Kitchen renovations can make a difference

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Homeowners know that it’s the kitchen that sells a house. But what if you can’t afford the tens of thousands it takes to recreate or renew? Granite counters, island work spaces and contemporary cupboards don’t come cheap.

According to moneysense.ca, the average kitchen remodel cost Canadians about $37,400 last year. A smaller project might include painting walls, refacing cabinets, upgrading the sink and installing a backsplash, but the good news is that major or even minor kitchen upgrades offer an average return on investment of 74 to 83 per cent, says the website.

Long time local renovator Boyd Wilkes, owner of Bodacious Baths, says his average kitchen remodel in St. Albert runs about $25,000, “but you can lower that cost and still update the room by just focusing on countertops and a backsplash. The kitchen sells the house, no doubt. We just did a reno on a house that was sitting on the market for months, adding new counters and cabinets, and the house sold two weeks later.”

Cabinets take the lion’s share of a reno budget, and while high-end custom wood cabinets can last decades, semi-custom or high-end off-the-shelf cabinets can do the job for less than half the cost of custom. The cheapest options – particle board or melamine cabinets from the big box store – are still valid options, says Wilkes, allowing a job to go more quickly with in-stock product, and appealing to those who like a smooth, clean look. “We install a lot of IKEA cupboards,” he says.

Experts say that if the budget is very tight, consider repainting current cupboards with a semi-gloss paint and a paint sprayer for an even, professional finish. Or, maximize the budget by opting for real wood cabinet boxes and cheaper doors that can be replaced over time. “The contemporary-look kitchens often go with white, but we still do a lot of dark woods and natural maple cabinets,” Wilkes says.

Countertops are a high-impact upgrade, but don’t be convinced that it’s got to be granite. John Holzapfel, president of PF Custom Countertops in West Edmonton, says top-selling quartz now rivals granite for the trendiest choice in today’s kitchen counters. A non-porous material manufactured all over the world, quartz comes in a myriad of colours and is similarly priced to granite.

“There’s a trend toward natural stone, or even the look of it – you can get that with granite or quartz, and some laminates that mimic the look of stone. But laminate doesn’t have the same panache,” says Holzapfel, who says the store still does about 50 per cent of its countertop sales in laminate. “Granite has a wider price variation but can offer more striking patterns and movement. Whichever counter you choose, the trend is toward clean, simple edge treatments.”

“If you’re on a budget, remember that quartz and granite are used about equally in home renovations, and buyers do look for it,”adds Wilkes. “But I can do an average kitchen counter in laminate for about $1,800.  With granite or quartz, it’s $5,000 to $7,000.”

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Lucy Haines

Lucy Haines has been a freelancer writer for the St. Albert Gazette since 2012. She writes features on travel, food, seniors, homes and gardens.