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How To Improve Your Home's Look and Value With Your Cabinets and Countertops

Jan 30, 2008
This article is dedicated to giving little tidbits of information about how to improve your biggest investment - your home! We'll look at how you add value to your house without breaking the bank and point you to valuable resources that will give you the really solid 'how to' information about updating and remodeling your home.

The first place you want to look if you're going to improve the value of your home is your kitchens and bathrooms. These areas of the home are said to be the place where you get the most bang for your home improvement buck. I'd like to help you understand not just how to improve your kitchens and bathrooms, but how to do it yourself without overspending.

The first thing you have to talk about when it comes to improving the look and value of your kitchen is the counter tops. I know the stock answer - GRANITE. Is granite the best way to add value to your kitchen and home? The answer has to be a big maybe. Granite may or may not build the value additional value into your home. It really depends on your neighborhood and the style trends in the area you live.

Why are people so in love with granite? Partly because it just feels expensive and high quality. Standard formica or particle board laminate counter tops can feel and look cheap if they're not done well. Granite can give the entire kitchen an air of class and 'expensiveness' (yes I know that's not a word). My recommendation before you go out and spend $5,000 t $10,000 on granite counter tops is to look at your neighbors' kitchens. If they all have granite, you may want to consider making the investment. If they don't have granite, it might not be worth the cost from an investment perspective.

More on your counter tops. You'll want to consider the less expensive alternatives, such as solid surface (or Corian) and formica.

Corian is basically a synthetic imitation of granite, and it can be a very attractive, low cost option for those of you who'd rather spend $3,000 than $6,000 for very similar-looking kitchen surfaces. Although you can tell the difference between granite and Corian, the only thing you're really losing out on is the snob factor. A nice Corian in attractive colors will impress your guests every bit as much as the granite. Except it costs about half as much. Not a bad deal right?

The last type of countertop worth mentioning is formica. Trust me, not all formica is created equal. Just because formica is the least expensive option doesn't mean it needs to be the ugliest. A lot of people don't seem to realize that though. I have seen some pretty horrible colors and patterns chosen by otherwise intelligent people.

Here's the best formica advice I can give: choose a pattern and colors that closely approximate granite. Normally, when products try to imitate their more-expensive versions they fall very short. Formica in granite patterns and colors breaks that stereotype. In my last home we had a black speckled formica for our kitchen surfaces, and most of the people thought it was granite until we pointed out to them that it wasn't.

Another piece of formica advice: choose the 'bull-nose' finish for the edges. Bull-nose means the edges of the counters are rounded so there aren't any obvious seams in the formica. This finish was the biggest factor how our counter tops were able to fool people visiting our kitchen. The bull-nose finish will be a little more expensive. It's definitely worth it.

One of the most unfortunate choices I see people make in choosing their kitchen design is taking really expensive granite or solid surface counter tops and putting them on the cheapest, ugliest kitchen cabinets you can imagine. I'll put it to you straight, no matter how expensive your counter tops are, they won't compensate for ugly cabinets.

Ironically the opposite can be true. If you have really classy expensive cabinets, they can make your counters appear more expensive than they actually are. In our last home my wife chose really nice (and expensive) cabinets. Combined with our formica that looked like granite, it turned out fantastic. Every person that ever came into our kitchen complimented my wife on her design choices.

I guess I'm saying the bottom line is if you're going to spend money in the kitchen, spend it on the cabinets.
About the Author
Jeremy is an outdoor and towing enthusiast who gets his bikes around on his hitch bike racks, and is also an expert on Reese trailer hitches.
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