Yesterday we went to a Labor Day bbq at the home of a friend of a friend. We only knew a couple people there, so we got to meet lots of new people. The party was at a house in an old neighborhood downtown – full of houses built in the 1920’s with character and charm all over the place.
Our hosts had just finished remodeling their kitchen. They did it as part of a DIY tv show – I think they said the show was called sweat equity. The show provided a consultant contractor and the homeowners did most of the work, although they hired a plumber and electrician. They told us that they got about 25% off the cost of all the appliances, floor refinishing, and the countertops. But still – they had to have spent a bundle on the project.
Man oh man, was their kitchen awesome. Granite counters, wood floors, Viking range, Viking fridge, Viking dishwasher, freakin amazing sink and faucets – it looked like a high-end showroom. I know that they saved a ton of money by doing most of the work themselves and getting the discounts through the tv show, but their appliances must have cost several thousand dollars each, even after the discounts.
They showed me the before pictures, and I was wishing I had known them when they started the remodel – I’d have bought their old appliances! The fridge, stove, and dishwasher were one year old – they were basic white, nothing fancy, but practically brand new. The structure of the old kitchen was terrible, with walls all over the place that must have made it feel like cooking in a closet – the new design is much better, with lots of open space. But I just don’t understand the appeal of spending $10,000 (at least) on new appliances when you have perfectly good appliances that could just be plugged back into the new spaces created after the walls were rearranged.
I’ll admit to feeling a bit of kitchen envy yesterday. Our stove is 25 years old (original to the house) and our dishwasher is probably about 15 years old. The fridge is the newest, and I think it’s a mid-90’s model. Our floor is vinyl squares, and our countertops are laminate made to look like wood. Our cabinets are nice, because I refinished them when we moved in. It took me about 6 months, but I took all the doors off, sanded everything down, and stained and varnished them. I love the cabinets, but the rest of the kitchen is strictly utilitarian. But I just can’t justify spending money to get new appliances when the ones we have are working just fine.
My husband and I talked about it on the way home, and while we both agreed that the remodeled kitchen was fabulous, we also agreed that we were never going to want to spend that kind of money on a kitchen. What we did decide is that we need to start doing a few upgrades here and there around our house. We’ve lived here for almost five years, and we plan to be here forever. Here’s the list we came up with:
- deck in the backyard, built with eco-friendly “wood” made from recycled plastic bags. Our neighbor works for the local recycling education center, and can get us a good deal on the deck materials.
- new exterior paint
- new roof shingles (or steel roofing – more expensive, but much more durable)
- wood (or pergo) floors in our upstairs. We currently have carpet upstairs, which has seen better days. I don’t like carpet because it’s impossible to get really clean, so if we ever replace it, I want it to be with a flooring that I can mop.
- new window coverings. Most of our house has cheap plastic venetian blinds – the kind that you get at Wal-Mart for $10 and cut to size. They’re original to the house, and looking a bit shabby.
- new stove/range
- new kitchen countertops. I have found a book about concrete counters, and I think we could make that work. They’re super cheap if you do it yourself,since it’s just concrete and sealant. We’re still looking into this.
- new bedroom doors. Our house was built with cheap fake wood doors. They’re dark and ugly, with brass doorknobs. We’ve already replaced two doors downstairs, for about $65 each ($40 door plus $20 handle, plus stain and varnish) and would like to replace the four doors that lead off our main upstairs hallway.
That’s the list that we’ve been talking about for years, but knew that we couldn’t afford. Since we’re now down to having only a mortgage on the debt side of the scale, we’ve decided to start putting a little money aside each month for home improvement projects. We’re not going into debt to finance any of these things, since none of them are an emergency (and if they were, that’s what the emergency fund is for). But we’re thinking $100 or $200/month will allow us to complete most of these projects over the next three or four years. We’ll do all the work ourselves, with a little help from my parents (who love nothing more than home remodeling). I think that the deck will be first, so we’ll figure out how much that will cost and see how long it’s going to take us to save the money. Very exciting!