Friday, June 20, 2014

Kitchen Update: Remodeling is Guesswork

Okay, so I have this habit, see. Whenever I make a major purchase, I second and third-guess myself. In other words, I shop for things after I buy them. To make sure I got a good deal, and to berate myself for being suckered by a sale or promotion for one. But also to determine if I made a good decision. I do this less if I spent a long time researching prior to purchase. More often, however, my purchases tend to either be more impulsive, or more urgent, and I lack the time before hand to make sure I'm getting what I should.

The original Maytag Ice2O. Note the handles.
This is how quickly trends change.
I've found that I usually do all right, a solid B grade in my choices. The sale price (ending tomorrow, seemingly always) often turns out to be ultimately a good deal, but not unsurpassed. When I upgraded our kitchen in 2006/2007, I hit about .500 on my choices. The Frigidaire Professional Series over-the-stove microwave was a great purchase, as was the Frigidaire Gallery Series gas range (with five burners). I love them to this day, and they were both stainless steel with black enamel. That was important, because the first purchase had been a black Maytag Ice2O refrigerator, and they matched just fine.

Ice2O was the first of its kind, a French door, bottom freezer model, with an ice and water dispenser through the door. I fell in love with the look of it, and made it a goal as soon as I saw the first one. I'd wanted a stainless steel model, and kept my eyes open for one. When I finally had the urge to buy one, I found a floor model at Home Depot, at a great discount. It was a black model, rather than stainless, but the price was so good, I compromised.

I should have waited. As I've said on the blog before, it was not a good choice. Being a floor model, it had some flaws. Some--like the dents on the side--didn't matter, because they really didn't show. Some, like the permanent marks from the installation of the handles, and the non-balancing, damaged rollers, were not so good. Add to those, the fact that there were built-in problems, like a tendency for the waterline to freeze, and for the control panel to become possessed at some random time. So, with little warning, the refrigerator had to be replaced*.
The new fridge, a Whirlpool Gold Series. See
the long, swoopy handles?
Also to be replaced was our Frigidare (I don't know what series, crap, maybe?) dishwasher. Bought along with the stove and microwave, initially we were pleased with it. Mostly because it replaced an entry-level, awful, noisy model. But over time (and very quickly), it developed as much noise, and the inability to. . .you know. . .wash stuff. It sucked. So, we bought two new appliances, basically 7 years after the most recent purchases.

We ended up with a Kenmore (made by Whirlpool) dishwasher first, all stainless, no visible controls, and a Whirlpool French door refrigerator, very much like the Ice2O, but also all stainless. So far, both are great additions to the kitchen, with completely by accident, matching handles. The dishwasher is frankly quieter than the fridge, and does a fantastic job washing dishes. ALWAYS, always, always put an extra couple of hundred dollars on a dishwasher if you can. You'll absorb the cost in a couple of months, and it will
Awful, awful builder sink and faucet
be worth it in the long run.

But part of my obsession with figuring out if I did all right, comes with Google searching everything, down to, is this stuff even in style anymore? And because I do this, I thought I'd share a bit of what I found with you. So, herewith are my suggestions for you, should you happen by this column, doing what I always do:

- Buy what you like, and don't pay attention to the reviews you find online, at least when it comes to style. If you search for kitchen trends, you'll find things that span the gamut, but they've been warning that stainless steel is going out of fashion for at least seven years. If you go to any appliance section of any store, you will see  a sea of stainless, some black, some white, and a smattering of colors. Stainless isn't going anywhere.
The new sink, faucet and granite.
- The same goes for granite countertops. People have been predicting that they're going out of style for a decade. But they're not. And all of the new surfaces? They're attractive, but trendy. How do you know that butcher block, concrete or stainless counter isn't going to look "so 2010s" ten years from now? My advice on granite though, is go up a notch if you can. And stay away from bullnose edges, mostly. Tan Brown, Uba Tuba, Baltic Brown, and other "entry level" granites are very common, and that bullnose has been used in so many apartments, I just advise against it. Go for a little more unique granite, with a ogee or beveled edge.
- Under-mount your sink, and consider how you'll use it before you commit. We spent a lot on our sink, but we got a seamless drain (for no crud buildup around the drain), and a thick gauge steel, so there isn't much noise. We also got a large, deep basin for washing dishes, and a smaller one for a dish rack. It's how we work. And consider if you work left-to-right, or right-to-left. Others prefer a single, deep basin, with a washtub for dishes.
- Get a tall, unobstructed faucet for the sink. Coupled with a deep basin, you'll marvel at what you can fit entirely in the sink. Roasting pans, cookie sheets, stock pots. It's a great addition, and you'll wonder why the hell builders put in those low, ugly fixtures.
The old Formica.

The new Crema Bordeaux granite, before we
put the drawers back in.
- There are going to be things you can't foresee. For instance, there was no way to know that the Ice2O had built-in design flaws. There certainly was no way to know that the trends in something like door-handles would change. Check out the handles in my photos here of the older, black fridge, as compared to the swooping handles on the new one. I even noticed the handles on our mid-90s garage fridge we just sold were significantly different from later, 2000s models. That's something you've got little control over, when keeping your kitchen current.
- If you're upgrading counters and appliances, don't forget your light fixtures. Of all the spending on kitchen stuff, light fixtures are relatively inexpensive, and can really make an impression. Especially if you still have the fixtures the builder put in.
- Once you get started upgrading, even if you don't to a tear-out (we left our cabinets), you will have difficulty stopping. We replaced the fridge, dishwasher, countertops, sink, light fixtures, as well as the faucet, trash can and bar stools. And that doesn't count the two bathrooms, and carpets in the bedrooms!

So, for now, we think we're pretty much done. The last thing, probably to be done later this year, is to upgrade the cabinets, by having them stained (as a neighbor of ours did to great effect), with the addition of  crown molding across the top, and stainless pulls for the doors and drawers. This is probably the single biggest risk, trend-wise. Because there seems to be no way to predict where cabinet trends will go.

If you are an unlucky owner of the original Maytag Ice2O refrigerator, and you have not had this problem, you very likely will. In fact, if you Google "blinking control panel, flapping ice door" it will bring up countless pages specifically on this refrigerator. But I have good news for you, if you haven't yet paid to have it fixed: if you have $5 and know someone who knows how to solder, you can fix it, and it takes very little time and effort. You just buy two little cylindrical capacitors at Radio Shack, and replace the ones on the (very easy to remove) circuit board. Here is the link to the instructions. Don't even bother calling Maytag or even the cute new Maytag repairman.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Have something to say to us? Post it here!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...