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As you choose new cabinets, pore over your countertop options, and find yourself floored by the number of flooring choices, your kitchen remodeling project is quickly adding up. But there are ways to keep spending to a minimum.

Kitchen remodels are among the most popular - and costly. The average cost of a major remodel pushes $40,000, according to Remodeling magazine's 2001 Cost. Vs. Value Report.

Kitchens are more susceptible to changes in taste than other rooms. Wood was popular, then white was in, and now stainless steel is all the rage. But among real estate agents, the report says, the consensus is that a fully remodeled kitchen is a strong selling point. San Francisco remodeler and real estate broker Neil Gibbs does not hesitate when asked what buyers there desire most: a new, top-of-the-line kitchen.

"Young home buyers with money want professional-quality kitchens, even if they don't use them," Gibbs points out. "It's the driving thing in the market here, by far."

While the report points out that about 80 percent of the cost of a major kitchen remodel will be recouped when it comes time to sell, you still need to pay for the project up front, which means you may find yourself trying to stretch every dollar as you plan for your remodel.

For starters, be sure the contractor you hire is professional. Always get references, and get a detailed contract that spells out every detail and step of the remodeling job.

The National Association of the Remodeling Industry offers some additional tips:

  • Try to keep windows in place. Moving windows gets expensive.
  • Think paint. Changing the color of a room is one of the most dramatic - and cost-efficient - ways to change your room's appearance.
  • Try to stick with your existing appliances. This can save up to $5,000. If you do opt for new appliances, choose ones that are energy-efficient: this will save you money on your utility bills, and will be an asset when it comes time to sell your home.
  • Keep fixtures, appliances, and utilities in place so you don't have to change plumbing, gas, and electrical outlets.
  • Go with neutral colors. Your new fixtures, appliances, and laminates will be less expensive if you go with a white or almond sink and a neutral laminate. Plus, they won't come and go as a passing trend.
  • If possible, use your existing floor. If you need new flooring, vinyl and laminate are less expensive than wood and tile. Choose a color that ties the kitchen to the adjoining rooms.
  • Carefully study your cabinet options, because this will play a big role in the cost. You can delay some options to help reduce the initial costs. If you do decide to wait, make sure the option you want will be available and can be added after your new cabinets are in place.
  • Consider refacing existing cabinets. This will save money and you won't need to install a new floor, countertops, and appliances.
  • Use standard cabinetry instead of custom.
  • Choose cabinets that are finger-pulled and don't need additional hardware.
  • Think about laminate countertops. They are less expensive than tile and granite. You can accent it with wood or tile trim.

    Choosing less costly products will help bring the total cost down, so compare prices carefully. You'll also need to find out how much labor is involved in some of the features you are seeking, like tile countertops.

    The most important thing you can do to extend your budget is to plan ahead. Go through the design process with a fine-tooth comb and select all your new countertops, flooring, appliances, and fixtures. This will help keep you from making impulsive decisions down the road.

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