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Remodel kitchen on a tight budget

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By Pat Logan

Creators Syndicate

Dear Pat: I just bought an older house last year, and I am ready to remodel the kitchen. My budget is very limited. Do you have any tips on how to make it seem bigger and more functional on a tight budget? — Sara G.

Dear Sara: Remodeling a kitchen is often one of the first major home improvement projects after one buys an existing home. A total cost of $20,000 to $30,000 is not uncommon for remodeling just a small kitchen. Some fancy range hoods can cost more than $3,000 alone.

In general, the amount you spend on a typical kitchen upgrade project is usually recouped when the house is sold someday. If you can do it on a tight budget, you should be able to easily make some capital gains profit on the remodeling of your kitchen.

The kitchens in most older houses were laid out to be a totally separate room, often with a small door to the dining room and one to the backyard. To make it look more contemporary and larger, try to integrate it into the adjacent rooms. This will also make it more functional for today's casual lifestyles.

Remove a wall between the kitchen and living room or, as a second choice, the dining room. This creates openness and a longer sight line, making the kitchen appear to be larger. It also often allows more natural light into the kitchen area.

Check the house plans if you have them to determine if the wall you want to remove is a support wall. If there is a second-floor wall directly above it, it likely is a support wall. Place a decorative wood structural beam under the ceiling where the removed wall was located. An engineer or architect can specify the size needed. If it was just a partition wall, any decorative beam will suffice.

A functional design idea is to add an island under the beam. This provides additional counter space when you are cooking large meals. It also provides a location for addition cabinets under the island. Design it with a cantilevered end that can accommodate four chairs. It can be used as a casual dining table.

A standard design principle when remodeling a kitchen is to create a triangle layout for the refrigerator, range and sink. This is fine with an unlimited budget, but to cut costs, don't move the range or sink very far from its current location.

The cost to install all new water plumbing and gas or electric service for the range can be in the thousands of dollars. Plumbing and wiring are not parts of the project most people want to attempt themselves. The refrigerator can be located anywhere because it just plugs into a standard electrical outlet.

Install spring-loaded lifting shelves that swing out from a cabinet below the counter to create addition counter space. These are ideal for some of the larger, heavier appliances, such as a standing mixer. By getting the appliances off of limited counter space, the new kitchen will have a less cluttered appearance.

Select a high-end type of countertop, such as granite, for just one area. Instead of buying standard 1-1/4-inch-thick material, select 3/4-inch material, and place it over a strong plywood base. Attach 1/2-inch edge trim around the countertop to create the appearance of full thickness.

Send your questions to Here's How, 6906 Royalgreen Dr., Cincinnati, OH 45244 or visit