What Will You Remodel First? The Kitchen or the Bath?

Arizona Republic
Rosie on the House
Feb. 15, 2014

 What Will You Remodel First? The Kitchen or the Bath?RosieLogo_web
By Rosie Romero
Special to The Arizona Republic

OK, yesterday was Valentine’s Day; maybe you bought your husband, wife or best friend something special like golf clubs or jewelry. But maybe you promised them that this year you would have the bathroom or kitchen remodeled.

If you did, you’re not alone because remodelers tell us that after doing almost nothing to renovate their homes since 2008, homeowners feel good enough about their finances to start remodeling.

The only problem is that you have let it go so long that everything needs a facelift. The kitchen looks worn and outdated from top to bottom, and so does the bathroom. So what to do first? And how much or how little can you spend?

The first issue to tackle is whether you plan to stay in your house a while or not. You don’t want to invest $20,000 or more in your house when you might not stay and enjoy the improvements. Will you be there at least five to 10 years?  Even if you are leaving, remodeling kitchen and/or bath can be a great selling point for your house. But you may not recover more than about 70 to 80 percent of what you have invested.

If you’re staying a while, money might still be an issue. Generally, it is less expensive to do the master bath than the kitchen, but $5,000 to $7,000 won’t get you very far even in the bath; generally it’s more like $15,000 to have any impact.

Remodeling Magazine says that a current bathroom remodel in the Phoenix area is likely to cost about $15,600 for a moderate remodel, including a new tub; new shower controls; a new toilet; a new vanity countertop; and a ceramic tile floor.  An upscale remodel would cost $50,600 including a new shower with ceramic tile walls and luxury fixtures; a custom bathtub; stone countertop with two sinks; ceramic tile floor; and custom cabinets.

What do you need to change to keep up with the rest of your neighborhood? Remodelers and architects tell us that homeowners are fanatical about removing all the cultured marble from their bathrooms. That includes those one-piece cultured marble countertops with the built-in sinks. They’re replacing them with granite – the most popular – or solid surfaces like quartz.

They’re taking out cultured-marble garden tubs and putting in two-person, walk-in showers with frameless glass walls and showerheads glitzy enough for a $400 a night hotel. If you’re thinking about that, remember to keep at least one bathtub in your house because everybody needs a tub once in a while, especially little kids and dogs. If you do keep a tub in the master bath, put in a sleek standalone tub that takes up less space.
Olsen_Bath_1 O_Bath_2 In total bathroom remodels, says a recent houzz.com survey, there is an increasing desire, especially among those over 35, to put the toilet in a separate enclosure or behind a partition. The same survey indicated that only 35 percent of those polled have double sinks in the bath; but more than half want them.

The height of bathroom cabinets has become an issue as well, according to John Reuter of Assurance Builders in Tucson. Many subdivision homes in the past 15 years were built with bathroom vanity cabinets 30 inches high; now they’re being replaced with 36-inch high models. Homeowners are also getting rid of over-sized, wall to wall mirrors and using some of the freed-up wall space for storage cabinets to house towels plus electric toothbrushes, hair dryers, extra bottles of shampoo and conditioner, and wrinkle removers.

Reuter suggests that if cost is an issue, pare all your ideas down to just replacing that cultured-marble shower enclosure or changing counter-tops if your cabinets are in great shape. Update the faucets and shower fixtures and replace the toilet, and you’ll probably feel a lot better about the bathroom.

Other lower cost changes for the bath: Repaint in new colors, including the cabinets; add a new larger medicine cabinet; change from one giant mirror to two smaller ones and then add more lighting on the walls above sinks; and finally replace knobs on cabinets.

In the kitchen, homeowners continue to want to open up the room to adjoining rooms, according to Tom Reilly of Renovations in Northern Arizona. That same houzz.com survey mentioned before says that 77 percent of those surveyed want a kitchen that flows into dining and living spaces. Stainless steel remains the most popular option, along with neutral colors and a tile back splash.

Homeowners also want granite or quartz countertops, cabinets with pull-out drawers, and unique storage options like wine racks, according to Reilly.

They also want islands where guests can gather while the cook puts dinner together or family members can have a casual meal. There’s a new emphasis on lighting fixtures including pendant lights and under-cabinet LED lighting.
Olsen_Kitchen_2In the kitchen, builders tell us you need $35,000 to $45,000 to make a real impact by just changing all the surfaces and replacing at least some appliances. But a major upscale kitchen remodel can cost almost $108,000 in Phoenix, according to a recent study by Remodeling Magazine. That luxury remodel would include such features as custom cabinets, stone countertops with ceramic or glass tile backsplash, a commercial grade range, built-in refrigerator, built-in microwave, under-mount sink with designer faucets and new lighting and floors.

Even if that’s too much for your budget, you might fund a few improvements:

Put in a backsplash to add more personality; reface or repaint your cabinets; change the knobs on your cabinets; put glass fronts on a few of your cabinet doors; change the faucets; take out the soffits above the cabinets to add more storage space.

If you’ve decided to move, however, instead of making a major remodel, you still have to clean up some problems and fix a few eyesores in your home, according to Realtors. Next week, we’ll talk about spiffing up your house to sell it.

For more do-it-yourself tips, go to rosieonthehouse.com. An Arizona home building and remodeling industry expert for 25 years, Rosie Romero is the host of the syndicated Saturday morning Rosie on the House radio program heard locally in Phoenix on KTAR-FM (92.3) from 8-11 a.m. Consult our Web site for other listings. Call 888-767-4348.

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