An economical kitchen, bath remodel

Updating a 1980s rancher

By Inman News Feed
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 0 | Posted Jul. 6, 2011

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Updating a 1980s rancher

Bill and Kevin Burnett
Inman News™

Editor's note: This is the second of two parts.

Last week we answered a question from an empty-nest couple who had just paid off the mortgage on their 1980s-era rancher in Pleasanton, Calif. Rather than sell and downsize, they decided to stay put. Trouble was, they were getting tired of their home's tired look. How, they wanted to know, should they go about updating?

We tackled walls, floors, doors and trim, suggesting new paint, some hardwood flooring, new molding and baseboard, and new interior doors. Today we'll discuss the "wet" rooms -- kitchen and baths.


Any way you crunch the numbers, a kitchen update is going to be expensive. But, assuming you don't have to open too many walls, reroute plumbing or add electrical circuits, it won't break the bank. If you have a workable footprint, cabinets, countertops and appliances are all you need to transform a 1980s kitchen into a 2011 model.

Whether custom-made or modular, new high-quality cabinets will cost thousands of dollars -- sometimes tens of thousands. For that you get silky-smooth sliding drawers, Lazy Susans and other fancy accoutrements that will never be seen from the outside.

If you can continue to live with the existing interiors, you can save fully 75 percent of the cost of new cabinets by refacing the fronts and adding new, custom-made doors and drawer fronts. You'll save even more if you use a paint finish, rather than stain and polyurethane, because you won't have to replace the cabinet faces.

Choose some nice, modern knobs and pulls, or go with a minimalist look and have your door and drawer maker include a routed finger pull.

Chances are your 1980s countertops are either a laminate such as Formica or Wilsonart, or tile and grout. You're going to want to ditch this for something more modern. While granite is still the darling, you have a bunch of other good choices, including marble, soapstone, crushed quartz or concrete. We've even seen countertops jacketed in pewter.

For a good primer on countertop choices, including pros and cons, check out

Bottom line: It's up to you and your budget, but figure on spending at the minimum $150 per linear foot.

Appliances are also a personal choice between you and your budget. Figure on spending at least $6,000 -- and easily double or triple that -- for a classy refrigerator, oven, range and dishwasher. Bill loves his Electrolux induction range and Fisher & Paykel drawer dishwasher. Kevin wouldn't trade the Garland commercial range and oven he's been using for years.

Finish with a good sink and faucet. For the sink, deeper is better, and we like 16-gauge stainless steel. For your faucet, do your shopping on the Web and then buy at a plumbing supply house. Or do what Bill did -- buy $7,000 worth of appliances at a discount store and get them to throw in a $600 faucet for free.

Finally, consider adding some under-counter lighting. Kitchen designers call it "task" lighting, but if your kitchen is open to other rooms, add a dimmer switch and make it mood lighting as well.


The standard 1980s bathroom has a tile shower or tub surround, vinyl floors, wood vanity, and an onyx or faux marble countertop.

Because tearing out tile and replacing it is a big, expensive job, we recommend that you keep the tile and spruce it up with a new grout job.

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