Kitchen Reno: What’s Worth the Splurge?

With tons of great choices, it’s easy to go overboard. But with an eye on the bottom line, we set out to find the most bang for your remodeling buck.

Tops on the list: a backsplash you love. “This is a great place to spend a little more; it upgrades your room right away,” says Brandy Souza of Kitchen Views in Warwick. “Since it’s a vertical plane, it’s the first surface that catches your eye when you walk in, so that should be your priority. And it’s a smaller area, so you can have more impact with less money. Today’s range of accent tile is amazing.”

Another small update with big eye appeal is replacing cabinetry hardware. Many are standard in size, so it’s an easy swap. “It’s the finishing touch that can make a master bath sparkle, a laundry room fun or a kitchen sing to you every morning,” says Souza.

In cabinetry, Souza says New Englanders are still loving the white Shaker door which accommodates a wide range of kitchen styles. “This is a big part of your budget and there’s no need to spend more on a decorative door unless you truly love it,” she explains. “But whatever you do, pick the upgraded drawer box. The meta drawers and wood-dovetailed drawers are all soft closing and worth the investment. They extend the life of your drawer and your sanity. Ever have a drawer filled with so much stuff it doesn’t close right or comes off the track? You do not want that in your newly remodeled space.”

Custom cabinetry can be a fun splurge if you have the budget. If not, you can usually get away with using a stock line for most of the kitchen and then using custom pieces to design around problem areas or one special cabinet to serve as a focal point.

If you’re not replacing your cabinetry, you can still get soft-closing motion by replacing your drawer glides — a big frustration-saver for not much money.

Souza says upgrading to quartz countertops is worth the splurge. “Roughly, builder granite is about $45 per square foot installed and quartz is closer to $70 per square foot. Even so, quartz is our top seller for its easy maintenance. As engineered stone, it doesn’t need to be sealed annually, it won’t stain and the color is consistent so you can match anything.”

Motion-activated faucets are a nice mini-splurge item so you can easily get water even if your hands are covered in pie dough. But this is not the place to cut corners, according to Souza.

“It’s the number one thing to fail in a kitchen and the resulting flood will wreck your cabinets if you don’t notice it right away,” she advises. “Make sure the internal pieces are not made from plastic — they should be metal. On the automated ones, think about whether you want battery-operated or hardwired, which can be a problem in power outages.”

What about appliances? If you’re disappointed that you don’t have gas service, induction cooktops are a great alternative.

“Absolutely worth the money,” says Leah McLeod at IZ Schwartz Appliances in Somerset, Massachusetts. “It heats up quickly and is just as responsive as gas. Plus, clean-up is easy because spills and splatter will not burn to the surface like they do with traditional electric.”

A game changer in McLeod’s house is the Bosch dishwasher with the My Way top rack. In addition to being super-quiet, highly rated and extremely reliable, it easily holds five cereal bowls which can free up some valuable space in the lower sections of your dishwasher. “Worth every penny, especially in a house full of kids,” she says.

Steam ovens are another favorite because they help retain valuable nutrients that are lost in traditional cooking, and food is moister. The reheat mode takes leftovers and turns them into a meal that tastes fresh, a night and day comparison to something reheated in the microwave.

Lastly, McLeod suggests spending a little more on good ventilation. “Although it might not feel like a splurge because it’s not very exciting, spending a little extra money on a better-quality hood with a good capture area and proper airflow is really worth it,” she says. “And this under-appreciated appliance keeps food grease off your new cabinets!”


Seven Things to Splurge on in the Bathroom

Bathrooms have a major impact on home value. But how to spend wisely when remodeling? We spoke with Marcia DuPree at the Bath Splash Showroom in Cranston to find out where
to indulge.

Steam in Shower
“This is a great splurge. There are a lot of health benefits to steam, from increased circulation to stress management and better moods.”

Air-Jet Baths
“These also increase circulation plus decrease muscle aches and pains. I like the BainUltra Geysair tub — it incorporates streams of air to help maintain a consistently warm water temperature.”

Towel Warmers
“It’s always so nice to get out of the shower in the winter to a nice warm towel.”

Washlet seats
“These are like bidet seats you can put on your toilet without needing an extra fixture.”

Mirror with LED lighting
“These are always a great buy. It brightens the room and has better light for makeup application.”

Thermostatic Mixing Valves
“They give you more control over the temperature and water pressure for a more pleasant shower.”

Radiant Heat in the Floor
“Worth every penny.”