disabled members. Lowering cabinets and sinks, incorporating pull-out drawers, cutting boards and spice racks can prove crucial for wheelchair-bound loved ones. Another similar situation may occur when homeowners wish to age in place, with comparable solutions, including rounding corners, a pull-out pantry, and slip-resistant flooring.
7. Economic incentives – As people are gaining a greater consciousness of the need for energy efficiency, the U.S. government has followed suit, offering tax credits to consumers who purchase renewable energy products (https://www.energystar.gov/about/federal_tax_credits). Some retailers also host periodic sales of energy-efficient appliances or cash rebates for outdated equipment. Consumers may even find remodeling grants and low- or no-interest loans at home improvement centers.
8. Change – The popularity of home improvement shows, combined with the proliferation of online mood boards such as Pinterest, have likely led to a more significant interest in home improvement and renovations, as consumers get more of a feel for the endless design possibilities available to them. Whether to cater to gourmet tastes and recently acquired culinary skills (here’s looking at you: eight burners, double oven, pot filler, griddle, and salamander), or merely to enhance its attractiveness, maybe a kitchen remodel is the right choice, just because.
The number one reason for remodeling a kitchen, surprisingly, is this last one. Most homeowners break down and redo their kitchens mainly because they can, and they just can’t stand the current one. Day after day, homeowners walk into a kitchen and spend a considerable amount of time in there, it’s no wonder that it’s also the room in the house that most buyers change first.
The bottom line is that a kitchen remodel can offer many advantages when done correctly. Above all, it’s important to make sure you have a large enough budget saved for the fixes you’d like—if this is impossible in your current situation, we also have a really good list of small fixes that can upgrade the look of your space. Next, it’s a good idea to determine whether there’s any part of the remodel you can do yourself, if you’re an avid DIYer with actual skills--remember, if you ruin something, it’ll probably cost more to fix it than having had it done professionally in the first place, so be honest about your abilities.
Extensive remodels require permits, as well, so that’s another consideration to keep in mind. If you do decide to go the contractor route, it’s always a good idea to ask for referrals from people you know who have recently had work done. If this isn’t possible, let your fingers do the walking and do some research. Once you have a shortlist, check references, and ask to see some pictures of recent projects. You’re hiring a service provider, not a product, and the quality of that service will be fundamental in the quality of the finished project.