Diary of a kitchen renovation: how to start

September 17, 2015, 2:50 pm Peter Boehm Yahoo7 Finance

The ultimate guide to giving your kitchen an overhaul.

We’ve just gone through the joys and travails of a kitchen makeover. And this was no ordinary renovation.

We gutted the old kitchen and went for something completely new – a different design and a different layout. It got me thinking about our experiences (good and bad) and I thought it was something worth sharing.

Also read: Ten warning signs a property may have problems - Part One

So, for those of you who are thinking about a kitchen update (or any other major renovation) here are the first five of my top ten takeaways which I hope you’ll find of interest:

1. Know when it’s time to update

For those of us who have been living in the same home for some time, there comes a point when a simple coat of paint is not enough to reflect what we need, not to mention that all things age and wear out (especially in the kitchen) and eventually need replacing and modernising.

And so it was with us when after 15 years we realised it was time to bring out the sledge hammer and redesign our beloved kitchen.

It held some great memories for us as it was the heart of our home but it was beyond reasonable repair and it was time to bring it into the twenty-first century.

Also read: Ten warning signs a property may have problems - Part Two

2. Get your property valued before you begin

I realised from the outset this was not going to be cheap exercise and so I wanted to make sure it was going to be a worthwhile investment in terms of time and money.

Even though I believed updating our kitchen was a sensible move and would add value, I nevertheless wanted to test my thinking and so arranged for a couple of local selling agents to provide me with an indicative valuation before we commenced.

As an aside, one way you could select your selling agents is by jumping online and looking for those who are actively selling in your area.

There are some real benefits of doing this before committing emotionally and financially.

Chief among these is that a good selling agent will give you an independent and unbiased opinion from a sales/price estimate perspective including matters such as whether your kitchen really does need updating, what impact the renovation will have on enhancing demand and whether you’re likely to at least get back your investment through a higher sales price.

I had the added bonus of one selling agent politely asking me whether an update of our bathrooms was on our list! And yes they are, because like our kitchen they’re over 15 years old – but those renovations are another story….

Also read: Ten warning signs a property may have problems – Part Three

3. Work out what you can and should spend

This is a very important step. Firstly you have to work out what you can reasonably afford and how you might fund your renovation. So this comes down to budgeting, getting your finances in order (for instance, assessing whether you should or can draw down on your home loan to pay for the renovation) and working out how soon you can afford to start.

Secondly, you need to understand how much you should invest to avoid spending too much and over-capitalising.

This is where getting some advice and insights from local selling agents can pay real dividends.

In my case I discussed some ball-park figures with the agents I approached to make sure my planned spending was appropriate for the property and the area.

Interestingly, not only must you be weary of spending too much, but you also have to be mindful of spending too little as lack of appropriate investment can undermine adding value.

When budgeting for a new kitchen here are some key cost elements to consider:

• Design costs (this is normally free but you should check beforehand just in case)
• Cabinetry, draw sliders and handles
• Splash backs
• Benchtops
• Tapware
• Trade works – electrics, plumbing, plastering and demolition of old kitchen
• Project management
• Lighting e.g. internal/under cabinetry lighting
• Major appliances. This in addition to the kitchen and can be a big cost. Like the kitchen itself, the appliances need to be appropriate for the property and the area. If you’re replacing everything, you may need to spend considerable sums on things like a new fridge, oven (or ovens), cook top, dishwasher, exhaust fan, power points and light switches.

Also read: Ten warning signs a property may have problems – Part Four

4. Think about who you might approach for a quote

Once you have a rough idea of what you can afford to spend and a general idea of the kitchen design you’d like, it’s time to get some quotes.

I would start with approaching family and friends who may be able to recommend someone they’ve dealt with in the past, or know of someone who’s had a good experience renovating a kitchen.

A personal recommendation from someone you know and trust is by far the strongest form of endorsement. For instance, the kitchen supplier we ended up with came via a recommendation from a tradesperson we use regularly.

Before that we reached out to a number of specialist kitchen installers, cabinet makers and DIY kitchen suppliers.

We were able to cross off the DIY suppliers (because we needed a custom kitchen and didn’t want the hassle of installing and project managing the kitchen ourselves) and cabinet makers (largely due to their lack of interest and their price) and came to the conclusion that a specialist kitchen designer and installer was probably the best approach for us.

In the meantime, we arranged for four quotes and visited a couple of DIY stores to get a sense of alternatives and design options.

It took us around two months from when we started until we finally got a quote from a supplier we were happy with.

The important lesson here is to take your time and not rush and be willing to say no if you don’t like what you see.

Remember, in an ideal world a new kitchen should last around ten years so it’s important to get it right from the start.

5. You need to be flexible and prepared to compromise

You’ll probably have a reasonably clear idea on what you want in terms of layout and design but whether this is achievable will depend on your budget and the space and footprint of your existing kitchen.

I think it’s important therefore to separate out those things which are “must haves” (the things you can’t live without) and those that are “nice-to-haves” (the little extras you can do without just fine).

For instance you may have to compromise on things like bench space or number of cupboards if space is tight or you’re renovating on a limited budget.

This may also extend to kitchen appliance brands which ideally should match the overall quality and design of the base kitchen, including benchtops.

Good kitchen designers should be able to give you guidance and advice on what can and can’t be done and what best meets your budget.

In my next column I’ll share with you my final five insights including the hidden costs of a kitchen renovation and what to do before you make the final payment.

Peter Boehm is the Finance Editor of onthehouse.com.au which offers a unique information source on virtually every property in Australia and provides data on a property’s sold and rental history as well as current property valuations. The onthehouse.com.au Investor Centre provides research on suburbs, market update reports and calculators to help investors make informed property decisions.

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