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updated 9/21/2007 1:03:48 PM ET 2007-09-21T17:03:48

The kitchen is always the heart of the home, and it's also a major factor in determining the home's re-sale value. Real estate experts Barbara Corcoran offers a practical guide to revitalizing a kitchen. New flooring, freshened-up cabinets, refinished appliances, and an updated backsplash are all money-making ways to improve your home value while enjoying your dream kitchen:

Before you get started, questions to ask:

  • What is my kitchen's location? If it's facing south, east or west, you can choose a darker color. But if it's facing north, always keep it light to make the kitchen look larger
  • How big do I want my kitchen be? How will I use the space?
  • What work can I do and what work should someone else do?
  • Am I a handyman?

Plan smart

  • Most of the savings is in the planning
  • Don't move the stove or the sink to a different location. Moving gas, plumbing and drain lines is very expensive (It costs about $2000 to move a sink)
  • Plan your lighting ahead of time. Upgrade your lighting at the same time you're doing the electrical. If not, you'll have to bring the electrician back costing you a lot more
  • Most kitchen cabinet stores will lay out your kitchen for free and Home Depot will charge a $100 measure fee (this fee is deducted/applied to the cost of the installation project if a customer decides to purchase installation through Home Depot).
  • Bring a kitchen sketch with your sink, stove and window locations marked

You can figure out your labor cost by multiplying your material cost by 1.5 3. Here are the big expenses in renovating a kitchen The average kitchen renovation costs between $15-20,000 without the appliances. If you make the right improvements, you can expect an 80-90% return on your investment. The single best improvement that makes back the most money is putting a window in your kitchen. A window costs about $1000, and a French door costs about $3000. You'll get double your money back.

Tips for handling appliances

  • The big status appliances still are Subzero, Viking, Miele
  • Today everybody's making expensive looking stainless steel appliances that can fool even the most expert eyes
  • Do perfect Mealy knockoffs with Whirlpool and Frigidaire
  • If you shop around for appliances, you can even buy open box, slightly scratched appliances for 40-60% off and they still come with the full warranties and will sometimes give you an extra year warranty if you ask
  • Buy a gas stove, nobody wants to cook on an electric stove

Cabinets

  • You can reface your old wooden cabinets by sanding them down to the bare wood and applying polyurethane or staining them an entirely different color
  • If you must replace your cabinets, install particle board cabinet boxes and solid wood fronts
  • Not putting in hardwood will bring the cost down from $400 to $200 each

Countertops

  • Granite and Corian are most popular; they look expensive and are expensive, but if you put in inexpensive tile on the backsplash instead, you'll save 30% (and you can pick a color to match your floor or cabinets)
  • If you must use Formica, it's looking better these days. They now produce a 45 degree edge which makes the cabinet fronts appear rounded

Electrical

  • Don't skimp on electric, it has to be done right. You'll need to install one dedicated circuit for each appliance and two more for your outlets. If you don't, when your refrigerator kicks on, your toaster will blow out.

Flooring

  • Ceramic and wood floors cost about the same and are equally attractive to buyers. Choose the one you like.

Carpentry

  • This includes trim, doors and sheetrock G. Plumbing
  • You can save money by buying your fixtures at auctions on e-bay
  • If you don't move anything around, you'll only have to pay about $500 to hook up your dishwasher and sink

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