An update on kitchen remodeling reveals you could be spending a lot more and getting a lot less when you do-over your home's social center.

Consumer Reports "Kitchen-Planning Guide" now includes a new feature "Great Kitchens For Less," a dissertation on spending less and getting more when you remodel or just swap out old appliances with new.

With findings and recommendations based on independent laboratory tests, pricing comparisons and cost analyses, the Consumers Union publication says the hype on stuff you can buy for the kitchen is often just that.

It's not surprising kitchens get the hard sell.

Kitchens are the social gathering spot for the family and guests and new technology is turning it into the home's command center.

That's not all.

Remodeling kitchens is a value added proposition because a large portion, if not all and sometimes more of the remodeling cost becomes added home value.

Finally, upgrading major appliances today comes with both an energy conservation boost and convenience boom.

"Whether you're updating your appliances or planning a full remodel, seeing past the hype can be tough when everything looks so good," the magazine reports in an overview that names names and includes an everything-you-wanted-to-know approach to kitchen remodeling and financing, as well as the appliances, furniture, materials and accessories that go into a job, large or small.

Notable in the exhaustive report is the potential for big money savings in the "10 Most-Hyped Products And What To Buy Instead" side report.

"Mistakes can be costly as well as disappointing, because the most loudly hawked products are often the most expensive," according to Consumer Reports.

Here are some examples:

  • Pro-style ranges. Commercial ranges promising a professional look, feel and performance come with a professional $4,000 price tag, but performance no better than less-expensive conventional ranges. Turn it on. Cook. If you need to keep up with the Joneses, commercial-looking ranges from mainstream manufacturers perform just as well for thousands less.
  • Steam ovens and ranges. Consumer Reports found that oven makers claiming "super-heated steam cooking melts away fat" were thin on results. Free exercise is a better deal than the $1,000 cost for the ovens.
  • Multimedia fridges. In one of the latest examples of technology attempting to adjust your habits -- when it should be helping you perform them more efficiently -- refrigerators with built-in TVs and calendars are still just refrigerators. They cool and freeze food. Post a to-do list and buy an under-the-cabinet flip down or small counter-top flat panel TV. Save thousands.
  • Pricey faucets and sinks. Five-hundred dollar faucets reveal no performance superiority over lower priced faucets in chrome or with physical vapor deposition finishes. And thick or thin, all stainless sinks resist dents, stains and scratches similarly. It's all steel, or a steal, depending on how you look at it.
  • Trendy counters. Concrete is fragile and susceptible to scratches, chips and hairline cracks and needs periodic resealing. Who needs another kitchen chore? Limestone, in wear tests, revealed scratches, stains and dings. Granite or quartz are a better deal.
  • "Green" flooring. Bamboo, cork, linoleum, all considered renewable alternatives, don't hold up as well to the usual spills, scratches, dropped plates, and sunlight and may need to be, well, renewed sooner than solid wood floors and plastic laminate and vinyl. The latter two were toughest overall in tests, cost less and demand less care.
  • Big-box shopping. One-stop shopping for remodeling jobs at the big warehouse home improvement centers wasn't impressive as an overall solution for design help, installation services, product quality, selection, even price, according to Consumer Reports. Like any major purchase, a kitchen remodel is a shop-around job.

"For instance, Costco was tops overall for major appliances, but it had the worst selection. Check each retailer's return policies before you buy. Also consider local independent stores and personal references as highly as any preconceived notions about price, quality, and convenience," Consumer Report advises.

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