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Cabinets make the kitchen

By: Sara Kandel | C&G Newspapers | Published March 6, 2013

 The showroom at Kopke Remodeling and Design, currently in St. Clair Shores but in the process of moving to Sterling Heights, features a variety of options for cabinets and countertops.

The showroom at Kopke Remodeling and Design, currently in St. Clair Shores but in the process of moving to Sterling Heights, features a variety of options for cabinets and countertops.

Photo by Sara Kandel

Out-of-date cabinetry can make any room seem drab, and with spring just around the corner, there’s no better time to clear out those old cupboards and create a space to be proud of.

There are two ways to go when it comes to updating kitchen cabinets: refacing or replacing.

Refacing deals with just the surface and is perfect for people who like the amount of cabinet space they currently have and the layout of their kitchen, but who want to update a tired appearance or out-of-date look.

Refacing just renews cabinet surfaces and can completely change the feel of the room in less time and for less money than a complete replacement. However, not all companies offer refacing services.

“A lot of times, people come to us to ask if we can reface, and a lot of companies do that, but we ourselves do not because, ultimately, for the price you’re spending, for only 10 percent more, you can replace them and have brand new cabinets, which can address spacing issues or include updated features, like pull-out drawers,” said Mari Vaglica, the director of sales and marketing at Borchert Kitchen and Bath in Washington Township.

Dave Kopke, of Kopke Remodeling and Design in Saint Clair Shores, agreed and said, for not much more money, his team can put in brand new cabinets that often provide additional space and allow for more room in the kitchen. Kopke estimated an average refacing at $7,000 and an average replacement at $10,000. He usually recommends replacement, but every once in a while, he does recommend refacing.

“When your countertops are granite or marble, then you reface,” he said. “If they are Formica, it’s smarter to replace. When you’ve already spent the money on nice countertops, refacing becomes a good option.

“When remodeling a kitchen, you have to think about it logically; there is an order of events to follow. You do your cabinets first and then your countertops, but if you already have nice countertops and don’t want to spend the money to replace them, refacing is the best option.”

Kopke usually tries to convince clients of the benefits of complete replacement, though. He said glass is a huge trend right now, but to have a glass cabinet is to lose storage space, though more often than not, it’s space that a replacement project can find elsewhere.

He uses the example of “L” cabinets, or corner cabinets. In many older homes, there is no cabinet space in the corners, but with the advent of Lazy Susan-style cabinets, a contractor can put a sizable cabinet in the corner to free up enough room for a glass cabinet.

“Just about everyone thinks about getting some kind of glass in their kitchen, but it’s harder to do it with smaller kitchens because you don’t want your everyday glasses or Tupperware showing,” Kopke said. “Glass fronts are for display cabinets — wine glasses or china. You have to have enough storage space to be able to dedicate the glass cabinet just for display.”

For those who like the idea of an open-concept cabinet but don’t want to go with the glass display cabinet or shelving, cabinets with a basket-weave front are gaining  popularity, especially among people opting for Old World finishes.

“Old World finishes are very popular right now,” Kopke said. “They take a brand new cabinet and make it look 100 years old by adding scratches, rubbing screws against it, hitting it with chains  and rubbing it down to the bare wood in spots before applying the final finish and applying the polyurethane.”

Old World finishes are especially popular in vintage whites and off-whites as an alternative option to bright white.

“A lot of first-time homebuyers seem to be interested in bright white, but I recommend against it,” Kopke said.

“Bright white cabinets only have a 30 percent satisfaction rate. They show more dirt and grime and grease, and tend to stain easily. The seams in the wood also become visible after a short period, which makes people feel like the cabinets are falling apart. Darker stains show a lot less, and for busy kitchens, I recommend darker stains. Bright white cabinetry is really best for show kitchens or for people who eat out a lot and won’t be spending too much time cooking in their kitchen.”

For those who do want to have bright white, though, Kopke recommends easy-to-clean melamine or thermofoil finishes — skins that are placed on the cabinets, making them easier to clean and lessening the chance of serious staining.

A new set of cabinets can spruce up any kitchen, but Kopke warns that, once the new cabinets are in, customers often realize they want even more work done. That’s why he usually brings up the option of a complete remodel.

“They might think the old floor is just fine, but once the new cabinets are in, they realize the floor looks old, in comparison —  especially in bathrooms — and they call us back, wanting to redo the floor. But now, to put in new flooring, we have to pull out everything we just did, which we can do, but it’s more of a hassle and it saves time and money to do it before putting the new cabinetry in.”

Like most remodelers and builders, Kopke works with a handful of local banks and credit unions so customers have a variety of financing options, many of which he said can be stretched up to 15 years with low interest rates and no early payoff penalties.

Still, not everyone has the money to or wants to finance a brand new kitchen. But luckily a cabinet makeover doesn’t have to cost thousands; a paint job and some new hardware can go a long way in updating the look of an out-of-date kitchen.

The most important thing to remember when painting cabinetry is to always choose a shade darker than the stain. Dark stains can bleed through lighter shades of paint, even after multiple applications, so it’s best to pick a color darker than the stain.

When painting cabinetry, many people choose to play with color and pick one color for the door and another contrasting color for the cabinet space inside. Updating the hardware on cabinets is a breeze and, in many cases,  it doesn’t take much more than a screwdriver to remove old handles or knobs and put new ones on. Most home improvement stores carry huge selections of hardware  in silver, gold, black, copper and a variety of other tints and styles.

“Bigger, larger handles are the trend right now, but as far as style goes, everyone’s is different and it seems almost everyone that comes in picks a different one,” Kopke said.

Adding a backsplash on the wall space behind counters is another popular sprucing-up option. The real deal can cost quite a bit, especially if the space is large, but most home improvement stores carry sheets of adhesive backsplash that are easy to adhere and won’t break the bank.

When it comes to kitchen updates, even small improvements can increase the value of a home. According to the Cost Versus Value Home Improvement Report, kitchen upgrades tend to increase the value of the home by 50 percent of the cost immediately, by around the 100 percent mark in five years, and often by more than the cost of the improvement in the years that follow.

“It’s not wise to upgrade right now for the sole purpose of selling, but if you aren’t going to sell for a while or if you plan on living in the home, upgrades definitely add to the value,” Kopke said.