Are you setting your sights high, low, or in-between?

No matter where you set your sights, a kitchen remodel is no small task. You can either work around the existing realities of your home, or you can change them. Existing realities are things like where the plumbing for the sink is, where the range is located and vented, where the dishwasher lives, and so on.

Even more basic than that are factors like where the walls and windows are currently located. If you're satisfied with those factors, you can simply put new cabinets on the "footprint" of the existing kitchen. This is the easy way to do it, and the most economical.

It's when you start changing these fundamentals that things get more complicated. Maybe your old kitchen is closed off from the rest of the home—as most kitchens were once designed to be. Maybe you want more or bigger windows. Maybe you want an island or a peninsula that just won't fit in the existing space.

These are the types of things you need to think about first. They define the scope of your remodel from the outset.

So, how high should you aim?

Of course, you have to consider what you can afford and how much disruption you can tolerate. If you're satisfied with the basic configuration of your existing kitchen, and your cabinets are structurally sound, you might want to consider another option that promises less disruption and a quicker job: Showplace Renew cabinet refacing. 

The Renew process retains your existing cabinets, but gives them a fresh new face. If refacing interests you, talk it over with your Showplace dealer. Renew isn't right for every home, and your dealer can help you decide whether it's a smart choice for you.

What's the return on investment?

Back in the boom years, a modest kitchen remodel could easily return most or all of its initial investment within a year or two. As we all know, things like that changed pretty quickly, and now more people are focusing on "live-in value"—how much enjoyment they'll get from a remodel for years to come.

But even in these new economic realities, a kitchen or bath remodel still offers the highest return on investment, when compared with decks, siding or window replacement, according to Angie's List magazine. Most experts agree a kitchen remodel will return 75-90 percent of the initial investment in added real estate value, much more than you'll see from something like redecorating a family room or finishing a basement. In addition, if you obtain a home equity loan for the kitchen remodel, 100 percent of the interest is deductible.

Any real estate professional will tell you how important the kitchen is, and that importance is growing as the kitchen has become a multipurpose hub of home life. If your home's kitchen is as good or better than other comparable homes in your neighborhood, it may appraise better and you'll have a real advantage in the market. A new kitchen can also help close a sale since a buyer might gladly pay a premium to avoid having to immediately remodel a home they've just purchased.

Granted, things like this are generalities and common sense, and in an unpredictable economy, nothing is set in stone. But when you combine the prospect of improved resale value with the assurance of enhanced "live-in" value, a kitchen remodel is a win-win situation.

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